(CN) — Mirroring its relentlessly overcrowded freeways, California’s most iconic entertainment venues over the decades have all shared one thing: bumper-to-bumper traffic.
For the average California fan, the thrill of experiencing a sunset concert at the Greek Theatre, a walk-off home run at Dodger Stadium or a game-winning touchdown at Candlestick Park was predictably followed by the buzzkill of pre-and post-event traffic jam.
Some of the world’s most high-tech stadiums and arenas operate in the Golden State, yet getting to events remains difficult as very few were built with public transportation in mind.
Hoping to combat smog and set a new environmentally friendly entertainment trend, two iconic California sports franchises are plotting to spend hundreds of millions on people movers more synonymous with skiing than public transit.
“This isn’t like getting in a bus; this is an experience. You’re flying to a baseball game,” said David Grannis, who is working to make it easier and more enjoyable for fans to get to Dodger Stadium.
Grannis is a lead consultant for a company preparing to build a gondola system capable of lifting thousands of fans from downtown Los Angeles up nearby Chavez Ravine to Dodger Stadium in under 10 minutes. If built, it would be the first-of-its-kind in terms of American professional sports.
Leading the gondola push is Los Angeles Aerial Rapid Transit Technologies, a company run by former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt who still owns the parking lots around the stadium.
According to Grannis, the plan was inspired by the city’s ongoing public transit renaissance.
In 2016, LA voters agreed to higher sales taxes to raise billions with the goal of greatly expanding the city’s increasingly popular urban rail system.
With a capacity of over 50,000, Dodger Stadium is one of the region’s most visited and popular venues, but it remains cut off from the so-called LA Metro network. As a result, fans attending the Dodgers’ nearly 100 home games per year have little choice but to pile in their cars during rush hour and brave the city’s notorious traffic.
Several years ago, Grannis says transit technologies decided to take a deep dive into the gameday traffic which not only gnarls nearby freeways but surrounding neighborhoods like Chinatown and Elysian Park. The brainstorming sessions led to a clear conclusion: the group should bypass traditional options and look to the sky.
“Could we make a meaningful difference with a gondola system? The answer was yes,” Grannis said of the planning sessions.
While fans can currently ride buses from Union Station to the stadium, the buses can only transport about 2,000 per game. As proposed, the gondola plan could handle approximately 5,500 people per hour in each direction.
The 1-mile route features panoramic views of downtown and will transport fans to the stadium in approximately seven minutes, a feat unheard of on most days. The planned route would whisk riders over mostly public right-of-way, including Interstate 110 and the Los Angeles State Historic Park.
Aside from a more pleasant experience for fans, the aerial route figures to fight smog by reducing the amount of gameday traffic. The gondolas would also increase access to the park and surrounding neighborhoods as they would be operated daily.
“You get wonderful views of the city, it’s convenient and this technology is environmentally friendly,” Grannis said, adding that the line will be entirely electric and quiet.
Transit technologies submitted paperwork to begin the environmental review process in October and it hopes to have a draft environmental impact report completed by next summer. The company is currently footing the bill for the planning and environmental review costs, but final financing details are still to be determined.