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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

The Urban Gondola: perfect fit for a capital horizon

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Could it be the best way... connect these dots?


The Ottawa River is an urban feature that has united and yet also divided local inhabitants. For centuries, people have exploited both the space between and within its shores for politics, commerce, and leisure. The National Capital Commission has launched nationwide public consultations this autumn for Horizon 2067, its plan to guide development in the National Capital Region up to Canada’s 200th anniversary. Residents of Ottawa must take an active role in the planning process for their city by, amongst other things, developing proposals to bridge the space between the Ottawa River’s shores with a long-term planning solution that uses low-impact, human-focused technologies. One such proposal is a gondola crossing the Ottawa River. The gondola would be a striking addition to our skyline akin to the London Eye, permanently linking Ottawa and Gatineau for pedestrians and cyclists, and providing tourists and residents alike with new views of Parliament Hill, the urban region, the Gatineau Hills, and the Ottawa River.

An urban gondola is a great way to transport people across physically difficult landforms while, unlike bridges, having a minimal impact on the land between each end. If Ottawa opened an urban gondola, it would join a growing number of cities using this and similar modes such as aerial tramways and funifors to allow people to travel to different urban communities without an automobile. Cities with such modes include Portland, Oregon; Medellin, Colombia; Caracas, Venezuela; and New York City. The Cities of London and Vancouver are planning to build such gondolas in the near future. Gondolas and aerial tramway systems in Portland, Medellin, and New York City transport tens of thousands of people each day and are integrated into the local public transit networks.

Our capital region gondola would cross the Ottawa River to allow people to travel easily by foot or bike between Ottawa and Gatineau’s respective downtowns and experience great views of the urban and surrounding landscapes along the way. The south terminal would be located at the National Capital Commission’s long-proposed lookout directly north of Bank and Wellington Streets, also known as the Bank Street Axis. The north terminal would be located at the future Canada Science and Technology Museum on the current Kruger Products site on Gatineau’s rue Laurier, where it could be associated with the museum’s technology-focused subject matter. Each terminal’s close proximity to recreational pathways and major mass transit corridors would make it easy for the gondola’s passengers to access regional walking, cycling, and public transit networks.

If Ottawa is to improve its residents’ quality of life, it must develop plans that are resilient against coming planetary changes such as climate change and the post-oil economy by adapting to a low-consumption, human-oriented, and holistic way of thinking about urban planning and design. This gondola is a good example of such planning that offers an affordable mode of transportation between Ottawa and Gatineau and should be discussed during the National Capital Commission’s national public consultations for Horizon 2067. It is imperative that residents of Ottawa continue to collectively design and build new spaces and landmarks that improve our ability to engage with our country and one another.

photo by brx0



  1. I think it’s a great idea. It’s something I’ve thought about over the past few weeks after reading an article about a gondola in Calgary. This is a no brainer. Unfortunately it would take decades for the NCC or municipalities to do this. It’ll have to be the private sector.

  2. No thank-you! I respect the place where this comes from, i.e. efforts to make Ottawa a more dynamic place, but this gondola business is bad, bad, bad.

    Is this a mode of transport? If so, could we please focus on transit networks, rather than one-off river crossings? And, how is this any easier than just going across (the imminently more attractive and interesting) Alexandra bridge? If I was on my bike (even if I was on foot!) there’s no way I’d rather wait in line for a gondola car!

    Is this primarily a tourist activity? If so, I think I’d rather enhance the tourist experience by making Ottawa STREET life more dynamic, as well as focus on making the city an easier place to move around.

    I could go on, but, in summary, am I alone in feeling that these gondolas, ferris wheels, and the like are just so gimmicky? In the spirit of constructive criticism, here’s a counter proposal: Let’s get the O-train running across the Prince of Wales Bridge. I think this would be a much more useful river crossing than a gondola.

  3. I don’t think it is gimmicky – it allows an extra crossing of the river – in essence, it supplements the transit network.

    The gondola proposed for Vancouver (nitpick: Burnaby/Translink) is actually to replace buses, and will go from the SkyTrain station up to the top of Burnaby Mountain (SFU).

    If it adds to the tourist experience, so much the better. People don’t come to Ottawa for the street life, they come for the Parliament, the museums etc.

  4. I believe this is a good idea as it is a lot less costly than “traditional” river crossings, and contribute little to noise and air pollution compared to bridges designed for motor vehicles.

  5. An interesting proposal for sure, but I’d be inclined to say it needs to connect to, not just be in proximity to local mass transit options. The other examples mentioned all meet up with the local rail (subway, LRT, streetcar), which makes them important transit features for locals and tourists.

    As for waiting in line, as mentioned before, gondolas could actually avoid this problem, since cabins come so frequently — 20 or 30 seconds apart even. The image pictured with this article is an aerial tram though, and those wait times would be longer, but of course have other benefits too.

    I think one of the best resources for this type of cable urban transit would be here:

    They have some great analysis of systems, the technology, etc.

  6. Why these two dots need to be connected in the first place? Behind the parliement and behind the museum… no one walk there except for relaxation or tourism walk, and they are not transit point…