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Cable Cars would (still) provide greater public access to Outer Harbor

Author: Phil Wilcox


Many recall the excitement when “Breakers,” followed by “Shooters,” opened their sprawling bar, restaurant, and entertainment venues on the Outer Harbor on Lake Erie. I also recall frustrated friends at the time saying, “You can’t get there from here…”

While humorous, there are still many folks who choose not to drive over the skyway at all, much less traverse the confusing access roads to the Outer Harbor (getting back out is just as confusing for first time visitors).  The attractive stretch of land is now being developed by the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (ECHDC), the same folks that helped leverage development of Canalside.

While this idea has been proposed in the past, maybe it’s time to strike up a conversation once again, now that there are more amenities to access at the Outer Harbor. I’m talking about the relatively short – about a half a mile – cable car system (or gondola) that would parallel a portion of the Skyway.

The timing for a transportation project such as this is ideal, as the multi-model DL&W Terminal on the Buffalo River, adjacent to Canalside, in the process of undergoing a rebirth with public use and access as its core principle. Not to mention the incredible Riverline project that is underway. 

A cable car system would most logically originate at or near the DL&W. Back in 2015, there were numerous discussions that revolved around a potential Buffalo Gondola Project, though nothing ever came to pass at the time (or since). 

A recent trip to Portland, Oregon provided visual evidence that these systems can be very effective. For Buffalo, it would be a winning trifecta, with greater public access, reduced carbon emissions, and continued rebirth of our fair city. Not to mention the year round aspect, with cycling in the summer and X-country skiing in the winter. The lower portion of Portland’s cable car system is located at bus and rail intersections and accommodates massive bike parking and rentals.

The ECHDC has revolving funding from the NYPA license agreement to consider for this application, along with expected billions towards transportation and climate change infrastructure investments – never will there be a better time for our region to go for it! Imagine a well-lit cable car system, worthy of the “City of Light,” smoothly moving thousands of people daily between downtown and the Outer Harbor, for an endless host of reasons. Imagine, then consider becoming an advocate. Maybe it’s time to bring the Buffalo Gondola Project back to the forefront of public discussions and advocacy?


Photos from the Portland Aerial Tram in Portland, Oregon

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