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http://www.syracuse.com/business/po...3580.xml&coll=1


Tom McDonald is best known as the wealthy real estate developer who hosted Bill and Hillary Clinton when they vacationed in Skaneateles in 1999.

But McDonald, 54, would like to become known for coming up with a way to tie Syracuse University to downtown and revolutionize the way people get around Syracuse.

He's proposing the construction of gondolas that would run on steel cables above city streets from Syracuse University to Armory Square, then over to the Syracuse Inner Harbor, the Carousel Center and the Regional Transportation Center.

Called Salt City Aerial Transit, or S.C.A.T., McDonald said the system could be developed privately or through a 8 public/private partnership. He said he would be happy to take on the project. He said he is not interested in making money off the idea and is not seeking a government subsidy.

Õ7McDonaldÕ If he could secure government approvals for the rights of way, he said, he would raise money privately and establish a nonprofit organization that would own the system and donate profits to charity.

He estimated one-way rides would cost $1.75.

Each car on the system would carry about eight people, and the system could carry about 2,000 people an hour, he said. It would be powered by electricity, so it would produce little noise and no air pollution, he said.

Between stations, the gondolas would run at 22 mph. As they entered a station, they would "detach" from the high-speed cable to a slower one and travel at 1 mph or come to a stop, he said. Then the car would hitch back onto the high-speed cable as it moved to the next station.

There are two public transportation systems connecting the university area to downtown and the lakefront: Centro bus service and the OnTrack train shuttle that runs during the summer and during sporting events at SU.

McDonald said gondolas would have a big advantage over bus or train service: They would run on riders' schedules, not on the train or bus services' schedules. Like a ski lift, the gondola cars could arrive at each station every few seconds and could run all day and all night, he said.

Besides, traveling at rooftop level, they would offer a great view of the city and Onondaga Lake, he said.

Gondolas are used at ski resorts to carry skiers up mountains. That's where McDonald got the idea.

McDonald owns a condominium at Stratton Mountain in Vermont. Every weekend during the winter, he looks out his window and sees the gondolas bringing skiers up the mountain. Unlike chairlifts, the gondolas are fully enclosed to protect passengers from the weather.

So McDonald began thinking that the same system could be used to transport people in an urban setting. A little research revealed that the maker of Stratton's gondolas, Leitner-Poma of America Inc., based in Grand Junction, Colo., is branching out from ski resorts and marketing gondolas to cities.

The system was recently installed in Medellin, Colombia, to carry people over a heavily populated neighborhood and down a steep hill to connect them to a mass-transit rail service.

McDonald said gondola systems are much cheaper to build than monorails because they do not require much land. They need only the space that a station would use and the small footprint used by 40- to 70-foot high poles that would be installed along the sides of city streets to hold up the cable, he said.

He estimates it would cost $5 million for the system's first link, which would run from SU to the Onondaga County Convention Center.

McDonald said he is not seeking government money and does not think his continuing tax dispute with the state would affect his ability to play a role in the construction and operation.

In 2000, the state Department of Taxation and Finance filed a tax warrant against McDonald for $771,662 in state income taxes for 1997 and an additional $166,695 in interest and penalties. McDonald said the tax debt resulted from a bank foreclosure on a Kingston office building of which he was an owner. The foreclosure resulted in a debt forgiveness that, under federal and state tax laws, was taxed as income, he said.

McDonald said he settled his debt with the Internal Revenue Service but was not able to reach an agreement with the state before the tax warrant was issued. He said the state has collected on part of the judgment, but that a balance remains.

He said he thinks he could raise the money privately for the first link of the system. And if that link were successful - as he expects it would be - he said plenty of developers and investors would be interested in helping build the rest of the system.

Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll, who has been briefed by McDonald, said he thinks the idea should be given consideration because it would transport people economically and would not contribute to air pollution.

Kevin Morrow, speaking for Syracuse University, said the university considers McDonald's proposal an "intriguing transportation idea for the city." He noted that the university does not manage public transportation but is a user of systems such as Centro.

"We work with the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority to assess and address our needs," he said. "If local government and transportation authorities saw value in the S.C.A.T. concept, we would, in turn, weigh its benefits and possible use for our students, faculty, staff and visitors."

Dave Ristau, director of marketing and communications for Centro, said the bus service has not spoken with McDonald about his idea and has not had a chance to study it.




Its so Crazy it might just work! But they really, REALLY, need a new name. I not ride on anything that shares a name with a sex-poop fetish...
 

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A couple years ago a local, well connected guy proposed building something like that in Baltimore to connect waterfront areas. They are close enough that the slow speed wouldn't be a problem and it could be marketed both to commuters and tourists. It seemed to have a small footprint on the ground (which would work with the limited land available) and a reasonable price. Unfortunately, I never heard anything about it again. It seems like a good idea and I'd like to see someone get one going.
 

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come on, this sounds like some old style mass transit, like before street cars or something, will it in any way compete with subways, bus systems or taxi service in reliability, well nobody knows because nobody wants to actually try it and see.
 

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BuffCity said:
come on, this sounds like some old style mass transit, like before street cars or something, will it in any way compete with subways, bus systems or taxi service in reliability, well nobody knows because nobody wants to actually try it and see.
The guy in Baltimore who proposed it was going to use cable cars built in Switzerland for going up mountains. It is old technology but apparently quite reliable. It's slow but in a dense area speed isn't as important as being apart from traffic and having a good view. It wouldn't take up any street space like rail cars and wouldn't require tunnels. The only thing it needs on the ground is a 6 foot square place to mount the poles that hold cables and a stairway at the stops. You wouldn't use something like that where distance is a factor.
 
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