Conceptualized Downtown/Waterfront Aerial Tram's Primary Focus Is Transportation, Not Amusement, But Likely Will Be An Attraction, Says Project Proponent; LBREPORT.com Archival Coverage Shows In 2010, Council Voted To Begin Analyzing/Pursuing Similar Project With Multi-Step Process
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(Aug. 26, 2018) -- The primary focus of a conceptualized downtown/waterfront aerial tramways is transportation, to move people between downtown areas, shoreline sites and south shore ("across the water") locations and, as an added benefit, is expected to draw visitors. So says Clay Sandidge, founder/president/CEO of LB-based Muni-Fed Energy and the featured speaker at a September 14, 2018 breakfast meeting of LB's Commercial Real Estate Council (reported Aug. 23 by LBREPORT.com.)
In an August 24 telephone conversation with LBREPORT.com, Mr. Sandidge said the conceptualized aerial tram is first and foremost a transportation project to provide traffic mitigation, alleviate congestion and make it easier for people to get from downtown areas to waterfront locations and south shore sites (routes/locations to be determined.) In addition to its primary transportation benefits, Mr. Sandidge said the aerial tram is also expected to become a source attraction; once people see it, they'll want to ride on it.
A description of his upcoming CREC presentation (spotted by LBREPORT.com) invites attendees to "Catch 'The Wave'" and displays an image of the Portland Aerial tram as an example of a cable-driven medium-to high-capacity transit system. .
Source: Image on event description
[Scroll down for further.]
Mr. Sandidge's Muni-Fed Energy is now working to co-develop The Wave project with Alex Bellehumeur, a retired LB Harbor Commissioner [1990-1996] and owner of State-wide Developers, Inc., who delivered a presentation on the concept of an aerial tram -- that he titled "The Wave" -- to the advisory (now former) Queen Mary Land Development Task Force in early 2016.
LBREPORT.com archived coverage (below) shows that in September 2010, the City Council voted to approve a city management recommendation to work with a Pennsylvania firm in a multi-step feasibility analysis and planning process that, if it advanced, would have included [agendizing memo text] identifying "local match requirements, in-kind investments, and potential public/private partnership opportunities."
It's not immediately clear if the project process envisioned now is or isn't exactly what was envisioned eight years ago; we may learn differences in the coming weeks...but what previously occurred is a matter of record now.
Council approval came a little over a month after an August 4, 2010 item on the agenda of the Council's Tidelands and Harbor Committee (chair: Suja Lowenthal, vice-chair Gary DeLong, member: Robert Garcia) titled: "Recommendation to discuss an unsolicited proposal for a Tram & Aerial Gondola System stretching from the Downtown Shoreline to South Shores Areas." It was accompanied by Power Point slides visible at this link presented by Robert Ardolino, Founder, President & CEO, Urban Innovations and Randy Woolrine, Vice President of Sales, Doppelmayr. Following Committee comments and dialogue with the presenters, the Committee voted to forward the matter to the full City Council.
Roughly six weeks later on September 21, 2010, an item appeared on the City Council agenda -- as a recommendation by high ranking city management via an agendizing memo signed by then Community Development Dir. Dennis Thys and Public Works Dir. Mike Conway, signed as approved by City Manager Pat West -- seeking Council approval to [agendizing memo text] "Authorize the City Manager to execute all documents necessary with Urban Innovations (Urban), based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to enter one or more agreements and to submit one or more applications to seek pre-application and pre-development grant funding from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Federal Transit Agency for the preparation of an Alternative Transportation Analysis." This marked a considerable advance for what had been an "unsolicited proposal" to a Council committee six weeks earlier.
Below is extended salient text of city management's agendizing memo for the Sept. 21, 2010 Council action:
Long Beach faces a mixed transportation challenge in the downtown area. The convergence of needs for parking, congestion management and mitigation, and connectivity between critical commercial and retail nodes calls for alternative transportation solutions. These critical nodes include the Pine Avenue retail and entertainment district, the Promenade, the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, Shoreline Village, The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and the Queensway Bay area including the Marriott and Maya Hotels, Queen Mary and the Carnival Cruise Lines terminal, among others. Physically connecting these various and disparate nodes in a cost-effective, efficient and creative manner would provide operational synergism and provide unquantifiable benefits to the City.
In addition, within the downtown and Queensway Bay area, there are opportunities to foster and enhance additional economic development that has been constrained or hampered by limited accessibility and increasing congestion, preventing the attainment of the needed critical
mass to ensure success. Potential solutions include additional bus and waterway routes and non-traditional approaches such as ground-based cable drawn trams and aerial gondola ropeway systems.
On August 4, 2010, the Tidelands and Harbor Committee (Committee) received an unsolicited proposal from Urban for a Tram & Aerial Gondola System stretching from Downtown Shoreline to South Shore Areas. The Committee requested that this item be presented in a timely manner to the full City Council for their consideration.
In order to be prepared to analyze alternative transportation systems that may serve to support or foster current or future development scenarios, it is prudent for the City (working in conjunction with Urban) to apply for and secure transportation planning and
pre-development grant money under a State and Federally approved process. Potential sources of these funds include the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Federal Transit Agency (FTA).
This process is a multi-phased effort. The first phase involves securing pre-application grant funding through MTA. This will allow Urban to prepare the necessary documentation required by the FTA, including preliminary evaluation of delivery systems, for the best transportation alternatives and project placement on the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).
If this phase were successful, the second phase would involve obtaining additional planning grant funding through FTA to conduct an Alternative Transportation Analysis.
This Analysis would identify preferred transportation alternatives based on existing and potential development and local prioritization. This Analysis would also provide preliminary technical feasibility and cost analyses, identification of funding sources
(including local match requirements, in-kind investments, and potential public/private partnership opportunities), possible scheduling, environmental clearances under State and Federal guidelines and other objectives. It is anticipated that this phase would include a local match component that has not yet been determined.
Before proceeding with the second phase, staff would issue a Request for Qualifications to identify the most qualified firm that could guide the City through this and subsequent phases of the process and return to City Council with the selected consultant, the scope of work and the associated cost for the next phase.
Upon completion of the second phase, it is envisioned that additional grant applications will be submitted to the FTA with a primary focus on the Transit Title, to assist in funding the construction of the approved alternative transportation project. This third phase will also include a local match and require subsequent City Council approval.
The submittal of the pre-application for grant funding (first phase) is not expected to impact the City's efforts to secure funds for other significant transportation improvements projects as the grant funds being sought are provided through the Transit Title rather than the Highway Title. The Transit Title funding source is periodically reauthorized by Congress and is anticipated to occur again in October 2011. In order to be considered for the next authorization, pre-applications need to be timely submitted. It is recommended that City Council authorize seeking pre-development planning grant funds from MTA and FTA accordingly...
Staff requests City Council action on September 21, 2010, in order to allow for the timely submittal of pre-development planning grant applications.
There is no fiscal impact and no local job impact associated with the recommendation.
LBREPORT.com covered the story in detail at the time:
(Sept. 23, 2010) -- On Sept. 21, the City Council voted 7-1 (Johnson dissenting, Gabelich absent) to enter into agreements with Pennsylvania-based Urban Innovations (a private firm) to guide LB City Hall in seeking grant money from regional and federal agencies to fund an "alternative transportation analysis" that would identify ways to connect some southshore locations linking downtown/southshore sites using traditional bus and waterway routes as well as "non-traditional approaches" including "ground-based cable drawn trams and aerial gondola ropeway systems."
City management recommended Council approval of the first phase of the proposal, which initially came from an unsolicited proposal heard and forwarded in August by the Council's Harbor & Tidelands Committee (Lowenthal, DeLong, Garcia).
On Sept. 21, the Council motion to approve was made by Councilman Gary DeLong and seconded by Councilman Dee Andrews. The Council presentation by Urban Innovation's president, Robert Ardolino, used the Power Point previously presented to the Harbor and Tidelands Committee in August.
Mayor Foster left the Council Chamber as the item came up; Vice Mayor Lowenthal presided during Council discussion which she opened with a statement that included the following:
Vice Mayor Lowenthal: ...I see the issue as two fold. On a practical level, how do we encourage greater economic prosperity on both sides of the channel through alternative transportation but on a more inspired level, how can we continue to establish Long Beach as a destination for tourism, conventions and other economic activity?...[T]he downtown and shoreline are a major economic engine already, second only to the Port of Long Beach, and these 50+ acres next to the Queen Mary hold great potential on a variety of levels. Now is the time certainly for us to propose and evaluate solutions to access its connectivity concerns associated with the south shores area.
Councilmembers Robert Garcia (photo right) and Dee Andrews voiced support for addressing what they described as transportation issues; Councilman Garcia portrayed the process as a way of seeing if there was "federal interest" in the project [applying a term from the Breakwater study], but Vice Mayor Lowenthal acknowledged during Council discussion that a federal agency had already indicated its willingness to provide funding for a transportation analysis, and did so when Mr. Ardolino's firm guided an application submitted by the prior Queen Mary operator (which was unable to proceed). In contrast, on this application the City of Long Beach itself will be the applicant, not a third party.
Councilman Patrick O'Donnell asked city management, "How can we ensure that this won't cost the city any money?" Public works Director Mike Conway replied that the project is designed to proceed in phases, with no costs for the first phase (being voted on by the Council now) with voted Council approval sought for future phases.
In response, Councilman O'Donnell stopped short of categorically saying he'd oppose a project that involved local funding, stating instead "If we're going to commit any city dollars to this project...I think there needs to be a pretty comprehensive discussion at the Council level."
When Mr. Ardolino added, "Let me assure you that we're not using any city funding, tidelands or coastal," Councilman O'Donnell shot back, "Just so you know, we've heard that before in this city, and things have changed."
The federal funds being sought are unobligated federal "stimulus" dollars, firm president Ardolino said. When asked when the item would likely come back to the Council for a decision on whether to proceed with phase two (which management has acknowledged would entail local funding of some type), Mr. Ardolino said "within 90 days."
In its agendizing memo, city management acknowledged that the process would ultimately require local funding at costs currently unknown and not estimated for two of three of its phases [in part because the transportation system(s) aren't yet known]. The first phase (which management says has no fiscal impact) entails seeking MTA pre-application funds to pay for an application seeking FTA funds to produce the second phase: an "Alternative Transportation Analysis" that management anticipates "would include a local match component that has not yet been determined."
Management's memo says that before proceeding with the second phase, "staff would issue a Request for Qualifications to identify the most qualified firm that could guide the City through this and subsequent phases of the process and return to City Council with the selected consultant, the scope of work and the associated cost for the next phase. Upon completion of the second phase, it is envisioned that additional grant applications will be submitted to the [federal agency] in a third phase that "will also include a local match and require subsequent City Council approval."
The memo says the transportation system (whatever it turns out to be) would provide "connectivity between critical commercial and retail nodes" that include the "Pine Avenue retail and entertainment district, the Promenade, the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, Shoreline Village, The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and the Queensway Bay area including the Marriott and Maya Hotels."...
Exactly what happened, or didn't happen, between 2010 and now isn't fully clear, but Messrs Sandidge and Bellehumeur both indicate to LBREPORT.com that they're working with Mr. Ardolino now. It's also a matter of record that the economy began souring in late 2008 and by 2009 and into 2010 was poor on many levels, likely a major factor.
Almost eight years after the City Council's voted action, the event description for the upcoming LB Commercial Real Estate Council's Sept. 14 breakfast event states:
[Event description text ] ...A proposed implementation of an aerial tram (or alternative solution) to connect the downtown to the waterfront has the potential to:
Create and enhance vitality
Demonstrate the City's commitment to the area to promote CRE investment
Provide additional transportation capacity for potential future CRE investment
Many urban areas have successfully implemented cable-driven medium- to high-capacity transit systems, including the Portland Aerial Tram (pictured [above]), the Las Vegas CityCenter cable-driven people mover project and the Roosevelt Island gondolas in New York City. A similar system has also recently been studied for San Diego's waterfront. Renewed interest in developing the waterfront and Queen Mary has highlighted the need for improved transit and urban design. The proposed tram project would be a catalyst for development and increased tourism, and as such, enjoys the support of the business community in Long Beach, particularly among property owners within the study area. In addition, the Downtown Business Association and the Chamber of Commerce have demonstrated their consistent support.
Both residents and tourists alike will be newly drawn to the study area, providing an estimated 500,000 annual trips induced by the tram. These additional trips can be broken down into three types: 1) resident work trips; 2) non-work trips for shopping, personal business and recreation; and 3) tourist and visitor trips. Such demand can easily be served by a tram system. Tram capacity ranges from 600-5,000 passengers per hour per direction - roughly equivalent to the capacity of a 2-lane highway.
Developing. Further as we learn it on LBREPORT.com.
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