I live in Boston. Charlestown, if you’re familiar with the area. The other night I was over in the North End for dinner, which is about a mile or so from my place. The North End is Boston’s preeminent Italian neighborhood and most weekend nights are jam-packed with tourists and locals looking for dinner. Getting there by cab, even from a mile away, takes a while since Hanover Street—the main drag—is flocked with people, cars, and cops on suped-up Segways. I took a photo of this awesome contraption the other night:
Anyhoo, most nights the walk to and from the North End isn’t too bad but Boston’s small enough with different enough neighborhoods that there could and should be a ski lift system that went all around the city with a single stop in each main neighborhood’s central area. Here’s why.
Tourists love seeing different areas of cities and a ski lift is a novel way to do that. Sure, you can ride the subway but once you’ve ridden one subway system, you’ve ridden them all. And you have to sit next to strangers, avoid panhandlers, and figure out which line goes where. With a ski lift, you have your own chair and you get a great view of whatever’s below you, plus the system is simple. If Boston’s got, say, ten main neighborhoods, the chairlift system maybe has 8-10 stops and the whole thing goes in a big circle. You could ride it just to see everything or ride it to get somewhere in particular.
Locals would benefit from the ski lift system as a way to get to a certain neighborhood. Again, the subway and bus system can accomplish this goal too but in my particular case, if I want to get from Charlestown to MIT to cover some nerd-ish event, I have to take the Orange Line into the middle of the city just to take the Red Line back out of the city. There’s no direct bus or subway line to certain areas. Even if the chair lift dropped me off in the touristy area of Cambridge, it’d make things easier. Locals wouldn’t necessarily benefit from having a stop close to their homes and offices but the system would get them into the middle of each neighborhood relatively quickly, although maybe not as directly as other means. Whatever the case, it could ultimately take pressure off of the other public transit options.
The city would benefit from increased tourism dollars and decreased traffic. It’d have to build out the infrastructure and, knowing Boston, that’d take decades, go way over budget, and kill a few citizens like the Big Dig did but, hey, the end result is that we’d have some sweet ski lifts that people would come from all over the world and pay decent money to experience.
The biggest logistical hurdle aside from where to build the actual stops and string all the cables would be how to keep the system moving swiftly when people want to stop in certain places. You’d have to have a flag or something that you’d stick up at the top of your chair that signaled to the lift operators at the next stop that you’ll be getting off and the next group of people can get on. Let’s cross that imaginary bridge when we never come to it, though.
So they should make it: Big city tourist chairlifts. I’d ride.
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