Public transportation & Reno’s future

As Reno moves closer to the ideal of a ‘college town’, our stumbling blocks are starting to become more and more apparent. One of these trip-ups is our fair city’s various neighborhoods and cultural and educational centers–and the fact that they’re separated by residential areas or other, more “interesting” parts of town. If we could link the areas around UNR to the hospitals to Midtown to the rest of Reno’s burrows in such a way as to facilitate easy transport around, we’d be a giant leap closer to our ideal goal.

We Marmots have been on about promoting walkable and bikable neighborhoods for years. That’s why we love  Midtown so much–and why we call it home. We certainly aren’t alone in loving these kind of neighborhoods, either. A Brookings Institution study of real estate around Washington D.C. found that “On average, each step up the walkability ladder adds $9 per square foot to annual office rents, $7 per square foot to retail rents, more than $300 per month to apartment rents and nearly $82 per square foot to home values.” The trend is spreading, and the suburbs on the outskirts of America that are accessible only by car are being abandoned in favor of walkable, bikable urban cores.

Alas, like many cities in the West, Reno did the majority of its growing after the invention of the automobile, though, which can make walking a time-consuming and tiresome activity. Toss in some inclement weather and a some traffic, and it becomes clear that Reno isn’t quite the pedestrian paradise that we might want–or that a college town requires. Try walking the mile+ from the university to the hip bars in Midtown on a cold, windy day, and you’ll agree that it isn’t simply a quick jaunt from one area to the next. We have buses, but not too many locals use them and the system isn’t exactly intuitive enough for a tourist to hop on at the Airport and end up at the right hotel. So, what’s an aspiring walkable/bikable college town to do? How can we enhance public transportation in the Biggest Little City? Enter: the aerial tram.

Before we get into the obvious benefits of aerial trams, let’s look at a few cities that have put these in recently. You may have noticed Mt. Hood in the background of this post’s picture. That’s because Portland, Oregon put in an aerial tram in 2006. It’s still going strong and getting great reviews. Then there’s New York City’s Roosevelt Island Tram that was originally opened in 1976 and got an update in 2010, and the myriad trams all over Europe. In short, they’re popular. Why? Well, first, trams are, when you look at other public transportation options, pretty inexpensive. Next, they’re super functional, able to jump highways and rivers in a single bound without having even to slow down. On that note, there’s no road mess whatsoever–no added traffic, no tracks to put in, just pylons with cable strung between them. Why are they incredibly right for Reno? Because not only would they make Reno look more metropolitan, they fit in perfectly with our ski culture.

An aerial tram could provide a trendy, classy alternative to rush hour, a quick trip around and about the nicest areas in Reno–and talk about great views while you’re on board. Maybe it’s a crazy Marmot idea, like bringing Elon Musk’s Hyper Loop to the interior West instead of California (just think: Reno to Vegas to Salt Lake City to Denver as quickly as flying without the hassle of an airport!). Maybe, though, this is exactly the kind of solution Reno needs.