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SFU commuters say gondola would ease travel pains on Burnaby Mountain

Last Updated May 28, 2019 at 10:00 am PDT

Summary

City Council says it will continue to support looking at plans for a gondola up Burnaby Mountain

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) – What was once a pipe dream is now one step closer to reality as City Council says it will support a gondola up Burnaby Mountain.

Council will keep working on plans for a gondola to Simon Fraser University, an idea that many who navigate the single road on and off the mountain seem to support.

“I think it might be handy in the winter,” one student says.

“Buses get packed all the time,” another student explains. “For a gondola, it would just make it easier. It would make two ways to get there instead of one.

Residents of the UniverCity neighbourhood on top of the mountain have also been asking for the gondola, which they say would be key in the case of an emergency evacuation, especially if the road were closed.

In the case of an earthquake or major fire, the only plan to get 6,000 people living in that area off the mountain is to have them hike, the UniverCity Neighbourhood Association told NEWS 1130 on May 21st.

Two options

There are two proposed routes for a gondola, should it actually go through. One of the routes would see it pass directly over homes at the base of the mountain, while the second would skirt around the neighbourhood and the Kinder Morgan tank farm.

One of two proposed gondola routes from the Production Way-University SkyTrain station would see a gondola pass directly over homes at the base of Burnaby Mountain, while the second would skirt around the neighbourhood and the Kinder Morgan tank farm. (Courtesy City of Burnaby)

Both options are designed to start at Production Way-University Station.

Feasibility

The concept for a gondola up Burnaby Mountain has been studied three times in the last decade.

The most recent feasibility study by TransLink has also outlined some possible benefits that could be associated with the addition of a gondola in the Burnaby Mountain area.

“In 2011, the Burnaby Mountain Gondola Transit (BMGT) project was estimated to cost $114 million to build and $3 to $3.5 million per year to operate,” the study reads. “It was demonstrated that the benefits of the gondola clearly outweighed the costs. However, due to constrained capacity for new capital spending on regional transit, no further action was taken.”

However, after another review was done — this time in 2017 — TransLink says the assessment still found a compelling case for replacing current diesel-run bus service with a gondola alternative.

The transit authority says a gondola could help deal with continued population growth, including the increase in the number of students enrolling at SFU over time.

It adds it’s addressed resident concerns about having a gondola travel over their neighbourhoods. That is why TransLink has provided the two alternative routes, with the “kinked” alignment that would skirt around the neighbourhood assessed at a higher cost. It notes the “direct route” is its preferred option.

TransLink does note that more work can be done to bring costs down, as well as identify and address any environmental and community concerns.