British Columbia

Burnaby council votes to support gondola to SFU in principle

Burnaby city council has agreed to support -- in principle -- Translinks gondola up Burnaby Mountain that links to Simon Fraser University.

Gondola would link university with SkyTrain system

A gondola to Simon Fraser University is a priority under TransLink's 10-year vision for Metro Vancouver transit and transportation. (TransLink)

Burnaby city council has agreed to support — in principle — a gondola up Burnaby Mountain to Simon Fraser University.

On Monday night, council agreed to endorse the proposal as long as TransLink could provide a plan that residents would support.

"This is the first time we've actually given … a green light to them to say, here are the options, consider those, and we believe one of them is workable," said Coun. Sav Dhaliwal.

The two alignment options put forward by TransLink in its 2018 feasibility study each had an end point at Production Way-University SkyTrain station. One went in a straight line to SFU, while the other cut to the east to avoid the Forest Grove neighbourhood, before cutting back west to the university. 

Burnaby has put forward an option that sees the gondola leave from Lake City Way station — one stop west — and bend around the Trans Mountain tank farm, avoiding the Forest Grove neighbourhood altogether. 

"We have to think about those residents. A gondola coming every 30 seconds doesn't make sense. If that's what TransLink wants to push through, I won't stand for it," said Coun. Joe Keithley. 

Coun. Pietro Calendino also voiced concerns about running the route through the neighbourhood.

"I'm not sure I would feel that safe having a gondola go above my house when I'm sleeping. Accidents can happen. They don't happen very much with gondolas around the world, but we are on an earthquake fault," he said. 

Three options are being considered for a gondola route to Simon Fraser University from a SkyTrain station. (City of Burnaby)

Long process

A gondola has been floated as a possibility to alleviate transportation concerns on Burnaby Mountain for several years. 

In 2011, TransLink put forward a feasibility study that estimated the cost of construction would be $114 million, with costs of between $3 million and $3.5 million per year to operate.

In 2018, the cost increased to between $197 million and $255 million, depending on the route, and between $4.1 million and $5.3 million to operate. 

SFU community trust and the UniverCity community on top of the mountain indicated that the gondola would allow for an alternative to the diesel-fuelled bus service that currently serves the area, improving travel time, frequency and reliability, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"If we think the project is that good, the project is going to benefit for the next 60 years, then we should be willing to spend more money," Dhaliwal said.

While the gondola is included in the planned projects in TransLink's 10-year vision that still require funding from higher levels of government, TransLink must decide whether to consider Burnaby's alternative request.

With files from Justin McElroy

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