British Columbia

Burnaby Mountain snow removal will be top of the agenda at post storm meeting set for next week

The municipality of Burnaby, Simon Fraser University and the SFU Community Trust are scheduled to meet next week about better access to Burnaby Mountain during snowstorms.

Stakeholders admit 'perhaps the snow removal isn't keeping pace'

When it snows, access to Burnaby Mountain often becomes nearly impossible. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The municipality of Burnaby, Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the SFU Community Trust are scheduled to meet next week about better access to Burnaby Mountain during snowstorms.   

"We'll sit-down and we'll probably meet with Coast Mountain Bus Company and look at ways of making efficiencies or improving service up there if we can work together," said Brian Carter, Burnaby's public works manager. 

Bus service up and down the mountain is a huge issue when it snows. 

Coast Mountain Bus Company operates articulated buses to SFU because they carry more passengers. 

"Articulating buses have difficulty in the snow. They're back driven and they can jack-knife or turn over," said Carter.

When it snows, the buses stop service to the mountaintop.

Coast Mountain could replace articulated buses with traditional ones during a storm, but the smaller buses are also needed on other hilly routes. 

More than university 

In recent years, a newly-developed community on Burnaby Mountain has brought up to 5,000 residents and many retailers to the area, called UniverCity.

Business operators say when it snows and SFU closes because people can't get there, it's a hit to their revenue.

"When it's closed, our shop is completely affected because our business is very dependent on students," said Fred Sharif, owner of Cornerstone Printing.

In December, he said, his shop was closed three or four times because of weather-related disruptions.  

Plowing plan 

A map shows Burnaby hires Mainroad Contracting to keep Gaglardi Way and Burnaby Mountain Parkway passable during winter storms — and SFU to clean the mountaintop streets — but getting up and down the hills is still nearly impossible when it snows. 

"In a record snowfall year, like we've had, and sustained freezing temperatures, there may be some inconveniences and then we try to get to them on a priority basis that affects the most amount of people in the shortest amount of time," said Carter.

Carter says, as soon as a storm ends, crews move in to clear routes as quickly as possible but expectations to have them opened instantly are unreasonable. 

"Our equipment is not geared up to keep up with some of those worst-case scenarios," he said. 

"At times, we do have mechanical failures. This equipment has been running hard this year and is at its capacity. Stuff breaks down." 

Alternative transit 

SFU Community Trust vice-president Dale Mikkelsen says continual frustrations of students, residents and business people to get to the top of Burnaby Mountain in winter conditions is a good argument for an alternative transit service to SFU. 

"There has been a lot of talk about an aerial transit line to SFU to help mitigate snow days and certainly closure days at the university," said Mikkelsen.

Mikkelsen was asked if developers of UniverCity should be responsible for improving winter road conditions in the area. 

"The streets that are currently addressed and occupied by residents, they are citizens of and taxpayers to the city of Burnaby, so they should receive the same care and diligence like any other resident of the city," he said. 

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