TransLink begins design process for gondola terminal at SkyTrain Production Way-University Station

Sep 19 2022, 9:58 pm

Just over two months after TransLink’s board of directors and Mayors’ Council approved the 10-year priorities of Transport 2050, the public transit authority has signalled it is starting the design process for the Burnaby Mountain gondola line reaching the Simon Fraser University (SFU) campus.

Last week, through a request for proposal (RFP), TransLink launched the bidding process for a contractor to develop design concepts for a key component of the gondola — the multi-modal public transit hub at SkyTrain Production Way-University Station.

This “mobility hub” for an integrated station will allow passengers to transfer between SkyTrain’s Expo and Millennium lines, the lower gondola terminal, and the existing bus exchange.

“TransLink has issued an RFP to find a consulting service to design the concept for the lower terminus of the Burnaby Mountain Gondola. Our goal is to ensure the design connects passengers seamlessly with the bus loop and SkyTrain Station,” a TransLink spokesperson told Daily Hive Urbanized.

This design work will help complete the full business case for the gondola project, which is a necessary step to secure funding.

3292 production way university bus exchange office building

Driveway into the bus exchange underneath the office building at 3292 Production Way, next to the SkyTrain station. (Google Maps)

The existing bus exchange sits on top of a 2007-built office building and it is expected to see significantly less use after the frequent No. 145 SFU/Production Way bus route is replaced by the gondola.

In 2019, Production Way-University Station was the 30th busiest SkyTrain station based on the 1.86 million boardings recorded that year. This includes an average of 6,440 boardings on weekdays, 2,670 boardings on Saturdays, and 1,870 boardings on Sundays and holidays.

Some accessibility and capacity upgrades could be warranted for Production Way-University Station, which currently has just six fare gates, and its platform is only accessible by one up escalator, one narrow staircase, and one elevator.

It is estimated that total public transit ridership to SFU (gondola and buses combined) will reach 35,000 daily by 2035 — up from 25,000 today. This increase is mostly attributed to the gondola.

The gondola will be a heavy-duty, high-speed, high-capacity gondola just like Whistler Blackcomb’s Peak to Peak Gondola, which can safely operate in very high winds. Peak hour capacity on the Burnaby Mountain gondola will reach up to 3,100 passengers per hour per direction during peak hours, with each large-sized cabin carrying up to about 30 passengers, and frequencies running every minute or less. In contrast, the No. 145 bus has a capacity of about 1,000 passengers per hour and runs every five minutes during peak periods.

In 2019, the No. 145 was TransLink’s 47th busiest bus route, with 2.1 million annual boardings. Its average daily boardings were 7,270 on weekdays, 3,000 on Saturdays, and 2,170 on Sundays and holidays. Ridership on this bus route in 2019 was lower than previous years partially due to significant prolonged snowfall events in the first quarter of 2019.

sfu burnaby mountain gondola production way

Conceptual illustration of the Burnaby Mountain Gondola from SkyTrain’s Production Way-University Station. (TransLink)

sfu burnaby gondola

Conceptual illustration of the Burnaby Mountain Gondola from SkyTrain’s Production Way-University Station. (TransLink)

TransLink has yet to officially confirm where exactly the gondola’s lower terminus could be located, but it is expected to be adjacent or at least just footsteps from the SkyTrain station. Highly conceptual artistic renderings suggest it could be built on the footprint of the access road northeast of the station.

A large four-acre warehouse lot is to the east of the station, and two smaller warehouse lots — 0.5 acre and one acre — are immediately north of the bus exchange/office building. The one-acre lot is home to Lamar Transit Advertising Canada, a close partner of TransLink.

TransLink states it is not behind the acquisition of two large properties to the west of the station.

3292 production way burnaby

Access road on the tast side of the bus exchange and office building at 3292 Production Way. (Google Maps)

3280 production way university burnaby lamar advertising

Lamar Advertising at 3280 Production Way, located north of the transit hub. (Google Maps)

In January 2022, Burnaby City Council officially endorsed TransLink’s preferred gondola route option of a direct, straight line from Production Way-University Station to near SFU’s existing bus loop and future campus hub.

Of the three route options considered, the selected route has the fastest end-to-end travel time of six minutes, the highest ridership potential, the lowest estimated construction cost of $210 million, the lowest annual operating cost of $5.6 million, and the lowest footprint and environmental impact.

TransLink’s approved 10-year priorities are estimated to carry a total cost of $21 billion. Other than the gondola, the priorities include nine new traffic-separated bus rapid transit (BRT) lines, doubling bus services over 2022 levels, and building the SkyTrain Millennium Line extension from Arbutus to the University of British Columbia campus.

translink burnaby mountain sfu gondola route 1

Route 1 for the Burnaby Mountain Gondola between SkyTrain’s Production Way-University Station and the Simon Fraser University campus is a direct, straight-line route. (TransLink)

Highly conceptual artistic rendering of the upper terminal for the gondola at SFU Burnaby. (SFU)

SFU Burnaby Mountain campus master plan

Highly conceptual artistic rendering of the upper terminal for the gondola at SFU Burnaby. (SFU)

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