Burnaby City Council confirms official support for SFU Gondola's quickest route

Jan 28 2022, 5:26 pm

After some uncertainty, Burnaby City Council has now officially indicated it has made a decision to not only support TransLink’s proposed Burnaby Mountain Gondola public transit line, but also the direct, quickest path of Route 1.

The decision was announced this morning, and it follows Thursday’s Mayors’ Council’s approval of the Transport 2050 regional transportation strategy, which includes the gondola project.

Route 1 connects SkyTrain Production Way-University Station and the core of the Simon Fraser Campus (SFU) atop Burnaby Mountain in a straight line. Of the three route options considered, it has the fastest end-to-end travel time of six minutes, highest ridership potential, lowest construction cost of $210 million, lowest annual operating cost of $5.6 million, and lowest footprint and environmental impact.

“The Burnaby Mountain Gondola project will create a safe and reliable transit option for Burnaby residents travelling to and from Burnaby Mountain. By taking cars and buses off the road it will be one of the many changes we must make in our city to achieve the aggressive targets we’ve set for reducing carbon emissions,” said Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley in a statement.

“Before endorsing this project, council stressed the importance of consultation with residents, businesses and First Nations, and we expect that dialogue to continue should this project move forward.”

In a statement to Daily Hive Urbanized, TransLink says Burnaby City Council’s project endorsement and route selection allows it to proceed to the next step of further public consultation and to complete the project’s business case.

“TransLink can proceed with additional technical analysis to continue to build our project knowledge, and further engage with the public later this year,” reads the statement.

“This publicly stated support informs decision-makers around the Mayors’ Council table about Burnaby’s stated priorities for TransLink’s next 10-year Regional Vision. The gondola will benefit Burnaby residents and the region as a whole, offering faster, greener, more cost-effective service than bus.”

sfu burnaby mountain gondola route options

SFU Burnaby Mountain Gondola route options, with Route 1 highlighted in blue. (TransLink)

Route 1 is the highly preferred route identified by TransLink and its public consultation of Burnaby and the region as a whole. It is also the top choice for the administration, students, faculty, and residents of SFU.

“This is tremendous news for SFU and for commuters across the Lower Mainland. As university president, I want to thank Mayor Hurley and Burnaby City Council for their foresight and vision in moving forward with the Burnaby Mountain Gondola,” said SFU president Joy Johnson.

“I especially want to thank all the people who spoke out, wrote letters and voiced their support for the gondola, including our students, faculty and staff, and members of the UniverCity community. Special thanks to past and present executives from the Simon Fraser Student Society, the SFU Graduate Student Society, employee, faculty and labour groups, the Alumni Association, Build the SFU Gondola Now, and all of the signatories on the open letter in support. Without your help, we wouldn’t be able to celebrate this fantastic decision today.”

This follows city council’s May 2019 decision of supporting the gondola, but at the time they stopped short of supporting the direct, straight-line route, and expressed concern over the potential impact on the Forest Grove neighbourhood. City council then requested TransLink to perform a detailed comparative analysis of route options, with the specific inclusion of a third option from Lake City Way Station (Route 3), and public consultation.

But the public transit authority’s findings showed non-optimal conditions and unfavourable results for the other two route options.

Two residential properties will be impacted by Route 1, but it will require just five towers, the number of tree removals will be only 20% of each of Route 2 and Route 3, and the aerial line impact over park and green space areas is half of Route 2 and one-third of Route 3.

Route 3 also cuts through Burnaby Mountain Golf Course, travels within very close proximity to Trans Mountain’s oil tank farm, requires an added transfer for passengers arriving from the Expo Line from its lower terminal at Lake City Way Station, and requires a longer uphill walking distance for its upper terminal located away from the core campus. The travel times for Route 2 and 3 compared to Route 1 are four to five minutes longer, respectively.

SFU Burnaby Mountain campus master plan

Artistic rendering of the SFU Burnaby Mountain gondola terminal station. (SFU)

Whistler Blackcomb

Peak to Peak Gondola (Whistler Blackcomb)

The gondola will offer a peak hour capacity of 3,000 passengers per hour per direction, with 30 passenger capacity cabins departing as frequently as every minute.

It will use a tri-cable system, known as 3S, similar to Whistler Blackcomb’s Peak to Peak Gondola, for enhanced speed, safety, and redundancy. Using 3S, the gondola will still be able to operate safely in wind conditions of up to 100 km/hr.

However, the gondola’s implementation depends on receiving funding support from the federal and provincial governments. To fund the project, TransLink previously indicated they were looking to tap into the region’s share of the federal gas tax revenue fund, and federal green infrastructure fund.

When built, the gondola will replace the No. 145 Production Way-University/SFU and No. 143 Burquitlam/SFU bus routes. The gondola will better ensure the campus remains accessible year-round, especially during the winter, when snowfall and ice buildup on the mountain roads forces the cancellation of classes.

The major No. 145 bus route has a travel time of 15 minutes in optimal conditions. Route 1’s annual operating cost is 30% lower than the existing buses.

“The Simon Fraser Student Society is excited to hear the news of the Burnaby Mountain Gondola project being endorsed,” says Matthew Provost, vice president external relations for the Simon Fraser Student Society.

“After a decade of advocacy from the student body we are able to celebrate and look forward to the positive impacts this will have for students, the SFU Community and Burnaby as a whole.”

SFU Burnaby Mountain Gondola route options compared

  • Route 1: Direct, straight line
    • Starting point: Production Way-University Station
    • Ending point: SFU Exchange
    • Travel time and distance: 6 minutes over 2.7 km
    • Construction cost: $210 million
    • Annual operating cost: $5.6 million (30% less than the bus)
    • Combined 2035 ridership: 30,400 per weekday
    • Property impact for the 20-metre wide gondola right-of-way: 2 residential properties on 3,778 sq metres due to aerial; 9 industrial/office properties on 9,488 sq metres; and 15,446 sq metres for other impacts
    • Aerial line residential privacy impact: Although it passes over the Forest Grove neighbourhood, no properties are within the 30.5-metre privacy impact zone
    • Aerial line impact over parks and green spaces: 19,779 sq metres, including 12,893 sq metres within Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area
    • Number of trees removed: 220 trees over 1.9 acres
  • Route 2: Angled eastern detour
    • Starting point: Production Way-University Station
    • Ending point: SFU Exchange
    • Travel time and distance: 11 minutes over 3.7 km
    • Construction cost: $237 million
    • Annual operating cost: $7.2 million (8% less than the bus)
    • Combined 2035 ridership: 28,200 per weekday
    • Property impact for the 20-metre wide gondola right-of-way: No residential impact; 4 industrial/office properties on 10,225 sq metres; and 16,104 sq metres for other impacts
    • Aerial line residential privacy impact: 12 residential units in one UniverCity property
    • Aerial line impact over parks and green spaces: 36,768 sq. metres, all within Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area
    • Number of trees removed: 1,110 trees over 7 acres
  • Route 3: Angled western detour
    • Starting point: Lake City Way Station
    • Ending point: Naheeno Park
    • Travel time and distance: 10 minutes over 3.6 km
    • Construction cost: $231 million
    • Annual operating cost: $7.2 million (8% less than the bus)
    • Combined 2035 ridership: 25,400 per weekday
    • Property impact for the 20-metre wide gondola right-of-way: No residential impact; 7 industrial/office parcels on 12,758 sq. metres; and 36,567 sq. metres for other impacts
    • Aerial line residential privacy impact: None
    • Aerial line impact over parks and green spaces: 57,455 sq metres, including 27,269 sq metres within Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, 15,984 sq. metres within Burnaby Mountain Golf Course, and 7,714 sq metres within Naheeno Park
    • Number of trees removed: 1,330 trees over 6.3 acres

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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