Gondola public transit line integral to new SFU Burnaby Mountain campus master plan

Nov 7 2019, 5:48 pm

The two-year process of creating a long-term master plan for Simon Fraser University’s main campus atop Burnaby Mountain is now approaching the finish line.

University officials and planning consultants are now in the last phase of confirming the elements made from the draft master plan and moving towards the start of the implementation of its spectrum of aspects. The master plan, outlining the vision for a complete community, will guide the growth and evolution of the campus through 2065.

This includes student housing, marketing housing, academic space renewal and expansion, green and open spaces, cultural facilities (such as the recently announced art museum), commercial spaces and supporting services, and transportation, especially TransLink’s proposed gondola public transit line between Production University Station and the core of the campus.

An open house will be held later this month to inform the public of the proposed campus master plan, before any final refinements are made.

SFU Burnaby Mountain campus master plan

SFU Burnaby Mountain campus master plan. (SFU)

Preliminary directions highlighted in the draft plan created earlier this year envision the eventual development of the southern forested slopes of Burnaby Mountain, significantly expanding the existing campus southwards.

“While demand for development into most of these areas is limited today, the 50-year time frame for this plan requires exploration of the potential of these areas to accommodate future needs and opportunities,” reads a report earlier this year updating the planning process.

“New development should generally work to avoid significant environmental features to minimize impacts and avoid costly interventions in natural systems.”

SFU Burnaby Mountain campus master plan

Artistic rendering of the new outdoor stadium at Terry Fox Field at SFU Burnaby Mountain. (SFU)

To support growing transportation needs, especially from future growth, planners want to create a new east-west mobility corridor that will enhance access and connectivity across the campus. Such a corridor could be served by an autonomous shuttle.

“The proposed corridor follows a relatively even grade across the campus, positioning it to better support all modes of transportation and universal accessibility, creating opportunities to introduce new programs or technologies to expedite movement across the full campus as expansion continues,” reads the report.

This east-west mobility corridor would also be supported by a series of new or enhanced north-south spatial corridors, which are needed to serve the southward campus expansion.

SFU Burnaby Mountain campus master plan

Artistic rendering of the new east-west mobility corridor at SFU Burnaby Mountain. (SFU)

But the overarching piece of the master plan’s transportation component is the gondola, which supports all of the growth possibilities for the mountaintop. It would not only add another way to reach the campus and provide long-term capacity over the existing buses, but it would also enhance transportation resilience given the limited road options, especially during poor weather conditions. The mountaintop gondola terminus will become a key gateway into the campus.

“The gondola would also create opportunities where it lands on campus, and where it connects to the SkyTrain. This could potentially attract new services and amenities, cultural facilities, and even employment and industry partnerships, all of which could become more viable due to proximity to and ridership from the gondola,” the report adds.

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

Artistic rendering of SFU East Gateway. (Perkins + Will / Simon Fraser University)

By 2045, roughly mid-way through the master plan’s timeline, UniverCity, the residential community on the eastern side of the campus, is expected to grow to a population of 10,000. The number of faculty and staff will increase to about 8,000, and the number of undergraduate and graduate students will reach over 30,000 — a 50% increase from today.

Over the next few years, existing planned student housing projects reaching completion will increase the student housing capacity from 1,764 beds to 3,250 beds.

The open house on the campus master plan is scheduled for November 13, 2019, from 11 am to 2 pm and 3:30 pm and 6:30 pm, at Saywell Hall Atrium.

SFU Burnaby Mountain campus master plan

SFU Burnaby Mountain campus master plan. (SFU)