Construction on SFU Burnaby gondola could begin in 2026

May 15 2023, 10:01 pm

If all goes as planned, construction on the aerial gondola public transit line between SkyTrain Production Way-University Station and Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Burnaby Mountain campus could begin in 2026.

That is the potential timeline outlined in Infrastructure BC’s newly published update on its list of major public infrastructure projects worth over $50 million over the coming years, which is updated in the spring and fall of each year to inform the private sector of upcoming procurement opportunities.

It is also noted that procurement — the bidding process seeking a design and construction contractor — could begin in 2025.

All of this is aligned with TransLink’s Transport 2050 10-year priorities, approved by the Mayors’ Council earlier this year, which notes the SFU gondola is targeted for implementation within the first phase of the 10-year priorities — between 2025 and 2027.

When inquired today about the ongoing planning work with the gondola project, TransLink told Daily Hive Urbanized it is working towards completing a business case and securing funding through a future update to their Investment Plan. The project is currently unfunded and is likely dependent on funding from senior governments.

TransLink has been securing contractors to perform various planning works, with the procurements for these activities open, closed, and/or already awarded. This includes the September 2022 procurement for a contractor to design the base terminal that will be integrated with Production Way-University Station, an awarded contract for archaeological services, and a currently open contract seeking public engagement/communications services.

It was stated earlier this year most of the technical planning for the gondola project will be conducted in 2023, including conceptual design, building on the preliminary planning work that supported TransLink staff’s decision to identify their preference for the shortest, direct, straight-line route from Production Way-University Station.

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)

skytrain production way university station burnaby mountain f

SkyTrain Production Way-University Station, looking north towards Burnaby Mountain and the SFU campus. (Google Earth)

Given that it is the shortest length, this route has the lowest construction cost of $210 million, based on 2022 estimates, and the lowest annual operating cost of $5.6 million. It also has the lowest environmental footprint of the three options.

As well, the selected route — approved by both the City of Burnaby and the Mayors’ Council — has the highest ridership potential due to its shortest travel time of just six minutes, and the lack of the need to transfer between trains for passengers arriving at the base terminal via the Expo or Millennium lines, as opposed to the Lake City Way Station terminal option, which is not only a longer route but requires Expo Line riders to transfer to the Millennium Line.

The gondola will not only shorten commutes up and down the mountain but improve year-round reliability, especially during inclement weather, with accumulating snowfall carrying the high risk of disrupting classes and exams each year. It will replace the existing No. 145 bus route reaching the campus from Production Way-University Station.

Each cabin, similar to Whistler Blackcomb’s Peak 2 Peak Gondola, will have a capacity for about 30 people, with cabins departing as frequently as under every minute during peak hours.

TransLink’s previous planning materials also suggested the gondola could be built relatively quickly within an 18-month timeline.

Meanwhile, the Millennium Line Broadway Extension reaching Arbutus, currently under construction, is expected to reach completion and open in early 2026, while the Expo Line Surrey-Langley Extension is targeted to start construction in 2024 for an opening in 2028.

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