84% of regional residents support SFU Burnaby Gondola: TransLink survey

Nov 6 2020, 9:03 pm

There is overwhelming support for the proposed gondola public transit line to reach Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Burnaby Mountain campus, according to TransLink’s results of the survey conducted throughout September 2020.

The public transit authority’s report on the findings was released today, which indicated the survey received about 13,000 respondents.

Across the region, 84% of residents indicated that they are either very supportive or supportive of the gondola, with support highest amongst SFU students and the residents of the UniverCity neighbourhood atop Burnaby Mountain (89%). The number of UniverCity residents totalled 750 participants.

Support levels of Burnaby residents, except for SFU, hovered at 65%, while Forest Grove neighbourhood residents immediately below the straight, direct gondola route option had a support level of 34%. Another 44% of Forest Grove residents indicated varying levels of opposition, with residents in this neighbourhood accounting for a total of 795 respondents.

But overall, only 8% of the region’s residents indicated their opposition.

The survey also specifically gauged factors that will help TransLink, the City of Burnaby, and the Mayors’ Council determine which of the three route options should be selected for detailed design.

SFU Burnaby Mountain campus master plan

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

Based on the survey, the top five values are safety and security, all-weather and daily travel reliability, rapid transit that meets current and future demand, greenhouse gas reduction considerations, and an improvement over the frequency and travel time of existing bus service.

Residents within Forest Grove are mainly concerned with local issues, such as noise, visual, privacy, and safety impacts of the straight, direct gondola route option. These are part of their concerns for compensation and impact on property values for homes in close proximity.

Survey respondents brought up safety considerations, such as ice bombs, passengers throwing items out of windows, close proximity to power lines, crime and vandalism, and emergency evacuation planning. Some comments were also made about cable failure and vandalism in light of the troubles experienced by the Sea to Sky Gondola.

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

When it comes to technology and design, comments were made on reliability during inclement weather and power outages, built-in capability for future capacity increases, terminal design and location, tower heights, and cabin layout and design, including considerations for the accessibility of people with disabilities, bikes, and strollers.

For the public’s consideration, TransLink presented two route options that begin at Production Way-University Station and end at UniverCity Town Square, including the aforementioned straight-line, direct route with a travel time of six minutes over a 2.7-km-long distance with five towers. It also carries the lowest construction and operating costs, with construction pegged at $197 million.

The second option that also starts from Production Way-University Station takes an angled detour to the east to reduce its impact over the Forest Grove neighbourhood. The 3.7-km-long span with seven towers, plus a direction turning mid-station building, has a travel time of 11 minutes. Previous preliminary construction cost estimates peg this option at $255 million.

sfu burnaby mountain gondola route options

SFU Burnaby Mountain Gondola route options. (TransLink)

A third shortlisted route option begins at Lake City Way Station, requiring a transfer to the Millennium Line at Production Way-University Station for those travelling from the Expo Line. The mountaintop terminal is located within Naheeno Park, just south of the intersection of South Campus Road and Gaglardi Way.

This 3.6-km-long route with seven towers, not including the mid-station, has a travel time of 10 minutes and is closest to the Trans Mountain tank farm. The construction cost for the third route option is significantly higher than the first two options, but a detailed cost estimate has not been made. TransLink added this third route to its consideration upon the request of the municipal government.

The gondola will have a peak hour capacity of 3,000 passengers per hour per direction, with 35-passenger capacity cabins arriving every minute.

About 25,000 bus trips are typically made to campus each weekday, and without the gondola, this bus ridership is expected to increase to 40,000 from both the growth of enrolment and the UniverCity residential community. A gondola would replace the existing No. 145 SFU/Production Station bus, which is prone to lengthy delays, mechanical breakdowns, and frequent pass-ups. A 15-minute bus trip can see delays of as long as 30 minutes.

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

The results of September’s survey will be used for the foundation of the second round of public consultation that will take place later this Fall 2020, which will lead to a final recommendation of the project by TransLink staff to TransLink’s board of directors and Mayors’ Council in 2021 for consideration in a future investment plan.

In October, TransLink also launched a public consultation on the station designs for the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension reaching Fleetwood. But this consultation was suspended just days later when a provincial election was called, and the public transit authority said the engagement would restart at a later date. One of the campaign promises of the newly elected majority government under the BC NDP is to expedite the full Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension reaching Langley by absorbing it as a provincial project.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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