Burnaby business leaders call for SFU gondola with significantly more capacity

Apr 18 2019, 9:54 pm

Capacity constraints have been a growing theme in the discussions on Metro Vancouver’s public transit system in recent years, and it has now extended to TransLink’s possible plan to build a gondola transit line from SkyTrain’s Production Way-University Station to Simon Fraser University’s main campus atop Burnaby Mountain.

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In an open letter to Burnaby City Council, the Burnaby Board of Trade (BBOT) is asking municipal leaders to push TransLink to build a gondola line with more capacity in order to meet the needs of future growth, both planned and unplanned.

A recent update of the previous feasibility study on the project indicates a 2.7-km-long aerial ropeway route from the SkyTrain station to SFU’s new East Gateway hub with a cost of $197 million in 2020 dollars will have an ultimate capacity of 3,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd), with 33-passenger cabins leaving the terminuses in frequencies of less than a minute and taking about six minutes to complete a one-way trip.

Further funding would be needed to enhance the gondola’s infrastructure to accommodate a future ultimate capacity of 4,000 pphpd to ensure the system fulfills demand needs beyond 2045. This is generally the upper ceiling of a gondola public transit system’s capacity in other applications elsewhere in the world.

A capacity of 4,000 pphpd is roughly two times the current peak hour capacity of the 99 B-Line and close to the mid-day capacity of the Canada Line when it first opened a decade ago.

According to Paul Holden, the president and CEO of the BBOT, the higher-capacity option needs to be pursued.

“While the Burnaby Board of Trade supports the project as proposed, we would in fact encourage that it be built with significantly greater capacity to allow the gondola to serve Burnaby well into the future,” wrote Holden.

“The costs involved in increasing the capacity at construction would likely be modest when amortized over the life of the project and compared with the costs of expanding capacity at a later date. With the number of commuters on Burnaby Mountain expected to increase to 40,000 by 2030, the gondola should be built envisioning these future needs.”

Support for a gondola solution to SFU’s public transit woes has been increasing, as it would be markedly faster and more reliable than the existing buses. Over time, it would also cost less to operate than the bus routes that make the arduous trek up and down the mountain.

“The Burnaby Board of Trade sees the proposed Burnaby Mountain gondola as the right choice for that infrastructure,” he continued.

“As currently proposed, the gondola would be a marked improvement over the current bus-based transportation options, offering faster, safer, greener and more reliable service for the students, faculty residents and visitors who commute to and from Burnaby Mountain.”

TransLink is currently in the process of further studying and exploring funding options for the project, which may be included in Phase Three of the Mayors’ Council’s plan.

 

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