TransLink's plan to double bus service, add SFU Gondola was just approved

Jul 3 2022, 8:38 pm

Following a ton of support for the SFU Gondola, Translink announced on Thursday, June 30, that their new ten-year plan has official approval.

Now, they’re set to double bus service and get a move on building the Burnaby Mountain Gondola to Simon Fraser University.

TransLink’s Transport 2050: 10-Year Priorities was approved by the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council and TransLink’s Board of Directors. The plan includes priorities for the first ten years of action that the transportation network outlined in their Transport 2050 plan.

The 10-year priorities are estimated to cost $21 billion. That money will be delivered in phases and requires new revenue sources and investment through all levels of government.

TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn said in a release that “We are at a critical time to invest in our future. We have heard through the most robust community engagement in TransLink’s history that we need to act with both ambition and urgency.”

Transport 2050: 10-Year Priorities will bring historic actions to combat climate change, reduce congestion, and improve livability in this region.”

TransLink’s major priorities include:

  • More than doubling bus service over 2022 levels.
  • Building the Burnaby Mountain Gondola to Simon Fraser University.
  • Extending the Millennium Line from Arbutus to the University of British Columbia.
  • And more.

The Mayors’ Council had previously approved the Transport 2050 regional transportation strategy, which includes the proposed Burnaby Mountain Gondola public transit line.

Now, what the first ten years of that plan will look like is becoming clear.

Chair of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation Jonathan Coté said in a release that the “plan outlines the biggest transportation improvements in Metro Vancouver’s history.”

“It will require a new approach to how we fund, build and operate our regional transportation system, requiring all governments – local, regional, provincial and federal – to work together in innovative ways to achieve this vision,” he said.

TransLink’s plan for the SFU gondola

For the proposed SFU gondola, TransLink has identified Route 1 as the most favourable direction for the project. It 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, the highest ridership potential, the lowest construction cost of $210 million, the lowest annual operating cost of $5.6 million, and the lowest footprint and environmental impact.

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.

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.

The SFU gondola, TransLink says, when built 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.

SFU Burnaby Mountain Gondola route

  • 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
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