SFU gondola plan raises concerns in Burnaby

The proposed $120-million Burnaby Mountain gondola project poses a dilemma for a group maintaining trails in the environmentally sensitive area.

According to Ron Burton, president of the Burnaby Mountain Biking Association, the construction and operation of a gondola system that would link the Production Way–University SkyTrain station to Simon Fraser University could have serious ecological impacts.

“They will have to cut and they could cut up Burnaby Mountain in order to put up the gondola and service the towers,” Burton, who’s also a Burnaby school trustee, told the Straight in a phone interview.

Burton pointed out that the gondola infrastructure would slice through the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, which includes wetlands, streams, and woods that serve as habitat to various wildlife.

However, Burton noted that the project appears to “make some economic and environmental sense”.

According to material put out by TransLink, the gondola system could eliminate 35,000 to 55,000 hours of diesel bus operations going up and down Burnaby Mountain. The transportation authority also claims that the project would save up to two million hours of transit and car travel time by 2021.

“Our position is a wait-and-see,” Burton said, adding that his organization wants to see more details.

For residents of the Forest Grove community on the lower slopes of Burnaby Mountain, the time has come for action.

Resident Christian Rarinca, a spokesperson for the Citizens Opposing the Gondola, will address members of the Metro Vancouver regional planning committee in a meeting on Friday (June 17).

According to Rarinca, the gondola system would cut across the neighbourhood. “They propose to have at rush hour a gondola leaving every 40 seconds, leaving from both sides of Production Way and SFU, which gives us an average of 20 seconds and a gondola will go over our heads,” Rarinca told the Straight by phone. “It’s really something that not only destroys the character of the neighbourhood but also it has no benefit for us. The gondola doesn’t stop at Forest Grove to take passengers.”

COG’s prepared presentation to the Metro Vancouver planning committee also raises concerns about safety risks. A copy of the paper provided to the Straight by Rarinca states that the construction of towers for the gondola may affect pipelines operated by energy company Kinder Morgan, and this could lead to explosions.

The public has until June 30 to submit comments on the proposed gondola project. TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie didn’t return calls from the Straight before deadline.



Evil Eye

Jun 16, 2011 at 6:52am

The SFU gondola was first said to cost $70 million, now it is $120 million! Shades of Translink's planning.

Dump the damn thing as it will probably cost $200 million if and when it is completed!


Jun 16, 2011 at 12:50pm

What most local media are missing are the connections between the Chair of TransLink (SFU), and a member of TransLink's board is a member of the SFU Community Trust board. The Trust's real estate development arm, UniverCity will use the gondola as a sales tool for their development on the mountain and SFU will get funding from the sale of UniverCity properties. Maybe that's why it's such a priority.

Alan James

Jun 16, 2011 at 3:19pm

As a local streamkeeper, I agree with Ron Burton's take on the possible environmental damage from construction and maintenance of the Gondola. The Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area is primarily a wildlife refuge already compromised by the increasing human pressures from UniverCity development and Tourism Burnaby promoting the Conservation Area as a playground destination.

The estimates for greenhouse gases saved are puny compared to the daily emissions from traffic on Highway 1.

Alan James, Burnaby

Zipping Up to SFU

Jun 20, 2011 at 5:52pm

Alan James - your analogy of the greenhouse emissions relating to the gondola and Highway 1 is bizarre. By your logic, why should we save any streams? The estimates for conservation of streams are puny when compared to protecting the Pacific Ocean.

This is purely a case of NIMBYism by Ron Burton and the residents; it has nothing to do with the environment.

NoToTheGondola - yeah, making properties accessible by quick, convenient transit tends to raise their values. Pretty obvious. What's your point?


Jun 21, 2011 at 12:45pm

Dear Zippy:
The point was that TransLink is pushing the concept hard, while larger projects that would benefit Metro and the environment by an order of magnitude languish on the shelf.

It seems TransLink is planning on using taxpayer money to expedite a project that will directly benefit UniverCity and SFU financially. The estimated cost is more than 25% of the shortfall on Evergreen Line funding, yet the gondola will carry 20% of that line's projected ridership at peak load.

So the question remains: What (and who) is behind the push to make this happen so quickly when Evergreen Line and the UBC Extension plans sit gathering dust?