SFU gondola gets a lift in TransLink plans

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      Simon Fraser University is another step closer to getting a gondola.

      TransLink wants to proceed with project development for a Burnaby Mountain gondola, an idea that started back in 2009.

      Geoff Cross, vice president for transportation planning and policy, has recommended moving to the next phase for the project to mayors in the Lower Mainland.

      The proposal to undertake public engagement, explore funding options, get into technical design is likely to be approved by the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation in a meeting Wednesday (July 25).

      According to Cross, assessments of transportation options up and down Burnaby Mountain have “determined that a straight-line, 3S gondola connecting Production Way-University Station to SFU Town Square is the preferred alternative to advance”.

      The online Gondola Project (http://gondolaproject.com) explains that the 3S is a “fast, modern gondola technology”.

      “The term 3S derives from the phrases drei Seile or drei Seil in German which translate directly to three ropes or three rope in English because cabins run along 3 cables,” according to the site. “Two of the cables provide support while the third is for propulsion.”

      In his report, Cross related the primary bus service or bus route #145 from Production Way-University Station to SFU Town Square “already experiences significant crowding and reliability issues throughout the year, including during winter weather events”.

      “Despite operating at very high frequencies (i.e. up to every 2-4 minutes) with high-capacity articulated buses, the existing route regularly carries full bus loads throughout the day, including both peak and midday, with regular pass-ups,” Cross wrote. “The operational constraints of ground-based bus service mean that little can be done to improve capacity to meet the expected 60% growth in demand over the next 20 years.”

      According to Cross, a gondola will improve travel times by 60 percent.

      It will also “require less annual operating costs than maintaining bus service, with potential cost savings increasing as demand continues to rise over time”.

      Funding has yet to be identified and secured for the project.

      On May 27 this year, the city council of Burnaby endorsed the development of a gondola, subject to a number of conditions.

      Cross noted that these conditions included consideration of an alternative alignment, which will connect Lake City Way Station with SFU.

      “This option was conceived to minimize potential impacts on residents, riparian areas, and the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area,” Cross explained. “This alignment was not considered in TransLink’s 2011 or 2018 assessments as it is a longer distance connection and would require an additional transfer from the Expo Line.”

      Cross wrote that an assessment of this option will be included in public consultations.