Burnaby approves TransLink gondola to SFU and Burnaby Mountain

Regional mayors' council will now examine the project's merits

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      Burnaby city council has endorsed TransLink's Burnaby Mountain Gondola project.

      A January 28 news release confirmed that council approved TransLink's preferred Route 1 to Simon Fraser University and the UniverCity community development on the mountaintop.

      Burnaby public-affairs manager Chris Bryan told the Straight by phone that the project and route were actually approved "in a closed council meeting on Monday [January 24], before the regular meeting".

      Bryan said more details would be presented publicly at the regular council meeting on January 31.

      The gondola's feasibility as a transit upgrade for SFU's Burnaby Mountain campus—which today sees about 25,000 daily weekday diesel-bus trips on four routes by students, staff, faculty, and many of UniverCity's 5,000 residents—was first studied by TransLink in 2009.

      TransLink said then that the initiative would be a cost-effective, fast, and safe alternative to bus trips and that the electricity-powered gondola would also reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

      A three-cable (3S) gondola system is envisioned for the project, with cabins that would carry a maximum of 35 passengers each, similar to the Peak 2 Peak gondola used at Whistler Blackcomb.

      TransLink also said that a gondola would offer increased capacity and more frequent departures than buses, as well as more reliable winter transport, especially for mobility-impaired passengers.

      The regional transportation authority committed to developing a full business case for the venture in June 2010, and Burnaby council approved a recommendation for the gondola—subject to conditions such as TransLink committing to consultation, minimizing environmental and residential disruption, and fair compensation to those affected, among others—in 2019.

      Of the three routes originally studied and presented at two rounds of public engagement in 2020 for feedback on neighbourhood and environmental impacts, TransLink settled on the shortest and most direct: Route 1.

      Original three proposed routes for the TransLink Burnaby Gondola project.

      This route would take passengers from SkyTrain's Production Way-University Staion directly to the SFU Exchange at the heart of the campus.

      TransLink says that Route 1 offers the lowest costs, the fewest impacts, and the greatest benefits. Five towers are expected to be built for the gondola, with none of them in the Forest Grove residential neighbourhood, an earlier fear of residents.

      On its project website, TransLink says that "two multi-family property complexes" along Route 1 would experience overhead aerial passage at a height of 60 metres and that property owners would receive negotiated compensation.

      No residents would be required to move.

      “The Burnaby Mountain Gondola project will create a safe and reliable transit option for Burnaby residents travelling to and from Burnaby Mountain," Burnaby mayor Mike Hurley said in the January 28 release. "By taking cars and buses off the road, it will be one of the many changes we must make in our city to achieve the aggressive targets we’ve set for reducing carbon emissions.

      “Before endorsing this project," Hurley continued, "council stressed the importance of consultation with residents, businesses and First Nations, and we expect that dialogue to continue should this project move forward.”

      The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) issued a news release on January 28 regarding the Burnaby council vote. “The Simon Fraser Student Society is excited to hear the news of the Burnaby Mountain Gondola Transit (BMGT) project being endorsed," SFSS vice president Matthew Provost said. "After a decade of advocacy from the student body we are able to celebrate and look forward to the positive impacts this will have for students, the SFU Community, and Burnaby as a whole."

      The next step is for the plan to be included in TransLink's upcoming 10 Year Vision plan and then be part of an investment plan that is approved by the TransLink board and the Mayors' Council on Regional Transportation.