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TransLink names route right over Burnaby homes as 'preferred' gondola path

At least one Burnaby councillor is opposed to the route
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TransLink has revealed its "preferred route" for the proposed Burnaby Mountain gondola. TransLink graphic

TransLink unveiled its “preferred” route for the proposed Burnaby Mountain Gondola project on Monday.

Named as the preferred route is the straight route from Production Way–University SkyTrain Station to SFU Burnaby campus, with the gondola terminal located near the bus exchange. The route is 2.7-kilometres long with an estimated travel time of six minutes - a nine-minute time savings compared to the current average bus travel time of 15 minutes, said TransLink.

TransLink said Monday that more than 85% of the 7,000 respondents over two rounds of public engagement supported the straight route. This route, however, has been opposed by some of the residents who actually live under where the gondola would travel.

“I thank the public for taking the time to participate in this engagement process to help us shape this proposed project,” said TransLink’s acting vice-president of engineering, Jeffrey Busby, in a news release. “Feedback helps us to plan accordingly based on the needs of this growing region and the needs of the local area. Consultation is a vital step toward achieving this goal.”

TransLink conducted two rounds of public engagement — in September 2020 and November/December 2020. Overall support for the Burnaby Mountain Gondola project was high during both engagements, 84 per cent and 83 per cent respectively, said TransLink.

“Public feedback from the first round of engagement helped to inform how we would evaluate the potential gondola routes,” said TransLink in a news release. “The second round of engagement, which ran from Nov. 23 to Dec. 14, 2020, shared the results of the route analysis and asked survey participants to indicate their level of support for the three routes.” With a total of 7,492 public and stakeholder interactions, including surveys, submissions via email and phone, and five community engagement sessions, results indicate 85% support for route one across municipality and age demographics, said TransLink.

The Burnaby Mountain Gondola would provide service between SkyTrain and Burnaby Mountain for the 25,000 daily trips made by SFU students, staff, faculty, and residents. Gondola cabins would depart every minute, carrying more people up the mountain per hour than current bus services and in about half the time. The proposed project is not yet approved or funded.

Area resident Brian Ferguson said it doesn’t matter which route is chosen, he’s against the gondola proposal.

“The harm to the environment is the elephant in the room,” he said. “TransLink parrots the gondola salesman’s claims that they can do it with minimal damage to the wildlife in the conservation area. TransLink makes this claim one moment and then next declares how a gondola per minute will bring more people and activity into the area.”

Burnaby city council gave TransLink the go-ahead to keep planning for a gondola to Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Mountain campus back in 2019. The city’s mayor and councillors voted unanimously to support, in principle, TransLink’s plan to link the school with a SkyTrain station. But not all members of council supported the straight route.

“If that's the preferred route that TransLink wants to push through, I won't stand for it and I know the residents of Forest Grove won't stand for it,” Coun. Joe Keithley said in May 2019. “Those people there, they're already living with the (Trans Mountain) pipeline, so to add this on top of it would be a crushing blow.”

TransLink also proposed a longer route that would leave Production Way-University before making a 90-degree turn midway and continue to the campus. The route would avoid passing directly over homes but would pass close to more houses than the first option, a city report said.

Burnaby proposed a third option: run the gondola from the Lake City Way station, around the Trans Mountain tank farm and then to the SFU bus loop.