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Opinion: Burnaby Mountain transit is terrible. We need a gondola

The proposal for an ​Urban Transit Gondola ​on Burnaby Mountain is generating a lot of excitement.
SFU students line up for a bus to the university at the Production Way station. Photograph By Cornelia Naylor

If you’re an SFU student, you know the feeling.

You just got off the train at Production Way - University Station. You can see the 145 bus loading up with students ready to tackle their 8:30 classes. You start running as the train doors open and somehow manage to not trip down the stairs as you try to make eye contact with the bus driver so they don’t drive off without you. 

As you approach, you realize it doesn’t matter how fast you run. The bus is full. The line is still long. And you will have to stand, in the wind and cold, waiting for up to four more full buses to pass before you can push and shove your way onto the bus and make it to class - late. 

For thousands of SFU students and residents and visitors, this experience is all too familiar. And when it snows, so too is having to trudge up the mountain on foot. The bottom line: transit on Burnaby Mountain is not working.

The 145 bus route is one of the worst-performing in the region. And it needs to be fixed.

burnaby sfu bus mountain
Transit users trudge up Burnaby Mountain after the buses were unable to complete the journey. Riders were headed to SFU and the UniverCity residential community. Colin Fowler photo

Fortunately, there is a practical, affordable and environmentally friendly solution that will improve transit for the whole community – a solution that has been approved in principle by Burnaby City Council as well as the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation and will soon be going to the public for feedback and consultation.

It’s called an ​Urban Transit Gondola ​and it’s generating a lot of excitement.  And the more people learn about the proposal, the more they say it makes sense.

An Urban Transit Gondola is an affordable and reliable means of transportation used around the world to move people. On Burnaby Mountain, a Gondola would move 35 people every 34 seconds and cut travel times up the mountain to as little as six minutes. It would reduce GHG emissions by more than 1700 tonnes per year. And, unlike the diesel buses that so often get stuck in bad weather, and Urban Transit Gondola would work – even when it snows. 

In light of these benefits, in late January the Simon Fraser Student Society hosted two open houses to engage students and the community in a conversation about the proposal, to share information and to get people’s feedback on the project and the proposed routes. 

The sessions were a big success. Hundreds of students, staff, and community residents attended. They asked excellent questions, offered important perspectives and came away with a better understanding of how an Urban Transit Gondola would work and the difference it would make for the community.

Many people who came wanted to know what they could do to help make the Gondola a reality. The Simon Fraser Students Society has been working with the University and the community to keep people updated on the progress of the project, to answer questions and to advocate for its benefits. But what really counts is people stepping up and making their voices heard. 

SFU gondola
The concept of an aerial transit link to Burnaby Mountain has been discussed for years, but there have been renewed calls recently given the increased population of students and staff on Burnaby Mountain as well as the fast-growing residential community - File

That opportunity will come when TransLink hosts a public consultation process on the project. We expect that the details for that consultation will be announced soon and we encourage everyone who supports better transit on Burnaby Mountain to participate.

Because at the end of the day, we strongly believe that good public transit is key to building a healthy and sustainable community. Right now, transit on Burnaby Mountain isn’t working. But together, we can fix it. 

An Urban Transit Gondola is the right solution for students, for residents and for the whole community. It’s affordable. It’s sustainable. And it’s reliable. So let’s give everyone a lift. Let’s build the Gondola.

Shina Kaur is vice-president of university relations with the Simon Fraser Student Society.


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