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SFU gondola advances to public consultation, TransLink studying three routes

The proposed SFU gondola will now go to public consultation, and TransLink staff will start trying to secure funding from senior levels of government.
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The dream of one day gliding up Burnaby Mountain in a gondola is one step closer to coming true, thanks to a unanimous vote of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation.

Metro Vancouver mayors advanced the planning process for the proposed project Thursday. It will now go to public consultation, and TransLink staff will start trying to secure funding from senior levels of government.

 SFU has this image of an urban gondola on their new website. Screenshot/sfu.caSFU has this image of an urban gondola on their new website. Screenshot/sfu.ca

The agency’s vice-president of transportation planning and policy, Geoff Cross, explained the mountain’s topography makes it hard to build other types of transit infrastructure.

TransLink already struggles to serve the busy 145 bus route between the Production Way-University SkyTrain station and Simon Fraser University, and, he said, that demand is only expected to grow.

A gondola would “reduce travel time, increase ridership and actually have a higher capacity” than buses, Cross said.

TransLink staff will study three potential routes: a straight line between the Production Way-University station and the SFU bus loop; a “kinked” route that would head east before making a 90-degree turn near Gaglardi Way and onward to the school campus; and a route starting from the Lake City Way SkyTrain station, around the Trans Mountain tank farm and then to the bus loop.

The direct route could be built for an estimated $197 million and would have a lower operating cost than the current 145 bus service, Cross said.

Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley said he was glad to see TransLink taking Burnaby’s proposed Lake City Way route seriously.

“We're comfortable with this moving forward, providing there is real thorough community consultation,” he said. “We would like all three options explored throughout the public consultation process.”

But the co-founder of the Build the SFU Gondola Campaign said the Lake City Way route doesn’t make sense. Colin Fowler said the key to the other routes is the transfer at Production Way, which is served by both Expo and Millenium SkyTrain lines.

Going ahead with Burnaby council's preferred route would be “saying we have a gondola just to say we have a gondola, rather than legitimately solving the transportation needs of SFU,” Fowler said.

While there are no plans to build the gondola in the Mayors’ 10-Year Vision passed in 2014, it could be eligible for a federal green infrastructure fund unlike other proposed transit projects in the region, Cross said.

Hurley told the NOW that the gondola could be built as early as four or five years from now.