Metro Vancouver mayors voted in favour of a $7.5 billion regional transit improvement plan on Thursday, June 12, but a lack of provision for the Burnaby Mountain gondola project has spurred SFU groups to take action.
On Thursday evening, Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS), the Graduate Student Society (GSS), and Sustainable SFU (SSFU) issued a press release regarding the exclusion of the Burnaby Mountain Gondola from the proposed 10 year regional transit plan.
Chardaye Bueckert, SFSS president, explained the groups’ reactions to The Peak: “We weren’t surprised, we weren’t overly shocked, but we were definitely disappointed, given that the project is such a high cost-benefit ratio.”
Bueckert is one of several gondola proponents who has been advocating for the project’s construction since early 2010. The gondola — or, as SFU President Petter likes to refer to it, the Burnaby skybus — would run from Production Way – University Station directly to Burnaby Mountain.
The project would cost approximately $120 million dollars and would reduce noise as well as air pollution of up to 7,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases.
Although a business case analysis by CH2M Hill found that the gondola would generate substantial benefits to commuters and the region, estimated at 3.6 times its cost in dollar terms, TransLink decided against it as the upfront cost would be $12 million more than continuing to run buses to SFU’s Burnaby campus over the next 25 years.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan explained the omission to the Burnaby Now: “I wanted a more realistic, more focused plan. If you keep adding items to a wish list then pretty soon it becomes so unrealistic that no one ever believes it will be done.”
Corrigan said the the decision was mainly based on economic feasibility. He said, “There’s a lot of arguments being made about the gondola being more environmentally sound than the buses are, and I think there’s merit to that argument, but when it comes to financial, the argument on it didn’t work.”
Proposals that were included in the list of potential transit initiatives include a new tolled four-lane Pattullo Bridge, light rail transit lines in Surrey, an extension of the Millennium Line along the Broadway corridor to Arbutus, a 25 per cent increase in bus service, and maintenance and upgrades to the 2,300 kilometres of the region’s major road network.
Nevertheless, Bueckert feels that the gondola, in combination with plans to expand the B-lines, for instance, “would be very complementary proposals.” According to the SFU groups’ joint press release, the gondola would eliminate the need for the 135, 145, and 144, liberating 32 buses an hour at peak times.
Combined with the expected $10 million bus upgrade that will be needed by 2020/21 due to increased demand for buses, Bueckert feels that “it’s a no-brainer to build this project.”
Despite its exclusion from the plan, Bueckert is optimistic about the ability of the SFU community to move this project forward. She said, “We’re not deterred, and we’re committed to this and we’re going to keep pushing, however we do not want to wait 20 years for this project.”
This story is developing and will be updated as more information is available.