The SFU gondola is now Petter’s publicity gimmick

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]FU President Andrew Petter recently reignited the idea that a Burnaby Mountain gondola should be constructed between Production Way–University Station and SFU.

This weathered saga has been ongoing for nearly a decade now. The Peak has been reporting on the prospects of such a project since 2009. For a while, yes, TransLink was dead serious on building an environmentally conscious transit-lift that would relieve their slogging, carbon-fuelled bus system, and cut the time for commute up the mountain by half.

However, need we be reminded for the bazillionth time, TransLink has made it clear that the project has been shelved. While a healthy environment is something to strive for, the money is ultimately what matters, and the financials simply did not calculate the project to save costs when balanced with the current bus system. Additionally, two years ago TransLink released a solidified 10-year outlook plan that makes no mention of a gondola, while Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson explicitly stated that all efforts were being put to accomplish the goals set out in the plan first and foremost. In other words, the project likely won’t be considered for another eight years.

And given that both our provincial and federal governments have never been interested in providing enough funds to maintain our institution — leaving SFU starved of the hundreds of millions needed to fix the cracks in the eroded concrete, for example — why should we expect TransLink to receive any funding to further meet the interests of our university? Especially those that aren’t immediately necessary.

The mayor and our government care about prioritizing the ‘larger society,’ and I see this as a reasonable decision. After all, it makes sense to shell out the valuable millions toward road maintenance and bridge-building opportunities that will be used by the bulk of the city. To me, a gondola simply isn’t a priority, but a niche indulgence; a tourist trap; a joyride in the eyes of the SFU community.

The mayor and our government care about prioritizing the ‘larger society,’ not a gondola for SFU.

The government may see in TransLink a bus system that, while less efficient, still does the job while costing less. Good enough! If anything, they should be providing funds to improve road conditions up the mountain, as these would most likely be used by more people.

So, what grinds my gears is when educated individuals, such as Petter, pull the publicity card by once again voicing vigorous support for a project that was scrapped long ago because it was neither financially feasible nor immediately necessary.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he found this an opportune moment to distract attention from the fact that the administration has no idea how to handle sexual assault cases on campus. Remember the environmentally friendly and economical gondola everyone was once raving about? We still support that! So let’s talk about that instead.

Granted, a gondola over Burnaby Mountain would provide nice views and convenience for the rushed student. But creating an ongoing, needless discussion on a project that won’t be considered for almost another decade is not a wise move, it’s just a waste of time and public attention. This goes for any further statements from all other public figures or groups, such as the SFSS. SFU administrators no doubt understand this, so what reason would there be for Petter to flog this dead horse?

The answer is clear: to boost notions that he has responsible environmental and social morals, that the university administration adopts these morals by extension, and that in the grand scheme of things, SFU is practically the best place on earth.


  1. Absolutely bang on! The timing of this rehash of an old announcement looked very clearly designed to offset the negative media attention – and it almost worked, Burnaby Now, etc all picked up the story. From the email they sent out to all students hours before the story was published online, it’s also clear the President and VP’s had advance notice of the story about sexual assaults about to be published in the Vancouver Sun and decided that deflection was their best course of action. Shameful.