By Paul Choptuik, Coordinating News Editor
Recently, the Burnaby city council agreed to support in principle the construction of a gondola to SFU. The project has been talked about for nearly a decade, but this decision marked the first time that Burnaby city council agreed to support the potential project. However, council support of the project is contingent on TransLink developing a proposal that is agreeable for Burnaby residents.
Back in 2009, the SFU Community Trust commissioned a feasibility study to look into alternatives to diesel bus service. It found that a gondola would be a potential alternative. This study was followed by a full business case study commissioned by TransLink in 2011. The business case was revisited in 2017, which led to the finding that the gondola was still worthwhile, though capital costs had increased. A more detailed history with figures can be found on TransLink’s website.
The Peak spoke to Dr. Joanne Curry, vice-president of external relations, through email about the decision.
“We are very pleased with Burnaby Council’s decision earlier this week to support a transit gondola,” Curry wrote.
According to Curry, the project has a number of benefits for commuters besides reducing travel time.
“There are other benefits such as reducing over 1,700 tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions cut annually with the removal of diesel buses [ . . . ] Over 50,000 hours of diesel bus operations would be eliminated per year, reducing traffic noise and congestion,” wrote Curry.
Curry also highlighted that a gondola could have safety benefits, such as being a potential evacuation route in the event of tank-farm related issues.
Curry noted that the project had a lot of support from the various groups in Burnaby, including the SFSS, the Burnaby Board of Trade, Tourism Burnaby, and the UniverCity Community Association.
Another community that is supportive of the project is the “Build the SFU Gondola” Facebook page. At the time this article was written, the page had 372 likes.
The Peak reached out Colin Fowler, one of the co-founders and administrators of the page. A current SFU student and a self-described public transit buff, Fowler and his fellow co-founder Daryl Dela Cruz “created the page out of anger,” after an extended commute due to snow.
Having been present at the city council meeting, Fowler feels that the project could be very beneficial to SFU students, highlighting the time that would be saved.
“Late-night and weekend commuters would especially appreciate this frequency over the 30-minute waits they’re used to.”
The council’s decision was also discussed at the May 30 SFSS Board of Directors’ meeting. SFSS president Giovanni HoSang was thankful that the council supported the project and commended all of the work that had been done so far including those from the SFSS and the GSS. HoSang also noted that there was still a lot of work ahead of the board.
“We have to do a lot of education internally, externally, and we’ll have our gondola coming to campus.”
Part of the education that HoSang and the board discussed revolved around the concerns of residents living under the proposed path regarding the noise of the gondola.
When asked whether studies on gondola noise exist, HoSang responded, citing the feasibility studies conducted by the University and Translink and stated that research is still on-going.
Additionally Sylvia Ceacero, executive director of the SFSS, had attended a Transport 2050 consultation meeting and shared her experiences with TransLink with the board.
“They were really excited that we were present because they are really looking forward to putting this gondola in place and of course they’re trying to mitigate all those risks. But they did say [ … ] that they would invite us to go to Whistler so we could go in the gondola and some people could see what the noise was so that you could inform people better.”
Concluding the discussion, Rayhaan Khan, at-large representative, noted they were shown three routes the day before, two of which avoid the residential areas.
“We are excited about the future of the project given this major first step after ten years of advocacy by generations of students,” Fowler concluded.