A gondola like Whistler’s Peak-2-Peak system may one day carry passengers up Burnaby Mountain to SFU.

Gondola aired

February 19, 2009

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Correction Appended

The SFU Community Trust wants to carry its award-winning sustainability initiatives further by introducing a gondola to carry transit passengers from the foot of Burnaby Mountain to SFU.

The innovative idea, conceived by trust CEO Gordon Harris, would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also improve transit efficiency and eliminate transit difficulties during snowstorms. Harris’ vision moved a step closer to reality earlier this month when MLA Harry Bloy announced that a preliminary feasibility study is nearing completion.

The concept is based on a tri-cable system similar to Whistler’s new Peak-2-Peak gondola. It would carry passengers from the Production Way-University SkyTrain station to a station below Town Square in just six minutes. Cars could depart every 15 seconds at peak times. Currently, diesel buses depart from the station every 90 seconds during peak travel times, carrying passengers up the hill in 14–20 minutes, depending on traffic and weather.

According to the Trust, eliminating the majority of buses travelling from the SkyTrain station to SFU would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1870 tonnes (the equivalent of more than 50,000 hours of diesel bus operations). The gondola would also eliminate the significant problems associated with snow days when buses can’t travel up the mountain. The cost to build the gondola is estimated at just under $70 million, with annual operating costs budgeted at about $3 million.

This is still a very preliminary plan, however. The gondola route would travel over the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area and a portion of the SFU campus, requiring extensive community consultation and regulatory approvals. As well, funding sources and an operator have yet to be identified.

"This is an idea that requires a great deal more rigorous study," says Harris. "We need to fully understand the costs as well as the issues so that it delivers benefits to taxpayers and the community."

Correction: Feb. 19, 2009
The original, print version of this story mistakenly referred to the SFU Community Trust as "The UniverCity Trust" and to Gordon Harris as UniverCity CEO. Harris is the president and CEO of the SFU Community Trust, which oversees the continued development of UniverCity, the residential community adjacent to SFU's Burnaby campus on Burnaby Mountain.


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while CEO Harris may be the one to bring this grand idea to fruition, to say the idea of a gondola for SFU was conceived by Mr Harris seems a mis-attribution. here are the first two links i found with a simple search, to 1999(!) and 2007 publications of the gondola idea:

Brad Techy

I am very interested in the path that this gondola route will take. I live in the Copperhill townhouse development in Forest Grove and do not want to see the gondola go directly over our development. I agree with the concept, but am really concerned about the visual problem it might create.


Brad, you seem to have the "NIMBY" mentality ("Not in my backyard"). If it's a good idea (which you agree with), then why does it matter where it goes over? It's a Gondola for crying out loud, what kind of "visual problem" would it possibly create?! I guess you've never been to Big White, because the lifts/gondola goes over the developments there and there's no trouble in sight!

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