Opinion: This is why SFU is backing the Burnaby Mountain gondola

March 03, 2021

Op-ed published in the Burnaby Now on March 3, 2021

Public transit makes life better for the whole community. 

Transit connects people to work, to school and to each other. It moves more people, more quickly than cars. It reduces congestion, sprawl and air pollution. It saves commuters and taxpayers money and offers big economic returns. Indeed, the quality of our public transit system is a good barometer for the health and well-being of our society.

It is therefore not surprising that Canadians who live in major urban centres like Burnaby support improvements to public transit. People know that the investments we make today will pay dividends for our quality of life and economy for many years to come.

Currently, the City of Burnaby is considering a TransLink proposal that exemplifies these public and economic benefits – a cost-effective, environmentally sustainable, and safe transit solution that will move more people, more quickly and reliably along one the Lower Mainland’s busiest and fastest-growing transit corridors.

The project is the Burnaby Mountain Gondola. And it has the support of people, businesses, and organizations from across our community who say that after years of study and consultation, the time has come for the Gondola to move forward.

There are many reasons why people support the project. By eliminating 50,000 hours of diesel bus operations, it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1,700 tons a year. That’s the equivalent of taking 1,500 cars off the road. It will cost significantly less to operate than the current fleet of buses, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. And the gondola will be a safe and more reliable option for the thousands of commuters who travel up and down Burnaby Mountain every day.

For Simon Fraser University, the project is also critical to our future in Burnaby. For more than 55 years, SFU and Burnaby have grown together. Today, SFU’s Burnaby campus injects billions of dollars into the local economy, provides education and training to Burnaby families, employs thousands of Burnaby residents, and is deeply embedded in community life.

As SFU’s new president, I want our main campus to grow and thrive for everyone’s benefit. But it can’t happen unless we make it easier for students, staff and residents to travel to and from Burnaby Mountain.

For a major Canadian university like SFU, public transit is an indispensable ingredient for long-term success. Our students have some of the longest commute times in Canada. And right now at SFU Burnaby, that ingredient is missing.

The TransLink public consultation process confirmed very high levels of support for the project in Burnaby and across the Lower Mainland. It also identified important questions and concerns that TransLink is working with the community to address, in particular the residents of Forest Grove who are directly impacted. In the coming weeks, Burnaby City Council will continue to hear from communities and from TransLink on efforts to address concerns such as safety, privacy and noise, before it makes a decision to support the project moving forward to the Mayors’ Council and TransLink board for final approval in its investment plan. 

It is critical that the community make its voice heard as these decisions are made by letting Burnaby council know how important the Burnaby Mountain Gondola is to SFU’s future in Burnaby and to everyone who calls this city home. 

In that effort, I am very encouraged and inspired by the hard work and commitment of students, local businesses, citizens, and indigenous residents, environmentalists, trade unions, and so many others who support the gondola and are coming together to help make it happen. Because at the end of the day we all want what’s best for our community: a strong economy, an inclusive society and a clean environment.

The Burnaby Mountain Gondola is key to building that better future.