Simon Fraser University students may be getting a new way to hitch a ride to school. In response to growing demand for more sustainable, reliable transit service to the mountaintop campus, Translink, B.C.’s transit authority, is taking proposals to determine the feasibility of a 30-person gondola linking Production Way SkyTrain Station in Burnaby to SFU. The proposed 2.6-km sky lift would cost an estimated $70 million, and effectively replace the need for Translink’s fleet of 60-foot diesel buses to travel up and down the mountain’s steep, icy slopes each winter—a route that is closed between 10 and 15 days a year due to heavy snowfall, often causing class cancellations. The new service, say proponents, could also be responsible for removing some 50,000 hours of bus service from the mountain.
“It would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 1,870 tonnes in the first year alone,” says Gordon Harris, president and CEO of SFU Community Trust, which initially raised the idea with Translink. SFU Community Trust’s initial feasibility study estimated that a gondola could save Translink $1.6 million a year in operating costs.
Modelled after the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which connects Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, the new route could potentially move up to 3,000 people an hour in roughly half the regular transit time—about eight minutes. But despite community enthusiasm for the project, Translink must prioritize. “We do not, at this point, have money for expansion,” says Translink spokesman Ken Hardie. The money to get this project off the ground, he suggests, may have to come from some sort of public-private partnership.