Burnaby Mountain Gondola Engagement

September 1 to 30, 2020


We continue to plan for a gondola linking SkyTrain to Burnaby Mountain that would provide a fast, frequent, and reliable service for the 25,000 daily trips made by SFU students, staff, faculty, and residents of UniverCity. Gondolas are safe, smart and cost-effective and they provide commuters with an environmentally friendly mode of transit that runs on electricity helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Mayors’ Council of Regional Transportation included the possibility of a gondola — a rapid transit system in the air — in the 10-Year Vision (a plan for transportation in Metro Vancouver)

September 1 to 30, 2020


We continue to plan for a gondola linking SkyTrain to Burnaby Mountain that would provide a fast, frequent, and reliable service for the 25,000 daily trips made by SFU students, staff, faculty, and residents of UniverCity. Gondolas are safe, smart and cost-effective and they provide commuters with an environmentally friendly mode of transit that runs on electricity helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Mayors’ Council of Regional Transportation included the possibility of a gondola — a rapid transit system in the air — in the 10-Year Vision (a plan for transportation in Metro Vancouver). Studies throughout the past decade have continued to support the proposal. We’re now further planning work to design and identify mitigations to the three possible routes.

We plan to provide more opportunities to share your opinion. As a start, please take our survey. It should take approximately five minutes to complete. We’ve also included lots of information for you to learn about gondolas and the three potential routes on this site.


  • About Burnaby Mountain Gondola

    19 August, 2020

    The Burnaby Mountain Gondola would provide a fast, frequent, and reliable service between the SkyTrain and Burnaby Mountain. A gondola offers more frequent service for our customers, can move more people per hour than other modes of transportation, reduces greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other emissions, and has lower operating costs.

    For most of the year, 25,000 trips are made up and down the mountain daily — for school, work, business, and recreation. In addition, the residential community of UniverCity has a population of roughly 5,200 residents and that number is expected to nearly double in the next four years.

    The...

    The Burnaby Mountain Gondola would provide a fast, frequent, and reliable service between the SkyTrain and Burnaby Mountain. A gondola offers more frequent service for our customers, can move more people per hour than other modes of transportation, reduces greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other emissions, and has lower operating costs.

    For most of the year, 25,000 trips are made up and down the mountain daily — for school, work, business, and recreation. In addition, the residential community of UniverCity has a population of roughly 5,200 residents and that number is expected to nearly double in the next four years.

    The gondola would help to address today’s transit challenges and allow us to better meet future demand. Currently, passengers travelling from Production Way–University to Burnaby Mountain often experience unpredictable travel times, with frequent pass-ups, adding 5-30 minutes to what should be a 15-minute trip. A new gondola would provide consistent, year-round and all-weather travel times of between 6 and 11 minutes, depending on the route selected. With frequent service, wait times for a cabin on a new gondola would be approximately one minute.

    Existing transit service is unable to meet the future demand. The proposed gondola would provide enough capacity for the next 30 years as student enrollment, employment, and residential populations at SFU steadily grow. Between 2017 and 2050 student enrollment and employment will grow between 1-2% every year and the residential population will double.


    Burnaby Mountain – Population Projections (2035, 2050)
    It would also contribute to meeting TransLink’s sustainability target by reducing fleet emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and operating a fleet with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050. Altogether, the implementation of a gondola system on Burnaby Mountain could result in a reduction of up to 1,900 tonnes of GHG emissions and eliminate air pollution from buses. The gondola presents a rapid transit solution that is both environmentally friendly and cost effective.

    The ongoing pandemic has reduced demand for transit service to Burnaby Mountain as students, staff, and faculty have studied and worked from home. While it may seem that online learning becomes the norm, over the course of the last 10 years that SFU has been offering online classes this has not been the case. Once it is safe to return to the classroom setting students will return to SFU campuses, and demand for transit will increase.


    Benefits

    • Fast and frequent: Cabins would arrive about every minute during peak periods, carrying more people up the mountain per hour than our current bus system (3,000 vs 1,400) and in about half the time.
    • Reliable: Gondolas operate within their own dedicated system providing consistent travel times – no road congestion or wintery road conditions to worry about.
    • Safe: The 3S gondola system can operate in high winds (up to 100 km/hr), in winter conditions, and helps to protect against vandalism with three cables supporting the system instead of one.
    • Environmentally friendly: Gondolas run on electricity helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (by 96%) and eliminate air pollution.
    • Cost-effective: It would require about 30% less in annual operating costs than current bus service.
    • Flexible: As the population grows, a gondola is flexible and can have new cabins added with relative ease further avoiding congestion on the roads.

    Voss, Norway

    Other Urban Gondolas Worldwide

    While not common in Canada, gondola systems are a proven technology with more than 20,000 ropeway systems worldwide. Increasingly, many transit providers around the world are adopting urban gondola systems as a means of efficient and environmentally friendly public transportation. For example, the system in Voss, Norway, has nearly 25,000 trips on an average day, and the system in Koblenz, Germany, has more than 91,000 trips per day. Gondola systems also serve commuters in New York, London, and Mexico City. Here on the West Coast, the Portland Aerial Tram opened in 2006 and carries over 10,000 passengers a day.

  • Route Options

    19 August, 2020


    Potential Gondola Routes

    In 2011, four potential routes were assessed:

    1. Production Way–University Station to SFU Bus Exchange
    2. Lake City Way Station to South Campus Road (across from South Sciences Building)
    3. Production Way–University Station to intersection of Highland Court and Tower Road
    4. Burquitlam Station to SFU Bus Exchange

    Only the first route was deemed feasible as the other three indicated significant impacts on sensitive conservation areas, and conflicts with various utilities.

    Download map PDF

    In 2018, an assessment and high-level design of two routes was conducted:

    1. Production Way–University Station to SFU Bus Exchange
    2. Production Way–University Station to SFU Bus Exchange (with...


    Potential Gondola Routes

    In 2011, four potential routes were assessed:

    1. Production Way–University Station to SFU Bus Exchange
    2. Lake City Way Station to South Campus Road (across from South Sciences Building)
    3. Production Way–University Station to intersection of Highland Court and Tower Road
    4. Burquitlam Station to SFU Bus Exchange

    Only the first route was deemed feasible as the other three indicated significant impacts on sensitive conservation areas, and conflicts with various utilities.

    Download map PDF

    In 2018, an assessment and high-level design of two routes was conducted:

    1. Production Way–University Station to SFU Bus Exchange
    2. Production Way–University Station to SFU Bus Exchange (with an angle station located east of the bend in Gaglardi Way)

    Route 1 was determined preferable because of more positive attributes than Route 2. Also, the angle station on Route 2 is in a riparian area. After completing this work, the City of Burnaby requested consideration of a third route.

    In 2020, we have conducted a preliminary design of three routes:

    1. Production Way–University Station to SFU Bus Exchange
    2. Production Way–University Station to SFU Bus Exchange (with an angle station located east of the bend in Gaglardi Way)
    3. Lake City Way Station (with an angle station located on the eastern side of Centennial Way and Burnaby Mtn. Parkway) to south of South Campus Way

    Download map PDF

    Design work has been guided by the City of Burnaby’s Core Principles, outcomes of an environmental scan, and local constraints (e.g., the presence of power lines). The purpose of this design work is to better understand how the potential gondola routes could operate: travel times, local conditions, and considerations and opportunities. Finally, the routes have been developed to the same extent to enable comparisons. The next stage in the planning process is to evaluate the routes.

    We want your feedback! Take the survey here.


    Design Considerations

    Transportation

    Gondola travel time is equal to the speed it travels, the distance and the alignment of the route.

    Speed: All three routes will travel at the same speed – 8 m/second or about 27 km/hr.

    Distance: Route 1 is 2.7 km, Route 2 is 3.7 km, Route 3 is 3.6 km

    Alignments:

    • Straight alignment: On Route 1, cabins travel directly between the top and bottom terminals.
    • Angle alignment: On Routes 2 and 3, there would be non-boarding, angle stations midway along the route. Gondola systems are restricted to straight lines, but angle stations enable the gondola to redirect from the original path to a new path by “ungripping” and then “regripping” the cable. This process adds additional travel time to the journey. Angle stations are located on the ground so gondola cabins must travel down and up when entering and leaving the angle station. This means that the path to access the angle station must be clear for the gondola to safely enter and depart.

    SkyTrain Connection

    Lower gondola terminals will connect to or be located near existing SkyTrain stations and overall journey travel times will factor in connections.

    • Production Way–University Station (Expo and Millennium Lines): Routes 1 and 2
    • Lake City Way (Millennium Line): Route 3 (Transfer would be required for Expo Line customers.)

    Trip Time to Burnaby Mountain

    Trip time for customers travelling to/from Burnaby Mountain would include the time spent on the gondola, transfers, and travel time on connecting modes (e.g. SkyTrain, bus). To compare, we considered trip times between SFU’s campuses and their associated SkyTrain stations (e.g. SFU Surrey, Surrey Central Station).

    Trip Times to Burnaby Mountain

    (Includes travel and transfer times during peak period travel)


    Route 1 Route 2 Route 3
    SFU Surrey (Surrey Central Station) 30 min 34 min 42 min
    SFU Vancouver (Waterfront Station) 43 min 45 min 43 min
    SFU Great Northern Way (Great Northern Way Station) 27 min 32 min 28 min


    Environmental

    Compared to other modes of transportation, (e.g. SkyTrain, roads) gondolas require a smaller infrastructure footprint that is limited to towers, top and bottom terminals and angle stations, if needed. The angle stations and top terminals require the cabins to travel down and up at ground level, requiring a clear path of travel.

    A preliminary desktop environmental scan was undertaken to support the preliminary route design work. A more thorough environmental scan will take place in the next phase of work. (An Environmental Assessment would occur at a later stage in the process.) We have placed gondola towers as close as possible in existing road rights-of-way and developed areas to minimize effects on sensitive habitats, including:

    • The Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area;
    • At-risk species’ habitats: The preliminary desktop environmental scan identified some at-risk species habitat areas. Future field work would confirm the presence and specific locations of these species. The gondola design would be refined, as appropriate;
    • Riparian areas and streams: Burnaby Mountain features a dense network of streams (many of them fish bearing), which feed into Stoney Creek;
    • Tree loss: Trees span much of the distance on the three routes, and the design purposefully passes over the trees. In the next phase of design, we will work with an arborist to ensure that the gondola could continue to operate above a mature forest (i.e. allow for tree growth) without impact. Some tree loss would occur around potential angle stations since the gondola requires a clear path to safely travel down and up from the angle stations.


    Residential

    All three potential routes cross over or pass nearby the residential neighbourhoods of Forest Grove, Rathburn, and Meadowood. We have been working closely with local residents to address neighbourhood interests by:

    • Tower presence: Placing gondola towers as far as technically feasible from neighbourhoods;
    • Aerial rights: Minimizing the number of residential properties over which the gondola passes. Where unavoidable, TransLink would compensate the owners in exchange for the right of way;
    • Visual impact: Minimizing the visual presence of the gondola by locating gondola cabins above the tree canopy and using local topography. Next steps include reviewing anticipated visual effects in greater detail;
    • Privacy: Reducing the ability of gondola passengers to see into homes by keeping the gondola high above (approx. 50 m above homes) and exploring use of tinted window features;
    • Noise: Locating towers and angle stations away from residential neighbourhoods to avoid noise. Cabins do not emit noise and only minimal sound is produced as the cabins roll over the tops of towers. Sound monitoring studies are underway to better understand existing background noise conditions in Forest Grove and the possible effects of a gondola in the area. A completed report will be available in a future phase of work.

    Related documents:


    Conceptual 3D Renderings of Gondola Routes

    Route 1 Conceptual Rendering: Looking west on Forest Grove Drive near Ash Grove Crescent


    Route 2 Conceptual Rendering: Looking east on Forest Grove Drive towards Gaglardi Way


    Route 3 Conceptual Rendering: Looking north-west from Meadowood Drive towards Golf Course



    Land Use Planning

    Two sites in the area undergoing the municipal redevelopment process are located near the proposed lower gondola terminals at Lake City Way and Production Way–University Stations. They are:

    • 3131 Lake City Way
    • 3100 Production Way

    Through the gondola design process, we have attempted to minimize impacts or changes to the potential site designs.


    Utilities

    Utilities constrain route designs because they are immovable, other than relocating low-voltage power lines underground. The following utilities are located along the routes:

    • Sewer lines: Metro Vancouver trunk sewer;
    • Power lines: BC Hydro operates lower voltage distribution lines and higher voltage transmission lines. The gondola will travel over lower voltage lines and under higher voltage lines;
    • Natural gas line: Fortis BC; and
    • Gas line: TransMountain.


    Route Summaries

    Route 1 is a straight-line route from Production Way–University SkyTrain Station to SFU Burnaby campus with the gondola terminal located near the bus exchange. One tower footprint would extend into the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area. All other towers would be located in existing road rights-of-way or developed areas. It is not anticipated that streams or riparian areas would be impacted by towers or terminal facilities in Route 1. Gondola cabins would pass 50 m above the Forest Grove neighbourhood, creating separation from gondola cabin customers and residents. The addition of tinting windows could further ensure the privacy of residents. The local topography and trees within the neighbourhood could screen the gondola from view. (This will be reviewed in greater detail in future planning work.)

    No towers are proposed within the neighbourhood so gondola-related sound would be limited, but we will confirm this through sound monitoring.

    • Route length: 2.7 km
    • Number of towers: 5
    • Gondola travel time: 6 minutes
    • SkyTrain lines served: Expo and Millennium Lines
    • Lower terminal: Next to bus loop at Production Way–University Station
    • Upper terminal: Next to SFU Town Square

    Trip travel times (includes travel and transfer times during peak period travel):

    • SFU Surrey (Surrey Central Station): 30 min
    • SFU Vancouver (Waterfront Station): 43 min
    • SFU Great Northern Way (Great Northern Way Station): 27 min

    Download map PDF


    Route 2 is the eastern route from Production Way–University SkyTrain Station with the gondola travelling along Gaglardi Way, changing direction at an angle station, and continuing to SFU Burnaby campus with the terminal near the bus exchange. No passenger boarding is proposed at the angle station. The angle station and multiple towers would be located in the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area. The angle station would be located northwest of the Rathburn neighbourhood so there could be visual and noise impacts for residents as the gondola cabins pass through the station. There are high voltage power lines located near the angle station that the gondola would need to pass under, requiring the gondola cabins to stay lower to the ground. Tree clearing in the Conservation Area would be required.

    • Route length: 3.7 km
    • Number of towers: 7
    • Gondola travel time: 11 minutes
    • SkyTrain lines served: Expo and Millennium Lines
    • Lower terminal: Short walk from Production Way–University Station
    • Upper terminal: Next to SFU Town Square

    Trip travel times:

    • SFU Surrey (Surrey Central Station): 34 mins
    • SFU Vancouver (Waterfront Station): 45 mins
    • SFU Great Northern Way (Great Northern Way Station): 32 mins

    Download map PDF


    Route 3 is the western route from Lake City Way SkyTrain Station to SFU Burnaby campus, which would cross the Burnaby Mountain Golf Course, change direction at an angle station, and continue to SFU Burnaby Campus with the terminal located south of South Campus Road. No passenger boarding is proposed at the angle station. Possible impacts on the proposed redevelopment located at 3131 Lake City Way would need to be considered. To maintain the safety and security of gondola passengers and the gondola system, a tower would need to be located within the Burnaby Mountain Golf Course. Meadowood neighbourhood residents could experience visual and noise effects from the tower located in the golf course. The angle station would be located in the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area and would require tree clearing for cabins to safely travel down and up to the station. Some utilities could be impacted.

    • Route length: 3.6 km
    • Number of towers: 7
    • Gondola travel time: 10 minutes
    • SkyTrain line served: Millennium Line
    • Lower terminal: Next to Lake City Way SkyTrain Station
    • Upper terminal: Located south of South Campus Road at Science Road

    Trip travel times:

    • SFU Surrey (Surrey Central Station): 42 min
    • SFU Vancouver (Waterfront Station): 43 min
    • SFU Great Northern Way (Great Northern Way Station): 28 min

    Download map PDF


    What's Next

    In this round of public engagement we are seeking your feedback on what values and criteria should help to inform future evaluation of the routes. Have your say by taking the survey here!