Gondola Technology

    Is TransLink considering other technologies to connect Burnaby Mountain to the SkyTrain?

    Past studies considered a number of ground-based and aerial transit options, and settled on the 3S gondola technology as the preferred solution to connect Burnaby Mountain to SkyTrain.

    The benefits of a 3S gondola system include: the ability to operate in high wind conditions, sufficient ridership capacity, and energy-efficiency, which results in lower operating costs.

    We recently consulted with two aerial ropeway suppliers on technology options who confirmed that 3S technology remains the best option.

    What kind of gondola technology is proposed for the Burnaby Mountain Gondola?

    The gondola system that is proposed to connect Skytrain to Burnaby Mountain is a 3S aerial transportation system. It carries passengers comfortably in gondola cabins from station to station. It is a three-cable technology that is the same as the Peak to Peak Gondola in Whistler Blackcomb. 

    How many aerial gondola systems are there worldwide?

    Gondola systems are a proven technology with more than 20,000 ropeway systems worldwide. For example, the system in Voss, Norwayhas nearly 25,000 trips on an average day, and the system in Koblenz, Germany, has more than 91,000 trips per day. 

    What is the capacity of a gondola cabin?

    The maximum capacity for a gondola cabin is 35 passengers.  


    How safe are gondolas?

    Gondola systems are a proven safe technology with more than 20,000 ropeway systems worldwide. The proposed Burnaby Mountain Gondola would be a 3S system, which operates using three high-strength, multi-strand steel cables. Gondola cabins would be stored in stations overnight as opposed to leaving them on the line. The system would come with strong security measures in place to monitor the integrity of the gondola, like what is in place for SkyTrain, and the towers would be designed to prevent unauthorized access.


    How frequently would each cabin depart?

    During peak periods, the gondola system would operate continuously with cabins departing about every minute. In periods of low demand (i.e. early morning, midday or late evening), the frequency could be reduced to better meet demand.

    How fast would the gondola ride be connecting SkyTrain to Burnaby Mountain?

    The travel time would depend on the chosen route, but could take between 6 to 11 minutes, compared to a 15-45 minute trip by bus.


    How many routes are being assessed?

    Three potential routes linking SkyTrain to Burnaby Mountain are being assessed.

    Option 1: A straight-line route from Production Way–University Station to SFU’s Burnaby campus with the terminal located near the bus exchange. 

    Option 2: Eastern route (with a non-boarding angle station) from Production Way–University Station to SFU Burnaby campus with the terminal near the bus exchange. 

    Option 3: Western route (with a non-boarding angle station) from Lake City Way Station to SFU’s Burnaby campus with the terminal located south of South Campus Road. 


    In 2011, three other routes were assessed for viability, including: Lake City Way Station to South Campus Road (across from South Sciences Building), Production Way-University Station to intersection of Highland Court and Tower Road, and Burquitlam Station to SFU Bus Exchange. These routes were not further considered as they had impacts on conservation areas, and conflicts with utilities (e.g. Tank Farm).      


    What are some of the benefits of a gondola?

    Benefits of a gondola system include providing fast, frequent and reliable service. They are safe, provide ample capacity, can operate in all types of weather, and use less energy, which results in lower operating costs. In addition, a Burnaby Mountain gondola would reduce GHG emissions from trips made by bus and vehicles: 

    1. From buses: The Gondola would offset 1,900 tonnes of GHG emissions. 

    1. From vehicles: Further modelling of the GHG emissions from vehicles is being planned. 

Ridership Demand

    Most SFU students are on campus for only eight months of the year. Is there enough demand throughout the year to warrant a gondola?

    Yes, the demand for transit service to Burnaby Mountain warrants a gondola. Even today, for a majority of the year, there are 25,000 trips made up and down Burnaby Mountain 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. 


    While there are generally lower ridership levels to Burnaby Mountain in the summer months, we would also expect to see an increase in tourists at that time, similar to our SeaBus ridership.


    Would trees need to be cut down for a gondola to be built?

    Minimizing tree removal will be a key objective if this project moves ahead. Tree removal may be required on Routes 2 and 3 to allow for the descent and ascent of the gondola at the midpoint (angledstations. Further work will be done to identify and mitigate environmental impacts that could be associated with the construction of a gondola.


    What would the Burnaby Mountain Gondola cost and who would pay for it?

    An updated cost estimate and discussions regarding potential funding contributions are part of the planning work that we are currently undertaking