A gondola up Burnaby Mountain to Simon Fraser University’s main campus isn’t in the cards, TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said today.
TransLink proposed the gondola project in late 2010 as a way to carry a greater volume and frequency of customers up the mountain at a lesser cost than existing bus routes. The project aimed to reduce diesel emissions and shorten the 15-minute commute by half. Hardie said a study commissioned by TransLink determined the costs are inadequate to proceed.
“It’s a good idea, simply not now,” Hardie said.
The study, conducted by engineering consulting firm CH2M Hill, assigned a dollar amount to social, environmental, and economic implications of building a 3 rope gondola system similar to the one used at Whistler Blackcomb. The study showed a cost benefit of $3.60 for every dollar spent building and maintaining the gondola over 25 years. However, Hardie said the project would cost TransLink too much in real dollars to proceed.
“[T]he fact that there’s a net additional cost to TransLink means that the gondola will not jump the queue of existing transit priorities,” Hardie said, adding the cost of building and operating the gondola over 25 years would cost $157 million, which is $12 million more than running the existing bus routes.
Hardie said the earliest the public might see renewed consultation on the Burnaby Mountain gondola would be 2014 for possible construction in 2016.
But for now, TransLink simply doesn’t have enough money.
“Unless someone comes along with the means to make it happen sooner, they [gondola supporters] won’t see it,” Hardie said. “In the meantime we’re going to put efforts into finding funding partners that can close the financial gap because that particularly will significantly improve the project’s chances for making it into the next plan.”
TransLink’s own survey of about 500 people who attended community meetings to discuss the project showed about 75 per cent opposed to the gondola project last September. However, Burnaby-Douglas Member of Parliament Kennedy Stewart also conducted a phone survey of about 1000 residents and found about 47 per cent in favour, with 14 per cent undecided and the remainder opposed. Stewart told Burnaby Now he felt his results were more accurate, as community members who attended TransLink’s meetings likely did so specifically to oppose the project.
Recent SFU graduate Jill Canty said the gondola would be “totally useful.”
“People need to get off their high horses about it,” she said before Hardie’s announcement. “Students are packed into buses like sardines and sent to creep up the hill at 12 kilometres an hour. It turns a seven-minute drive into a grueling, 25-minute slow ascension.” She said she felt most students supported the proposal.
Hardie said TransLink’s priorities for its recently adopted 3-year plan include improving service on routes to U-Pass schools, expansions in Surrey, and mainly SkyTrain’s $1.4 billion Evergreen Line connecting Vancouver to Coquitlam.
Hardie added he expects to see an Evergreen Line contract by spring. He said it will be funded partly by TransLink’s proposed 2013 fare increase, and by two City of Vancouver tax increases effective Jan. 1: a 300 per cent parking tax hike, and a 3 cent per litre gas tax bump bringing the total to 17 cents a litre by April.