TransLink's proposal to build a gondola up to the top of Burnaby Mountain is being met with both community support and opposition.
The student society at Simon Fraser University is holding a social media contest this spring to promote the project, but a community group opposed to the proposal is calling the contest misguided.
"It's a desperate attempt to draw attention (to) a molehill," said Chris Rarinca, with Citizens Opposed to the Gondola. "That's really what it is; it's a molehill in terms of transportation. It's destructive, and at the same time, it doesn't resolve the major transportation issues in the Lower Mainland."
Rarinca lives in the Forest Grove neighbourhood at the foot of Burnaby Mountain.
He says he and other residents in the area feel a gondola would create unwanted noise and take away the privacy homeowners currently enjoy in the densely treed area.
"We are a peace and quiet kind of place with not many commercial venues, and people living there really like it that way," he said. "What they want to propose is not a nice gondola up a mountain; instead it's a very intensive and super high volume mass transit line with cabins the size of small buses, going over our heads every 20 seconds."
The gondola would start near the Production Way SkyTrain Station, at Lougheed Highway and Production Way, and end atop Burnaby Mountain at a bus loop, with no stops along the way.
For students and residents who commute daily to and from the mountain, the gondola would afford a quicker commute, according to SFU student society external relations officer Meaghan Wilson.
"The current 145 bus (route) is just not efficient enough for SFU students and the
Burnaby Mountain community, especially because it is a growing community," she said.
The "We Like It On Top" social media contest, hosted by the SFU student society, asks undergraduate students to submit video, photos and other media that promotes the gondola project in the SFU and wider Burnaby communities.
Results of the contest will be posted on the society's Facebook page to increase awareness and promote TransLink's proposal.
Wilson said ideally, the contest will help to move the gondola project forward, but the purpose is also simply to get students involved in the consultation process.
The estimated cost of the project is $120 million, with annual operating costs ranging between $3 and $3.5 million, according to a study done in 2011 by an engineering consultation company.
The study concluded the concept had "considerable merit" - reducing greenhouse gasses with fewer buses on the route and saving time for commuters heading to and from the mountain, according to TransLink's media relations officer, Derek Zabel.
"Of course with all our expansion projects, our existing funding does not allow us to pursue this project at this time, but will be considered for inclusion in future plans," he said.
Zabel noted funding is currently being put towards the new Evergreen SkyTrain line, and will next be considered for rapid transit in Surrey and the Broadway corridor in Vancouver.
A discussion with regional stakeholders, the SFU community and local residents would also be necessary before proceeding with the gondola project, he said.
"If this plan does go ahead, we're going to have to do a lot of consultation with people in the neighbourhood, concerned groups, and try to address all of their needs as best as possible, and do it in a way that can hopefully satisfy everybody."
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