After years of student advocacy, the gondola to Simon Fraser University has been approved.
The Simon Fraser Student Society is revelling in the victory.
“It would not be an understatement to say that this is probably the biggest accomplishment of student activists of the decade,” said Gabe Liosis, former president of the SFSS.
The SFU gondola
The gondola will replace the 145 bus, which currently operates every five minutes during peak periods and moves about 1,000 passengers per hour.
TransLink estimated the gondola will move about 3,100 passengers per hour per direction.
TransLink has estimated the cost of the project will be $210 million, with an annual operating cost of $5.6 million.
Student activists want effective transportation
Liosis said post-secondary students are struggling not only with rent prices and the pandemic, but also with transportation, which is a huge barrier to accessing education.
He said the Maple Ridge school district found a “direct correlation” between a high graduation rate from high school but low transition rates to post-secondary – and that a major factor was a lack of accessible and effective transportation.
Liosis’ commute from his home in Maple Ridge to the Burnaby Mountain campus takes about two hours.
“This is a transit project that is going to drastically improve the quality of life for students now and for generations to come,” Liosis said.
Current SFSS president, Helen Sofia Pahou, said an SFSS report found that 80 per cent of students regularly use transportation to commute to school.
Osob Mohamed, an SFU alumna who advocated for the gondola with SFSS, said the 145 bus was the “bane of (her) existence.”
Both Pahou and Mohamed noted the tendency of the large 145 bus to get stuck during the snowy winters on the mountain.
"Year after year, different student activists have wanted to pick (the gondola project) up, because they all recognize the the level of change that it’ll make for the community," Liosis told the NOW.
‘The power of civil activism’
SFU’s president Joy Johnson said the level of student engagement was exciting.
“It’s really had continuity which is … given the (student) turnover, quite unusual,” Johnson told the NOW.
“When our 37,000-strong students advocate for a particular issue, there’s a lot of strength behind that,” Johnson said at the press conference.
“And so I do want to take the time to thank our students for their advocacy on this on this project. It’s really been incredible,” she continued, noting that students signed petitions, held open houses, distributed pamphlets, presented to TransLink’s Mayors’ Council, and spoke with involved communities.
“You have demonstrated the power of civil activism,” Johnson told the students.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that TransLink had budgeted $210 million for the gondola project. That is incorrect. The estimated cost of the project is $210 million, should the project be funded.