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TransLink says it will compensate some owners over Burnaby Mountain Gondola route

TransLink commits to addressing numerous concerns
Rendering of the proposed Burnaby Mountain gondola

TransLink has submitted more details to the city for the proposed Burnaby Mountain gondola. 

In a city report dated July 7, the transit company shared the results of its public engagement, commitments and proposed next steps at Monday's meeting (July 12).

In May of 2019, city council endorsed a recommendation that supports the gondola link from SkyTrain to the top of Burnaby Mountain, subjected to five conditions: 

  • Residents - Minimize impacts to residents living near the gondola 
  • Environment - Minimize impacts to areas with high ecological values, such as fish-bearing streams and riparian areas
  • Compensation - Provide fair compensation to affected property owners for intrusion of the gondola, both for its physical footprint on their lands and its aerial passage over them
  • Options - All three options should be considered on an equal basis in the next stage of analysis and public consultation
  • Consultation - Engage the community in meaningful consultation, especially with respect to alignment options and report back to council on the results

Afterward, two public engagement surveys were undertaken by TransLink, which found 85% of respondents supported route number one, which would be Production Way - University Station via SkyTrain and the Gondola making its way to the SFU bus exchange. 

The route length would be 2.7 km with five towers and a travel time of six minutes with TransLink adding the option has good financial performance, the highest societal benefits, lowest capital and operating costs, smallest footprint, best geotechnical conditions, fewest park impacts and fewest environment impacts. 

City staff agrees that route one would be the best technical solution. 

Route two would have been Production Way - University Station, also to the SFU bus exchange but with an angle station located east of the bend in Gaglardi Way. Route three saw the option of Lake City Way Station suggested (with an angle station located on the eastern side of Centennial Way and Burnaby Mountain Parkway) to south of South Campus Way. 

In phase one (September 2020) of consultations, a total of 84% of 12,955 survey respondents supported the overall idea of the proposed gondola while 8% were not at all supportive or somewhat unsupportable. 

Phase two (November/December 2020) saw 83% out of 7,293 survey respondents supportive of the project while 10% were not supportive. 

Results from the consultations were reported separately for Forest Grove, UniverCity, SFU and the rest of Burnaby. 

Forest Grove residents continue to express strong opposition to the project with only 33% saying they support or strongly support the project. TransLink says in phase one, just 24.5% of area residents supported the proposed gondola while 36.9% were not supportive at all. 

Phase two saw a larger percentage of area residents opposed to the project at 40% while just 24% were very supportive. 

According to the city report, Forest Grove residents have expressed concerns about the following specific aspects of the project: 

  • Noise, privacy, visual presence, property impacts and compensation
  • System safety and objects falling from cabins
  • Environmental impacts including trees, streams and land
  • Exploring alternative transit solutions, including battery electric buses

"TransLink recognizes that many people in Forest Grove still have concerns about the project," the report states. 

"Some of these cannot be fully resolved until the project is at a more advanced stage of design, and funded. That is not possible at this time because it is currently a planning exercise; not a funded capital project." 

TransLink says it would compensate the two multi-family properties that are beneath route one for passage over their lands and the gondola will not exceed background noise levels in Forest Grove. 

In March, area resident Brian Ferguson told the NOW it doesn’t matter which route is chosen, he’s against the gondola proposal.

“The harm to the environment is the elephant in the room,” he said. “TransLink parrots the gondola salesman’s claims that they can do it with minimal damage to the wildlife in the conservation area. TransLink makes this claim one moment and then next declares how a gondola per minute will bring more people and activity into the area.”

The transit company is also engaging with four First Nations on the Burnaby Mountain Gondola including Kwikwetlem First Nation, Musqueam, Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation according to its evaluation report. 

The Burnaby Mountain Gondola would provide service between SkyTrain and Burnaby Mountain for the 25,000 daily trips made by SFU students, staff, faculty, and residents. Gondola cabins would depart every minute, carrying more people up the mountain per hour than current bus services and in about half the time. The proposed project is not yet approved or funded.

In an opinion piece to the NOW, also in March of this year, SFU President Joy Johnson said explained why the university is supporting the project. 

"For a major Canadian university like SFU, public transit is an indispensable ingredient for long-term success," she said.

"Our students have some of the longest commute times in Canada. And right now at SFU Burnaby, that ingredient is missing.

"As SFU’s new president, I want our main campus to grow and thrive for everyone’s benefit. But it can’t happen unless we make it easier for students, staff and residents to travel to and from Burnaby Mountain." 

In the report presented yesterday, the city stressed the fact that no decision on construction has been made at this time. 

"TransLink's proposed short-term actions are about financial planning, and would therefore not include additional public consultation.

"Further consultation would need to be based on additional information on impact mitigation or compensation that would not arise from a Business Case.

"However, it is clear that further discussions with residents of Forest Grove would be necessary if this were to become a funded project."

- With files from Chris Campbell, Burnaby NOW