Opinion: New SFU head to push for Burnaby gondola. Fantastic news

Chris Campbell

SFU has named a new president and the best thing I heard from Joy Johnson is her commitment to getting a Burnaby Mountain gondola built.

Johnson, currently the university’s vice-president research and international, will take the helm in September, replaces Andrew Petter, who has held the position for 10 years. You can read a full profile about her here.

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Among her top priorities will be championing the development of a gondola connecting SFU’s campus on Burnaby Mountain with the Production Way SkyTrain station.

“We shouldn’t be saying ‘SFU’ without saying ‘gondola’ these days,” she said.

“We really do need better transit up the mountain here on Burnaby campus. We know when the weather gets snow, which it might well do next week, that our buses have difficulty getting up the mountain. And it would be a game-changer for us.”

Those are strong words from Johnson and welcome. No offence to Petter, but I never really felt much passion from him about getting this project done.

Johnson seems committed, which is good news for the tens thousands of people who live and work on Burnaby Mountain.

SFU president, Joy Johnson
SFU vice-president research and international Joy Johnson will become the university's 10th president in September. - SFU

The project received a unanimous vote of confidence by the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation in July 2018. 

It will now go to public consultation, and TransLink staff will start trying to secure funding from senior levels of government. 

The agency’s vice-president of transportation planning and policy, Geoff Cross, explained the mountain’s topography makes it hard to build other types of transit infrastructure. 

TransLink already struggles to serve the busy 145 bus route between the Production Way-University SkyTrain station and Simon Fraser University, and, he said, that demand is only expected to grow. 

A gondola would “reduce travel time, increase ridership and actually have a higher capacity” than buses, Cross said.

TransLink staff will study three potential routes: a straight line between the Production Way-University station and the SFU bus loop; a “kinked” route that would head east before making a 90-degree turn near Gaglardi Way and onward to the school campus; and a route starting from the Lake City Way SkyTrain station, around the Trans Mountain tank farm and then to the bus loop. 

The direct route could be built for an estimated $197 million and would have a lower operating cost than the current 145 bus service, Cross said. 

  • With additional reporting by Tyler Orton, Business in Vancouver and Kelvin Gawley.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.


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