Proposed SFU gondola popular, but not among some who’d live under it

Getting up and down to Simon Fraser University can be a real slog, and the proposed Burnaby Mountain gondola is being sold in some quarters as a fun solution to the traffic and transit challenges in that area.

But with public engagement underway, some people who live in the city’s Forest Grove neighbourhood are pushing back.

Jim Bowen is worried about a gondola going over his home — he’s concerned about the potential of tree removal and what it could mean for the value of his property.

He’s part of a group called Stop SFU Gondola and says the group has more than 150 members.

“The emotional toll it can take on you — after 14 years of having this literally hanging over your head, with these people pushing it through,” Bowen said, referencing earlier proposals for a gondola over the years.

“The gondola would go directly over our houses. Not beside them. Not close to them. Over them.”

In recent weeks, TransLink has held a series of meetings with people in Forest Grove and UniverCity — the neighbourhood on top of Burnaby Mountain beside SFU.

“That meeting — there were 35 of us … I admit to being opinionated, it didn’t go that well for them,” Bowen said, referencing a public engagement meeting on November 23. “They were a little bit surprised by things, and how hostile we were.”

TransLink says the feedback provided by people at those meetings will be included in what it calls an “engagement summary.”

In a statement to CityNews, it notes the project is not currently funded, but is included in TransLink’s ten-year Access for Everyone plan.

“This is the third engagement that’s been conducted for the Burnaby Mountain Gondola project and we’ve found that the project has broad support from the region — with more than 83% of respondents supportive or very supportive of the gondola in the first two rounds of engagement,” a TransLink spokesperson wrote when requested for comment on this story. “The engagements included direct consultation with residents of Forest Grove and UniverCity and all engagement results will reflect their unique interests in the project.”

The proposed route would see the gondola’s lower terminal placed beside the Production Way-University SkyTrain Station, running up to the vicinity of the SFU Transit Exchange.

Getting up the mountain on buses now can be highly unpredictable, with people often complaining about full buses passing them by.

If built, the gondola would get people up to the top in about seven minutes, in contrast to the 15 to 45-minute trip TransLink suggests people usually endure. In terms of capacity, the gondola could transport as many as 3,000 people per hour.

The next step for this project is the business case, which is currently under development.

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