Gondola – The perfect solution or more chaos?
Recently, the Simon Fraser University Community Trust proposed the idea of constructing a gondola system similar to Whistler’s Peak-2-Peak gondola system from the Production Way SkyTrain station to the transit loop near UniverCity at SFU’s Burnaby Mountain campus. They claim the $68.9 million project will greatly improve transit speeds and reduce the environmental impact of the transit system that is currently caused by the diesel-powered buses run by TransLink.
During peak hours, the current transit system is a complete nightmare. The buses and SkyTrain trains are consistently packed to the point where it is difficult for passengers to move. This raises the question, what will stop the gondola system from being overly packed as well? Travel times for a gondola ride to SFU are estimated to be less than half that of an equivalent bus ride (6 minutes versus 14+ minutes) but the number of passengers on each trip will be significantly lower than buses. But all of these numbers become pointless when it comes to loading actual passengers.
As evidenced by the current transit system, people are not patient when it comes to transit (And why should they when they are in a hurry?) and they will try to cram into any available space in the transit vehicle. Unless TransLink starts actively governing the loading and unloading of passengers, there is nothing to stop the same thing from happening with the much tinier gondolas.
Reliability is another concerning issue. Buses are simple to replace – if a bus breaks down, another bus can be sent to pick up the stranded passengers. The SkyTrain system is often delayed and even sometimes shut down due to technical issues. If the gondola system has problems, passengers will be stuck in the air for indefinite amounts of time. Gondola failures will result in passengers being stranded in the air unlike the SkyTrain which is only attached to rails that are raised above the ground. Gondola systems are also not part of TransLink’s normal operations so if they were to operate the proposed system, it would be unfamiliar territory.
The proposed gondola system to SFU has gotten many people excited but people need to look beyond the faster travel times and focus on the potential problems. It is after all still just an idea so try not to get too excited just yet.