Last month, City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto suggested that it’s time to take a serious look at building a rapid-transit tunnel underneath Burrard Inlet.
But transportation analyst Richard Littlemore thinks the answer to the North Shore’s growing traffic congestion is not beneath the water but above it. Way above it.
Littlemore thinks a transit gondola could be built connecting the North Shore to Downtown Vancouver.
He says it is possible to build a gondola that traverses the 3.24-kilometre crossing.
“You can do it,” he said. “The technology is there. It’s simple. Gondolas are really cheap to run once you build them.”
Littlemore notes that Whistler’s Peak2Peak gondola runs 4.4 kilometres — including a single span of just over three kilometres — and cost $51 million to build back in 2008.
WATCH: North Shore mayor calls for transit tunnel
Using a gondola for public transit is not a new idea. In recent years, several South American cities — such as Medellín, Colombia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — have built transit gondolas to service mountainous areas. A gondola in La Paz, Bolivia, moves more people in an hour than the SeaBus does in an entire day.
Meanwhile, the North Shore has seen little in the way of innovation, Mussatto says.
Littlemore thinks the region can also be served by a gondola connecting the Production Way SkyTrain Station and Simon Fraser University’s campus atop Burnaby Mountain, an idea that has been floated in the past.
“I think if we did the Burnaby Mountain one, people would start looking for other applications right away because it would prove itself in a big hurry,” Littlemore said.
Not everyone may be a fan of building transit over Burrard Inlet. Sea plane operators may have a problem with high towers and cables spanning the airspace they now use for takeoffs and landings and an increasing number of oil tankers navigating around towers could be problematic.
Just as with the idea of a transit tunnel, Mussatto said he is open to looking at a proposal for a gondola and that decisions need to be made sooner rather than later.
“We need to have those discussions now,” he said. “Start them now so that we can make better-informed decision as we make critical infrastructure decisions relatively soon.”
– With files from Ted Chernecki