MP's survey finds mixed opinion on SFU gondola proposal
A telephone poll commissioned by Burnaby-Douglas MP Kennedy Stewart shows the majority of those surveyed who expressed an opinion support the proposed gondola to Simon Fraser University.
TransLink's proposal to build a gondola from the Production Way SkyTrain station to SFU's Burnaby Mountain campus drew 47 per cent support from decided voters in the poll while 39 per cent were opposed and 14 per cent were undecided.
Of the 5,831 households contacted in the riding, in the area bounded by Duthie Road, North Road, Lougheed Highway, and Burrard Inlet, over 1,000 residents participated in the survey.
Among the 86 per cent of those who stated an opinion, almost 55 per cent were in favour of the project.
Stewart saw it from another perspective, that a majority of area residents did not show support, if the undecided voters are included.
"For me, the project only has solid support from 47 per cent so I'd say the majority doesn't support it perhaps yet," said Stewart in an interview. "That's why I think TrankLink has to go back and do some more work.
"At this stage, when you look at the numbers, it just doesn't look like it has overwhelming support and in fact it has slightly less than majority support."
Stewart noted that the results are quite different from TransLink's own figures, which showed that 75 per cent of those surveyed at community meetings on the project were opposed. He noted that those who attended the meetings "were probably motivated to oppose it."
However, Stewart's poll is closer to the 50-50 split he found while door-knocking in the riding's most affected areas.
"The community is divided on this issue, it's not a slam-dunk project by any stretch of the imagination."
UniverCity residents have expressed concern about potential environmental impacts, he said, while Forest Grove residents don't like the proposed route.
Stewart said he'd heard that the gondola is noisy so he rode one in Whistler that uses the same technology and found that was not the case.
Meanwhile, supporters like the speed of a gondola (it's supposed to cut 13 minutes off the trip up to campus), the idea of getting diesel buses off the hill, reducing the number of days missed at school due to snow, and the potential for it becoming a significant tourist attraction.
"There's not an overwhelming support or overwhelming opposition. I think that leaves a window for TransLink to really go back and take a look and try to build support."
TransLink is expected to release its business case for the project in December.
"It's up to TransLink to decide what level of support within the community they need to proceed."
Stewart plans to continue consulting with the community on the issue and was enthusiastic about the use of Direct Leap Technologies Inc. and its telephone survey technology, which allowed participation to be focused on the area most affected by the gondola proposal.
At less than $1,000, it was very cost-efficient and he hopes to use it again in future.
"I think it's important for neighbours to know what other neighbours are thinking," he said. "It does tend to reduce tensions in neighbourhoods when you're open with this kind of information."