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Gondola pitched as possible West Shore commuter traffic solution

Former city administrator asking stakeholders to study feasibility of concept
The Sea to Sky gondola in Squamish. Metchosin resident Geoff Pearce is proposing a similar system across Esquimalt Harbour as a possible solution to reduce commuter traffic between the West Shore and the region’s core. (Flickr)

West Shore residents are no stranger to the challenges the busy commute to and from downtown Victoria can bring, and one such resident is encouraging municipal leaders to look skyward for a potential solution.

Geoff Pearce has submitted letters to several councils pitching the idea of a commuter cable car gondola running over the Esquimalt harbour and connecting Colwood and Esquimalt.

“I’m passionate about trying to improve access and alternative transportation to reduce congestion, get people out of their cars,” Pearce said.

The Metchosin resident previously worked for the City of Langford and Resort Municipality of Whistler. He sees a gondola as a perfect fit and encourages stakeholders to conduct a feasibility study on the proposal to see if it’s worth making a reality.

He has seen gondolas work effectively in Whistler and used for many years in major cities in South America and Europe.

READ MORE: Cities in Western Canada consider gondolas as part of transit, tourism plans

The Canadian Press reports cities closer to home have recently begun studying their own systems as well.

The cities of Red Deer and Edmonton, as well as Burnaby, are in various stages of feasibility studies, with Burnaby’s council endorsing the concept already.

While using gondolas as public transit is becoming less of a far-fetched idea, Pearce’s proposal may come with more complications than benefits.

A route over Esquimalt Harbour would involve building on and above Department of National Defence property at CFB Esquimalt and Parks Canada property at Fort Rodd Hill, for example.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the navy base said, “CFB Esquimalt is aware of the gondola proposal. An initial assessment highlighted a number of security and operational concerns as the suggested routing would bring users over secure base property.”

Colwood Mayor Rob Martin said he loves residents thinking outside the box on important issues like transit. He previously pitched a shorter gondola route in Royal Bay, but with Pearce’s proposal having significant hurdles to overcome, Martin said options such as a commuter ferry running a similar route would prove more effective.

“When things are challenging, that does not mean it is a ‘no,’ it just means there is a lot of work that needs to be done,” he said. “We really need to look at how we bring the public along with this idea as well. I don’t believe the public is engaged yet with the idea of moving people around with a gondola, because it hasn’t been introduced before.”

For his part, Pearce said he would support other potential solutions for reducing commuter traffic, including a commuter ferry or light rail, having participated in a study of the latter.

“I think you need something that is significant and radical to get people out of their cars. If you can save them time, save them money, I think it is worth looking at.”

Justin Samanski-Langille

About the Author: Justin Samanski-Langille

I moved coast-to-coast to discover and share the stories of the West Shore, joining Black Press in 2021 after four years as a reporter in New Brunswick.
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