$10M gondola plan would carry Victoria’s cruise ship visitors

A $10-million proposal would see gondolas whisk above tree tops in James Bay to carry thousands of cruise ship passengers between Ogden Point and Victoria Harbour.

Moving at 18 km/h, the system would transport 2,800 passengers per hour in each direction, said officials with Victoria Sky Ride, the company aiming to install and operate the gondolas.

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The May-to-September system would run during the Alaska cruise ship season. It would solve transportation needs between the port and Victoria’s downtown, eliminating about 13,800 shuttle bus trips between James Bay and downtown, Sky Ride said.

Buses carrying ship passengers have been a sore point in James Bay for more than a decade. Residents have complained about noise, emissions and congested streets.

Urban cable cars are a “growing trend around the world,” Geoff Pearce, Sky Ride president, said Thursday.

Pearce is a former Langford administrator and a municipal consultant living in Greater Victoria. He is a partner in Sky Ride with Whistler’s Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners Ltd., which has worked on about 400 resorts in 38 countries, including designing the Whistler Nordic Centre for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

“If you go down the list of both the [James Bay Neighbourhood Association] and the city objectives and dreams for the future … we just knock ’em dead. It’s a home run,” Paul Mathews, Ecosign president, said from Whistler.

Marg Gardiner, neighbourhood association president, said the community has not seen the proposal so it is too soon to say what the response will be. She expects both positive and negative feedback.

While the noise level would not be as high as a bird chirping, the gondolas would likely be fairly frequent when the system is running. Another issue may be the impact of towers that would be installed to support the cables, she said.

Gondolas would not eliminate all buses out of Ogden Point, because about 40 per cent go to the downtown, with the remainder taking visitors to local attractions, Gardiner said.

“Given that the cable travels on rubber-lined sheave wheels, it is unlikely that a person will hear or even be aware of the gondola passing overhead, especially if walking under the substantial summer tree canopy,” a Sky Ride information sheet said.

Victoria Sky Ride is holding an open house Wednesday, from 3 to 6 p.m., at the James Bay Athletic Association Clubhouse, McDonald Park, at 205 Simcoe St. It will then make a 6:30 p.m. presentation at the James Bay Neighbourhood Association meeting at 234 Menzies St.

The idea was sparked by a request for proposals from the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, which owns Ogden Point, Pearce said. About 200 cruise ship calls take place every season. This year, ships carried 465,000 passengers and 200,000 crew members.

The harbour authority cannot comment because the proposal is under a non-disclosure agreement, an authority official said.

Two possible routes have been proposed, with a terminal at each end.

One would leave from the south side of Ogden Point and run along Montreal Street to near the Inn at Laurel Point, where passengers could then walk downtown. That route would be

971 metres long, with

46 cabins and 14 towers.

The other route would also leave from the south side of Ogden Point, go along Dallas Road and then up Oswego Street to the Belleville Street terminal. It would be 1,436 metres long, with 20 towers and 76 cabins.

Each gondola would have seating for eight and wheelchairs could be accommodated, Mathews said. A one-way ride would take a few minutes. Return tickets would cost about $10.

Towers would be 21.7 metres tall and installed on city streets, taking up the equivalent of a parking space, he said. Towers are typically 80 to 90 metres apart.

It could take three years to get the system in place, Mathews said. His group will need City of Victoria approval and satisfy B.C. Safety Authority regulations.



MAP-Gondola proposed routes.jpg

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