Online Edition                        Updated February 19th 2001

Council got an earful from critics of the Skytrain extension Thursday. Photo Randall Cosco.
SkyTrain critics have their say

By David Carrigg
Staff writer

The extension of SkyTrain west from Commercial Drive should be shelved and the money spent keeping buses on the road, angry Mount Pleasant residents told the city Thursday night.

About 50 residents crowded a committee room to tell council they want the $80-million Millennium Line extension put on hold until TransLink sorts it finances out. Because of TransLinkís failed vehicle levy, which would have raised up to $100 million a year, the regional transport provider plans to cut bus services while maintaining its SkyTrain commitments.

In response, COPE councillors Fred Bass and Tim Louis have requested a moratorium on funding and construction of the SkyTrain extension west of Commercial Drive, through the Grandview Cut to the planned Finning high tech development. Bass and Louis have also asked for councilís support in opposing cuts to bus services.

Most of the residents who spoke at the meeting complained about a lack of consultation by TransLink and potential environmental impacts in the 90-year-old Grandview Cut, calling the extension a waste of money.

Janis Hanen, who regularly takes a bus from East Vancouver to UBC, said the proposed line is supposed to service Vancouver Community College, at 1155 West Broadway, but the station is four blocks from the school. "People will continue to take the bus along Broadway to get to the college. This is the SkyTrain to nowhere," said Hanen, adding the bus she takes to work is dangerously overcrowded.

Wayne Pledger, manager of the Vancouver Rapid Transit Office, was heckled at the meeting after saying he had not heard of the Greer Report. The internal government report released by the opposition Liberals last month suggests cost comparisons used by the government to decide whether to back SkyTrain or light rapid transit were not accurate.

In 1998 former Premier Glen Clark abandoned the idea of light rapid transit, which included buses and an electrically-powered light train, and decided the Lower Mainlandís transit system would be SkyTrain based. SkyTrain was introduced to Vancouver during Expo 86.

After a heated debate over the vehicle levy with Coun. Gordon Price, NDP MLA Jenny Kwan said she would inform the NDP caucus of community concern over the Commercial-to-Finning SkyTrain link.

Price called the argument with Kwan typical of the provincial governmentís relationship with the city. He said the province forced the city to back SkyTrain because it refused to fund any other form of public transit.

"It was rammed down our throats," said Price.

Bass said GVRD residents have never been given enough information to decide the best form of transportation.

Mayor Philip Owen asked Pledger how much would be lost if the Finning SkyTrain extension was abandoned. Pledger said no construction contracts have been made, but millions had been spent acquiring land and planning for the extension.

Because of the large number of people wanting to speak, another meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 22, when the committee will vote on Bass and Louisís motions.

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