Public Meeting Recap
By Kate TrotterThe Tri-City News
They came not to bury SkyTrain, but to praise it.
The overwhelming majority of speakers at a public meeting Wednesday in Coquitlam said SkyTrain should be extended to Tri-City even if it is more expensive and intrusive while ground-level light rail transit (LRT) was dismissed as little better than a bus.
The meeting was held so residents could tell council what they thought about the TransLink decision to build LRT between Lougheed Station and Coquitlam city hall, a decision Coquitlam council unanimously supported.
"We are being blackmailed to accept an inferior system," Jan Gola told Coquitlam city councillors and TransLink staff. "They can find the money for Vancouver but they can't find the money for Coquitlam."
Robert Gibson said if there isn't enough money to build a complete SkyTrain line, "build it until the money runs out."
Robert Rondeau agreed, saying, "Build a mile a year and pretty soon we'll have it all."
Several speakers urged council to hold a referendum so voters could choose the system. "Let the people vote," said Brent Asmundson. "It's our money."
Mick Andic said LRT has lower ridership and higher per-passenger costs than SkyTrain, and is marginally faster than a bus. "How else do you evaluate if not by boarding and the people it serves?" he asked.
To the public, SkyTrain is effective because it is elevated above traffic. To LRT supporters, ground-level stations are the key to affordability, to convenience and to safety.
New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright said later his city has five SkyTrain stations. "They're difficult to keep and they're not friendly," he said. "Why does Richmond want ground-level [transit'>? Because they know it's easier to live with."
What TransLink said
TransLink's Glen Leicester outlined the features of the electrically-powered LRT system:
* Cost: 400 LRT systems are in place worldwide compared to five SkyTrain-like systems; this means competitive prices.
* Alignment: From Lougheed Town Centre station, the train would be elevated over Austin Avenue; run at grade on North Road, through a two kilometre tunnel beside Clarke Road (Snake Hill), at grade along St. Johns Street. From Coquitlam Station, it would be elevated north above Pinetree Way.
* Roads: There would be no net loss in the number of traffic lanes, although on-street parking might be lost. Trains would run down the middle of the road. Stops would be located near intersections. Because LRT has intersection priority, traffic would be stopped while passengers walk in a crosswalk between curb and train.
* Stations proposed: Burquitlam Plaza; three in Port Moody; Falcon Drive at Barnet Highway; Coquitlam Station (to connect with West Coast Express and buses); Lincoln Avenue (the shopping stop); and, possibly, Douglas College on Pinetree and at Cameron Avenue in Burnaby.
* Stations: Ground-level stations are sheltered and have ticket machines. There is no gap between the "platform" and the train; this means people using wheelchairs and walkers and pushing strollers roll on through wide doors.
* Cost: Even though LRT has human operators and SkyTrain is automated, it is still cheaper to run LRT. The main difference is in station costs: maintaining elevators and escalators, cleaning and repairs would cost $5.3 million a year for seven stations in Tri-City, compared to $1.4 million for nine LRT stops.
* Speed: Trains travel up to 85 km/h. Travel time between Coquitlam and Lougheed stations is 16 minutes; to city hall from Lougheed is 20 minutes. It will be faster than a bus because it can change signals at intersections to get the right of way.
* Just in case: If there is a serious accident at an intersection impeding LRT, buses would probably be brought in to re-route transit passengers, as is done now if a bus is blocked.
LRT wouldn't break up a "seamless" rapid transit system, says TransLink staff. Even if it was SkyTrain to Lougheed, travellers would still have to transfer at Lougheed to get on the Expo or Millennium lines, said Mayor Jon Kingsbury. The Richmond Vancouver line won't be SkyTrain technology either.
Besides, the Richmond and Coquitlam lines cannot be compared: The Richmond-Airport-Vancouver line is mandated to have a 30-minute travel time, which requires split-second merging of cars.
* 2004: Public meetings Nov. 30 at the Executive Inn, 450 North Rd. and Dec. 1 at Port Moody city hall. Doors open 6 p.m., presentations at 7 p.m. TransLink board meeting Dec. 8.
* 2005: detailed alignment, traffic and property impacts studied.
* 2008: Tunneling.
* 2009: Revenue service begins, autumn.