Agenda Index City of Vancouver



Vancouver City Council


General Manager of Engineering Services and the Director of City Plans


Rapid Transit Project - Special Commission, SkyTrain Review





Council approved the Transportation Plan which provides a higher priority for rapid transit.


The purpose of this report is to provide Council an opportunity to review the role of the Special Commission, SkyTrain Review for Broadway-Lougheed and Coquitlam-New Westminster Rapid Transit Project, prior to a presentation by the Special Commission.


The Province announced the process for implementation of SkyTrain in June. A project of this magnitude is normally subject to Provincial and Federal environmental review requirements. Often to reduce complexities, a blended assessment dealing with both Provincial and Federal environmental review requirements is undertaken.

The Province, on September 17, 1998, announced a "New Environmental Process for Urban Transit Rail" for the independent review of the SkyTrain Project. See Appendix A for the announcement and the Terms of Reference.


The Commissioner of Environmental Review of the SkyTrain extension, Derek Thompson, has provided a preliminary information meeting with City staff to discuss his Terms of Reference, the process he proposed, and identification of City issues that could be addressed in the review.

The Commission proposes the following process:

· meet stakeholders, including Councils and staff

· information outlets in 10 libraries and on the internet

· gather information on issues

· hold meetings where delegations would be heard

· review the material, suggestions and develop recommendations

· prepare an independent report of findings and recommendations by December 1998

· ongoing monitoring throughout the design phase.

It is anticipated that a public meeting would be held in Vancouver in November where delegations would be able to make presentations to the Commission.

The difficulty of the task assigned to the Special Commission is apparent. Given a normal time frame, an assessment would likely take 6 to 18 months to complete, including a public consultation process; the three-month time period appears to be inadequate.

To conduct an Environmental Assessment requires project details and plans of the project. For this project, several City requests for fundamental information have not been addressed by the Rapid Transit Project Office; this deficiency creates a difficult, if not impossible, environment for the City to prepare a submission.

Even when the information is provided to the City and the Commission during the short review process, the City would have to first review the information from a project perspective, and then respond to the assessment.

Another factor to consider is the relative uncertainty of an Environmental Assessment in an urban area. An assessment in a rural area may deal with well-defined aspects like vegetation, fauna, drainage patterns and endangered species. In the City, many different factors such as social impacts, noise, views, and economic impacts, would be issues. In particular, west of Commercial the line enters a densely developed urban area where impacts can be substantial, and very different in nature.

Although the Commission has been given the autonomy to provide independent recommendations, the Commission staff is comprised of Provincial employees reassigned to this project. Even if the Commission is formulated to be independent, there is the appearance that the group may not be independent.


The following issues are recommended for inclusion in the assessment process:

1. Station Location Impacts

2. Grandview Cut

3. Guideway

4. System Wide


With the many concerns raised, the proposed deadline of December does not provide adequate time for an informed response. An extended deadline for the special assessment by at least 3 months would provide for a more complete review. The items listed above could form the basis for this review if adequate information were available.

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