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Olympic transit system hit with bumps, glitches

/ Source: The Associated Press

Conditions, cancellations, confusion.

The Olympic transportation system got off to a rocky start at the Vancouver Games, with officials scrambling to keep spectators moving.

But the transit problems — a contentious issue at Olympics past — appeared to be getting smoothed out Monday, the third full day of competition and the first real business day for Vancouverites.

"Our goal was to reduce traffic into the downtown core by 30 percent, and we've definitely achieved that," Vancouver Organizing Committee spokeswoman Renee Smith-Valade said. "So the movement around the downtown this morning has been very, very good. We've been able to get people up to the venues and move people the way we had planned."

The venues are spread from downtown Vancouver to Whistler Mountain two hours away. Problems have centered mostly around Cypress Mountain, where snowboard and moguls events are held.

A bus carrying reporters to women's freestyle skiing Saturday got lost before breaking down. It took about 50 minutes for a new bus to arrive.

Buses carrying the Canadian women's moguls team, including silver medalist Jenn Heil, broke down on two consecutive days en route to Cypress for training early last week. The team switched to private cars for the hour trip.

Organizers said Monday that 100 new buses had been ordered to replace vehicles leased from California that appeared to be having mechanical issues.

There were also complaints by spectators who had to wait in long lines in the rain and wind for buses to leave the Cypress venue. Travel to and from the mountain was slowed by the rain, which was heavy at times over the weekend.

But the number of spectators headed to Cypress on Monday and Tuesday for snowboardcross was drastically reduced when organizers closed a washed-out spectator viewing area and refunded 8,000 tickets. The venue also was hit by a power outage and criticized for too few concession stands.

At Whistler, weather wreaked havoc with the Alpine schedule — and spectators. The men's downhill, originally set for Saturday, was finally run Monday morning. While there were some complaints about transportation on the mountain over the weekend, Monday morning's commute surrounding the downhill appeared glitch-free.

"We'll keep working at it, whether that means adding new buses if we have problems, adjusting departure or return times, or making sure that our staff that are driving the busses have a complete and thorough knowledge of the system that they're operating," Smith-Valade said.

In Vancouver, the city's Translink system has 160 extra buses standing by that can be sent to trouble spots.

"We're feeling much better today about the transportation system and we're hearing good comments about it," Smith-Valade said.