The group of Calgarians speaking out against the planned southwest rapid-transit says Mayor Naheed Nenshi and his administration are using poor citizen behaviour as a "smokescreen" for not addressing the weaknesses in the proposal.

On Wednesday, Nenshi announced he was cancelling the rest of the public engagement sessions for the controversial BRT line, a 22-kilometre bus route from Woodbine to the downtown core, citing incidents of physical assault as well as threats of violence and a death threat.

Nenshi attributed the actions to people belonging to Ready to Engage.

But a spokesman for the group, which has been vocal in its opposition to the project, said while his members were outside the meeting urging people to sign a petition, they took no part in the actions Nenshi mentioned. 

"It's a classic smokescreen," said Rick Donkers. "This is a diversionary tactic: 'We won't talk about the weaknesses of this plan. Instead, we'll talk about the bad people.' And yes, because we've been vocal, Ready to Engage has been the centre of their attack."

"But you show me where Ready to Engage has incited anyone," Donkers continued. "It's the city's lack of answers that have frustrated people."

The $40-million project includes dedicated bus lanes to be built along 14th Street S.W. between Glenmore Trail and Southland Drive.

The goal is to improve transit service to downtown and key destinations such as Mount Royal University, Rockyview Hospital, Glenmore Landing, Heritage Park and Lincoln Park.

Review needed

First proposed in 2010, the city held engagement sessions with the public in that year. The project then sat relatively dormant until 2015. Last September, the province announced funding from the GreenTRIP program to go towards the southwest BRT as well as other BRT and regional networks in the Calgary area. 

Donkers said the plan needs to be reviewed. 

"Are we asking them to kill the southwest BRT? Absolutely not," he said. "We are asking city council to give this a proper review that it's never had."

Ready to Engage meeting January 21

About 700 people came out to learn more about the $40 million southwest bus rapid transit project last month, organized by the lobby group, Ready to Engage. (Mike Symington/CBC)

He added the opposition to the project in its current form goes beyond the 30 people involved with Ready to Engage, pointing to a meeting the group held last month attended by roughly 1,000 people.

"We don't think the ridership supports going all the way to Woodbine," Donkers said. "We think that it's a great plan to make southwest transit to Mount Royal University. It's the part south of Glenmore Trail that doesn't make any sense."

All the group wants, Donkers said, is answers.

"Where's the environmental plan? Where's your ridership study? How are you going to deal with high pressure gas pipelines underneath 14th Street?" he said. 

"All of these are legitimate questions."