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Streetcars on their way to Vancouver

October 12th, 2009 · 61 Comments

The local Bombardier PR people sent out the notice today (see below) that fancy new streetcars are on their way to Vancouver for the Olympics month. That ought to be quite a switch from the historic number that was working the tracks until the Olympic village construction started.

The interesting part of this story really, though, is what will happen after the Olympics. The city is spending $4 million of the developer-fee money it got from the village and thereabouts to fix up that little bit of track between Granville Island and the village. The obvious next step would be to keep spending more money and extend the streetcar line through downtown Vancouver, as originally envisioned a few years back.

But TransLink has always been uber-tepid about the idea, no doubt seeing it as some goofy little vanity project that the Big Heads in Vancouver city hall thought up. Given the budget mess they’re in already, it’s hard to see them coming up with any money for this.

So what will the city do? Time for the creative thinkers at 12th and Cambie to find a solution.

Here’s the news release, btw.

Bombardier vehicles will provide free passenger service between the Olympic

and Paralympic Village and Granville Island, 7 days a week, 18 hours a day

Berlin, October 12, 2009 – Today, in a celebratory event hosted by the Brussels Transport

Company STIB (Société des Transports Intercommunaux de Bruxelles), two FLEXITY trams

marked their departure for Vancouver, Canada, where they will operate in a unique streetcar

demonstration project during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

The 32-metre long vehicles will be transported to Bremerhaven, Germany, where they will

start their voyage across the high seas. Travelling through the Panama Canal, the award-winning

vehicles are scheduled to arrive in Vancouver in early December 2009.

Bombardier Transportation and the City of Vancouver are co-sponsors of the Olympic Line

project. This sponsorship is complementary to Bombardier’s role as an Official Supporter of

the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and designer/ manufacturer of the Olympic


The FLEXITY trams will provide free passenger service between the Olympic and

Paralympic Village and Granville Island, a key entertainment centre for the 2010 Winter

Games. From January 21 until March 21, 2010, Bombardier will operate the FLEXITY

vehicles 7 days a week, 18 hours a day, at 6 to 7 minutes headway on the 1.8-km Olympic

Line. This 60-day demonstration period will provide accessible, environmentally friendly and

sustainable transportation for over 500,000 Vancouver residents, visitors and athletes from

all over the world.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Darcy McGee

    > A car is not part of a transportation
    > “system”

    Oh that’s just ridiculously disingenuous. Of course a car if part of a transportation system.

    If the city didn’t build roads but only bike paths to Granville Island or they stuck a big “bus only” sign on every road around Granville Island the system would change dramatically. You’d have drivers up in arms.

    It’s all part of a transportation system and plan, and the fact is that in North America cars have been given #1 priority in that system for so long that people can make statements like “A car is not part of a transporation system.”

    One of the main POINTS of a public transportation system is to encourage people to leave cars at home. One can conclude from that, without even stretching the term, that the car is part of that system.

  • MB

    Your pulpit really isn’t that big, GMGW.

    I lived right next to the False Creek tracks for a decade, and I took the #50 often. But I walked and rode the ferries a lot more.

    Yet I strongly support the streetcar project because it symbolizes the potentially huge positive impact this form of transit could have for the entire Lower Mainland, not to mention every mid-level and large city in Canada.

    If Vancouver supports this project out of its own pocket, it won’t be the first time it has shown leadership and innovation.

    Most European cities can bank on huge influxes of public funding for transit from their federal governments. But our current federal government is blind to the potential long term economic stimulus and long stride toward sustainability of stabile and predictable funding for public transit and prefers to blow tens of billions on a questionable recovery package and a bailout for GM.

    It’s my view that we’re only having this debate because of an utterly shameful and wilful lack of foresight and intelligence from senior governments of all stripes. Streetcar lines and a regional rapid transit system should have been built immediately after they banned freeways and therein prevented large swaths of Vancouver from being decimated some 40 years ago. A vacuum was created and in flowed the cars, albeit not on freeways.

    The superb Hong Kong transit system is largely supported with their funding ace card: development rights near stations. This is something TransLink has yet to explore, and if / when they do, it must be done wisely. In the absence of predictable senior government funding, this could prove to be a good option.

    It’s important to keep the temptation to radically increase density at stations under clear control. Streetcar lines would likely generate comfortable densities and human-scaled streetscapes and zoning, but not the 80-storey cheek-to-jowl condo towers of Hong Kong.

  • MB

    Your last entry’s paragraph is interesting, GMGW.

    They should build an attractive station at the Anderson Rd entry to GI, then provide a minimum 5 m wide pedestrian road right into the island. Take away space from cars if they have to, or build a low level pedestrian bridge.

    That way, this eastsider can take the Canada Line to the Olympic Village Station and transfer to the GI Line, get his groceries, have a coffee on the waterfront and get home in the time it takes to otherwise hunt for a parking space.

  • gmgw

    Darcy said:
    “Oh that’s just ridiculously disingenuous. Of course a car if part of a transportation system.”

    Really? Then who’s in charge of that system in Vancouver? Who schedules commuter trips? Who determines how many cars will be allowed on arterial routes in any given part of the city at any given time? Who’s in charge of regulating car traffic flow on the city’s major bridges (excluding the Lions Gate)? Who says to drivers: “I’m sorry, but we can’t permit you to drive into downtown this afternoon, as the number of allowable cars in the city core has already been breached? Who operates the regulatory gates on the bridges? In short, who’s in charge of designing traffic flow and altering it by the minute as necessary?

    If you know who’s in charge of all this, Darcy, I wish you’d share that information. Whoever they are, they’re doing one hell of a lousy job.

  • gmgw

    The majority of eastsiders of my acquaintance don’t shop at GI market. They not only prefer to avoid the traffic but they also consider the produce prices to be ridiculously high (which they often are) and would rather patronize produce stores in their own neighbourhoods, Santa Barbara Market for instance. The only eastsiders I know who go to GI regularly are either Emily Carr students or are going to Opus Framing. I realize this doesn’t exactly constitute a scientific poll, but I think it’s telling. Which brings me back to my main point: Who, exactly, will be flocking to use this streetcar line, if it is ever established as currently proposed?

    And by the way, there already is an attractive 5M wide pedestrian road into the Island: Old Bridge Road, which starts directly across the street from the streetcar terminus. It’s the designated emergency access lane should emergency vehicles encounter severe congestion on Anderson Street, but fortunately has almost never had to be used for that purpose.

  • Darcy McGee

    > Who’s in charge of regulating car traffic flow on the city’s major bridges
    > (excluding the Lions Gate)?

    Why massa gmgw, I dunno. I ‘m jes’a silly country bumpkin here.

    I’d like to thank you for pointing out the clearest counter example to your own example. Others exist in legion:

    – the use of one way streets in order to manage traffic flow (remember that Hamilton St. was a one way street until about…4 years ago until the city changed it)

    – the choice to have bridges with a certain number of lanes; Geoff Meggs writes over in the Tyee about getting rid of viaducts which will certainly alter how cars flow

    – the removal of a lane from the Burrard Bridge for a bike lane trial.

    These are all example of how the city manages traffic as part of a transportation system.

    You say this:

    > In short, who’s in charge of designing traffic flow and altering it by the
    > minute as necessary?

    but again that’s just disingenuous. Translink doesn’t adjust bus routes and times “…by the minute as necessary.”

    When you say this:
    “Whoever they are, they’re doing one hell of a lousy job.”
    It makes me smile. It’s obvious from your previous comments that you consider vehicle traffic a high priority (perhaps the highest) and it warms my heart that you think the city is doing a lousy job of encouraging it. Perhaps that “lousy job” will encourage you to get the hell out of your car and choose a less selfish, destructive alternative.

    (Please don’t give me that bullshit argument about not owning a car just because its legal title is your wife’s.)

  • Frothingham

    …. this story is all over Twitter this morning:

    Tear down the Vancouver viaducts!

  • Frothingham

    Transportation planning is the field involved with the siting of transportation facilities (generally streets, highways, sidewalks, bike lanes and public transport lines).

    A transport network, or transportation network in American English, is typically a network of roads, streets, pipes, aqueducts, power lines, or nearly any structure which permits either vehicular movement or flow of some commodity.

    A transport network is used for transport network analysis to determine the flow of vehicles (or people) through it within the field of transport engineering, typically using mathematical graph theory. It may combine different modes of transport, for example, walking and car to model multi-modal journeys.

  • Hoarse Whisperer


    I forgot what I was going to say.

    Too dizzy after reading all these posts.

  • gmgw

    May I suggest: Lithium. You’d be amazed at how much better it would make you feel. Really helps with those pesky anger/hostility/excessive-testosterone issues, too.
    No, really, that’s OK; no thanks are necessary; I just want to see you get better.

  • On February 20, The Olympic Line – Vancouver’s 2010 Streetcar will hit new milestone!
    300.000 riders in 30 days.