A Glimpse of a Future Transit Option (for a short time, at least)

The Olympic Streetcar During Testing

The Olympic Street­car Dur­ing Test­ing

While walk­ing back from gro­cery shop­ping at Granville Island today, we saw the new Olympic Street­car, which they are test­ing on the tracks near­by. I did get a fuzzy pic­ture of it a cou­ple of weeks ago. It’s sim­ply beau­ti­ful. We went a lit­tle clos­er and thanks to a friend­ly Bom­bardier employ­ee, we got a look inside. I wish I had my cam­era in hand, and I inad­ver­tent­ly left my iPhone in its cra­dle back at home. That also wouldn’t cap­ture the fact that the train smells new inside. It’s a 5-car mod­el with 2 artic­u­la­tions, which are the ‘hinges’ between cars (if you ride the B-Line Bus, you know well what I’m talk­ing about), accord­ing to the engi­neer. It’s oper­at­ed man­u­al­ly, and to open the doors, you press a but­ton on either the inside or out­side while stopped (the door stays open for about 20 sec­onds after that). There are info screens at var­i­ous points on the ceil­ing, and the engi­neer said that they are linked back to the com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tem back in Bruges, Bel­gium, where this train was built.
The street­car, which is real­ly much more like a train, will begin oper­a­tion on Jan­u­ary 21, and will then run back and forth between Granville Island and the Olympic Vil­lage at Cam­bie street for 60 days, where it will be free. We were sur­prised to find out that it won’t con­tin­ue past the Olympic Vil­lage and con­nect up with Main Street/Science World, which would have cre­at­ed a per­fect cir­cle around 1/2 of the down­town area plus False Creek (See map below. Anno­ta­tion and dashed line for the con­tin­u­a­tion of the route are mine. Click to see a larg­er ver­sion):

Olympic Transit Map - From Translink - With Annotation

The Translink Olympic Tran­sit Map (from a PDF on their site).

While I was a big fan of this new addi­tion to our tran­sit sys­tem, if it only goes from Granville Island to Cam­bie, it’s not as big a deal as if it had gone to Sci­ence World. If it had gone that far (as we had always assumed — since the orig­i­nal tracks that are orig­i­nal­ly there go that far) it would have pro­vid­ed a real­ly easy way to get to Chi­na­town and oth­er parts of down­town from our neigh­bor­hood. Tran­sit lines always open up new neigh­bor­hoods to explore, but get­ting to Cam­bie and 6th from our area is already reach­able by a pret­ty fast bus. Still, I’m look­ing for­ward to rid­ing this new tram. What is per­plex­ing, is that in addi­tion to the abbre­vi­at­ed route, is why it isn’t a per­ma­nent addi­tion to down­town Mass tran­sit.

4 Replies to “A Glimpse of a Future Transit Option (for a short time, at least)”

  1. Hope­ful­ly, with enough pos­i­tive input from the pub­lic, this may be an option for the future. Expand­ing the line would be even bet­ter!

    Thanks for the info and pic, David .…

  2. I expect if the plan­ning and imple­men­ta­tion of the Olympic Vil­lage had been a bit more clear, the line would’ve fol­lowed the com­plete Van­cou­ver Down­town His­toric Rail­way route, but as it is, they’re dri­ving dumptrucks and things all over the east­ern half of the line.

    It would also have required Bom­bardier sup­ply at least anoth­er street­car train­set and–I’m guessing–some right-of-way work. The cur­rent mod­ern­ized line required a junc­tion track be installed to allow the oper­a­tion of more than one car at a time as it is.

    I think the Down­town Street­car project would be nice to have, but it’s not that use­ful to me per­son­al­ly. Cer­tain­ly, the Broad­way sky­train exten­sion and the Ever­green Line should remain a pri­or­i­ty. That said, I’d be far more like­ly to sup­port the thing if it went from Gas­town or Yale­town to Granville Island and then down the exist­ing Arbu­tus right-of-way to Marine Dri­ve. And hey, they’d have to knock down the Star­bucks in front of Granville Island to boot!

  3. Agreed, David. The #84, or the Broad­way #9/#99 will get you to either sta­tion on the Olympic line. Switch­ing at Main is indeed a pain, bet­ter to hoof it.

    Past Cam­bie, the tracks run just north of 1st — pre­sum­ably this would be require it to pass through/around a secu­ri­ty zone … would be a chal­lenge being so close to the athlete’s res­i­dences. You could fence both sides but that would be cost­ly and not exact­ly aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing.
    Pos­si­ble that there’s oth­er con­tribut­ing logis­tic issues and asso­ci­at­ed costs that made the exten­sion a no go.

    Notwith­stand­ing, I won­der how much effort was put to the ques­tion. Would City Hall have debat­ed this with VANOC? Would be inter­est­ing to ask the ques­tion.

  4. The whole thing seems a bit like a hand-wave, doesn’t it? It’s an incred­i­bly short dis­tance (walk­ing time is rough­ly 35 min­utes, if you take a leisure­ly pace. Regard­less of logis­tics, aes­thet­ics and pol­i­tics, I think they lost a major oppor­tu­ni­ty by not putting it in while they were build­ing the Olympic Vil­lage. Heck, they could have built some fan­cy pedes­tri­an over­pass­es in some places, dipped it down low­er, and made the whole thing anoth­er rea­son to buy in the vil­lage (“Mov­ing here from Yale­town? Get on the tram and be back in your favourite haunts in a few min­utes.”) As it is, the cur­rent stretch only goes by a bunch of prop­er­ty that is owned by the city (the hous­es next to False Creek are lease­holds, which makes them bad invest­ments, hence they tend to be bought by old­er folks who are not as con­cerned about reselling them, or they rent them to oth­ers for the income.) It was not much of a shock to sim­ply improve some of the tracks, espe­cial­ly since that cute, Dis­ney-ish antique car was run­ning on week­ends in the sum­mer.

    I guess there are tons of projects and lit­tle mon­ey, but we need this tran­sit. It’s the only way we’ll real­ly be able to den­si­fy the city with­out intro­duc­ing more and more cars. As I was look­ing at the map of the medieval­ly- laid out Bruges, where the street­car was built, I won­dered how much of that town was tra­vers­a­ble by these same vehi­cles. Europe is so much far­ther along. Some of these medieval vil­lages will be so much more sus­tain­able when the oil begins to run out.

    In the US, I remem­ber their deep-seat­ed hatred of mass tran­sit (at least every­one except some of the left). It real­ly does fall right down par­ty lines. The Cen­ter (what lit­tle there is of it) and Right think it’s a symp­tom of the dread­ed ‘Social­ism’. For many, they believe that hav­ing an afford­able car is a more basic right than afford­able health­care. I’m not kid­ding. It’s the base assump­tion for near­ly all urban (and sub­ur­ban) plan­ning in the US, to this day.

    Then when I moved here, I felt as if I’d moved a lit­tle far­ther along the con­tin­uüm. In Van­cou­ver, we say we want mass tran­sit, but we keep com­ing up with excus­es why we don’t put it in here or there. For exam­ple, when we were first look­ing for a place to live here, the real­tor we were work­ing with actu­al­ly advised us against being near a Sky­train stop because they were seen as mag­nets for crime, because some­one from out­side the area could break-in, take some­thing, run to the Sky­train, and be away before they could be caught. I don’t know how wide­spread that belief is, but it’s a slight­ly less neg­a­tive objec­tion than the ‘You’re turn­ing us all into com­mies if you ride one of those things’ argu­ment from the States.

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