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):
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.