Now You See It, Now You Don’t – The Olympic Line Opens Today


If one wants to ride a modern tram, then one should get to the Olympic Line as quick as possible and take a ride, before the Flexity cars are returned to Brussels after the 2010 Olympics. Zweisystem would be more excited if this was a start of a program of LRT/streetcar construction, but it’s not. In fact, there is little evidence that the City of Vancouver’s Engineering and Planning departments really understand the importance of LRT/streetcar in the 21st Century and how to plan for a successful downtown streetcar line. The Olympic line is built to such a standard that Roberts Bank Coal trains could use the line. We must ensure to get the ‘light’ back in ‘Light‘ Rail.

The Bombardier built Flexity family of trams are wonderfully built and make the SkyTrain Mk.1 car seem like 49’ Ford in comparison. The modular design means that several variants of the Flexity cars can be delivered, to suit the needs of the customer without incremental costs in the price. Cars can be made to lengths as long as 55 metres; have saloon sections (no doors) for longer journeys, and even a ‘Bistro’ section if need be. There is also a TramTrain variant and I would wager Bombardier would be willing to lend a few for a Vancouver to Chilliwack interurban service, if asked.

There are many motor packages available to the Flexity trams, with 100 kph operation possible.

So ride the Olympic Line tram and salivate at 21st century public transportation, that our European cousins across the pond take for granted every day.

From CKWX News 1130 Radio:

Olympic Line streetcars set to open

Two state of the art trains are on loan from Belgium

Britt Carlsen Jan 21, 2010

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Streetcar service is making a resurgence in Vancouver and the city hopes it is something that will continue. The Olympic Line project is a partnership between the city of Vancouver and Bombardier Transportation, who brought in the two Flexity cars from Belgium. From Thursday January 21st starting at 9:30 a.m., the free service will run between Granville Island, 2nd Avenue and Cambie daily from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. through March 21st.

Bernie Edie, one of 23 locomotive engineers who will be operating the trains, had much to say on the history of streetcars in Vancouver. Streetcars arrived in the city in June of 1980, “they were green then and they didn’t even know it. The streetcars served Vancouver very well for 65 years.”

Edie adds the relationship between the Olympic Line streetcars and those of Vancouver’s past are closely linked, the last train ran in April of 1955, “that was on Hastings street. The reason they left the streetcars on that line for as long as they did is because of the Commonwealth Empire Games, they thought it would add more capacity. Well guess what? Here we are 55 years later with a car that has more capacity.”

As for the new trains, Edie is impressed. “They’re not only quiet but they have what you call regenerative braking, so when you are in a breaking mode power goes back up the lines, its total acclimatized. It’s a very high tech machine, Bombardier did a marvelous job.”

The City of Vancouver has a vision for streetcars in the future and feels they are a clean and sustainable option for public transit in our city. The Olympic Line project has already won the Sustainability Star Award, which recognizes a service or initiative that presents a solution to a local or global sustainability challenge.–olympic-line-streetcars-set-to-open


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One Response to “Now You See It, Now You Don’t – The Olympic Line Opens Today”

  1. David Says:

    Now if only the Fraser Valley had 100 km/h track…

    OK I’m sure there’s some because the WCE hits 115 km/h between Mission and Haney and Amtrack moves along pretty well between New West and White Rock, but old lines like the SRY need to be rebuilt to support the kind of speed tram train demands.

    Vancouver’s downtown streetcar is a good idea without much money behind it. Building it independently of TransLink would come with positives and negatives.

    Clearly finding funding is the biggest challenge of an independent system while convincing locals that the streetcar requires a separate fare is also a hurdle. But staying independent of TransLink would prevent it from being dragged into their giant chasm of debt and would enable the city to make their own decisions about technology, route and operations.

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