Bombardier streetcar first look! Exclusive video & photos

Post by Mike Klassen in ,


Bombardier Flexity streetcar rolls down the tracks down by Olympic Village Canada Line station was thrilled to be able to provide our readers a "first look" at the new Bombardier Flexity streetcar which as of January 21st begins running on the "Olympic Line" between the "Olympic Village" Canada Line station under the Cambie Bridge and Granville Island prior to and during the 2010 Games. The sixty-day trial ends March 21, 2010.

Update: see our YouTube video and Flickr photo slideshow.

Streetcar fans can follow what's happening on Twitter @2010Streetcar. The official website of the Vancouver Bombardier Flexity streetcar is located here, and there is more info about the Olympic Line. Here's a description of the Flexity streetcar from their website:

In urban centres around the world, the streetcar is making a welcome reappearance on city streets. Modern streetcars and light rail vehicles can help shape a city's identity and are easily integrated with existing transportation networks. Bombardier's FLEXITY streetcars and light rail vehicles operate in world-class cities from Marseilles to Berlin and Brussels.

The FLEXITY 100% low-floor streetcars offer passengers convenient and comfortable journeys. The floor of these vehicles is only 30 to 35 cm above the track, which is a welcome benefit to passengers with children's strollers and mobility challenges, and enables a continuous flow of passengers.

Today's presentation of the streetcar was in essence a tease. We didn't actually get to roll down the tracks while sitting on board, but getting an up-close look of the Flexity cars (which are on loan from Brussels, Belgium), and see the line operating with test rides was the second best thing we could experience.

Bernie Eide, a longtime streetcar enthusiast, former BC Rail/CP driver and new operator for the car gave us a tour and a history lesson on streetcars in Metro Vancouver. It was fun to have Eide wax about the old days of streetcars (Vancouver was the fourth city in Canada to get streetcars at the end of the 19th Century, when we had a total population of 5000!). When it came to Flexity, Bernie was like a kid in a candy store.

Eide is not alone in his high opinion of the cars. I spoke to other staff with years of experience with similar systems around the world, and they all raved about Flexity.

The cars themselves were well-appointed with big windows, lots of big grips and comfortable seating. The leather seats might seem like an extravagence, but as transportation planner Stephen Rees comments in my video, too many public services come across like public toilets – something you simply hose down at the end of the night. He argues that you have to make trains and buses appealing to attract riders, but giving them a comfortable environment and things like video displays for infotainment.

I have to thank Stephen for obliging my request to record his comments on video. Rees has a short and very good analysis of the system, as well as an estimate of its cost to expand in his post from today.

One fact I heard repeated regularly this morning is that this is the first "low floor" train of its kind in North America. The low floor has its advantages in that it will allow for smoother loading/unloading. But the cars right now are being placed on a separate right of way where people will queue up on platforms. What would make this system really impressive is if it operated on streets like other systems.

There is a growing chorus of voices who wish to see this system stay, and grow to meet the needs of the city. The proposal to use Flexity to connect the Millennium Line terminus at VCC to Canada Line and go all the way to Arbutus makes a lot of sense, if the dollars and the public support exists for it.

Thanks to Bombardier for inviting a few of us social media types on board today. I think that they can count on a great turnout at their launch next Thursday, January 21st at 9:30am. The cars will run 18 hours per day for the following 60 days. The rides are free, and it is one of the items on our Olympics Free Venues guide.


Sorry but I just can't get excited about this overpriced and exhorbantly expensive sideshow, when the money could have been better spent.

I won't even talk about the future expense of maintaining such a "one-off" in our transit system. Anyone advocating keeping this after the Olympica are longer gone, should be ashamed of themselves.

But then delusional people never are by the very nature of their delusions.


Isn't Bombardier covering the cost of bringing these light-rail cars to Vancouver for the Olympics?

The big expense for the streetcar service is the right of way. We've got the ROW -- let's use it!

I'm not stuck on this particular streetcar, but I hope the City finds a way to maintain regular streetcar service along this corridor.

Having lived in several cities with streetcar systems from Toronto to Melbourne I can honestly say they are a fantastic way to move people around especially when you are able to remove cars from the equation. Several European inner cities such as Brussels where these two cars came from have beautiful wide open pedestrian-only avenues with quiet streetcars running down the middle. Automotive traffic is limited to small delivery vehicles for businesses. I'm not sure how far such a model could be applied to downtown Vancouver but the end effect is a much more human-friendly city.

I just wanna pull wheelies in my Super-Bird... :-(

Great video Mike. It will be a happy day when the city finally expands the steetcar system throughout Vancouver.

I believe that Bombardier paid for the shipping of the cars and that the City paid for the laying of track...correct me if I'm wrong?

Streetcars are outdated technology. They are slow, inefficient, and worst of all, they require drivers. I will NEVER forget the transit strike, when the drivers tried to hold us to ransom. Streetcars interact at street level with cars and pedestrians and do not carry enough people per hour to make them an efficient way to get around. I'd rather pay the higher initial cost of SkyTrain and have a fast efficient way of getting around. Streetcars are a pretty luxury we can't afford.

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