Vancouver's old interurban line crossing the city
The City of Vancouver and Bombardier entered into an agreement in 2008 whereby the city would get the benefit of a trial run of the company's Flexity streetcars, imported here from Brussels, Belgium. The cars were an unqualified success, and one of the delights of the 2010 Games experience. Their 500,000th passenger stepped aboard last Sunday, surpassing projections for ridership during the sixty day trial.
Alas, the cars are heading home to Europe after Sunday. If you've not taken the time yet, I strongly recommend that you get on the system at least once. My bet is that every train and streetcar buff in the region will be joining you before now and Sunday. (Maybe someone could let us know if it is running during the day Sunday, as the website says it's running until 12:30am on the 21st).
More than 1,500 FLEXITY vehicles are in service around the world. Overall, more than 2,800 Bombardier trams and light rail vehicles operate or are on order in 100 cities across Europe, Australia and North America. Vancouver has been working on plans for a downtown streetcar system for several years, outlined on the city's website at www.vancouver.ca/streetcar.
I posted above the ancient footage of the interurban line running through town to make a point. All the work and agreements that have gone into bringing the Flexity system to Vancouver will be ancient history without some imagination. I don't think I'm being unnecessarily political by suggesting that the current Vancouver city government needs to step up to the plate first.
At present, streetcars in Vancouver have no future at all because of the lack of a proposal from Vancouver on how to make it work financially today or in the future. I've heard directly from people at the Province who are tired of hearing Vancouver's Mayor point the finger at them and Translink, and expecting support for expanded transit in return.
Vancouver has many tools at its disposal, and if it really wishes to make the line more permanent, it must begin to use them.
First of all, senior levels of government are on the record as favouring the use of private partners as part of the overall mix to cover capital expenditures. Does Vancouver have any proposal at all, let alone one that involves the use of a private partner? If they did, then the Province and Translink would take them a little more seriously.
Let's also look at the part of the city the Olympic line currently serves. Truth is, the density is too low in south False Creek to make it work. Can the city add that density? Of course, but it will have to add it in areas where the line is currently not operational, such as around Science World and into north False Creek.
As it happens a friend of mine sent me a link to his Facebook Group "Keep the Olympic Line Open" and subsequently asked me to be an admin. I don't hold out much hope for the line re-opening soon after Sunday, but I really hope that we start getting some concrete suggestions from City Hall before they begin sounding off again about the lack of dollars from Victoria.