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Public art hits the road on Main Street

The two sides of the afghan-wrapped articulated trolley that will be travelling the #3 route. (Click for a larger version!)

The two sides of the afghan-wrapped articulated trolley that will be travelling the #3 route. (Click for a larger version!)

Note: I’m still on holiday until Jan. 5. This post was scheduled to launch before I left!

Watch out for an articulated trolley wrapped in an afghan print travelling on the #3 Main route on Monday. It’s the first sign of a Main Street public art program that’s been in the making for over three years.

This program is called 88 BLOCKS • Art on Main, and it’s part of the Main Street Urban Transportation Showcase project, an innovative transportation improvement program launched in 2004 and jointly funded by Transport Canada (through the Urban Transportation Showcase Program), TransLink and the City of Vancouver. (Check out the official Main Street Showcase page for more on the project.)

The public art is just one of many measures in a broad package of improvements being installed to give people a better transportation experience on Main Street.

Urban design, new transit technology, and a fleet of new buses all contribute to a more efficient transit system and make Main Street more welcoming for pedestrians and transit riders, in turn serving the ultimate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

So far, the project has brought Main Street some new street furniture, sidewalk improvements, and the new articulated trolleys on the #3 route. In the coming months the busiest stops on the route will be fitted with next-bus information and on-bus technology will ‘talk’ with traffic signals to help keep the buses on time.

One of the sandwich boards that make up Instant Coffee's permanent Main Street artwork.

One of the sandwich boards that make up Instant Coffee's permanent Main Street artwork.

For the public art program, an artist collective called Instant Coffee is behind the afghan design on the bus, as well as a few more art works that will also crop up on Main Street.

One of those upcoming works is a trolley containing 20 artworks in place of its interior ads, commissioned from artists from North, Central and South America and Europe. You’ll be able to vote for your favourite piece of artwork at Instant Coffee’s website or through text messaging, and the winning card will be blown up and put on the outside of a third trolley in January.

Another Instant Coffee work is a series of brightly-coloured sandwich boards bearing hand-painted slogans permanently installed up and down Main Street.

And in addition to the Instant Coffee installation, 88 BLOCKS will present four more art installations over the next three years, wrapping up by April 2011.


  • By Derek Cheung, December 30, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

    I was fortunate enough to drive the afghan-wrapped trolley on Main Street when it was fresh from the shop. Sure turned a lot of heads!

  • By David Lam, December 30, 2008 @ 6:37 pm

    Good stuff Jhenifer! This bus is most certainly an eye-catcher, I personally rode on it before and it was funny looking out of the window and observing the reactions from the pedestrians on the sidewalk, they were pointing at the bus, or spared a minute or two to observe the artwork as if they were showing admiration to the artists’ efforts to brighten up the street covered in white snow…..just exactly what is needed to paint up the white christmas (and the miserable weather :P)

    Anyway, I have captured photos of this afghan-wrapped articulated trolleybus over my holidays. For those who are interested, just follow the links posted below for the photos!

  • By JMV, January 4, 2009 @ 11:33 pm

    Woot! Go instant coffee!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, January 6, 2009 @ 9:51 am

    Thanks Mike and Derek — good to hear the art bus is a hit on the operating side!

    David, as always, thanks for the photos! The bus looks fantastic in real life.

  • By Shane, January 8, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

    It is great to have this bus in the fleet, but obviously the trolley is not dedicated to Main Street. I have seen it on route 20 for the past few days.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, January 8, 2009 @ 1:33 pm

    Hi Shane,

    As much as possible, the bus will be on the #3 route. But a trolley is a trolley and sometimes other routes might need the vehicle. We can’t keep it out of service if a route needs it. Really though, the bus is part of the Main Street program, and we’re trying to keep it on the Main Street route as much as we can.

  • By karen Matthews, January 11, 2009 @ 12:52 am

    I love the Art, I think it should become a permenant instalation. I love having something to contemplate and have fun with. Please put on more busses espicially during peak hours. If we want to become green please don’t make us wait 3/4 hour for a bus that will actually stop between 8:00 and 9:00AM.

  • By Carol Sawyer, February 27, 2009 @ 8:41 am

    How can I find out where the afghan bus will be on a particular day? I would love to look at it with my students on Saturday February 28th!

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 27, 2009 @ 2:21 pm

    Hi Carol – I hear you’re in touch with Maureen Smith who curated 88 Blocks now, so I hope that means you’ve got the answers you need :)

Other Links to this Post

  1. re:place Magazine — December 28, 2008 @ 2:29 pm

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