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The Olympic Line streetcar makes its debut

My first day ride certificate!

My first day ride certificate!

The Olympic Line streetcar launched today, and I went down to Olympic Village Station this morning to be a part of the first public ride!

As you may know, the streetcar is a joint project from the City of Vancouver and Bombardier — it’s not a TransLink project, though we are quite excited to see how it goes.

You can ride the streetcar for free every day from January 21 to March 21, 6:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. It runs from Olympic Village Station on the Canada Line to Granville Island — it’s the Downtown Historic Railway route, spruced up to take on the modern streetcars. (See this Regarding Place article for a great look at the streetcars’ genesis.)

Anyway, everyone was very excited to be there, and when we got on board, the ride was very smooth and almost shockingly noise-free. (Seriously, it’s ridiculously silent.) Four minutes later, we were at Granville Island! And then we went back again :)

The interiors are done in leather and the car itself is just 2.3 m wide owing to the narrow Brussels’ streets — but you should really see the posts by Miss 604 or Stephen Rees to get a better look at the insides. And see this fact sheet for more details!

Today was all about the ride itself, so here’s a few more pictures and video! :)

A view of the whole event. The tent was set up to keep the rain off passengers waiting in line!

A view of the whole event. The tent was set up to keep the rain off passengers waiting in line!

The front end of the streetcar before the event.

The front end of the streetcar before the event.

The streetcar shelter at Olympic Village station.

The streetcar shelter at Olympic Village station.

I ran into <a href=>Adrian</a> while waiting in line. We had a lovely chat!

I ran into Adrian while waiting in line. We had a lovely chat!

Here we are on board the train, heading for Granville Island! The streetcar’s motor is so quiet.

The interiors have info screens, with light-up arrows to show you which door to exit through.

The interiors have info screens, with light-up arrows to show you which door to exit through.

And here we are leaving the Granville Island platform, heading back to Olympic Village.

On the way back, we had to slow down as we passed the other streetcar. Check out the #50 False Creek, the special guest star on the left side!

Here we are arriving back at Olympic Village Station.

Oh yes - Bombardier gave out paper model streetcars! Here is mine atop my cubicle wall.

Oh yes - Bombardier gave out paper model streetcars! Here is mine atop my cubicle wall.


  • By Matt, January 21, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

    Hope you enjoyed the ride, I tried to drive as soomthly as I could. :)

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, January 21, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

    No complaints here — it was a lot of fun!

  • By David M, January 21, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

    Hi Jhenifer

    You may wish to point out that the width of the streetcar is a function of it’s destination city’s limitations. The tram is 2.3 m wide to fit on Bruxelles streets. If we ordered any for Vancouver, it wold be at least as wide as a city bus, more like the U2s and SD-160 in service in Calgary is dimensions.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, January 21, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

    Oh yes, it is definitely because of the European streets! I can amend the post.

  • By Donald, January 21, 2010 @ 3:34 pm

    Do you have any more of the paper models?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, January 21, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

    Only the couple I grabbed. Bombardier should likely have more out at the Olympic Line!

  • By Laetitia, January 21, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

    I just got on the Olympic Line and it was well above my expectation!
    I prefer streetcars more than Canada line. No longer have to go down or up the stairs.
    Also, those leather seats on the trains were very comfy.

    I thought streetcars were something that is very slow, but that was not true.

    I was just searching streetcars on YouTube and I was inspired by Hiroshima’s tram network.
    City of Vancouver should give green light for building permanent streetcar networks in the future :)

  • By ;-), January 21, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

    We need to share this information with Evergreen Line supporters!

  • By Jason V, January 21, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

    my photos, coming up!

  • By fellowM, January 21, 2010 @ 7:41 pm

    I took a ride this evening, walked around Granville island at dusk, and returned. Very nice ride, smooth and quiet. Something about the train that gets people excited.

    Pitty all these transit options cost so much and take years to put in place.

  • By Ivan, January 21, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

    ooh, i see a parking lot next to the Olympic Street Car Station – perhaps I will drive there and then take a ride on the olympic car. Is that parking lot free of charge?

  • By jim, January 21, 2010 @ 10:17 pm

    Its times like this that I wish we had a time machine as we could then go back to when we had the entire system of streetcars and tell the people back then not to decommission it and rather to refurbish the system. We would still have it now and who knows how great it could be now.

  • By Henry, January 21, 2010 @ 11:07 pm

    Oh I am so kicking myself for not taking the day off. First Day Ride Certificate!!! Is there a Second Day ride certificate?

  • By Vancouver Lens, January 22, 2010 @ 1:33 am

    I had a great tiem and think these streetcars a positive step to make Vancouver more green.

    Great experience thanks to everyone:

  • By Adrian, January 22, 2010 @ 2:42 am

    What an unappetizing image of myself =P Anyhow, my 138 photos of the tram is linked from my journal:

  • By Adrian, January 22, 2010 @ 2:42 am


  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, January 22, 2010 @ 11:40 am

    Ivan: I don’t know if you can park in that parking lot! For launch day it had all the tents set up, and a lot of bike parking covering most of the surface area. You may want to check with the City to see if you can actually park there during the Olympic period.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, January 22, 2010 @ 11:55 am

    Henry: I don’t think there’s a second day rider’s certificate :)

  • By David, January 22, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

    Tram systems really don’t take that long to build. The process of making the decision and getting the funding is the hard part. After that construction can move along swiftly.

    In Nottingham UK, the contract specified that no business should be disrupted by construction for more than a month. After that the project would have to start paying compensation to the affected businesses.

    Compare that to the years of Canada Line related mess in Vancouver and the fact that stores have had to sue the project for compensation.

    The Nottingham tram system turns an operating profit too.

  • By Cliff, January 22, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

    A streetcar line would certainly do wonders for Vancouver.

    Only a single line would be needed, if one is omitting Yaletown.

    Stanley Park-Chinatown-Science World-Granville Island-Kitsilano-Kerisdale-Marpole-Marine Drive Station.

    The really good part about such a line is that most of the infrastructure is already in place! All that needs to be done is construct the stations and string the overheads!

    It’s an incredibly rare situation that I hope the city of Vancouver doesn’t fall short on.

  • By ???, January 22, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

    Is there a schedule for the Olympic Line? Can I SMS the schedule?

  • By cree, January 23, 2010 @ 7:21 am

    Oh My, why couldn’t the Jugo Juice Line have, well, everything that the Olympic Line Tram has? Particularly handles, Leather seats, LCDs that indicate which side the doors open, and 5 cars! The Jugo Juice Line could’ve been so much more, but hey for what it’s worth, the Olympic Line doesn’t have scrolling LED signage.-.-

    I do hope COV will keep these post-Olympics.

  • By zack, January 23, 2010 @ 9:42 pm

    Cree, I think you meant the Canada Line not the Jugo Juice Line. However there are Jugo Juice shops on the Canada Line. I’ve seen some employees offer cheap discounts a few times on the platform.

  • By cree, January 24, 2010 @ 10:14 pm

    @zack, I am aware it’s called the Canada Line; I just choose to call it the Jugo Juice Line (for that very reason a Jugo Juice in every station).

    I wonder if TransLink can retro fit the 5-car Bombardier tram to the Canada.. err I mean Jugo Juice Line. Send it to OMC in Richmond and give it a go. wouldn’t that be amazing.

  • By zack, January 24, 2010 @ 11:06 pm

    That’s not a bad idea, but if I’m not mistaken the tram roughly the same length as the Canada Line but smaller in width.

    I still don’t get one thing though, why TransLink decided to build the platforms that would only fit for 2-cars. Sure, the trains are wider but the platforms are shorter. There’s little breathing space on the line during peak hours, which concerns me especially during Olympics time.

    One thing that would be amazing though, is for TransLink to extend the platforms to accommodate a second car. My guess is over the next few months and years the density around the Canada Line will increase, and running two cars on the line (to my idea) is not a way to meet that demand.

  • By ;-), January 25, 2010 @ 7:17 am

    I think the 2 car design was to keep the project under budget with ridership projections at the time.

    It was discussed in another thread the station platforms were designed with clearance for future extensions and tunnels have false walls that allows for platform extensions as well. For safety it’s better to not have too much clearance with the short trains.

    Personally they can keep the short trains, just give me more frequency with the new trains. I think the 4 minute train frequency can be doubled, especially between 6pm and 9pm.

    @cree: Don’t forget Bombardier was in the bid to build the Canada Line. But somehow the bid did not work out (technology? price?).

    When I went on the streetcar line on the weekend, there was great comparison to the nearby Canada Line by the volunteers about the cost. I don’t think this is fair as the streetcar is a surface solution, when Canada Line and Skytrain is “grade separated”. The grade separation is needed for future growth and minimizes cross traffic impact for cars, pedestrians and cyclists (ie No 3 road).

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, January 25, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

    ???: The City of Vancouver website says the line departs every 6-10 minutes. There’s no SMS schedule/timetable available.

  • By David, January 25, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

    Grade separation is mainly to appease drivers who don’t want transit getting in their way. Elevated rail costs about 4 times as much as surface and subway costs about 6 times as much as surface.

    Which is the better deal in your minds?
    (a) Canada Line
    (b) LRT to YVR, Steveston and Ironwood plus LRT along Broadway to UBC

    Both options represent the same construction cost, but (b) would have served a lot more people, been completed in half the time and not had the well publicized construction side effects.

  • By ;-), January 25, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

    I’ll take the Canada Line… not because I’m a driver, but because my transit ride is fast and reliable.

    Prior to the grade separated Canada Line getting in and out of the downtown core was a lot of stop and go. Also many spring, summer and fall weekends found downtown bus routes disrupted with festivals, parades and 420. Today instead of disrupting these activities, many use the grade separated Canada Line to participate in these events.

    With future funding, streetcars do have a place beyond the current Canada Line route where service density does not justify its operation. The current Canada Line segment does justify its operation, especially when I see crowded trains every day of the week.

    At grade Broadway to UBC? I have mixed feelings about how it will impact retail parking that grade separation preserves AFTER construction. I expect cars will circle nearby residential neighbourhoods looking for parking with surface parking removed for streetcars.

    I’ll also add that while the Canada Line is short and stubby at 2 cars. The long (100 feet!) and thin Flexity is very disruptive at how much retail parking would be lost on Broadway. If caught mid intersection in a traffic jam, it may mean pedestrians (as well as cars) may not be able to cross the street.

  • By Ellen, January 29, 2010 @ 8:53 am

    Did anyone find out if there is free parking? Thanks.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, January 29, 2010 @ 9:00 am

    Ellen: Ivan Chan, another commenter, has said that there is free parking down there. But it’s very easy to reach the Line by transit, if you can connect to the Canada Line or the #50 False Creek.

  • By Ellen, January 30, 2010 @ 9:07 am

    Thank you Jhenifer

  • By Shawn, February 2, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

    These are the kind of streetcar LRT trains that Edmonton wants for it’s streetcar style LRT expansion to it’s west and southeast sides of the city in the future, as our underground subway style LRT system is no longer affordable for future lines.

  • By zack, February 3, 2010 @ 9:14 am

    Look’s like that project is dead in the water

  • By ;-), February 20, 2010 @ 12:27 am

    Check out the Vancouver Sun site for images of the Vancouver streetcar striking a Jeep.

  • By ;-), February 20, 2010 @ 12:31 am

    As discussed, the value of grade separation is important for safety for everyone….
    Here’s another story and image.–olympic-line-streetcar-involved-in-accident

  • By ???, February 20, 2010 @ 12:46 am

    If we break it (the Streetcar) do we get to keep it?

  • By ;-), February 28, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

    For those that haven’t heard. All surface bus transportation to downtown is now suspended. Thankfully the grade separated Expo and Canada Line continues to work. I wonder what it would be like in a natural disaster.

  • By ;-), March 14, 2010 @ 7:30 am

    Well the streetcar loan is coming to an end. After a half million riders, you have just one week to try it out before it is shipped back to Brussels.

    Hey Jhen, can you find out how does it cost Bombardier to ship the streetcar for a round trip loan? The videos are really impressive.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, March 16, 2010 @ 3:55 pm


    I’ve asked my contact at Bombardier’s communications office, and she said the total cost of shipping the streetcars round-trip is about $600,000.

  • By ;-), March 16, 2010 @ 5:06 pm

    Really? I was told the trains were $400,000 each. It may be cheaper to leave behind the scratched one.

Other Links to this Post

  1. The Buzzer blog » A talk with an Olympic Line streetcar driver — February 24, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

  2. The Buzzer blog » Last chance to ride the Olympic Line this weekend — March 19, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

  3. The Buzzer blog » The Downtown Historic Railway opens Sat Oct 16, 2010 — October 15, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

  4. The Buzzer blog » A look back at the 2010 Olympics after one year on, from a transit perspective! — February 10, 2011 @ 3:49 pm

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