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The 14 Hastings returns to Vancouver: an interview with planner Peter Klitz about the iconic bus route

The 14 Hastings returns to Vancouver: an interview with planner Peter Klitz about the iconic bus route

A Brill trolley with the BC Hydro colours, operating as the 14 Hastings in 1967.

Note: This is a scheduled post as I’m away this week, returning Monday April 11, 2011. If you need to reach TransLink info or staff, see this post!

As part of our April 2011 service changes, we are bringing back the 14 Hastings trolley route—an iconic former bus route that ran through Vancouver’s downtown for many years!

The 14—which even had a famous play named after it—makes its triumphant return to the streets due to optimization changes for the 10 and 17 trolley routes.

Here to tell us more about the 14’s history and its current incarnation is Peter Klitz, one of TransLink’s planners involved in the project. Read on for more insights and some classic photos of the 14 through time!

Hastings streetcar #369 travelling east from Cambie with ads for the BC Lions and radio station CKWX.

Why is the 14 such an iconic route?

The 14 used to be an old streetcar route that ran along Hastings Street. The street car was discontinued in April 1955 and in June 1955 the trolley bus service started. That’s the era when a number of cities in North America were converting old streetcar routes to bus. In Vancouver we took a different path and converted some of our streetcar routes to overhead-based trolley service on rubber wheels instead of rails. I’m sure some people wished that we had kept the streetcars, but that’s a topic for another day.

The 14 actually ran from 1955 to 1997 when the #14 number was retired. The service wasn’t discontinued, it was just changed to a different route number. But the #14 is forever linked to Hastings Street, which is such an integral corridor in the City of Vancouver. Hastings Street runs along the waterfront where goods were unloaded from ships and transferred to the railway. Because Hastings Street was a streetcar route, it helped shape the development of the city along that corridor. A lot of people travelled on the 14, and it brings back a lot of fond memories of their childhood, growing up in Vancouver as a developing city. That’s probably why it’s so iconic.

Five Brill trolleys cross Hastings Street near Renfrew during the Pacific National Exhibition, August 1955. The middle trolley, #2040, has been restored to its original BC Electric colours.

It’s sort of arbitrary what number we put on a bus. So is it safe to assume that there was some advocacy within TransLink or CMBC planning to bring the 14 back?

I think so. Planners have a soft spot for historic bus route numbers. So there was definitely a lot of support when the idea was floated to bring back the old #14.

The 14 Hastings, this time running with New Flyer trolleys from the 1980s, on Hastings Street.

Why is the 14 needed again? Can you talk a bit about the 10 and the 17 routes, and why changes to those routes are required?

Well, every once in a while, we review the performance of our system and look at ways that we can optimize our service. Every corridor in Vancouver generates a different ridership demand, and we endeavour to supply a level of service that meets that demand.

Trolley routes are a little bit unique from diesel bus routes: they are more permanent because of the overhead trolley infrastructure. They are also less flexible in terms of interlining, the linking of one route with a different route. Diesel buses are much more flexible—a diesel bus can come into an exchange from one route and leave as another. At UBC, for example, a bus can come in as a 99 B-Line and leave as a 44 Downtown or a 43 Joyce Station. But with trolley routes an interline is more permanent, almost like a marriage between two corridors in a city. In some cases, that pairing lasts for a really long time and in some cases we take a look and that see that the ridership isn’t well between the corridors anymore. So we look and see if there’s any other corridors in the city that are a better match.

In this case, with the change in travel patterns that resulted from the introduction of the Canada Line, we took a closer at the trolley routes in the city and saw that the 17 was out of balance. The 17 currently goes all the way from Oak Street, through downtown, on Broadway to UBC and through Hastings, essentially a pairing of the Oak Street corridor and the Broadway corridor to UBC. We recognized that those pairings weren’t really working anymore. We need to provide more service on the Oak Street portion than on the Broadway section, because there’s so much other service on Broadway. The ridership demand was unbalanced. So this adjustment is our way of better matching ridership demand with service levels.

We saw the ridership demand on Hastings matched well with the demand on Broadway to UBC. So Hastings St has been hooked up to UBC. All the services that exist today still continue to operate, and that route pairing will be known as the 14. The 17 stays on Oak Street, the 10 stays on Granville Street and everyone gets a service level that matches ridership. This also helps simplify the network, for customer legibility, so people can understand the individual routes and overall network better.

A 14 Hastings streetcar, on Hastings at Clark Drive in 1955. The type of vehicle is called a Presidents Conference Car.

Does the 14 take in a bit of the historic 14 route?

Absolutely. The new #14 will operate on Hastings Street from Downtown to Kootenay Loop, same as it used to in the past. It follows the same trolley wires the old #14 did.

The 14 Hastings streetcar: looking north on Granville from Robson, 1950. Photo by Vic Sharman.

How do you personally feel about seeing the 14 back on the streets? Do you have any personal experience with the route?

I think it’s great. I never drove the 14, it was discontinued before my time, but I pulled many trips on Hastings Street in my days as a transit operator. I have a love for history, and it’s such a historic, iconic route, one of the oldest trolley routes in the system. I think, whenever possible, we should celebrate the history of our city and remind ourselves of how we’ve grown.

The 14 Hastings streetcar passes alongside a motorbus at Kootenay Loop, on the last day of streetcar service in Vancouver, 1955.

And last but not least, because I’m sure someone wants to know: what about the 34 Hastings Express, which is another historic route that used to run on Hastings Street? What are the odds of that coming back?

I don’t know if we’re going to be able to bring that one back. It was an express route and used the express wires on Hastings Street, but I think we’re probably going to go in a different direction and any express service or limited stop service in the future will probably be a B-Line type service. Right now we have the 135, they provide a limited stop service with articulated buses on that corridor. I think the next step in the evolution of the service would be some sort of B-Line and then maybe some rapid transit. But that’s also a topic for another discussion.

Streetcars on Hastings (including the 14) seen from Hamilton Street. A variety of streetcars are visible, including Canadian Car and Foundry Co steel streetcars, wooden cars, a Presidents Conference Car, and buses.

And what’s the difference between a B-Line and a limited stop service?

Limited stop service is really just a specific stopping procedure; those services could operate anywhere with a wide variety of service levels, hours of operation and vehicle types. A B-Line, however, is more of a service brand. People have an expectation that B-Line service will be above and beyond regular services with respect to frequency, capacity and extended hours of operation. B-Lines operate on our busiest corridors and are often a precursor to rapid transit, for example the 98 B-Line/Canada Line, the 97 B-Line/Evergreen Line, and the 99 B-Line/future rapid transit on the Broadway corridor. They also often have some sort of transit priority measures to help with speed and reliability. I think there’s still a lot of life left in the B-Line brand. It’s very recognizable within our region. Right now we’re working on bringing B-Line service to the South of Fraser, on King George Boulevard, for example.

Thanks so much Peter!