February 19, 2010
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‘Olympic Line’ Streetcar Serves Vancouver Games
The thousands of athletes and visitors attending the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, BC, are discovering a special public transportation option that can take them between Granville Island and the Canada Line Olympic Village Station: a modern streetcar line. The city of Vancouver, partnering with Bombardier Transportation, introduced service on the free Olympic Line on Jan. 21; it will operate on a demonstration basis through March 21, running between 6:30 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. each day.
Although TransLink, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, does not operate the Olympic Line, the two services both serve the Olympic Village Station and riders can transfer at that point. The 19-km Canada Line links downtown Vancouver with both Richmond, BC, and Vancouver International Airport.
Bombardier is operating and maintaining two modern, accessible streetcars—on loan from Brussels, Belgium—during the demonstration project. The Olympic Line runs about every 6 to 10 minutes on approximately 1.8 kilometers of dedicated track, which reduces the need for private vehicles and buses to operate during the games. Envitech Energy of Montreal designed, fabricated, and installed electric traction power substations to power the streetcars.
Dale Bracewell, director of Olympic transportation for the city of Vancouver, explained that the Olympic Line runs on a route that previously operated with heritage streetcars, which will return after the end of the pilot project. Rather than pay $2 million (Cdn.) to repair and rehabilitate the existing track, he said, the city decided to invest $8 million to completely upgrade the track so it could also be used for a modern streetcar. The total infrastructure investment—a single track with a passing track in the middle—also included a $500,000 (Cdn.) contribution from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, owner and operator of Granville Island.
“The city invested for the long term,” he explained, “so we could take the opportunity to showcase the modern streetcar, which offers sustainable transportation for the region.”
Bracewell reported that the streetcar provided 6,000 rides on its opening day, Jan. 21, and 9,000 during its first weekend. “We know that Granville Island, the [other] main destination of the line, is getting ready for 40,000 people a day during the Olympics,” he added.