New streetcar line approved by Vancouver council
Vancouverites will have a new 1.8-km streetcar track in time for the Olympics in an $8.5-million demonstration project approved by city council today.
And if all goes well, the track could be extended to run from Granville Island to Science World, Waterfront Station, and then all the way to Stanley Park, according to Suzanne Anton, who supported the motion.
"We're very enthusiastic about it," said Anton after the council meeting Tuesday, where councillors voted unanimously for the project. "A downtown streetcar is another alternative transit option, and the tourists will love it."
Right now, a heritage railway operates a single track from Granville Island to Science World, run by volunteers.
But with the construction of the Olympic Village east of the Cambie Street Bridge, that track was removed, said Anton.
It makes sense that when the track is rebuilt, it be ready for a streetcar line like those in European cities and San Francisco.
The 1.8-km demonstration project will have two stations, one at Granville Island and one at the Olympic Station in the Canada Line, on Cambie Street and 2nd Avenue.
But when the full project is authorized by council and completed, it could run as far as Chilco Street in the West End, adjacent to Stanley Park.
In the future, the project could be extended up the Arbutus rail corridors, said Anton. But she said while the city has zoned the land for a light rail transit, CP Rail still owns the land.
Council hasn't got a cost estimate for the full project, but a portion from Granville Island to Science World, including a maintenance facility, would cost $90 million.
"We absolutely need senior government funding to do it," said Dale Bracewell, who brought the report to council.
Streetcars ran along Gastown streets from the late 19th century until shortly after the Second World War, said Dale Laird, the vice-president of the Transit Museum Society, which operates the heritage railway.
"Everyone had to have their own car and there wasn't the revenue coming in to repair the tracks that needed repairing," he said.
Now we want people out of their cars, and it makes sense to give people living in False Creek a chance to use a new level of public transit, he said.
John Clelland of Vancouver's engineering department said the heritage track was popular the world over.
"We have people e-mail from Europe saying, is it running? We want to ride it," he said.
The new track will be that much better, he said.
"For future generations, it's going to be greatly utilized, and it's going to hook up well with the SkyTrain," said Clelland.
But city manager Judy Rogers warned in the report to city council that if Vancouver moves too soon to build the streetcar line, it could be left the only government assuming the costs of the line.
"Before other substantial investments are made in the downtown streetcar system, Council should formally consider...the roles of other levels of senior government and TransLink," she wrote.