The Olympic Line, the modern streetcar service that will run between Olympic Village Station and Granville Island during the Winter Olympics, opens its doors to rail enthusiasts this week.
The much-anticipated grand opening is the culmination of years of planning and vision on the part of local streetcar enthusiasts, City of Vancouver planners, as well as engineers and executives from Bombardier. VANOC also deserves credit for giving its blessings.
The public has good reason to embrace this initiative, starting with the fact that the ride, travelling along the south side of False Creek, is free. And in case you haven’t seen the sleek cars, which are on loan from Belgium, they underscore yet again why Europe continues to lead the way in streetcar and light rail transport technology.
Give the city of Vancouver its due. It has invested $8.5 million to upgrade the Downtown Historic Railway track to make this project a reality.
But for the investment to pay off, it must win over the usual naysayers, plus the folks at TransLink, who have not deemed the line to be a funding priority to date. Perhaps the transit authority’s position will change if the trial is a major success. And that’s why anyone with even a passing interest in improved transit choices for the region should make the trip to False Creek to try out this new service.
As Dale Bracewell, Vancouver’s director of Olympics transportation has noted repeatedly, this is not a localized service, given its light metro connection. Rather, it opens up transit as an option for many well beyond the city limits.
A recent community forum in North Vancouver, which focused on introducing pay parking to the Lonsdale corridor, reportedly erupted into chaos — at least by North Shore standards. An angry crowd, hell-bent on retaining free parking in the city core, heckled and shouted down a well-meaning consultant before order could be restored.
But it’s hard to blame these car-clinging folks for being agitated. North Vancouver residents were disappointed over last year’s cancellation of the third SeaBus crossing, which had been promised by TransLink and politicians for years. And they have endured an under-serviced bus system in the area for just as long.
If the region doesn’t want to invest in improved transit for that community, how can its residents be expected to happily trade in their complimentary parking privileges for a bus pass?