October 10, 2014

Why is the City ripping up the Olympic Line rails for $400,000?

Oly Line


It’s a question that Myron Claridge asks:

If the most recent blog in Rails for the Valley is correct,Vancouver City is about to spend $400, 000 to scrap the above line which the city spent $18 million to buy and renovate. If true, it would be a backward step for the city and advocates of a practical streetcar service on that line connecting Telus Science World and Granville Island and the future connections to Stanley Park. …
Are there no companies like Telus, Pattison, Fortis, etc prepared to step forward and in a non-political way prevent not only this from happening but assisting in its rebuilding and extension?  Surrey just invested in $1 million worth of rail extensions with help from corporate partners – Southern Railway of BC, BC Hydro, RDM Enterprises, RNR Railworks for its Cloverdale Interurban system bypass. …
One does not want to believe that this is a political move to line up the Arbutus line and the False Creek line as a bikeway.  Nothing wrong with that as part of a transit line as well but $400,000? If I remember properly, there was an argument that they did not want to spend $100,000 to renovate one of the BCER Interurbans.

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  1. Indeed, the money allocated to decommission is 4 times the money we (the Transit Museum Society) were seeking to get the line going again.
    If there are any corporate partners which are interested in assisting in restoring service on the line, please do contact us. We’ve always sought to keep the DHR and our work with the city on it as non-partisan as possible, and as separate from any Broadway/UBC transit debate as possible. All we’re seeking is the ability to once again run this historic service for the benefit and joy of the people and tourist of this city. The kids love us, really.
    In past discussions the City has been fully open to the idea that if we can raise the funds, they’d be perfectly fine with us operating the line independently. And yes that might mean some corporate sponsorships or advertisements (hey London Drugs, you have two stores right near the line, London Drugs Olympic Village Station maybe?)
    So if you’re able to assist, please contact the Transit Museum Society (www.trams.ca), we’d love to chat. We had a wonderful time for 15 seasons operating this line, and we’d hate to see all the time and investment made on it lost.

    1. Has TRAMS looked into crowd funding like Kickstarter? We need to spread the word on this and have the people of Vancouver, and historic railway lovers worldwide, help fund the project.

    1. @fourfoldway, that’s why 1st Ave was designed that way when it was rebuilt, that median is *exactly* for a streetcar, as is the median down Pacific in Yaletown. These streets were built to accommodate a future streetcar line.
      And I just had the realization a few moments ago, I suppose this is my sibling being euthanized, since the DHR and I share a father…

    1. IMO it doesn’t seem like a fair comparison. Looking at the website, it seems to be a lakefront route away from denser areas without significant crosstraffic in a program that is promoted as a tourist attraction, with no expectation for reliable/frequent service.
      If anything, Nelson’s program gets support from their chamber of commerce.

  2. Indeed, this is one of the most negative steps taken by any Vancouver Council in the past 50 years. Re Arbutus Corridor, one of my students (David King) did his Masters of City Planning thesis on an Arbutus Corridor that accommodated both cycling facilities and a streetcar/LRT.

    1. Neither a streetcar nor an LRT makes sense along Arbutus. It is too noisy, bisects the neighborhood and is too slow and too dangerous for people walking/biking there.
      Streetcars are from a bygone European era that does not exist anymore in modern cities. Make it a subway perhaps if volume warrant it.
      I’d give this thesis an F.

  3. This isolated line makes no sense whatsoever. It is far too slow. Great for the city to rip it up. Make it a bike path so bikes don;t interfere with pedestrians on this busy walking path along the seawall.

    1. Thomas, I don’t know what you read about modern transit, but you should be aware that 144 cities are building/expanding modern LRT/streetcar lines, the vehicles are larger, quieter, faster, more comfortable cheaper to build and operate and maintain than SkyTrain of which only 7 lines exist. Do you not remember the Olympic line? The city several years ago reserved a right of way to Stanley Park and the North side of False Creek for such a line from Granville Island. Perhaps, you may have also forgotten that the Arbutus line was a double tracked transit line to Steveston long before it became a purely freight line. But then Seattle, Portland, Toronto, Ottawa, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Memphis, St. Louis, San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, Kenosha, Los Angeles, Calgary, Edmonton, New Orleans etc.etc, much less most of Europe may be wrong in your eyes. Modern LRT and Streetcars are quieter than SkyTrain, have security with operators vs a subway and few stations, and enhance the neighbourhood. But then I don’t expect to convince you as only bikes are your option for the majority of people who currently pay for transit-or ride it..By the way, American statistics show that rail use-both transit and commuter/long distance is up, bus use is down.

      1. Having used extensively LRT lines in Calgary and Edmonton and many streetcars in Europe I understand the desire to build at grade. It is cheaper. That’s about it. it is also uglier, noisy and bi-sects a community, and lowers land values immediately adjacent to it. You will get huge push back from existing property owners. Frankly there is is no need for a street car or subway today, neither on Arbutus nor on the low use False Creek tourist tram that the city rightly decided to abandon.
        Subways are the way to go in dense cities, with very high land values, such as Vancouver, than at grade further out, say Richmond or Surrey.
        I agree that more buses are not the answer either. Buses will not convince car users to abandon the convenient car.
        Vancouver needs more subways.

    2. Thomas Beyer, your anti LRT bias is showing. How can you say that where the DHR/Olympic line right-of-way is located is not where there is demand? it connects pretty much directly between Granville Island, by far the busiest and most congested tourist attraction in Vancouver, and Olympic Village station on the Canada Line (right now one of the must underused stations on the line). It would be well used.
      As far as “Vancouver needs more subways” is concerned, Vancouver is one of the smallest cities with a subway that I know of, if not the smallest. I know that many people have the fantasy that Vancouver is world class city, but do we need to bankrupt ourselves in a vain effort to catch up to London, Paris, Berlin, New York, LA, when in fact most of those cities are many times the size of Vancouver, and also most have both subways and LRT’s?

  4. I expect it is because the Vision dominated council and the mayor see the streetcar as an NPA initiative. However, it is rather bizarre to have the city challenge CPR in court for abandoning their ROW, while they are planning to do the same.
    Do we really have $400,000 to waste on such an unproductive exercise? Who signed off on this?

  5. While I would not place this streetcar line as the same priority as Broadway rapid transit ripping the tracks out would be criminally stupid. In particular it would provide a large segment of exclusive lanes, something difficult to achieve in our spacially constrained streets without a large backlash. The combination of exclusive lanes and a good number of destinations would make it more succesful than the majority of streetcar projects in North America most of which are a waste of resources.

  6. I have heard that some people behind the heritage tram line effort had adopted a quite confrontational stand with the City of Vancouver, which has in turn produced this report:
    In the meantimes, the anti LRT biais prevailing at City Hall is well known and this report is a good example of it:
    I tend to agree it is quite a shame to see the Vancouver council earnmarking significant transit $ to dismantle a transit infrastructure…but should we be suprised?

    1. The second link above is supposed to be a city staff presentation to the city council done on November 27th, 2012…but in fact it is not what had been presented to the council
      What had been presented was this:
      …the difference between the both is what justify my “anti LRT biais” qualification (*).
      The fact the material posted on the city website is not the one presented in council is not the least of the issue one should have with the current city administration…

      (*) the “cleaned” document posted on the city website rejoins in fact crticis formulated here https://voony.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/some-challenges-for-a-broadway-lrt/

      1. If anything your first link explaining’ the CoV’s position on the DHR as it is now seems good to me for the CoV to suspend the service. Keep the ROW, but if they need to dismantle the infrastructure for maintenance savings/liability worries so be it.
        The CoV will have to put an awful lot more money on its own (not say, translink’s) to make the service more viable. IMO the DHR is a tourist initiative, not a transit imitative and has to be examined under that light.

      2. That is one reading.
        We don’t know how serious this liability argument is ($90,000 claim on what period?), but what we know, is
        * that many heritage railways, like the one mentioned by Pat Johnston in Nelson seems to be able to overcome this issue.
        * Heritage streetcar operate in many other cities, including Toronto, so here maintenance/reliability seems to be feasable…
        So, another reading, is that the City has spent no effort to preserve the heritage railway (that is the reason why I have tried to provide a larger context).
        Notice that it is the CoV which assess it under the Transit infrastructure lens (and put it under a transit investment budget line!) : I agree with you it is more of an tourist attraction, such as a ferry wheel than a transportation infrastructure.
        Note: The inclusion of the sribd image above was not intended: sorry for that. Also a correction:, What has been presented at the city council meeting is effectively what is posted on the City Website (video here), what is on the scribd site is what Vision has made public

  7. Last day, of the season, to ride the Cloverdale tram on Sunday October 12 from Cloverdale station to the Sullivan Heights depot.
    (A restored BC Electric Tram 1225 with a “jenney” trailing with a diesel electric generator to get around no overhead wire on that portion of the Southern Railway (ex-BC Electriic / BC Hydro))
    $10 per adult. Get there early to Highway 10 A and 176 Street behind the MacDonalds (but eat at Elena’s 5630 176 St, Cloverdale, a few minutes walk north which has a Conductor sculpture of Frank Horne outside and stones commemorating the various local railroads.