Bring Back The Streetcars?

Mike Klassen has re-opened the debate about streetcar use with a detailed and provactive post at VanCity Buzz.

He opens by describing the chaos that is the present Broadway transit corridor and extrapolating how much worse it will be once the Millenium Line connects to Broadway and Commercial.  The Broadway corridor is already the busiest bus communter route in North America and an estimated additional 70,000 riders a day simply won’t work with the present B-line plus system.

A Broadway Commercial-to-UBC rapid transit line seems the obvious infrastructure improvement.  But that isn’t going to happen.  I agree with Gordon Price that we will never see this in his or my lifetime, no matter how important it is.  The cost and the NIMBY obstacles in its way are simply too great.   But, obviously, we cannot just let the transit traffic on the Broadway corridor grind inexorably to a halt.  This is where Klassen re-introduces the idea of a streetcar.

“Integrated with the existing bus and rapid transit systems, a streetcar line could link the VCC-Clark Skytrain station (Millennium Line terminus) with a new rapid bus connection located at Arbutus and Broadway. A railway right-of-way exists for much that entire route. The section by southeast False Creek is currently under redevelopment and promises to bring thousands of new commuters. While it cannot match the ridership nor the speed of Skytrain, it could take many UBC-bound commuters off the overburdened 99 B-line west of Commercial.”

Bob Ransford adds the following:

“The Olympic Line streetcar project can be built for one quarter the cost of any SkyTrain extension. The city owns most of the right-of-way that would allow a streetcar to run between the Clark Drive SkyTrain station, the Canada Line Olympic Village station and Granville Island. It wouldn’t be that difficult to secure a right-of-way all the way to Arbutus Street. This routing would tie together all the SkyTrain lines and service the densest part of the Broadway corridor. A rapid bus line from Arbutus could adequately continue to service UBC.”

Yes, I’m none too happy about supporting an NPA position from the last election.  But it is dumb to drop a good idea just because one doesn’t care for the politics of the proponents.  And, yes, I do think this is a good idea.  The strteetcars are a vital part of Vancouver’s urban history, and the economics and the need seem to work for their return today.

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