Non-Partisan Association mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton wants to resurrect Vancouver’s downtown streetcar network.
During an announcement today (September 21) outside Olympic Village Station, Anton said if elected mayor she would accelerate plans to connect Granville Island, the Olympic Village and Science World to Chinatown and Waterfront Station through a streetcar network.
According to the NPA, the network would be funded through a public-private partnership, with costs estimated at about $81 million for the track, and another $21 million for the purchase of six streetcars.
“There may be some future resources available in the capital plan for various things, but I will not be proposing Vancouver taxpayers pick up all these initial capital costs, even though the citizens of Vancouver will reap the benefits,” she said.
The P3 proposal was panned by Vision Vancouver councillor Geoff Meggs, who said priority should be placed on a transit strategy for the Broadway corridor.
But Anton argued the streetcar network could be in done in addition to the construction of the Broadway rapid transit line. She said while the NPA would look to TransLink as a partner to integrate the streetcar network into the regular transportation system, they wouldn’t be expected to be an investor.
“It’s something that we would certainly look at,” TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie told the Straight by phone in reaction to the proposal. “We would need to look at the technical aspects of it.”
Hardie said the route and infrastructure of the trial streetcar used during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games is “already factored into a number of our alternatives for a rapid transit connection towards UBC.”
“The concept of a streetcar is still alive, in terms of TransLink’s thinking and planning,” said Hardie.
According to Anton, the city already owns the streetcar right-of-way from Granville Island to Waterfront Station.
“We can do the street car today - it’s ready to go,” she said. “The studies just need updating, the land is here, we can get going on the streetcar.”
“Land assembly is usually the hardest thing in the project,” she said “It is the easiest thing in this project - it has already been done.”
Anton said the streetcar could be used as both a commuter line and a mode of transportation for tourists. She added the city could stand to benefit from increased property values along the streetcar line, which she argued would “pay for itself” within a decade of operation.
“The City of Vancouver, as you know, has a very strong interest in selling those condos at the Olympic Village,” she said. “Imagine if there’s a streetcar station in front of them.”
The proposed acceleration of the streetcar line would begin with steps including the establishment of a project task force, and a call for expressions of interest from potential private-sector partners.
“We’ll be looking for partnerships with the government of Canada in particular, because it connects Granville Island and Canada Place,” said Anton.
Vancouver city council approved plans for a downtown streetcar line in 1999. In 2005, the city released a report that recommended the first phase of the route run from Granville Island to Waterfront Station. Additional phases of the network would extend to Stanley Park, Pacific Boulevard and Arbutus Corridor.