Olympic Line reality check: it will need support from Translink

The Olympic Line looks great, rides great but will need Translink support to become a reality.

The Olympic Line looks great, rides beautifully, but will need Translink support to become a reality.

The crowds that lined up as early as 4.30 a.m. Thursday morning to try the city’s new Olympic Line streetcars offer part of the solution to a permanent light rail system in the city.

Strong ridership during the two-month trial will help make the case for long-term investment, but that won’t be enough.

The Line will have to offer a solution to regional needs to become reality.

That means Translink, now conducting a study of future UBC and Broadway corridor transit needs, must have evidence that the streetcar supports those major investments.

If it does, regional political leaders should agree to help underwrite a project that resides entirely in Vancouver, already transit-rich in the eyes of our neighbours.

(The province, which is helping to pay for the work, supports corridor development but remains silent on the streetcar.)

Like many others, I have long believed a Vancouver streetcar system was pretty simple: upgrade the track, buy the cars and away you go.

But as the Olympic Line project proves, we’re talking serious money. This 1.8 km section, which cost $9 million ($8.5 million from the city, $500,000 from CMHC) uses borrowed cars. The very preliminary numbers to extend the line to Main St. — barely another two kilometres — buy rolling stock, create maintenance facilities and much more, are far above that level.

Those numbers need to be nailed down and planners need to show how the line can help regional riders before the Olympic Line runs again.