Vancouver's free streetcar makes first run to Granville Island

Dozens of people lined up to be the first to ride the new Olympic streetcar line in Vancouver on Thursday morning.

Dozens of people lined up to be the first to ride the new Olympic streetcar line in Vancouver on Thursday morning.

The two streetcars will make the 6-minute trip between the Cambie Bridge and Granville Island 18 hours a day, starting at 6:30 a.m. PT each day.

Attie Torok remembered riding streetcars along this line during Expo, and was in line at 4:30 a.m. to catch the first ride.

"I was born and raised in Vancouver and I thought I would want to be one of the first ones on something Vancouver has got for the Games," said Torok.

The city spent about $8.5 million dollars upgrading 1.8 kilometres of an old rail line for the route. The ride will be free for passengers, but just for the next 60 days - because just like Expo in 1986 - the streetcars are only here temporarily.

Once the Olympic and Paralympic Games are over, the streetcars, which were built by Bombardier, will be returned to Brussels.

Long-term plans

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who was on hand for opening of the line, said he hopes streetcars will one day return to Vancouver permanently as part of a proposal to extend the route all the way from Stanley Park in the West End to Arbutus Avenue on the West Side.

Robertson acknowledges Translink, the regional transit authority, doesn't have the money now, but said, "I'm hopeful we are within the five to ten year time frame."

"Certainly the demand is here. The numbers are significant, and it's really a matter of securing the investment and knowing that it will pay off in the near term," said the mayor.