Trolleybuses in Vancouver
|Locale||Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada|
|Launched||August 16, 1948|
|Operator||BC Electric Railway (1948–1962)|
BC Hydro Transit (1962–1973)
Vancouver Regional Transit System (1973–1978)
Urban Transit Authority (1978–1982)
BC Transit (1982–1999)
Coast Mountain Bus Company
|Electrification||600 V DC parallel overhead|
|Fleet||New Flyer E40LF|
New Flyer E40LFR
New Flyer E60LFR
The trolleybus network in Vancouver forms a significant part of TransLink's bus network. Running across 13 routes in Vancouver and Burnaby, the system is operated by Coast Mountain Bus Company and is the second-largest trolleybus fleet in North America with 262 buses across over 370 kilometres of wires. It is also the only trolleybus network in Canada following the closure of the Edmonton system in May 2009.
Portions of the present-day trolleybus network travel on corridors that were previously serviced by streetcars. The various growth and expansions of the trolleybus network over the decades reflect the changes and growth across Vancouver. Trolleybuses were introduced in Vancouver to replace portions of the streetcar network, which serviced the downtown core and along major north-south and east-west streets such as Hastings Street and Broadway. There was also a small streetcar network in North Vancouver that was replaced with motorbuses. In 1945, three years before the launch of the first trolleybus route, BC Electric Railway, the transit operator at the time, gave the public free rides for 10 days in December on a Twin Coach trolley loaned from Seattle.
1940s: Rails to Rubber
The first route, the Fraser–Cambie, launched on August 15, 1948, and ran from Fraser Street & Marine Drive to Cambie Street & W. 29th Avenue. The fleet was made up of 30 CC&F/Brill T-44 coaches. This would be the first of many new trolley routes that would gradually replace the entire Vancouver streetcar network over the next few years. The reason BCER chose trolleybuses instead of diesel buses was that electricity was cheaper than diesel and trolleybuses run faster, smoother and quieter. Trolleybuses could also reuse the overhead wires already in place from the streetcar network.
The transition from streetcar to trolleybus on most routes was under a plan that BCER called "Rails to Rubber".
Additional routes introduced included the Granville route from Marpole to Kerrisdale in July 1949 followed by the Broadway East, Powell and Fourth routes. On October 16, 1948, the Robson and Davie routes were introduced, replacing a temporary bus service that was in place during the transition period between streetcars and trolleybuses.
Trolleybus routes were initially introduced without route numbers. Bus routes in general were assigned numbers but they were not displayed on destination signs until the early 1950s. However, route numbers were assigned to trolleybuses.
Below is a table of streetcar routes followed by trolleybus routes in 1949 when the two systems coexisted.
|3 Main/7 Dunbar||
|9 Victoria/10 Stanley Park||
|11 Joyce–Stanley Park||
|13 Hastings East–Exhibition Loop||
|14 Hastings East||
|17 Oak Street||
Trolleybus routes were assigned route numbers but not displayed on buses.
|Internal route number||Trolleybus route||Routing|
|31||Granville to Boulevard||
|32||Granville to Marpole||
|33||4th Avenue via 4th to Blanca||
|34||4th Avenue via 10th to Blanca||
1950s: Expansions and extensions
In October 1950, the Kingsway and Victoria routes were introduced, replacing streetcar service. During this decade, the Powell route also extended to Stanley Park from Cambie & Pender and the Cambie route was extended from 29th Avenue to 50th Avenue. Additional routes introduced during this decade included the Dunbar, 41st Avenue, Oak, Arbutus and West Broadway route to Alma. The East Broadway was also extended to Renfrew.
In October 1952, all bus routes in Vancouver transitioned to a new numbering scheme. This also resulted in route numbers being displayed on bus destination signs as well. The new route numbers would remain unchanged for decades and some remain in use to this day. The new numbers for trolleybuses were as followed:
- 2 Broadway East
- 4 4th Avenue
- 5 Robson
- 6 Fraser
- 7 Dunbar
- 8 Davie
- 9 Broadway Crosstown
- 10 10th–Blanca
- 11 Stanley Park
- 12 Powell
- 15 Cambie
- 17 Oak
- 18 Arbutus
- 19 Kingsway
- 20 Granville
- 21 Victoria
- 41 41st Avenue
By the time these new route numbers were introduced, only three streetcar routes remained and their numbers unchanged. These routes were:
- 1 Grandview
- 3 Main
- 14 Hastings East
The trolleybus and streetcar network in 1953 operated as such:
|14 Hastings East||
|3 Main/5 Robson||
|4 4th Avenue||
|6 Fraser/8 Davie||
|7 Dunbar/17 Oak||
|9 Broadway Crosstown||
|10 10th Avenue||
|11 Stanley Park/12 Powell||
|41 41st Avenue||
In 1954, the 24 Nanaimo, which ran as a motorbus route during the transition period between streetcar and trolleybus, became a trolleybus route and the Victoria route was extended from Victoria & 54th Avenue to its current southern terminus at Harrison, replacing the motorbus route 46 Fraserview.
The last streetcar route to be converted to trolleybus operations was the 14 Hastings East. The last streetcar ran on April 21, 1955, and trolleybus service started in June. A ceremonial ride took place at the Pacific National Exhibition on April 24, 1955, onboard car no. 53 to mark the completion of the Rails to Rubber program.
Meanwhile, some trolleybus networks in the United States began to enter a state of decline and many cities began to discontinue their systems. BCER took advantage of this decline in the U.S. by purchasing used buses to quickly increase the trolleybus fleet size to meet new ridership demands that came with the expansion of the network. 25 Pullman 44-AS buses from Birmingham, Alabama, was purchased in 1956 from the Birmingham Transit System. These buses required extensive bodywork modifications, the lowering of headlights, and an overhaul of motors and controls. Other work included the removal of interior signs indicating segregated seating. The 25 Pullmans entered service on March 8, 1957 and were quickly met with problems. The steel frames meant that they were twice as heavy as the existing Brills in the fleet and made them slow to accelerate and difficult to steer. They also broke down often and had poor braking. These problematic buses were therefore limited to routes that were straight and had little to no hills such as the 41 41st Avenue and the 9 Broadway.
On May 13, 1957, the Hastings Express was introduced. This resulted in the installation of a second set of wires along Hastings Street from Kootenay Loop to Main Street. This marked the launch of the second express trolley route in North America. A fifth set was added in front of the Pacific National Exhibition on the curbside westbound lane to allow space for layovers during special events. This configuration, used until 1991, made Vancouver have the most trolley wires on one street in North America. The configuration after 1991 reverted back to four wires: two in each direction.
BCER made the final procurement of new Brill trolleys in this decade with an order of 55 CC&F/Brill T-48As in 1951 and 16 CC&F/Brill T-48As in 1954. These would also be the last new trolleys purchased until the 1970s as used trolleys from former systems across Canada would be purchased for the next decade.
1960s: Transition to BC Hydro
Across Canada, as many as 16 trolleybus systems closed. One of the last expansions of the trolleybus network until the 1980s occurred in 1960 when the wires on 41st Avenue were extended east from Victoria & 41st to the new Joyce Loop at Kingsway & Joyce. On August 1, 1961, the British Columbia government took over BCER and established the BC Hydro and Power Authority to oversee provincial electricity supplying and the transit service in Vancouver and Victoria. Its transit division was known simply as BC Hydro Transit and this introduced a new paint scheme on buses, replacing the beige-coloured buses with a white livery with blue and green stripes.
In 1962, BC Hydro began considering retiring the trolleybuses and announced plans of potentially phasing out the service due to the expensive cost of maintaining overhead wires and replacing the network with diesel buses.
During this decade, the first of the original T-44 Brills from 1947 retired. 10 units were sold to Edmonton and the remainder were used for parts to maintain the remaining Brill fleet. The problematic Pullman trolleys were also sold for scrap in 1960.
In 1968, the 10 Tenth/14 Hastings discontinued trolleybuses and all trips were revised to use diesel buses instead to provide a consistent through-service to the University of British Columbia, which did not have trolley wires. Despite the retirement of buses during this decade, Vancouver's fleet numbered at just below 300 and was still the largest in Canada.
1970s: Resurgence of ridership
With the global fuel crisis created by the shortage of oil and gasoline, transit ridership increased worldwide. The growing awareness and concern for the environment also gave trolleybuses a new renewal in life in some cities. In Vancouver, an increase in ridership results across the transit network. However, despite increasing ridership and a concern for the environment, Vancouver by 1975 was only one of four cities in Canada to still have a trolleybus network. BC Hydro during this time procured used trolleybuses from across Canada that were getting rid of their networks. This resulted in the procurement of two T-48s from Winnipeg in 1970 and 17 T-48As from Saskatoon in late 1973 and early 1974.
In February 1970, the first trolleybus extension in over a decade is made with the 15 Cambie route extending from 50th Avenue to 64th Avenue.
The Bureau of Transit Services was established in 1973 and with it came new livery. A new orange and brown livery scheme replaced BC Hydro's green and blue livery.
In 1974, the Granville Mall opened, introducing a dedicated transit-only corridor in the downtown core. Most routes running along Granville Mall were trolleybuses. In the same year, a Hess articulated trolleybus from Berne, Switzerland, arrived in Vancouver for a trial. Fitted with a small gasoline engine, it could provide backup power for when the bus had to navigate streets without wires due to road disruptions. There were plans to purchase this bus for the Vancouver fleet. However, these plans were shelved in 1975 after a provincial election.
Diesel buses were introduced on the 41 route in August 1975 to extend service to UBC. This would begin a mixed operation of diesel buses and trolleybuses on the 41 route that would eventually transition to a full diesel operation several decades later in the 2000s. There were also plans at this time for a trolleybus network expansion to UBC for the 10 and 14 routes, but these plans were eventually delayed due to funding and technical issues, despite being proposed again in 1980.
The trolleybus fleet by the mid-1970s began to show signs of ageing. The fleet was comprised of Brill trolleys that averaged 20 years old and there were no manufacturers in North American producing trolleybuses. However, across the country in Toronto, the Toronto Transit Commission began a $1-million experiment that involved purchasing shells of new Flyer Industries buses from Winnipeg, Manitoba, and fitting them with propulsion systems from old Brills. The experiment was a success and the TTC replaced its entire fleet of trolleybuses using this method. This was replicated by the Hamilton Street Railway for its trolley fleet. Flyer also began offering this option of trolleybuses using rebuilt propulsion systems for sale.
An order of the Flyer E800 buses was placed, with the first two units arriving in December 1975. The propulsion systems came from Brills that were retiring and from second-hand Brills purchased from Kitchener and Calgary. In total, 50 of these E800 trolleybuses with rebuilt propulsion systems were ordered. Unit 2602 went on an inaugural launch trip with transit officials on board on December 31, 1975, and the remaining E800s arrived in spring of 1976.
The last of the original, 35-foot T-44 Brils were retired by the end of 1976. By the end of their careers, the T-44s ran almost exclusively on the Nanaimo–Powell–Stanley Park and the 41st Avenue routes. Unit 2082 made a final trip on August 4, 1976.
In 1977, another new livery is introduced with orange and brown stripes replacing orange and yellow and BC Hydro Transit officially became the Greater Vancouver Transit System. In 1978, another review was done on whether the trolleybus network was still worth a future investment and after several months, it was decided that the trolleybus system would remain.
1980s: Growth and change
In 1980, the Urban Transit Authority took over transit operations, with Metro Transit Operating Company assuming control of daily operations.
One of the first tasks of the new authority was to address the need of replacing the ageing Brill trolleys. It was also during this time that plans for expanding the trolleybus network were also drawn up. In November 1980, three trolley routes were to be extended as part of a $125.7 million transit improvement package. These changes would include extending wires to UBC from Blanca Loop along University Boulevard, extending wires from Boundary Loop to Brentwood Mall for the 9 Broadway route and from Joyce Loop to Burnaby at Kingsway & Nelson for the 8 Davie, 19 Kingsway and 41 Forty-First routes. However, these plans would later be shelved and the extension east of Joyce to Metrotown would not happen for another few years.
In 1981, it was decided that the trolleybus extension to Burnaby would be suspended until the completion of SkyTrain as it would not be economical to string temporary wires to a temporary loop until the completion of the Metrotown bus loop. In 1985, the City of Burnaby endorsed the extension of trolleybus service along Kingsway to Metrotown and provided additional funding for various wiring infrastructure that would minimize the use of overhead wires strung across Kingsway.
In 1982, a contract for 245 trolleybuses was awarded to Flyer Industries. These new coaches would be fitted with Westinghouse "chopper" controls with onboard auxiliary battery power for limited off-wire operations. The E901A/E902 trolleys featured double-stream front and rear doors with a seating capacity of 38 and room for a total of 80 passengers. They were equipped with electronic controls and included energy-saving, regenerative braking and chopper controls that produced 155hp of propulsion. The first of the new trolleys arrived in 1982 painted in the orange white livery of the Urban Transit Authority and were later repainted when UTA was renamed BC Transit in 1982.
The recession of 1982 resulted in a decline in ridership and in March 1983, the service change introduced new route pairings and reduced frequencies on many routes. One of these changes was the return of trolleybuses on the 14 Hastings route during daytime and peak hours and the discontinuation of trolleybus service on the 34 Hastings Express, which reverted to a diesel service. This ended the only express trolleybus service in Canada, but trolleybuses would return on the Hastings Express in the late 1980s.
The decline in ridership also resulted in the Flyer E800 trolleybuses being retired, despite being less than eight years old. The unreliability of these trolleybuses due to the use of recycled Brill propulsion components contributed significantly to the expedited retirement of these buses.
By 1984, most of the Brills in the fleet was retired. Some had travelled over a million miles and on January 14, 1984, a ceremonial final short run was made for the longest-serving Brill in the fleet.
However, the winter of 1984 resulted in many of the new Flyer trolleybuses breaking down due to the cold temperatures. This resulted in a handful of brills returning to service briefly until the electronic problems were resolved.
During the planning of bus services in 1984–1985 for a post-SkyTrain network, plans were drawn up for the extension of the trolleybus network to service new stations at Nanaimo, 29th Avenue, Joyce and Metrotown. The extension to Metrotown would be the first trolleybus extension beyond the city boundaries of Vancouver and would also mark the longest extension of the network since the extension of the wires on Cambie Street to 64th Avenue.
After several months of a transition period between the bus network and the new SkyTrain, bus changes went into effect on March 7, 1986. Among these changes were the new Metrotown extension, the shortening of the 16 Renfrew from Kingsway & Slocan to 29th Avenue Station, shortening of the 24 Nanaimo from Kingsway & Earles to Nanaimo Station and the extension of the 41 Forty-First from Joyce Loop to Joyce Station. Other changes included the amalgamation of trolleybus route numbers. Prior to these changes, many trolleybus routes had two route numbers for each direction of travel. Below is a table of the amalgamated trolleybus route numbers as part of the March 1986 service change:
|Before March 7, 1986||After March 7, 1986|
|3 Main/5 Robson||3 Main/Robson|
|4 Fourth/24 Nanaimo||4 Blanca/Nanaimo Station|
|6 Davie/8 Fraser||8 Davie/Fraser|
|11 Stanley Park/19 Kingsway||19 Stanley Park/Metrotown Station|
|7 Dunbar/12 Powell||7 Dunbar/Powell|
The remaining trolleybus routes with two route numbers changed in September 1988:
|Before September 5, 1988||After September 5, 1988|
|14 Hastings/18 Arbutus||14 Hastings/Arbutus|
|20 Granville/21 Victoria||20 Granville/Victoria|
During Expo 86, anticipated increases in demand saw a brief return of a small number of the Flyer E800 coaches. A temporary trolleybus route was also introduced specifically for Expo 86, the 13 Cambie. The 13 Cambie supplemented the 15 by running between the Expo grounds to Cambie & 49th.
With a surplus of trolleybuses due to service adjustments following the completion of the SkyTrain, plans for a trolleybus extension to UBC were drawn up again in 1987. The UBC extension opened on September 5, 1988, which saw the 4 and 10 extending from Blanca Loop to UBC. This also resulted in the return of trolleybuses on the 10 Hastings Express. In September 1989, the 9 was also extended to UBC during peak hours.
To meet the increase in ridership demand in the suburbs, the remaining retired E800s that were not scrapped were given a new life as diesel buses. The conversion from trolleybus to diesel was complete in 1989.
1990s: Further changes and splits
The 1990s brought additional challenges to the trolleybus network. Increasing traffic congestion in the downtown core, especially in the West End, created problems that cascaded across the network. Various trolleybus routes that went through the downtown core often had to run with diesel buses because of constant detours in response to changing road conditions as a result of increased congestion. Routes that were impacted the most were the 3 Main/Robson and the 8 Davie/Fraser that went through the West End.
In 1993, the most significant change to the trolleybus network as a result of increasing traffic congestion occurred. The 19 Stanley Park/Metrotown Station was broken up into two routes: one between downtown and Stanley Park and one between downtown and Metrotown Station. Because of heavy traffic and a safety concern regarding trolleys turning off W. Georgia Street and into Chilco Loop at Stanley Park, it was decided that trolleybuses would only run from Metrotown Station to downtown and diesel buses would take over for the leg between Stanley Park and downtown. On weekends and holidays, diesel buses would run the entire Metrotown Station and Stanley Park route. This would later change again in April 1997 when service to Stanley Park on the 19 is discontinued. Trolleybus service would not return to Stanley Park until 2003. There were plans to string new wires to reroute the 19 along a different route through Stanley Park to Chilco Loop, but the limited clearance of an underpass made this unfeasible.
It was also during this decade that two other trolleybus systems would be terminated in Canada: Toronto and Hamilton. This left the Vancouver and Edmonton systems to be the only remaining Canadian trolleybus systems.
Further changes to the trolleybus network came in September 1997. The 14 Hastings/Arbutus route and the 10 Hastings Express/UBC, both long-established trolleybus routes, were broken up. The two routes were combined to form the 10 Hastings/UBC, with the 16 29th Avenue/Downtown extending to 63rd & Granville to replace the Arbutus leg of the 14. Other changes saw the breaking up of the 3 Main/Robson and the 8 Davie/Fraser to form the 3 Main/Downtown, 5 Robson/Downtown, 6 Davie/Downtown and the 8 Fraser/Granville, which reintroduced the 5 and 6 trolleybus route numbers. This change also saw the breaking up of another long-established trolleybus service, the 20 Granville/Victoria, which became the 8 Granville/Fraser and 20 Victoria/Downtown.
In April 1999, TransLink and Coast Mountain Bus Company took over transit operations in the Lower Mainland and with it came another new livery: the sweep with yellow and blue stripes. This livery was applied on some trolleybuses but not all. Many were painted in an all-white "ghost" livery as part of the transition, but many coaches remained in the BC Transit livery or in the "ghost" livery up until retirement.
Shortly after TransLink was established, a staff report was drawn up in October 1999 and scheduled to go before the TransLink board in 2000 recommending the purchase of up to 300 new trolleybuses to replace the existing fleet of 244 E901A/E902 trolleybuses by 2002.
2000s: Low-floor generation
In June 2000, TransLink announced that the trolleybus fleet would be replaced by 2006. Its report recommended phasing out all the existing trolleybuses over several years with 285–325 new trolleybuses at a total cost of $314–321 million. However, this announcement was not without controversy.
TransLink critics argued that TransLink needed to rethink its decision to procure trolleybuses due to the higher costs when compared to diesel buses. TransLink defended the decision by saying that purchasing diesel buses would be a step backwards in reducing vehicle emissions. Technology alternatives, such as hydrogen fuel cell buses, were not in mass production and were even more costly.
The most vocal and critical of TransLink's decision were Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum and Coquitlam Mayor Jon Kingsbury, who were also the only members of the TransLink board of directors who opposed replacing and expanding the trolley fleet. They said that the reason TransLink was buying trolleybuses was that TransLink had a "Vancouver-centric bias" and not because trolleybuses were zero-emissions.
McCallum, over the disagreement of TransLink's decision to purchase new trolleybuses on top of other capital expenses such as the procurement of 50 diesel buses, 29 additional diesel buses for expansion, SkyTrain platform edge upgrades and consulting services for the Coquitlam SkyTrain extension, threatened to pull Surrey out of the Greater Vancouver Regional District because these projects did not benefit Surrey and McCallum felt that Surrey was being used as a "cash cow" to fund improvements in other cities.
In July 2000, TransLink began exploring options of returning trolleybus service to Stanley Park by extending the wires to a new bus loop near the existing Upper Zoo Loop, which was serviced by a variety of diesel bus routes. TransLink's plan involved stringing new wires through the Rose Garden. The Vancouver Park Board approved the proposal as part of the Park Board's plan to redevelop the Stanley Park Causeway area and to close the Chilco bus loop. However, this drew criticism from the Friends of Stanley Park, a group of park users, and the gardeners of the Rose Garden. The visual impact was the biggest concern noted during the public consultation period. The new trolleybus loop opened in 2003.
The request for proposals went out in October 2000. Contract 001-04 called for the procurement of up to 325, 600-volt low-floor trolleybuses with limited off-wire capability. The delivery was scheduled to commence as early as 2003. TransLink signed a $119-million contract with New Flyer and Kiepe Elektrik of Germany on January 21, 2004, for the delivery of the new trolleybus fleet.
On July 20, 2005, the first of the new low-floor trolleybuses manufactured by New Flyer arrived and was unveiled in a ceremony at Stanley Park.
The remaining 187 E40LFR trolleybuses started arriving in late 2006, early 2007 to replace the Flyer E901A/E902 trolleys, which were already showing signs of ageing. These new trolleybuses were low-floor. This meant that many of Vancouver's trolleybus routes would finally be fully accessible and bike rack equipped, which were already basic features of a majority of bus routes across the network at the time. However, problems began to arise when the winter weather arrived in 2007 as many units experienced problems with their power steering.
In addition to the procurement of the 188 40-foot trolleybuses, 40 60-foot articulated buses from New Flyer were also ordered and arrived in 2007. The E60LFR trolleybuses marked the first of two orders for articulated trolleybuses.
For a one-year period from approximately June 2007–May 2008, one E40LFR trolleybus was loaned to Edmonton. Unit 2242, renumbered 6000, ran as part of a trial in Edmonton Transit System's fleet of test buses made up of several hybrid buses and unit 6000. 6000 saw occasional service on routes 5 and 135. It last ran in Edmonton on April 17, 2008, and left Edmonton for Vancouver on May 20, 2008.
A ceremonial final run of the Flyer E901A/E902 trolleybuses ran on April 20, 2008, with unit 2805 on the 3 Main/Downtown.
An additional order of 60-foot articulated buses arrived in 2009, increasing the trolleybus fleet to 262. Also in 2009, Edmonton would discontinue its trolleybus network on May 2, making Vancouver the last trolleybus network in Canada.
Oakridge Transit Centre, which had been the home base for trolleybus operations since its inception, closed as operations for all Oakridge-based buses – which included both trolleybuses and diesel buses – moved to Vancouver Transit Centre on September 2, 2006. Oakridge Transit Centre remained active in processing the arrival of new bus orders and Community Shuttle operations until it was formally closed in 2016 and the site redeveloped.
Proposed historic trolley route
In the early 2000s, there was a proposal to restore several old Brill trolleybuses for a new route linking various neighbourhoods and tourist spots in Downtown Vancouver. The proposal was pitched by then-Coast Mountain Bus Company president David Stumpo, who had the idea of introducing the service after being involved in creating a historic streetcar line on San Francisco's Market Street. Stumpo saw the opportunity as there was a lure and interest by both the riding public and tourists alike across the world for historic transportation like vintage streetcars.
In a report prepared for TransLink in January 2002, the service would provide passengers with an "authentic Vancouver trolleybus experience" running with trolleybuses in their original BCER or BC Hydro liveries. These restored trolleybuses would be driven by operators wearing period uniforms and other features would include buses being fitted with their original Cleveland fareboxes, roller destination sings, period-style bus signs, replica transfers and a souvenir edition of The Buzzer.
It was estimated that the cost of refurbishing 15 Brill buses for the service would be approximately $3 million, or $200,000 per bus. An additional $500,000 would also be required for new wires to follow the proposed route and service would run every 10 minutes. As for fares, riders would either pay fares that were the same as the rest of the transit network, a high premium, or fares would be subsidized by a sponsor, such as the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. Effective sponsorship, promotion and community support would have made the Historic Trolley Line "a major tourist attraction along the lines of London's double-decker buses, the Paris Metro and San Francisco's cable car system," the report said.
In February 2002, the plans were permanently shelved when TransLink sold the Brill trolleys to the Transit Museum Society of British Columbia (TRAMS). TransLink initially kept the 15 Brills that were spread around various sites in the Lower Mainland waiting for a buyer. There was a rumour that Mexico City was interested in buying some of the retired Brills, but the sale did not go through. This left the over 200 Brills left to sit and rot in various lots until buyers could be found. Storage locations included Mitchell Island and A1 United Authowrecking.
Because of the need and priority to renew the existing trolleybus fleet, there were not enough resources to go towards restoring the Brill trolleybuses and establishing a heritage route.
TransLink offered TRAMS to buy the buses for $1 each if TRAMS could find the space before the week of February 11, or else they would go to scrap. TRAMS decided to take the buses but did not have the space to store them away from the elements. They were ultimately sold to other owners/collectors.
Trolleybus network adjustments
Due to increasing demand along the 41st Avenue corridor for service to UBC, the 41 gradually saw fewer trolleybuses and more diesel buses. This was because the wires on 41st Avenue only went as far as Crown Street. By the mid-1990s, trolleybuses were reduced to run during the AM peak doing short-turn trips at Crown while diesel buses made up most 41 trips and travelled the full route to UBC. In September 2000, trolleybus service on the 41 was discontinued, making it one of two routes to see trolleybuses withdrawn during this decade, the other being the 15 Cambie/Downtown several years later. However, trolleybuses undergoing driver training made occasional appearances on the 41 doing unscheduled trips throughout the 2000s and into the 2010s.
Another change saw the realignment of several routes through the downtown core. The realignments were made to address changes in ridership along the Granville corridor following the full launch of the 98 B-Line in August 2001. The change was made in September 2003 to four trolleybus routes.
|Before September 2003||After September 2003||Notes|
|8 Fraser/Granville||8 Fraser/Downtown||
|10 Hastings/UBC||10 Hastings/Granville||
|15 Cambie/Downtown → 17 Oak/Downtown||15 Cambie/Downtown → 8 Fraser/Downtown||
|17 Oak/Downtown||17 Oak/UBC||
From September 2005–December 2008, the 3 Main/Downtown was shortened to terminate in Chinatown instead of downtown to improve service reliability. The purpose of the change was to also remove the low ridership portion of the 3 along Hastings Street. This proposal was first made in July 2005 as part of a study on Vancouver and UBC bus service changes and post-Canada Line bus adjustments in Vancouver.
Canada Line service changes
Due to Canada Line construction, trolleybus service ended for the 15 Cambie/Downtown route. Wires were removed along Cambie Street, one of the first corridors to have trolleybus service. Trolleybus service would not return to the 15 after the completion of the Canada Line in 2009. This decision was made following a recommendation from TransLink staff that because ridership along Cambie Street on the 15 was expected to be low and frequency would be reduced from every 5–6 minutes to every 15 minutes that the costs of reinstalling wires would not be justified. Instead, diesel buses would permanently run on the 15 and not reinstalling trolley wires would save $2.5 million to $3.5 million.
Wires on significant portions of Granville Street – specifically Granville Mall – were also removed in April 2006. Trolleybuses ran on Seymour and Howe streets until after the 2010 Olympics when wires were restored along Granville Street. The following routes were impacted:
- 4 Powell/UBC
- 5 Robson/Downtown
- 6 Davie/Downtown
- 7 Nanaimo Station/Dunbar
- 8 Fraser/Downtown
- 10 Granville/Hastings
- 15 Cambie/Downtown
- 16 29th Avenue Station/Arbutus
- 17 Oak/UBC
- 20 Victoria/Downtown
On September 7, 2009, three north-south trolleybus routes were extended from their previous southern terminus to Marine Drive Station, marking the only extension of the trolleybus network in this decade. These changes were first proposed in 2005 as part of a study on post-Canada Line bus adjustments in Vancouver. The changes were as followed:
|Route||Southern terminus before Sept. 7, 2009||Southern terminus after Sept. 7, 2009||Notes|
|3 Main/Downtown||SE Marine Drive & Main Street||Marine Drive Station||
|10 Granville/Hastings||Marpole Loop|
2007 trolley crisis
In January 2007, 39 of the new trolleybuses were taken off the road due to power steering problems. The problem was caused when buses passed dead spots in the wires, which would result in a sudden loss of power steering. Initially, TransLink predicted that the problems would be fixed in one or two days but the problem was still persistent at the end of February. The problem was identified as a problem in the power steering fluid pump and that it was a warranty issue that New Flyer would fix. However, more and more of the new trolleybuses began to pile up at Oakridge Transit Centre as they arrived from Winnipeg and TransLink was not accepting any more deliveries until the issue was fixed. The problem with the power steering fluid pump was not a problem on 2101, the pilot bus. and TransLink believed 2101 may have had a bigger power steering pump.
Another issue with the new trolleybuses was the headlights, which would be blocked when the bike rack was in use. This meant that bikes were not allowed after dark for a brief period. This issue was not limited to the trolleybuses but all of the New Flyer Low-Floor Restyled buses ordered by TransLink in 2006. Minor adjustments and modifications were made, in addition to using a different model bike rack. The new trolleybuses got mixed reviews from drivers. Some liked that they had fast acceleration but fewer standing room for passengers compared to the old Flyer trolleys. There was also the problem of glare at night as the interior lights could not be dimmed.
To address the shortage of trolleybuses, various spare diesel buses from other yards in the Lower Mainland were temporarily transferred to Vancouver to fill the gap. Some retired diesel buses were also brought back into revenue service across the region. Two Orion V buses from Central Fraser Valley Transit System and two Orion I buses from Chilliwack Transit System were also loaned to Vancouver from February–March 2007.
Sale of E901A/E902 trolleys to Argentina
With the arrival of a total of 228 new low-floor trolleybuses, the remaining Flyer E901A/E902 trolleybuses were fully withdrawn from service. Most units were sold for scrap, but 80 were handpicked for a second life running in Mendoza, Argentina for Empresa Provincial de Transporte de Mendoza. They were sold in September 2008 for $2,300 each plus shipping fees and were shipped from the Fraser Surrey Docks, transported by flat-deck trucks or towed from OTC.
However, the E901A/E902 trolleys had some challenges in Argentina due to their age. Maintenance was also a problem in Argentina as a crate of spare parts and maintenance manuals went missing during the transportation from Canada to Argentina.
The trolleybuses left Vancouver at the end of October 2008 for Valparaiso, Chile, where they were driven on flatbed trucks through the Andes. The first group of trolleybuses arrived in Argentina in December 2008. The retired trolleybuses made their debut in Argentina on April 30, 2009.
While there was the return of trolleybuses along Granville Mall in September 2010 following the completion of the Canada Line and the reopening of Granville Mall after the 2010 Olympics, the 2010s saw few changes to the trolleybus network when compared to the previous decade. A significant change, however, was the return of the 14 route number.
After almost 14 years since it was last used, the 14 Hastings trolleybus returned as part of a trolleybus network adjustment. The change in April 2011 was done to break up the 10 and 17 routes. The 14 combined the Hastings portion of the 10 and the UBC–downtown portion of the 17.
|Route before April 18, 2011||Route after April 18, 2011|
|10 Granville/Hastings||10 Granville/Downtown||14 Hastings/UBC|
|17 Oak/UBC||17 Oak/Downtown|
Bus 2242 was also loaned out again during this decade. In December 2010, it was sent to Seattle for demonstration with King County Metro as they were deciding on replacing its fleet of trolleybuses.
2016 saw a minor expansion of the trolleybus network when the 5 Robson/Downtown and 6 Davie/Downtown routes were modified to have their northern terminus moved from Waterfront Station to Cambie Street & Dunsmuir Street, which required new wires along the northbound portion of Cambie Street. The 6 was also extended into Yaletown, which required the installation of wires along portions of Davie Street, Pacific Boulevard and Cambie Street. However, 2016 also saw the discontinuation of the only trolleybus NightBus route in the system. The N6 West End/Downtown NightBus – introduced in July 2003 as part of the initial launch of the NightBus network following the discontinuation of Owl services due to a funding shortfall in October 2001 – was discontinued in June 2016 due to low ridership.
It was also during this decade that TransLink trialled battery-electric buses. From May–August 2017, a BYD Auto K9 was deployed on various routes in Vancouver and since September 2019, two Nova Bus LFSe and two New Flyer Industries XE40 buses on the 100 Marpole/22nd Street Station route. An order was also placed for 15 Nova Bus LFSe+ buses in 2021. Despite the increasing reliability of technology for battery-electric buses, TransLink has indicated that it has no interest in phasing out the trolleybus network in favour of battery-electric buses.
One of the reasons is that the cost of dismantling all the wires and infrastructure would be very high. There would be no point to phase out buses that were both zero-emissions and reliable, whereas the focus should be on phasing out internal combustion engine-based buses, said then-TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond.
TransLink's plans are to procure another generation of trolleybuses, with 188 40-foot buses in 2027 and 74 60-foot buses in 2028.
A small expansion to the trolleybus network was made in early 2020. Due to the construction of the Broadway Subway, several trolleybus routes along Broadway would have to be rerouted. This included the 14 Hastings/UBC, 16 29th Avenue Station/Arbutus and 17 Oak/Downtown routes. This resulted in new trolleybus wires installed on W. 12th Avenue between Arbutus and Cambie streets and on portions of Cambie and Macdonald streets. However, the 9 Alma/Boundary route was revised to run with diesel buses due to the removal of wires along significant portions of Broadway. But with the surplus of trolleybuses, the 41 Joyce Station/Crown saw the reintroduction of regularly scheduled trolleybus since 2000.
Trolley Fleet Optimization
In 2015, TransLink began to address the excess spare ratio for trolleybuses in the fleet, which was at approximately 20% compared to 15% for other vehicles across the fleet. There were considerations of placing excess trolleybuses into long-term storage or optimizing/adjusting the network as much as possible to maximize the use of the available fleet within operational constraints such as costs.
In October, TransLink considered adjusting the 5 Robson/Downtown and 6 Davie/Downtown routes and then convert all trips on the 10 Granville/Downtown to run with 60-foot articulated trolleybuses. Other adjustments included potentially reintroducing regular trolleybus service on the 41 route.
Other considerations proposed to optimize the trolleybus fleet included:
- Extending the overhead along Renfrew Street and reroute the 4
- Rerouting the 7 onto Hastings Street
- Interlining the 16 with the 4 at Eton & Renfrew
- Frequency increases on the 14, 16 and 19
- Extending the overhead from Crown to UBC for the 41
- Introduce trolleybus service on the 22 between Burrard Station and Dunbar Loop
- Introduce trolleybus service on the 27
Ultimately, the changes for the 5 and 6 went through, with their routings realigned and taken off Granville Street and revised to terminate at Dunsmuir Street & Cambie Street instead of Waterfront Station, with the 6 extending to service Yaletown–Roundhouse Station. Other proposed changes such as adjustments to the 4, 7 and 16 did not go through after public consultation. The introduction of trolleybuses on the 22 and 27 did not make it past the proposal stage.
Trolleybuses were ultimately reintroduced on the 41 route in June 2020 to address a fleet surplus due to the introduction of diesel buses on the 9 to address the removal of trolley overhead along significant portions of Broadway for the Broadway Subway construction. However, the trolley overhead along 41st Avenue did not extend past Crown Street to UBC as the 41 was revised to terminate at Crown permanently in January 2020.
Replacement of the E40LFR trolleys
On October 4, 2022, TransLink requested Federal Gas Tax funding from the Greater Vancouver Regional Fund for the replacement of the E40LFR trolleys at a cost of $414.6 million. All 188 E40LFR units would be replaced on a one-for-one basis between 2025 and 2028 with trolleys capable of in-motion charging.
The next generation of trolleybuses would be able to travel at a maximum of 35 kilometres off-wire, allowing them to operate away from the overhead network. This would allow trolleybuses to efficiently operate around disruptions and reroutes without the need of maintaining a reserve diesel fleet. The new in-motion charging trolleybuses would also be capable of being automatically dewired and re-wired without the need for pole-pullers.
The funding was approved by the Metro Vancouver board on October 13, 2022. At the time of the funding request, TransLink was already exploring options to expand the trolleybus network without the need of expanding the overhead network through the use of the 35-kilometre off-wire range of the in-motion charging trolleys. The timeline for the procurement of the new in-motion charging trolleys envisions 2024 as the start of manufacturing, with all buses complete and in service by 2028. They are envisioned to not be due for replacement until 2047.
All trolleybus routes run within the municipal boundaries of Vancouver, with one route – the 19 Metrotown Station/Stanley Park – extending east into Burnaby. In total, there are currently 13 routes.
- 3 Main/Downtown
- 4 Powell/UBC
- 5 Robson/Downtown
- 6 Davie/Downtown
- 7 Nanaimo Station/Dunbar
- 8 Fraser/Downtown
- 10 Granville/Downtown
- 14 Hastings/UBC
- 16 29th Avenue Station/Arbutus
- 17 Oak/Downtown
- 19 Metrotown Station/Stanley Park
- 20 Victoria/Downtown
- 41 41st Avenue
There are four former trolleybus routes (excluding routes that were merged with others or renumbered).
- 9 Alma/Boundary (to be reinstated in 2025)
- 13 Cambie/Downtown
- 15 Cambie/Downtown
- N6 West End/Downtown NightBus
The trolleybus network is serviced by a fleet of 262 low-floor buses, of which 188 are 40-foot buses and 74 are 60-foot articulated buses. The entire fleet is maintained and based out of Vancouver Transit Centre. Before Vancouver Transit Centre opened, the trolleybus fleet was based out of Oakridge Transit Centre.
19 ML 3550 K/4
19 ML 3550 K/4
19 ML 3550 K/4
|Fleet Number||Thumbnail||Year||Manufacturer||Model Number||Motor||Notes|
There are several preserved trolleybuses from various eras of Vancouver's trolleybus system. Some are operational and some are not. A small handful of Brill trolleys mentioned below are on static display in Sandon, British Columbia.
These are the trolleybuses that are part of the Transit Museum Society of British Columbia's collection.
All are operational except 2805, which was rendered inoperable after metal thieves stripped it of its electrical components in 2010. The Transit Museum Society also had another Flyer E901A/E902 bus for parts, but it too was also stripped of its components. It was scrapped while 2805 is now used as an office by the museum. Attempts were made to fix 2805 through contacting New Flyer, but the parts needed to repair the bus had been out of production for many years. There was also an attempt to purchase and reimport a working unit from Argentina – which acquired 80 former Vancouver units. But the number of active units running in Argentina had been reduced to a small number as many were already retired and had their parts used to keep what was left of the remaining fleet operational.
|2040||1947||CCF Brill||T-44||GE 1213PA1||N/A||Rollsign|
|2416||1954||CCF Brill||T-48A||GE 1213PA1||N/A||Rollsign|
|2649||1976||Flyer||E800||Detroit Diesel 6V71N||Spicer 183||Rollsign|
These are the former Vancouver Brills on static display in Sandon, BC:
The following have been purchased by museums outside of British Columbia for restoration/preservation. Many of these were acquired during the period from when the Brills were withdrawn from service in the mid-1980s and placed in storage until they scrapped in the early 2000s.
- Conn, H. (1998) Vancouver’s Trolley Buses (1948–1998): Celebrating a half-century of service.
- The Buzzer April 20, 1955 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 28-12-2021
- B.C. Electric Guide to Greater Vancouver (1949), City of Vancouver Archives, retrieved 28-12-2021
- The Buzzer September 19, 1952 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 28-12-2021
- B.C. Electric Guide to Greater Vancouver (1953) City of Vancouver Archives, retrieved 28-12-2021
- The Buzzer November 14, 1980 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 28-12-2021
- Extension of Kingsway Trolley Services to Metrotown City of Burnaby Archives, retrieved 28-12-2021
- Metrotown Trolley Extension City of Burnaby Archives, retrieved 28-12-2021
- The Buzzer February 18, 1983 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 31-12-2021
- The Buzzer February 28, 1986 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 28-12-2021
- The Buzzer August 26, 1988 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 28-12-2021
- The Buzzer December 3, 1993 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 28-12-2021
- The Buzzer April 4, 1997 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 28-12-2021
- The Buzzer August 8, 1997 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 28-12-2021
- The Vancouver Sun (1999. October 28). More trolley buses recommended, The Vancouver Sun, B3.
- Munro, H. (2000, June 16). Replace old trolley buses, officials say, The Vancouver Sun, A7
- Simpson, S. (2000, June 23). TransLink head defends favouring trolley buses, The Vancouver Sun, B1
- Nuttall-Smith, C. (2000, July 11). Trolley bus wires proposed in Stanley Park Rose Garden. The Vancouver Sun, A1.
- The Vancouver Sun (2000, October 28). Public Notices 1324-1351, The Vancouver Sun, H23.
- The Vancouver Sun (2004, January 22). TransLink signs $119-million contract for replacement of electric trolley buses. The Vancouver Sun. B2.
- The Buzzer april 27, 2007 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 31-12-2021
- Griffin, K. (2002, February 5). Old trolleys to be sold, killing historic route idea. The Vancouver Sun, B8.
- Farewell to Brills in Vancouver, BC, barp.ca, retrieved 28-12-2021
- The Buzzer September 5, 2003 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 29-12-2021
- Vancouver/UBC Transit Plan translink.ca, retrieved 29-12-2021
- The Vancouver Sun (2006, November 15). Diesel buses to do Cambie runs. The Vancouver Sun, B2.
- Luba, F. (2006, November 17). TransLink may up ante on debt for upgrades. The Vancouver Sun, A17.
- The Buzzer April 24, 2006 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 29-12-2021
- The Buzzer September 4, 2009 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 29-12-2021
- Boei, W. (2007, February 20). Buses to be fixed after 3 weeks off road. The Vancouver Sun, B1.
- Boei, W. (2007, February 27). 50 defective trolleys may not be in service for four weeks. The Vancouver Sun, A3.
- Boei, W. (2007, February 20). Headlights adjusted for bike racks. The Vancouver Sun, B7.
- Sinoski, K. (2008, September 11). Vancouver’s aging trolley buses find a new home in Argentina. Times Colonist, A6.
- Retired Trolleys Set Sail For Argentina The Buzzer Blog, retrieved 28-12-2021
- Retired Trolleys Make Their Way To Mendoza The Buzzer Blog, retrieved 28-12-2021
- Our Retired Trolleys Make Their Official Debut In Mendoza, Argentina The Buzzer Blog, retrieved 28-12-2021
- The Buzzer April 1, 2011 Issue translink.ca, retrieved 29-12-2021
- Chan, K. (2019, December 23). https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/translink-trolley-buses-electric-battery Trolley bus fleet won’t be replaced by electric-battery buses, says TransLink CEO. ‘’Daily Hive’’, retrieved 28-12-2021
- Finance Committee Meeting - October 13, 2022 Metro Vancouver, retrieved 10-10-2022
- Buddies of the Brill thunderbay.ca, retrieved 29-12-2021
- Buddies of the Brill, retrieved 29-12-2021
- Andra-Warner, E. (2021, December 1). Historic Brill trolley buses find their way home, Northern Wilds, retrieved 29-12-2021