Should Metro taxpayers pay for Vancouver streetcars?

The proposed downtown Vancouver streetcar network

A streetcar plan recently revived by City of Vancouver mayoralty candidate Suzanne Anton is definitely kool.  Anton’s September 21, 2011 announcement is based on a 2005 consultant’s report putting the capital cost of a Granville-Island-to-Waterfront streetcar line at $100 million (in 2005 dollars.)  Annual operating costs are estimated at $3.6 million, with a ridership on the order of 5 million people per year by 2021.

Anton’s funding strategy, vaguely outlined, would see the City joined with private partners to fund the line.  Vision Vancouver Geoff Meggs responded that the streetcar system is not a priority; but if it is to be funded, it should be paid for by taxpayers across Metro Vancouver through TransLink.

A rendering of the future streetcar in Gastown.

A weekend streetcar service ran on part of this line until 2009, staffed by volunteers and making use of antique cars.  I lived a hundred metres from the track and enjoyed riding to Granville Island on Saturday afternoon.  The new service would be more modern and attractive, but to a large extent it would fulfill the same touristic and local lifestyle function as the old line.  I would love to see a modern streetcar in operation, but it is not an essential component for the regional transportation system.

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