Trolley buses in Vancouver

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Vancouver trolley bus system
LocaleVancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Open16 August 1948; 75 years ago (1948-08-16)
Routes13 (list of routes)
Electrification600 V DC parallel overhead lines
Depot(s)Vancouver Transit Centre
Route length315 km (195.7 mi)[1]
Daily ridershipMore than 100,000[2]
WebsiteOfficial website

The Vancouver trolley bus system forms part of the TransLink public transport network serving Metro Vancouver in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Opened in 1948, the system was originally owned and operated by the British Columbia Electric Railway. By 1954, Vancouver had the largest trolley bus fleet in Canada, with 327 units,[3] and the fleet grew to an all-time peak of 352 in early 1957.[4]: 20  There were 19 routes by 1955 and a peak of 20 by the second quarter of 1957. The last route to open in the 1950s was the only express trolley bus service that ever existed in Canada.[4]: 22 [5]: 202  Several, mostly short, extensions to the system were constructed in the 1980s and later.

The trolley bus system presently comprises 13 routes and is managed by the Coast Mountain Bus Company, a subsidiary of TransLink. It uses a fleet of 262 trolley buses, of which 74 are articulated vehicles. It has the second-largest trolley bus fleet in Canada and the U.S.[2]


Preserved 1947 CCFBrill T44 No. 2040

Following a formal opening ceremony on 13 August 1948,[6] regular service on Vancouver's first trolley bus routes began on 16 August 1948,[7][8] operated by the British Columbia Electric Railway (BCER).[6] Two routes opened on that day, 6 Fraser and 15 Cambie, and routes 5 Robson and 8 Davie followed later the same year.[9] All of these first routes had been conversions of streetcar lines except for the Cambie route. Conversion of several more streetcar and motor bus routes quickly followed, and by 1953, the trolley bus system had 16 routes.[9] Three more trolley bus lines were created in 1955, when the last streetcar line, Hastings, closed and was replaced by the 14 Hastings trolley bus route and two branches, routes 16 Renfrew and 24 Nanaimo.[9] In May 1957, BCER introduced an express trolley bus route, 34 Hastings Express (which had first been created as a diesel bus route, one year earlier), which was the only express trolley bus service in Canada.[4][5]: 194  For that service, a 5.2-kilometre-long (3.2 mi) section of East Hastings Street, between Main Street and Kootenay Loop, was equipped with two additional sets of overhead wires for use by express trips only, and trolley buses ran non-stop in both directions along that section.[5]: 194, 196  The addition of route 34 brought the network to what was, for several years, its maximum extent, with the following 21 routes (all of which were designated by route names, rather than destinations, and numbers):[9]

Two 1951 CCF–Brill T48 trolley buses at Marpole Loop in 1981

The service was provided by CCFBrill trolley buses, with 82 model T44 vehicles acquired in 1947 and 1948, and 245 of the larger model T48 (and variants T48A and T48SP) acquired between 1949 and 1954.[9] With the delivery of the last new Brill trolley bus, in January 1954, Vancouver had the largest trolley bus fleet in Canada at 327 units.[3] The fleet later included 25 1947-built Pullman-Standard trolley buses acquired secondhand from Birmingham, Alabama, which entered service in March 1957.[10] However, drivers considered the Pullmans awkward to operate, and the vehicles were found to be surplus to the company's needs; they were taken out of service in 1960[10] and scrapped in 1961.[9] The BC government nationalized BCER in August 1961, replacing it with a new crown corporation named BC Hydro.[4]: 21 

1970s to 1990s[edit]

One of the 50 Flyer E800 vehicles, built between 1975 and 1976 but equipped with recycled propulsion equipment

In November 1974, trolley buses began operating along the new Granville Mall in downtown Vancouver, after a section of Granville Street was converted into a bus- and pedestrian-only street.[5]: 200  During the work to convert the street to a transit mall, all trolley bus routes had been detoured via Seymour, Howe, and Richards streets.[5]: 200 

In the mid-1970s, the remaining T44-model trolley buses were retired, and in their place 50 new trolley buses were acquired from Flyer Industries. Vancouver's Flyer model E800s were new vehicles except for the propulsion system, which used recycled General Electric equipment[11] from the earlier Brill T-44s. The Flyer E800s were delivered in late 1975 and 1976. Their use of recycled 1940s electrical equipment resulted in a shorter lifespan, and they were withdrawn in 1985,[12] but around 25 returned to service for Expo 86,[13] and the last few were in occasional service until January 1987.

In the early 1980s, the system acquired 245 new Flyer E901A/E902 trolley buses.[14] These began to enter service in mid-1982, gradually replacing the CCF–Brill vehicles. The last use of a Brill trolley bus in service occurred on 25 March 1984.[15] After withdrawal of the last E800s, in early 1987, Flyer E901A/E902 vehicles made up the whole of the Vancouver trolley bus fleet for almost 20 years. E902 No. 2937 was irreparably damaged by an electrical fire in 1987, reducing the total number of trolley buses to 244.[16]

One of the new Flyer E902 vehicles at Metrotown station in 1986, before the Metrotown Centre shopping mall was built above the transit centre

In April 1983, route 34 Hastings Express was converted to diesel buses, ending – for a time – the only express trolley bus service in Canada.[4]: 22, 39  The change was a result of route 34's through-routing partner – the route with which it was linked in downtown – being changed from the Arbutus route (then still numbered 18) to route 10 Tenth/UBC,[17] which had been converted to diesel buses in 1968[4]: 29  upon being extended to the University of British Columbia (UBC) because there were no overhead wires to UBC at that time. Use of the "express wires" thereby ended, except by trolley buses heading to the garage from Kootenay Loop.[17] In September 1988, when the opening of an extension of the overhead wires to UBC enabled route 10 Tenth to be reconverted to trolley buses, the Hastings Express service – renumbered from 34 to 10 in 1986 – also became trolley bus-operated again, after a 5.5-year absence.[4]: 43 [18][19] Express trolley bus service ended for a second time on 12 April 1997, with that half of route 10 replaced by new express bus routes running beyond Kootenay Loop, the end of the wires. Although no longer scheduled for use, the express wires were kept in place and would see occasional use by very late-running trolleys on route 14 Hastings attempting to regain lost time.[20][4]: 53 [21] (On the now-closed Edmonton trolley bus system, two sets of express wires were installed in 1983 on a 2-kilometre (1.2 mi) section of 102 Avenue and Stony Plain Road,[5]: 164  for a planned conversion of bus route 10 to trolley buses, but that conversion never took place and the express wires were never brought into scheduled use; Vancouver's express trolley bus service remained unique in Canada.)[22][23]: 82 

Several extensions to the system were constructed and opened in 1986, in connection with the opening of the SkyTrain rapid transit system. Most were short diversions of routes at their outer ends, to terminate at new SkyTrain stations, including Nanaimo station, 29th Avenue station[13] and Joyce station,[13] but the extension of route 19 Kingsway to Metrotown was 5 kilometres (3.0 mi) long and was the first extension of Vancouver's trolley bus system outside the city of Vancouver, into Burnaby.[24] An extension from Blanca Street to UBC opened in September 1988,[24] bringing trolley bus service back to routes 10 and the Hastings Express.[18]

2000 to present[edit]

In September 2003, trolley bus route 19 Kingsway was extended to a new terminus within Stanley Park, using 0.80 kilometres (0.5 mi) of new wires.[25][26] Earlier, starting in 1950,[9] route 11 Stanley Park was a trolley bus route, but the terminus known by that name was located outside the park, in an off-street turning loop off of Georgia Street at Chilco Street, overlooking Lost Lagoon.[25] Route 11 became through-routed with route 19 Kingsway in 1986 and was renumbered 19.[27] In December 1993, route 19 was cut back to Burrard Street in downtown on weekdays (with a diesel shuttle covering the section to Stanley Park loop) and converted to diesel buses on weekends, after the unsignalized left turn into the terminal loop was deemed to be too hazardous in weekday traffic conditions.[28][29] The old loop continued to be used by diesel buses on weekends, and its trolley wires also remained in place for some years and were occasionally used by trolley buses during special events, such as a 1998 excursion marking the system's 50th anniversary,[11] but in 2002, the loop was closed even for motor buses and removed.[30] The 2003 extension brought trolley buses back to the section of Georgia Street to, and now past, the location of the former loop and into Stanley Park,[26] to a bus loop constructed around 2002.

From 2005 to 2009, the fleet was renewed again. New Flyer Industries in Winnipeg won the contract for the supply of the new vehicles, with electrical equipment by the German company Vossloh Kiepe.[8] Aside from a prototype received in 2005, delivery of the new trolley buses began in August 2006,[31] and they began to enter service on 5 October 2006.[32] The last day of service for the Flyer E901A/E902 vehicles was 18 April 2008.[33] In December 2008, 80 of the old Flyers were sold to the Mendoza trolley bus system in Argentina.[34] Vancouver now had a fleet of 262 low-floor trolley buses, supplied under the New Flyer contract between 2005 and the end of 2009.[8]

With the opening of the SkyTrain's Canada Line, routes 3 Main, 10 Granville, and 17 Oak were extended to Marine Drive station on 7 September 2009, using new overhead wires installed along a 2.2-kilometre (1.4 mi) section of Marine Drive between Oak Street and Main Street.[35] Prior to this change, routes 10 and 17 had terminated at Marpole Loop and route 3 at Main and Marine.[36] (The three routes were later temporarily cut back to their former terminals during construction of a large housing and commercial complex at Marine Drive station, from February 2013 for route 10, from April 2014 for the others, until April 2015.)[37][38][39]

In June 2020, route 41 was reconverted to trolley bus operation.[40] The route had been changed to being primarily a diesel bus route in the mid-1970s, when it was extended – without overhead trolley wires – from 41st Avenue and Crown Street to UBC. A few rush hour trips had continued to use trolley buses until September 2000, after which its overhead wires remained in place but were not used for any service.[40] The 2020 return to trolley bus operation involved cutting the route back to terminate at Crown Street, with service between there and UBC Exchange being provided by the R4 41st Ave express bus route.[40]


Flyer E902 trolley bus on the Granville Mall in 1985


As of 2024, the 13 routes that make up the Vancouver trolley bus system are:

Temporarily suspended[edit]

Former routes[edit]

(Not including routes simply renumbered)

  • 13 Cambie – Downtown (a.k.a. Expo 86 shuttle – temporary route supplementing route 15 during the Expo 86 world's fair; introduced on 2 May 1986, running from downtown along Cambie Street to 49th Avenue originally,[13] but shortened to 29th Avenue in mid-June;[43] discontinued on 13 October 1986)[44]
  • 15 Cambie – Downtown (trolley service discontinued September 2005 for Canada Line construction)
  • 34 Hastings Express (10 Hastings Express for its last nine years as a trolley route; discontinued April 1997)[20][4]: 23, 53 


As of 2024, Vancouver's fleet of trolley buses, all built by New Flyer, is made up of the following types:

Fleet nos. Quantity Year Model Length Type Image Notes
2005 E40LF 12 metres (40 ft) Low-floor trolley bus, prototype First New Flyer bus with "LFR" styling
2006–2007 E40LFR 12 metres (40 ft) Low-floor trolley bus
2006–2009 E60LFR 18 metres (60 ft) Low-floor articulated trolley bus

The original order for these trolley buses, placed in late 2003, was for 188 conventional and 40 articulated buses.[45] The first, a model E40LF, was delivered in July 2005,[46] and the rest of the 12-metre (40 ft) vehicles, later designated E40LFR, were delivered between August 2006[31] and September 2007.[47]

The first articulated arrived in Vancouver in January 2007.[48] TransLink decided to order an additional 34 articulated units, making the total 74, and delivery of the 73 production-series E60LFR units took place between October 2007 and autumn 2009.

2020s fleet replacement[edit]

A Solaris Trollino 12 in Ploești, Romania, similar to the one tested by TransLink in Aug 2023

In January 2022, TransLink published a report in which it was concluded that the existing fleet of New Flyer trolleys were nearing the end of their lifespan and announced its intentions to replace its existing fleet by 2027. Instead of replacing the trolleys with battery-electric buses, TransLink will purchase newer trolley buses to continue to make use of the catenary infrastructure.[49] In August 2023, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the Vancouver trolley bus system, TransLink began testing a trolley bus by Polish manufacturer Solaris, called the Trollino 12. One feature of the Trollino 12 is its ability to use its battery and go off-wire – when catenary wires are damanged, during road detours, etc. – for up to 20 kilometres (12 mi). The Vancouver Trollino 12 test was the first time a Solaris vehicle operated in North America and represents part of the company's plans to expand into the continent's market.[50][51]


Three of Vancouver's trolley buses and one former trolley bus that was converted to diesel running have been preserved by the Transit Museum Society.[7] The operational ones see occasional use for special events and on enthusiast fan trips. Several Brill trolley buses are stored in the ghost town of Sandon awaiting restoration.[52] The Sandon buses were acquired from the former fleets of Vancouver, Calgary, Saskatoon, and Regina.[53]

Year Builder Model Preserved Image Notes
1947 CCF–Brill T44 2040 Restored to operating condition and made its first public excursion as a historic vehicle in August 1996,[54] after having been cosmetically restored (including to BC Electric livery) in 1983.
1954 CCF–Brill T48A 2416 Restored as a historic vehicle, repainted into BC Hydro livery, and made its first trip (without passengers) on 13 August 1988, in honour of the system's 40th anniversary – the first trip by a Brill trolley bus in Vancouver since the retirement of the last Brills in March 1984.[55] It later began operating occasional public excursions.
1976 Flyer E800 2649 Preserved 2649 was converted into a diesel bus in 1987 but retained its trolley poles for winter wire-de-icing duty.[56] It was renumbered 3151 at that time,[56] and the trolley poles were only carried from November to March each year.[57] It was renumbered again, as V1109,[11] after being retired from service as a diesel bus in the 1990s. It was one of 49 E800s converted into diesel buses in 1987–1990, the first being no. 2650 (as bus 5199), but one of only two to retain their trolley poles for de-icing (3152, previously 2645, being the other).[56][57][11]
1983 Flyer E902 2805 Not operable; stripped of most of its electrical components by thieves in 2010[58]


The main yard of Vancouver Transit Centre, the system's garage, in 2007


Originally, and for 58 years, the trolley bus fleet was maintained and based at Oakridge Transit Centre,[a] located on West 41st Avenue just east of Oak Street.[32] It opened in August 1948, shortly before the inauguration of the first trolley bus service.[5]: 193  In 2003, TransLink announced plans to build a new garage in the Marpole neighbourhood, about 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) south of the Oakridge garage it was to replace.[59] The new site was larger, 7.1 hectares (17.5 acres) compared to 5.7 hectares (14 acres).[59] The Oakridge garage closed as an active garage at the end of the 3 September 2006 service day, and its replacement opened the next day.[31][32] TransLink continued to allow storage of preserved vehicles of the Transit Museum Society (TraMS) at the Oakridge site, and its workshops also remained in operation for some time for use by technicians from New Flyer and Kiepe Electric who were inspecting and preparing for service the new trolley buses that were still being delivered at that time.[32][21] Work to dismantle most of the overhead wires at the former garage began in February 2011, prior to the planned sale of the property for redevelopment,[21] and the last two TraMS vehicles left in October 2012.[60] The overhead wire maintenance department remained based at the site until 2016, and the property was put up for sale later that year.[61]


Since 2006, the entire active trolley bus fleet has been based at the Vancouver Transit Centre, a large trolley and motor bus garage in the city's Marpole neighbourhood. Construction began in the first quarter of 2004,[62] and it opened for regular operations on 4 September 2006, with space for 417 vehicles.[32] The garage's capacity for trolley buses was expanded in 2009 to accommodate an increase in the size of the trolley bus fleet to 262 vehicles from 228 in mid-2008.[33] Starting in the fourth quarter of 2009, it had capacity for around 240 diesel buses and 262 trolley buses and was one of the largest bus garages in North America.[63]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Transit centre is the term used locally to refer to bus garages,[59] differing from the common meaning of that term.


  1. ^ Coling, Adrienne (13 March 2015). "Trolley buses: a historical transit lesson". The Buzzer Blog. TransLink. Archived from the original on 6 June 2015. Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  2. ^ a b "TransLink celebrates 75 years of trolley bus service". TransLink. 15 August 2023. Retrieved 16 August 2023.
  3. ^ a b Kelly and Francis, p. 103.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Conn, Heather, ed. (1998). Vancouver's Trolley Buses, 1948–1998: Celebrating a Half-Century of Service. BC Transit.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Schwarzkopf, Tom (2018). Tires and Wires: The Story of Electric Trolley Coaches Serving Sixteen Canadian Cities. Railfare DC Books and Canadian Transit Heritage Foundation. ISBN 978-1927-59948-8.
  6. ^ a b Kelly and Francis, p. 102.
  7. ^ a b Murray, Alan (2000). World Trolleybus Encyclopaedia, pp. 78, 148. Yateley, Hampshire, UK: Trolleybooks. ISBN 0-904235-18-1.
  8. ^ a b c "Trolleybus city: Vancouver [Kanada]". TrolleyMotion. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Sebree, Mac; and Ward, Paul (1974). The Trolley Coach in North America, pp. 338–342. Los Angeles: Interurbans. LCCN 74-20367.
  10. ^ a b Kelly and Francis, p. 106.
  11. ^ a b c d McIntyre, Angus (January–February 1999). "Vancouver Celebrates 50 Years". Trolleybus Magazine No. 223, pp. 3–5. National Trolleybus Association (UK). ISSN 0266-7452.
  12. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 142 (July–August 1985), p. 89.
  13. ^ a b c d Trolleybus Magazine No. 148 (July–August 1986), p. 92. ISSN 0266-7452.
  14. ^ "Vancouver Brill Farewell". Trolleybus Magazine No. 134 (March–April 1984), p. 41.
  15. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 135 (May–June 1984), p. 69.
  16. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 191 (September–October 1993), p. 131.
  17. ^ a b Trolleybus Magazine No. 132 (November 1983), p. 143. National Trolleybus Association (UK). ISSN 0266-7452.
  18. ^ a b Trolleybus Magazine No. 159 (May–June 1988), p. 63.
  19. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 162 (November–December 1988), pp. 136–137.
  20. ^ a b Trolleybus Magazine No. 214 (July–August 1997), p. 100.
  21. ^ a b c Trolleybus Magazine No. 298 (July–August 2011), pp. 87–88.
  22. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 214 (July–August 1997), p. 98–99.
  23. ^ Bramley, Rod (July–August 2009). "Edmonton Council Votes to Close System". Trolleybus Magazine No. 286, pp. 74–82. National Trolleybus Association (UK). ISSN 0266-7452.
  24. ^ a b Kelly and Francis, p. 110–111.
  25. ^ a b Trolleybus Magazine No. 231 (May–June 2000), p. 63. National Trolleybus Association.
  26. ^ a b Trolleybus Magazine No. 253 (January–February 2004), p. 19. National Trolleybus Association.
  27. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 166 (July–August 1989), p. 95.
  28. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 194 (March–April 1994), p. 47.
  29. ^ Strachan, Alex (6 December 1993). "Stanley Park route: Switch to diesel buses leaves West End residents fuming". Vancouver Sun. p. B2.
  30. ^ "Route #23, #35, & #135 customers: Closure of Chilco Loop, June 17" (PDF). The Buzzer. TransLink. 14 June 2002. Retrieved 1 August 2023.
  31. ^ a b c Trolleybus Magazine No. 270 (November–December 2006), p. 135.
  32. ^ a b c d e Trolleybus Magazine No. 271 (January–February 2007), pp. 15–16. National Trolleybus Association (UK). ISSN 0266-7452.
  33. ^ a b Trolleybus Magazine No. 280 (July–August 2008), pp. 86–88.
  34. ^ Pabillano, Jhenifer (8 December 2008). "Retired trolleys make their way to Mendoza". TransLink. Retrieved 24 September 2017.
  35. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 289 (January–February 2010), pp. 12, 15.
  36. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 286 (July–August 2009), p. 89.
  37. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 309 (May–June 2013), p. 76.
  38. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 315 (May–June 2014), p. 72.
  39. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 322 (July–August 2015), p. 115.
  40. ^ a b c Trolleybus Magazine No. 353 (September–October 2020), pp. 186, 188. National Trolleybus Association (UK). ISSN 0266-7452.
  41. ^ Susan Lazaruk (10 June 2020). "TransLink taking trolley buses off busy Broadway for next five years". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  42. ^ Susan Lazaruk (10 June 2020). "TransLink taking trolley buses off busy Broadway for next five years". Vancouver Province. Archived from the original on 25 June 2020. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  43. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 149 (September–October 1986), p. 116.
  44. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 151 (January–February 1987), p. 18.
  45. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 254 (March–April 2004), p. 43. ISSN 0266-7452.
  46. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 263 (September–October 2005), p. 117.
  47. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 277 (January–February 2008), p. 15.
  48. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 273 (May–June 2007), p. 62.
  49. ^ Chan, Kenneth (26 January 2022). "TransLink to replace 188 trolley buses with new models in 2027". Daily Hive. Retrieved 13 January 2024.
  50. ^ Chan, Kenneth (17 August 2023). "TransLink to replace 188 trolley buses with new models in 2027". Daily Hive. Retrieved 13 January 2024.
  51. ^ "Tests of the Solaris Trollino trolleybus in Canada". Solaris. 15 September 2023. Retrieved 13 January 2024.
  52. ^ McElroy, Justin (23 June 2014). "Ghost town mysteries: the old trolley buses of Sandon, B.C." Global News. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  53. ^ "Brill Trolley Bus Collection". Sandon BC. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  54. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 210 (November–December 1996), p. 143.
  55. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 165 (May–June 1989), p. 71.
  56. ^ a b c Trolleybus Magazine No. 157 (January–February 1988), p. 12.
  57. ^ a b Trolleybus Magazine No. 180 (November–December 1991), p. 142.
  58. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 292 (July–August 2010), p. 88.
  59. ^ a b c Trolleybus Magazine No. 251 (September–October 2003), pp. 107–108. Excerpt: "TransLink is to build a new depot [garage] (uniquely known as a transit centre in Vancouver) at Marpole ..."
  60. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 307 (January–February 2013), p. 16.
  61. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 331 (January–February 2017), p. 28.
  62. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 257 (September–October 2004), pp. 111–112.
  63. ^ Trolleybus Magazine No. 290 (March–April 2010), p. 39.


  • Kelly, Brian; Francis, Daniel (1990). Transit in British Columbia: The First Hundred Years. Madeira Park (BC), Canada: Harbour Publishing. ISBN 1-55017-021-X.

External links[edit]