Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

PHOTOS/VIDEO: Celebrating 70 years of trolleybuses in Vancouver

Plus how to get a FREE ride on a this vintage 1954 Brill trolleybus

On Monday, Aug. 16, 1948, Vancouver’s first trolleybus went into service. Today, there are still 262 trolleybuses on 13 routes operating in Vancouver.

Vancouver is the only remaining Canadian city to operate buses powered by overhead wires. We have the third-largest operation of its kind in North America.

These “trolleybuses” are a huge part of Vancouver’s history — they were implemented starting in the late 1940s to replace the region’s vast network of streetcars as part of a “rails to rubber” system conversion.

Using overhead trolley “wires,” the buses are powered by electricity (remember, B.C. Hydro, previously known as B.C. Electric, used to run the transit system and the hydro-electric powered streetcars and interurbans that covered Metro Vancouver).

Trolleys use around $15,000 of electricity per bus per year, while, comparatively, diesel buses use about $40,000 in diesel fuel per bus per year, according to TransLink.

While your commute might involve a modern trolleybus, the Transit Museum Society has in its fleet some vintage buses, including #2416, a Canadian Car/Brill T48A built in 1954. This particular bus was one of the last built by the company, and it ran on the streets and via the trolley wires of Vancouver until 1984.

The Transit Museum Society is giving “fan” tours on the Brill this month and next, with the ticket cost supporting its valuable efforts. They are four-hour tours crossing the city, starting at the Marpole loop.

However, TransLink is marking the 70th anniversary by offering some free trips on this beautiful vintage Brill, which will take place on Saturday, Aug. 18 and Friday, Aug. 24 between noon and 4 p.m.

The bus will run on a downtown circuit, picking up passengers every half hour at the following stops:

  • Southbound from Victory Square — Cambie Street at Hastings Street (stop #50410)
  • Burrard Station — Burrard Street at Melville Street (#50043)
  • Burrard Street at Robson Street (#50045)
  • Davie Street at Howe Street (#50011)
  • Seymour Street at Pender Street (#61519)
  • Waterfront Station — Cordova Street at Richards Street

TransLink offered a preview ride to media and other transit officials, historians and enthusiasts, with the Brill taking the original Fraser route from Waterfront Station. It’s a beautifully smooth ride, and nothing beats seeing the astonished and smiling faces of people in cars and on foot who catch sight of the 1954 bus passing by.

Here’s the bus turning around in South Vancouver on Poplar (off Marine Drive) and 65th to make its return drive north on Fraser.

A few other trolleybus facts, courtesy TransLink:

  • Vancouver’s fleet of 262 are made by New Flyer, and 74 of these are articulated.
  • 65 per cent of all trips in Vancouver in 2017 were on a trolley bus.
  • 17 per cent of all trips in Metro Vancouver in 2017 were on a trolley.
  • Trolley buses run on the following routes: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20.

Click here for original story.