Toronto-to-Mon­treal hy­per­loop plan has the in­side (fast) track

Cor­ri­dor has been cho­sen as one of top 10 can­di­dates in the world for fu­tur­is­tic sys­tem

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - DAN HEAL­ING THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The Toronto-Mon­treal cor­ri­dor has taken the prize as one of the strong­est can­di­dates in the world for a hy­per­loop sys­tem, which could cut travel time between the cities to just 39 min­utes.

The bul­let-shaped craft would travel through a tube at speeds of about 1,000 kilo­me­tres per hour, four times faster than high-speed rail. That de­tail could be its most — or its least — en­tic­ing sell­ing point.

Trans­porta­tion ex­pert Martin Col­lier says there’s no way he’ll be the first to buy a ticket to ride it.

“I think I’ll be watch­ing — if I’m still alive when it hits the ground and is ready to go,” said the founder of Trans­port Fu­tures, which pro­motes ed­u­ca­tion about trans­porta­tion is­sues.

“I’ll prob­a­bly wait and see whether other peo­ple like it first. I’m not an early adopter,” he said Fri­day.

The Toronto-Mon­treal route was the only Cana­dian win­ner among 10 en­tries cho­sen from hun­dreds in an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion spon­sored by Los Angeles-based Hy­per­loop One, which has a work­ing hy­per­loop test sys­tem in the Ne­vada desert.

“The re­sults of the Hy­per­loop One Global Chal­lenge far ex­ceeded our ex­pec­ta­tions,” said Rob Lloyd, CEO of Hy­per­loop One, in a state­ment posted on its web­site on Thurs­day.

“These 10 teams each had their unique strengths in show­cas­ing how they will al­le­vi­ate se­ri­ous trans­porta­tion is­sues in their re­gions. . . . Stud­ies like this bring us closer to our goal of im­ple­ment­ing three full-scale sys­tems op­er­at­ing by 2021.”

Hy­per­loop would place pas­sen­gers and cargo in a cylin­dri­cal ve­hi­cle that ac­cel­er­ates via elec­tric propul­sion through a low-air-pres­sure tube, sus­pended above the track us­ing mag­netic lev­i­ta­tion. The ve­hi­cles are ex­pected to glide at air­line speeds for long dis­tances, the re­sult of ul­tra-low aero­dy­namic drag.

Hy­per­loop One, based in Los Angeles, is one of sev­eral star­tups around the world rac­ing to de­velop the com­mut­ing sys­tem. Tech ex­ec­u­tives like Tesla’s Elon Musk, who was the idea’s ear­li­est cham­pion, has a sep­a­rate Hy­per­loop com­pany, the Bor­ing Co., and has claimed that such a sys­tem could carry peo­ple from San Fran­cisco to Los Angeles in 30 min­utes.

Hy­per­loop One’s nine other win­ning en­tries in­cluded four paths in the United States, two in each of the United King­dom and In­dia, and one in Mex­ico. All are now be stud­ied to de­ter­mine com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity. The com­pany and the Colorado De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion said they had agreed to study the fea­si­bil­ity of a 580-km route that would con­nect Denver with Pue­blo to the south and Cheyenne, Wy­oming, to the north. Other routes in the U.S. in­clude ones across the Midwest and Texas.

Se­bastien Gen­dron, CEO of Toronto startup Tran­sPod, says his com­pany aims to have an op­er­at­ing hy­per­loop sys­tem in Canada as early as 2025 and he’s con­fi­dent the public will em­brace the tech­nol­ogy.

“We al­ready travel at that speed with an air­craft and the main dif­fer- ence with our sys­tem is we are on the ground,” he said. “And it’s safer to be on the ground than in the air.”

Tran­sPod is talk­ing with the fed­eral trans­porta­tion de­part­ment to en­sure safety reg­u­la­tions are in place for when the tech­nol­ogy is ready to be im­ple­mented, he said.

Gen­dron said he agrees with Hy­per­loop One that the Toronto-Mon­treal cor­ri­dor is suit­able for a sys­tem be­cause traf­fic is heavy and there is no ex­ist­ing high-speed ground travel.

But he said Tran­sPod is also in­ter­ested in the Cal­gary-Ed­mon­ton cor­ri­dor in Al­berta — he is bid­ding for pro­vin­cial and city sup­port for a four- to 10-kilo­me­tre-long test track on public land near Cal­gary to test his com­pany’s tech­nol­ogy.

If granted and suf­fi­cient funds are raised, he says, the track could be op­er­a­tional by 2020, the tech­nol­ogy could be fi­nal­ized by 2022 and the first com­mer­cial sys­tem could be in place between 2025 and 2030.

Gen­dron said a hy­per­loop ticket from Ed­mon­ton to Cal­gary would cost $60 to $80, one way. He es­ti­mates it would cost $25 mil­lion to $29 mil­lion to build a kilo­me­tre of Tran­sPod track, about half of the cost of a high-speed rail line.

The win­ning Hy­per­loop One con­test route as pro­posed by the Cana­dian arm of U.S. en­gi­neer­ing firm AECOM would in­clude a stop in Ot­tawa. The pro­posal sug­gests a trip from Toronto to Ot­tawa would take 27 min­utes and the Ot­tawa-Mon­treal leg would take another 12 min­utes.

It says the next log­i­cal step would be to ex­tend the hy­per­loop sys­tem into the U.S., west to Detroit from Wind­sor, Ont., and east from Que­bec to Ni­a­gara Falls and Buf­falo and on to­ward Chicago, New York and Bos­ton. With files from The New York Times

Next-gen­er­a­tion trav­ellers could go from Toronto to Mon­treal in 39 min­utes.

AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

The pro­to­type of a Hy­per­loop One Pod at a fa­cil­ity in the desert near Las Ve­gas. The Toronto-Mon­treal cor­ri­dor could even­tu­ally use the tech­nol­ogy.

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