MONTREAL — The Toronto-Montreal corridor has taken the prize as one of the strongest candidates in the world for a hyperloop system that could cut travel time between the cities from five hours to just 39 minutes.
But transportation expert Martin Collier says there's no way he's going to be the first to buy a ticket to ride in a bullet-shaped craft that would travel through a tube at speeds of around 1,000 kilometres per hour, four times faster than high-speed rail.
"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, on Friday.
"I'll probably wait and see whether other people like it first. I'm not an early adopter.''
Group sets sights on 2021 goal
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 is a technology promoted by Tesla founder Elon Musk which would place passengers and cargo in a cylindrical vehicle which 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 due to ultra-low aerodynamic drag.
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Hyperloop One's nine other winning entries included four 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.
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 difference with our system is we are on the ground,'' he said. "And it's safer to be on the ground than in the air.''
He added TransPod is talking with the federal transportation department to ensure safety regulations are in place for when the technology is ready to be implemented.
Bid in for Calgary test track
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 alternative for travellers.
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.
We already travel at that speed with an aircraft and the main difference with our system is we are on the ground.
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.