It didn’t work once.
It didn’t work twice.
But is the third time the charm? A group known as HTS – or Hover Transit Services – is sure they have a plan to succeed where others have failed. Their goal: reintroduce the fast crossing service between Toronto and Rochester that proved such a dismal failure in both 2004 and 2006. That one used a multi-million dollar ferry with all the bells and whistles.
This one proposes to employ a simpler but still state-of-the-art hovercraft to glide along Lake Ontario taking you from here to there and back again.
The company is planning to buy an existing vessel that used to cross the English Channel over to France but has been sitting in a marine museum for the past eight years. Executives have apparently been in discussion with the Toronto Port Authority about what it would take to launch such a venture and are trying to get the cooperation of both Rochester politicians and officials here.
So what would this latest incarnation look like and how would it differ from the previous concept that sank twice in choppy financial waters?
The hovercraft would hold 400-600 people, carry 55 cars or four tour buses, and make room for cargo to help bring in some extra revenue. It would cost a lot less than the old ferry service – only about $30 each way and touts the use of biodiesel fuel as being environmentally friendly.
The entire trip would take just 75 minutes, but unlike the ferry, there won’t be a movie theatre or fancy restaurants on board. This journey would simply be a means to an end – getting you where you’re going.
“Passengers will be treated to spacious reclining chairs, with an option of business class service,” reads the company’s official plan. “The hovercraft will be equipped with Wi-Fi. Seat backs will be equipped with video monitors for passenger viewing and entertainment pleasure … A simple selection of food and beverages will be available as a convenience to the customer aboard ship, although HTS anticipates little revenue from the onboard sales of such items, since due to the short trip the passenger will barely have time to enjoy their hot beverage once aboard.”
Organizers think you’ll like it, because cross border shopping opportunities have never been better thanks to the rise of the Canadian dollar. And it’s interesting to hear their pitch for why U.S. residents will want to come here.
“American shoppers will be drawn to the sophisticated shopping opportunities in downtown Toronto that would otherwise require a trip to Manhattan, including the Eaton Centre, the Bay, and an eclectic collection of specialty shops. Seniors will also be attracted to opportunities for low-cost pharmaceuticals that are available in Canada.”
But it’s not just the U.S. that’s in their sights. Those behind the plan think they have a better way of getting to and from T.O. for commuters in outlying areas and it doesn’t include either the TTC or GO. “If two hovercrafts are put into service, both Hamilton and Oshawa could be served,” their outline states.
So will it work this time and will there be enough passengers to keep this service afloat? If it gets approved, the hovercraft could be gliding your way as soon as next March. But if not, HTS has another plan in mind and seems determined to take its business idea somewhere.
“If the ridership does not prove sufficient during the winter, HTS will investigate relocating the hovercraft to a winter home such as Key West, the Bahamas or the Caribbean,” it concludes. “A repositioning cruise could be offered to “snowbirds” and their automobiles heading for Florida for wintertime. Stops at East Coast ports would be provided along the way.”
But that journey of a thousand kilometres depends a lot on what officials here say. It will be another two to three months before we know if it’s a cushion of air – or a lot of hot air.
Photo credit: SR.N4 Hovercraft by Andrew Berridge/Wikipedia