Views

A smooth-running TTC would be cooler than a Hyperloop to Montreal: Teitel

Toronto to Montreal in 39 minutes doesn’t count for much when it’s hard enough getting from Toronto to Toronto in 39 minutes.

It seems as though Toronto is really jumping the gun by applauding Star Trek-level transit, when our own congested, increasingly unaffordable city doesn’t even boast a fully wheelchair accessible transit system, Emma Teitel writes.

Lucas Oleniuk / Torstar News Service Order this photo

It seems as though Toronto is really jumping the gun by applauding Star Trek-level transit, when our own congested, increasingly unaffordable city doesn’t even boast a fully wheelchair accessible transit system, Emma Teitel writes.

Don’t get me wrong: Hyperloop, the Elon Musk-inspired transportation technology that could one day ferry people to and from distant cities in under an hour, is extremely cool.

It’s also extremely cool that this means of science fiction transportation, which moves passengers via “electric propulsion through a low-pressure tube,” might get its real-world start right here in Toronto.

Last year, Hyperloop One, a company attempting to turn Musk’s vision into a profitable reality, launched an open call for proposals, asking scientists to develop their own hyper-speed travel routes. And just last week, the company announced the winning results, among them a proposal by a design team called HyperCan, for a route that could transport people from Toronto to Montreal in 39 minutes.

Just imagine: No more five-and-a-half-hour road trips, no more red-eye bus rides and, most importantly, no more Tim Horton’s drive-through for dinner. If this kind of technology succeeds, it’s entirely possible that Torontonians could travel to Montreal to attend a Leafs away game against the Habs and make it home well before midnight.

Thanks to Hyperloop, fair-weather Leafs fans that lose faith when their team is down a few goals after the second period may even be able to make it back to Toronto before the end of the third when (their loss) Auston Matthews turns things around for a win.

Like I said: extremely cool.

And yet, it’s also extremely infuriating. It’s infuriating because there’s something far cooler than Toronto’s very own hyper-speed travel tube. And that is a plain old-fashioned travel tube, a.k.a. a subway, the kind that can get a person from one end of the city to the other.

All this to say Toronto to Montreal in 39 minutes, while extremely cool, doesn’t count for much in the eyes of a regular TTC streetcar rider when it’s hard enough getting from Toronto to Toronto in 39 minutes.

I’m not advocating that the city abstain from celebrating advancements in technology or embracing the future; it’s difficult to get excited about province-to-province hyperspeed travel when it takes me almost a full hour to get to work within my own city on a good day.

A good day, in my definition, is when my streetcar doesn’t short turn or derail, forcing the driver to leave his post and literally get us back on track. There’s nothing more pathetically Toronto than sitting on a derailed streetcar looking out the window as your driver takes a wrench to the tracks while a police officer on horseback trots by; 2018, here we come!

Forgive me if I am not optimistic about the Hyperloop. It just seems as though we’re really jumping the gun by applauding Star Trek-level stuff, when our congested, increasingly unaffordable city doesn’t even boast a fully wheelchair accessible transit system (the TTC has said all stations will be accessible by 2025).

The desire for Toronto to blossom into a so-called world-class metropolis worthy of films not just shot here but actually set here is normal. I share these desires. I’m just as insecure as the next Torontonian.

But none of these dreams, be they Toronto’s first Hyperloop or our very own Amazon headquarters, will come to fruition or enjoy lasting success if we don’t work on the basics.

And there is nothing more basic than a decent, accessible transit system — one in which you can get from one end of the city to the other in a reasonable amount of time; one in which a person on horseback doesn’t reach his destination before you do.

In the end, the biggest barrier to this basic reality is not big ideas like the Hyperloop, but politicians unwilling to take big risks in fear of losing support and, eventually, power. Digging into the earth, closing off roads, building transit where people will actually use it: These are actions that will inconvenience and anger millions in the short term.

Unfortunately, they’re also the actions required to effect positive change. Unless someone in charge is willing to risk their power to effect that change, we can look forward to a very strange future in this city — a future where we’ll be able to get to Montreal in less time than it takes us to get home from work.

Emma Teitel is a national affairs columnist.

More on Metronews.ca