Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I Can't Believe I...

... didn't think of it myself.

There was an ill-fated attempt not once, but twice, to set up a high-speed ferry between Toronto and Rochester. When it was first announced, people thought it was a good idea. It would cut travel time to NY state, ease border congestion, and provide a nice relaxing 2.5-hour period instead of being stuck in a car with the kids. Rochester loved it because it gave them direct access to the biggest business centre in the area, and Toronto loved it because it gave us another means of cross-border shopping. Two movie theatres, satellite TV, wireless Internet access, luxury seating... it was going to be great.

Then it came to fruition and was a joke. Total trip - 3 hours 15 minutes. Toronto's terminal hadn't been built yet, and advertising petered out quickly. It took just as long to drive to Rochester if the border was clear and you drove 10-20km over the limit. The most egregious problem was the pricing. The way it was set up was that your car cost one price, and each passenger cost more on top of it. Any fuel savings were wiped out. A walk-on passenger was too pricey to make a casual trip worthwhile (something I'd thought about doing to experience it). It was a state-of-the-art vessel with morons running the show. Something simple like having a car fare include two passengers, or having a family pass would have made a big difference in my mind. Apparently the ride itself was quite nice though.

It collapsed quickly. It restarted and collapsed again. Rochester bought it and lost $2.5 million. Toronto had long lost interest. It's not owned by a German company and should be ferrying passengers between Spain and Morocco.

Except they're TRYING AGAIN and failing. This is what happens when you finally finish your $8 million terminal in Toronto and film episiodes of The Border in it. Rochester's plans for theirs include offices and commercial space. Here's the main reason why it fails : NOBODY WANTS TO GO TO ROCHESTER. If Toronto wants a useful ferry serice, then set one up to St. Catherines. It takes people close to the border, the Falls, and the Niagara region. It's short, could be done much cheaper, actually makes a difference in travel time, and doesn't have any border problems. Not my idea though - it was stated a few times in the comments over here.

The more I think about it, the more I think how useful this service could be. Lots of people in Toronto do winery tours of the Niagara region. Limos and buses will come to your house and drive you around for the day as you drink wine. Imagine if your day started with a boat ride across the lake, with a few drinks and just some fresh air. Trips to the casinos would be a no-brainer if the 1.5 hour drive was cut in half. Hell, the casinos would run free shuttles from the terminal to their doors (or at least the $5 ticket with $5 in casino play returned deal). Leafs games in Buffalo would be a piece of cake. The Bills would see even MORE Canadians come over to watch a game. It would work the other way too, with people from the Buffalo-Niagara region visiting Toronto more frequently. Stoney Creek to Buffalo would become viable feeder cities for people wanting to work in Toronto.

It makes far too much sense to ever happen. Nope... it's Rochester or bust!

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