An afternoon in Niagara’s idyllic wine country will soon be just a zip across the lake away for Torontonians, as a first-of-its-kind hovercraft service is set to launch next summer.
The new rapid-transit route, operated by Hoverlink Ontario, will move passengers across Lake Ontario in a mere 30 minutes -- a trek that can take up to two hours on seasonal train service, and anywhere between one and a half and three hours by car or bus depending on traffic.
The announced route is to embark from Ontario Place in Toronto and dock in Port Weller, St. Catharines, and will run 365 days per year, with up to 48 lake crossings a day. Each craft will hold up to 180 passengers in a climate-controlled cabin, for what is described as a “riding on air” experience.
Passengers will be able to bring large items such as luggage and bikes along for the ride, with Wi-Fi and food and beverage service provided. And good news for those prone to sea sickness; as hovercrafts glide on a pocket of air, they’re less impacted by waves, providing a smoother ride, at 45 - 55 knots (approximately 80 to 100km an hour).
As hovercrafts can travel across land, ice, and water, the service will be all-season, running in “virtually all-weather conditions and temperatures”. According to the release, similar crafts have been used for decades by both the Canadian and US militaries and coast guards. They're also relatively environmentally friendly, with low-emission Tier 3 engines that reduce 98% of airborne toxins. As they provide no wake or wash, there’s no impact to shorelines, unlike traditional boats and ferries -- an important feature given current protection efforts along Lake Ontario.
The project also has backing from Toronto sports royalty, counting former Argos running back and general manager Michael “Pinball” Clemons among its board members.
"December is months away, yet today we officially announce a gift to families across the Golden Horseshoe,” stated Clemons in a release. “Hoverlink's hovercraft service will unite families to sporting events, theatre, concerts, adult gaming and one of the natural wonders of the world in 30 minutes. Hoverlink is changing the game, it is phenomenal!"
While the new mode of transport is sure to be enjoyed by those looking to spend a day at the Falls or peruse the region’s award-winning wineries, it’ll make the occasional commute headache-free for those coming into Toronto’s downtown.
"Toronto and Niagara Region are about to get a whole lot closer. We cannot wait to finally provide a fast, reliable and sustainable transportation solution that connects tourists and commuters in only 30 minutes,” said Chris Morgan, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Hoverlink Ontario Inc. “There is already an incredible amount of interest in the project, and we look forward to speaking with more people in the weeks and months ahead."
While ticket prices have yet to be confirmed, Hoverlink’s website suggests a round-trip ticket between $50 - $60 – slightly more than the $42 ticket to take seasonal train transit, but a comparable bargain to the estimated $85 a round car trip would take, with gas, parking, and vehicle wear factored in.