On monorails, hyperloops and other wild ideas to get from Montreal to Quebec City


In a campaign-style speech last month, Premier Philippe Couillard mused about his desire to build a rapid transit link between Montreal and Quebec City.

He mentioned few specifics and made no reference to cost; in terms of detail, it fell somewhere between a rough draft and an exercise in free association.

But Couillard did say what he didn’t want: a high-speed train.

Ever since that speech, all manner of ideas have been proposed to fulfil the premier’s dream. The latest is the hyperloop — a largely untested technology which backers claim can transport people at the speed of sound through vacuum tubes.

Hyperloop technology will revolutionize transportation, but it has to get off the ground first
TransPod Inc., a Toronto-based hyperloop startup, announced Monday it will conduct a feasibility study next year to explore the possibility of linking Quebec’s two biggest cities.

If the technology works (with emphasis on the if), the company estimates transit time between Montreal and Quebec City would be as short as 25 minutes. Right now, it takes around three hours by car or train to cover the 250-kilometre distance.

“This is the next generation of land transport,” Sébastien Gendron, TransPod’s co-founder, told Radio-Canada.

“This system will do for people what the internet did for information. People in Quebec City could travel to work in Montreal and vice versa.”

Current hyperloop designs feature passenger pods the size of train carriages, which would be propelled through the vacuum tubes at speeds exceeding 1,000 km/h.

Powered by electricity and using magnetic levitation, the pods proposed by Gendron float within the tubes, which, being vacuums, are free of friction and air resistance.

“The capsule is an airplane fuselage,” he said. “We’re working to get the cabin pressurized. The technology comes from aerospace. We’re not reinventing the wheel. We’re adapting that system.”

He estimates that a commercially viable model will be ready for market in 2020.

‘Nothing on Earth like a genuine, bona-fide, electrified, six-car monorail’

Gendron’s hyperloop, though, will have to compete with Couillard’s stated preference for a monorail, which he raised during a news conference after his November speech.

The specific idea Couillard had in mind was the monorail developed by Pierre Couture, a Hydro-Québec engineer famed for having invented a hybrid wheel motor in the 1990s.

In Couture’s vision, a passenger car would be suspended from an electrified track and be able to reach speeds of 250 km/h.

But, as long-time watchers of The Simpsons will know, monorail technology can invite snake-oil promises. In one of the show’s best-known episodes, the town of Springfield is bamboozled by a con man’s promises to build “a genuine, bona-fide, electrified, six-car monorail.”

The project ended poorly for Springfield.

Those excited by a Quebec City-Montreal monorail link suggest it could cost as little as $3 billion. Others believe it will cost at least twice that much, but cost may not be the biggest obstacle.

“It is not a solution that has been tested and proven. There is technological development that still needs to be done,” said François Pepin, a retired Quebec government engineer who now heads Trajectoire Québec, a public transit lobby group.

High-frequency rail? I guess

The willingness to entertain futuristic technologies to link Quebec City and Montreal can appear all the more puzzling given that Via Rail has already expressed interest in developing high-frequency rail along that corridor.

Via Rail is seeking at least $4 billion from the federal government to build a dedicated passenger track between Windsor, Ont., and Quebec City.

Hyperloop One technology tested successfully in Nevada desert
Though not as exciting as high-speed rail, or a hyperloop for that matter, Via believes a dedicated track would allow it to reduce the train ride from Quebec City to Montreal to two hours and 10 minutes, down from the current three hours and 20 minutes.

But even that seemingly straightforward project faces hurdles. Chief among them is whether Via trains can reach downtown Montreal.

Quebec’s pension fund, which is paying for most of Montreal’s proposed light-rail commuter transit network, has suggested it may not be willing to share the track it will build in the Mount Royal tunnel.

Unless Via and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec can come to an agreement, the high-frequency train would have to stop outside downtown Montreal and force passengers to transfer to commuter lines.

If Ottawa does plan on backing Via’s high-frequency project, the money will likely be included in this spring’s federal budget.

Toronto to Montreal in 39 minutes? Futuristic people mover zips to next stage
Couillard, for his part, has promised his government won’t stand in the way of high-frequency rail. But its clear his heart lies elsewhere.

“If there is funding, we’ll be happy and won’t throw up obstacles,” he said last week. “We’ll see if the federal government will put its money where its mouth is. But in any case we’ll forge ahead with 21st-century solutions for transport.”

Couillard may want to spend some time watching Simpsons’ reruns during his Christmas break.

Advance Tax Payments; Composting; Scaffold Law: Bronxville Mayor


Written by Mayor Mary Marvin:

BRONXVILLE, NY — Many of you have inquired, but unfortunately the Village is unable to accept payment in advance for taxes due in future years because the Village is required to follow the procedures set forth in the New York State Real Property Tax Law. Specifically, taxes can only be collected after the Tax Receiver has issued a tax warrant, published appropriate notices with due dates and filed a tax roll identifying the amount due from each property. These steps follow after the Village Board has established a budget, tax levy and tax rate for the ensuing year and after the assessor has published an assessment roll. The Village of Bronxville is even more unique than all other Villages in Westchester County since the Village collects school taxes and therefore cannot issue a tax warrant until we also receive a tax levy from the school. In other words, the Village cannot simply accept payment since we are required by law to follow collection procedures consistent with state law and on a schedule consistent with all Villages in Westchester County.

The following is a compilation of issues that have crossed my desk in the past few weeks. Though no unifying theme, they are germane to day-to-day governance.

As a follow up to my last week’s column on food waste, our forward thinking neighbors in Scarsdale and Larchmont most recently launched a food composting program in lieu of hauling food waste to landfills at a substantial cost to the community thereby depositing rotting food that releases methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Food scraps are collected in counter top pails and transferred to the municipal recycling centers at no additional cost. Pretty much everything is accepted including cut flowers, paper goods and coffee grinds. The only items forbidden include, plastics, pet waste, diapers and styrofoam.

caffold Law,” that make it truly the most expensive place on earth to build.

Under the law, unique to only New York State, the courts hold contractors and property owners, including municipalities and public agencies like the MTA, absolutely liable for gravity-related construction injuries, even if the contractor or owner had nothing to do with the accident.

The effect is astounding. The New York School Boards Association estimates the scaffold law wastes $400 million in construction costs statewide. Researchers for the Regional Plan Association confirmed that this law was a major driver in making the Second Avenue Subway the most expensive subway project in the world.

The law literally drives insurers out of the New York market or forces them to hike rates, now the highest in the country. As example, the Port Authority pays, on average, more than twice as much for “losses” on the New York side of a bridge versus the New Jersey side — same project, same contractors, same law of gravity — just different liability rules.

A unique and heartening coalition of groups including local governments, taxpayer groups and affordable housing advocates including Habitat for Humanity — just about everyone but the trial lawyers — have called on Albany to reform this. We are hoping for success in this legislative term.