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Fast Ferry Failure
11/09/2004

So, this week the plug was pulled on the Rochester-Toronto ferry. They are trying to restructure their finances and relaunch.

I had had my doubts about the viability of the service -- I wondered how many people would want to make the trip, especially at the high prices -- but the numbers suggest that this was not the cause. There were more than 140,000 rides in 80 days.

Sniping has now begun over who is to blame. Among other points, David Miller blamed the Toronto Port Authority for its failure to build a terminal on time. Royson James wrote an irrational column blaming David Miller for not finding a way to encourage the TPA and Canada Customs to do a better job. Others have pinned it on the $2,500 in daily fees to Canada Customs or $6,000 to the US Coast Guard.

The explanation that I read that seems to make the most sense is that the company was crippled by the high costs of the accident they had while bringing the boat over, not to mention the delays that resulted. Their debt was too much.

But I am also reminded of a Toronto Life article from some months ago. It suggested that the ferry was never meant to be primarily a tourist venture, and that the proposal was actually a trojan horse for what would become a freight-truck transport system. So far, the American federal officials have not yet allowed that.

If the company can win US approval for trucks, expect the ferry to be back in business in a hurry. Whether this will be good for Toronto's waterfront revitalization is another story.


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