Is a monorail the answer to Edmonton to Calgary travel?

The provincial government’s interest in high-speed rail between Edmonton and Calgary has my attention.

“Well, sir, there’s nothing on Earth like a genuine, bonafide, electrified, six-car monorail.” — Travelling salesman Lyle Lanley to a public meeting of Springfield residents.

I’ve done a lot of travelling in the last four years or so. I’ve taken winter vacations to Florida and Arizona and most recently I was in Montreal for a conference. My position as president of the Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association (AWNA) means that I have the opportunity to attend conventions of our sister associations across Canada. I spend a lot of time sitting in airports and scrunched into a window seat with crying babies and people who need to brush up on their elbow rest etiquette.

Off the Recod by George Brown

I also commute 45 minutes to work every day. It’s a fairly uneventful trip that gives me enough time to enjoy a cigar and unwind after a long day, and in the morning I have enough time to catch up on sports scores and check the crops.

That’s why the provincial government’s interest in high-speed rail between Edmonton and Calgary has my attention.

It’s not all that long ago that we had scheduled passenger bus service from Ponoka and before that, trains linked communities by rail.

Would truck-struck Albertans give up their chrome and steel and pay a buck a minute for the high-speed train ride from Edmonton to Calgary? Infrastructure Minister Luke Ouellette says the concept is still on the table. Wouldn’t that be a great forward-thinking make-work project to get Alberta out of this recession?

Since before reckless motorists derailed the Dayliner in the late Eighties, Albertans have been dreaming about a high speed rail (HSR) link between Edmonton and Calgary, whisking rabid sports fans, trendy fashion seekers and oilfield workers up and down the Highway 2 corridor at near light speed. The government’s study reveals that of the 10 million trips between Edmonton and Calgary, 91 per cent were by automobile.

If the trip were to take less than an hour and cost less than a tank of gas, Albertans might be persuaded to give it a try. While HSR might be an attractive alternative to a numbing commute, it’s still doubtful whether the Edmonton and Calgary airport authorities would endorse a proposal to spend public money on a project that would divert their passengers from private airplanes to subsidized rail.

It’s clear that the government has to do something to alleviate the dangerous, high- speed congestion on Highway 2. Transport trucks, mobile homes, parts for the oilsands and RVs all share the twinned highway with commuters. At the very least, the highway needs a third lane and a means to remove transient traffic would be ideal. HSR service in Europe and Asia are not viable without public subsidies. If it can’t pay for itself in densely populated regions there, it’s most unlikely that a little more than two million Albertans would be able to support the service, estimated to cost more than $5 billion to build.

Personally, I think the government’s money would be better spent on investing in the development of molecular teleportation. The issue to be resolved, of course, is whether zapping you in Calgary and recreating you in Edmonton would provide a sufficient experience of continuity of existence. Would the re-assembled you be considered a different sentience with the same memories or simply a faded copy? Questions the minister must address I would say.

Perhaps teleportation through a wormhole or Stargate would be better — no scattering of your atoms throughout the universe to worry about.

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