toronto niagara ferry

Toronto could soon be getting a high-speed ferry service to Niagara Falls

Tourists could soon be zipping back and forth on a high-speed catamaran between Toronto and Niagara Falls, the latest scheme to introduce express ferry service across Lake Ontario.

A recent lobbying file submitted to the City proposes "a passenger ferry service to operate both within the Toronto Harbour and between GTA municipalities."

This piqued my interest, as inter-urban travel in the GTA can be a nightmare on the roads and rails. Adding further interest was the name behind the lobbying file: Arthur Potts, who represented the Toronto riding of Beaches-East York as a Member of Provincial Parliament for four years.

But it turns out that, while this was initially envisioned as an express service connecting GTA municipalities as a commuter route, it is now planned exclusively as a high-speed tourist ferry connecting Toronto and Niagara Falls.

Operating as Harbour Express, the service would connect the big city and the nearby international tourist hotspot using a high-speed catamaran with a dock-to-dock travel time of roughly an hour.

It sounds exciting, but other services have been proposed in the past only to fizzle, something that nearly happened with the Harbour Express plan.

Potts tells blogTO that "About two and a half years ago, pre-pandemic, we had a plan, which we were executing on to start a transportation high-speed commuter service along the waterfront from Oakville and Port Credit into Toronto."

"We've done a series of meetings with council and the harbour commission to organize docking opportunities, as well as with Oakville."

But the project hit a snag when the pandemic arrived and funding was pulled, Potts saying that "We went into retreat for the last few years. We’re reassessing the plan."

"And now we're working on a plan that's going to bring a fast ferry service from Niagara Falls to and from Toronto. So more of a tourism approach rather than a commuter approach."

There are no plans to have the service up and running this summer, Potts clarifying that "We can’t talk about it being imminent. Financing on this has been very difficult. Launching a transportation company in the middle of a pandemic, when people are told to stay home, hasn't really been a good time."

Despite the significant change to the plan, Potts insists that the lobbying file is simply being kept alive as the venture awaits sunnier days ahead. "I keep the file alive because I anticipate, at some point, I'm going to have to have those conversations with the mayor and local councillor."

But he predicts those sunny days to arrive soon, saying that the business has attracted "serious interest from some interesting players."

"I'm hoping certainly by the end of the summer we will have some funding in place that we should be able to purchase the high-speed catamaran ferry and try to get things launched into May or June [2023]."

High-speed catamarans had plied Lake Ontario before, notably an ill-fated Toronto-Rochester express ferry service that briefly operated in the 2000s.

That service launched with much fanfare, but was plagued with issues and operated for a mere 11 weeks in 2004 before financial problems sunk the business. It re-launched in 2005, but this restart was short-lived, ultimately failing like its predecessor.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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