Flying cars could one day help drivers avoid Port Mann bridge tolls

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      The B.C. government revealed in its February budget that it expects road tolls to cover the entire operating and capital costs of the $3.3-billion Port Mann Bridge. This was unearthed by Thomas Ian McLeod's Fraseropolis blog—and he's skeptical that these levies will meet the overall expense of constructing and maintaining the structure.

      Meanwhile, TransLink is relying on tolls to offset the cost of building the Golden Ears Bridge. But in a post last year, McLeod noted that tolls are now only forecast to pay half the capital and operating costs of this crossing between Langley and Pitt Meadows.

      But what if technology soon makes it easy for commuters in cars to get across the Fraser River without using a bridge or tunnel? If this catches on, it has the potential to create more financial headaches for the people who run the regional transportation system.

      Don't be so quick to ridicule the idea. Two companies have already demonstrated prototypes of flying cars.

      The Dutch-based Pal-V Europe NV has successfully completed test flights of its Personal Air and Land Vehicle. It offers the operator the choice of driving it on the road or flying it in the air.

      Flying range is between 350 and 500 kilometres, depending on wind and other conditions. On the road, the Pal-V can travel 1,200 kilometres.

      It reaches speeds of 180 kilometres an hour on the ground and in the air.

      The company claims that with its short take-off and landing capability, it's possible to land the car practically anywhere, even on grass.

      That's not the only alternative. A Massachusetts company, Terrafugia, has developed the 650-kilogram Transition, which also flies through the air. But it's not cheap—the list price is expected to be $279,000.

      The Terrafugia, which reaches speeds of 185 kilometres per hour in the air and on the road, was designed by engineers educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

      Not only could flying cars hinder the collection of bridge tolls, they just might create a lot more work in the future for air-traffic controllers.



      Thomas Ian McLeod

      Apr 9, 2012 at 5:23pm

      Thanks for the plug, Charlie. Clarification, though: in my February 24 post, I reported on the provincial government's insistence that tolls will pay the full cost of the new Port Mann Bridge. The provincial Auditor-General has cautioned that this may not come true. I am a skeptic myself, partly because Golden Ears Bridge toll revenues have fallen so far short of pre-construction forecasts. Nice flying cars, by the way.

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      Apr 9, 2012 at 6:34pm

      The thing about flying cars is... do you trust thousands of people flying around in a small area, over top of a residential area?

      There's a reason airports have traffic control towers that require quite a bit of choreography on the parts of the pilot and the people guiding them in for landings.

      The only possible future for the public having access to flying cars is a future with autonomous navigation, rigorous mechanical inspection and maintenance, as well as teaching people to fly them in case of emergencies. We'll also have to work on income equality quite a bit before a middle class family would be able to afford such a device.

      In the short term we may see vehicles that can fly and drive on the highway. However they will be flying airport to airport, not jumping traffic on the freeway.

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      Charlie Smith

      Apr 9, 2012 at 6:37pm

      Thanks for the comment. I added a line to indicate your overall skepticism. By the way, the commenter above (Thomas Ian McLeod) also wrote an excellent book about the federal NDP called "Under Siege: The Federal NDP in the NIneties" (James Lorimer & Company Publishers, 1994). I still have a copy on my bookshelf.

      It revealed rifts within the federal NDP caucus and even included a chapter called "Adieu Québec", which explored the NDP's difficulty in winning seats in that province.

      In light of recent developments on the federal scene, maybe it's time for a sequel.

      Charlie Smith

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      Apr 9, 2012 at 6:39pm

      so instead of having a fender bender or sit in a lineup you'll magically fly over all the other cars & land safely on the other side. what about all the other people with the same idea? so now we'll have flying cars colliding & falling into the river or onto the line of cars down below. way to go george jetson

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      Apr 9, 2012 at 7:04pm

      I don't see how this could possibly fail, other than "spectacularly".

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      SPY vs SPY

      Apr 9, 2012 at 7:26pm

      Most helicopter flights into New York City stopped after the fatal Pan Am crash in 1977. All heli flights in NYC ended after 9-11.

      Even Donald Trump can't use his private heli pad on Trump Tower any more, he has to land at JFK Airport.

      Just where the hell are they going to take off and land near downtown Vancouver?????

      Many folks can't make a left turn in 2 dimensions, how the hell are they going to manage 3?

      This is Technology Pipe Dream that will never come to pass.

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      Apr 10, 2012 at 12:36am

      ... can sink, cars can crash, airplanes can... crash. All have, and will. I... am not sure of my point here entirely. One more whisky.

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      Apr 10, 2012 at 5:59am

      I wish Metro Vancouver would invest in trains and a decent light rail system to the suburbs, not in roads and bridges and certainly not flying cars.

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      fidel gastro

      Apr 10, 2012 at 12:00pm

      scary enough right now with the drivers we have in the lower mainland. a terrible blend of overly aggressive and passive drivers.

      adding a third dimension would be a recipe for chaos!

      also, how about air rage? cannot wait for some oblivious idiot in their flying car going 120 kph in a 220 kph zone.

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      Apr 10, 2012 at 12:57pm

      Perhaps readers could give me some feedback on my (patented) idea for Catapult Cars.

      It's a pretty simple concept: Angled ramp, giant elastic band ... whoosh! You're on the other side of the water.

      Critics have pointed out inherent difficulties in a smooth landing, but I see that as small-minded niggling. I think I'm on to something.

      I will call it "Whoosh-Mobile". Vince the Informercial Guy is all over it. Order now ("because we can't do this all day").

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