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mark schatzker

With a few tweaks, the red rocket could put us in the black Add to ...

Instead of trying to find ways for the TTC to lose less money, maybe it should start considering ways for buses, subways and streetcars to start making the city money. Here are four easy fixes that will have everyone’s favourite transit commission gushing with black ink in no time.

Galley-Style Streetcars

The idea: Retrofit streetcars with oars, so that they resemble land-based versions of the Ancient Greek warships used to defeat Persia during the Peloponnesian Wars.

How it works: Chained two to a bench, passengers pull on rough-hewn oars while a pitiless coxswain shouts out a dreary rhythm and lashes anyone who falls out of step. When luxury cars or SUVs are spotted, they are rammed and plundered, with the TTC taking 25-per-cent cut of all booty.

Annual revenue: Electricity savings will almost certainly exceed $10-million, while ill-gotten loot could bring in another $25-million.

Subway Mining

The idea: The single greatest capital expense in mining is digging underground tunnels and fitting them with track. Toronto already has just such a network of tunnels running beneath it. So why not use them to mine precious gems and metals?

How it works: In lieu of fare, subway passengers donate a portion of their commute time to mineral extraction. For example, a lawyer who gets on at Davisville and off at King might stop at St. Clair to set explosives, or Wellesley to smelt raw ore pellets. An hour later, covered in a grimy layer of sweat and soot, she gets back on the subway and heads to work.

Annual revenue: $50-million alone in sales of terbium to China.

Wind-Powered Scarborough Rapid Transit

The idea: Thanks to the power of wind, for centuries mariners sailed the seas without burning so much as a drop of fossil fuel. So why not the SRT?

How it works: Using the wooden masts and square sails common on 17th-century tall ships, the SRT would rely on easterly and westerly gusts for propulsion. Due to trade winds, a commuter trying to get from Kennedy to McCowan might have to spend an entire winter at Ellesmere working as a rope-maker’s apprentice before securing passage back home – but the savings in diesel fuel will make such “indirect costs” more than worth it.

Annual revenue: Electricity savings will exceed $10-million, with another $5-million generated by molasses, animal pelts and spice shipments, assuming Metrolinx adopts a mercantilist trade policy.

Cold-Fusion Powered Buses

The idea: In 1989, electrochemists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons put a palladium cathode inside a flask of tepid heavy water and soon recorded excess levels of neutrons, deuterium and heat. In other words, cold fusion – the theoretical wet dream of boundless free energy that would change the course of history. Unfortunately, not a single scientist was ever able to consistently replicate cold fusion, but its incredible potential outweighs its real world limitations.

How it works: Replace all TTC bus engines with Tim Hortons traveller cups filled with heavy water. Insert cathode, slam hood shut and cross your fingers!

Annual revenue: If the TTC can meet a quarter of the world’s energy demand – a conservative estimate – it could bring in $10-trillion in the first six months alone.

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