A Langley entrepreneur is launching â€“ literally â€“ a new method of getting commuters across the Fraser River without paying tolls on the Golden Ears Bridge.
A.F. Feste says he will have his new TrebuLink system set up for free demonstration rides today, April 1, at the old ferry terminal on MacMillan Island.
â€œItâ€™s all about speed and service,â€ Feste said. â€œHow can we get people around gridlock? How can we do that cheaply, efficiently, and without burning fossil fuels? The answer is trebuchets.â€
Feste plans to use the trebuchet â€“ a type of medieval catapult once used to shatter the walls of European castles â€“ to launch commuters from Fort Langley to Haney.
â€œWe all miss the ferry service,â€ Feste told the Langley Advance. â€œIt was free, it was quick, and it was easy to use. I want to bring that kind of service back to Fort Langley, but at a fraction of the cost to maintain and operate.â€
Feste said he has been inspired by competitions such as the World Championship Punkin Chunkin, which sees a variety of backyard inventors build devices to send their pumpkins hundreds if not thousands of metres.
â€œI thought, if you can do that with a pumpkin, you can do that with a person,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s just simple physics.â€
The trebuchet â€“ which he named TrebuLink, a nod to the Lower Mainlandâ€™s predominant transit authority â€“ will be built on the dock, with a swing arm about a hundred metres long attached to a counterweight. When the release is pulled, the arm will swing up and forward, drawing the passenger, sitting in a bucket seat scavenged from a 1983 Fiero, into the air.
Passengers can bring their own parachutes, or borrow one with a $10 deposit from Festeâ€™s operation.
The Fraser River TrebuLink will start full operation later this month, and will have staff on hand to show new customers how things work.
A similar trebuchet on the Haney side of the river will launch customers back at the end of the day.
â€œEventually, we wonâ€™t need so many staff members,â€ Feste said. â€œIf things go well, I hope to add a second trebuchet on each side, and make them coin-operated. I think it could be fun for people to launch themselves â€“ kids will love it, itâ€™s great for those little family day trips. Just remember to pull the chute release as soon as you hit apogee, and youâ€™re fine!â€
The trebuchets will not run on particularly windy days, as thereâ€™s a chance the passengers could drift too far away from the landing zones.
TrebuLinkâ€™s third and fourth trebuchets are currently being built in Germany.
â€œWhat can I say, they outbid the local guys!â€ Feste said. â€œTheyâ€™ve been using these things in Europe for years on the Danube and the Rhine, and thereâ€™s government support for the industry.â€
If successful, Feste plans to expand and set up another TrebuLink site near the Port Mann Bridge to allow commuters to avoid the tolls there.
â€œItâ€™ll be cheaper than crossing in a car, thatâ€™s for sure!â€ he said.
However, the larger trebuchets needed there may necessitate passengers being registered as light private aircraft, as they may go above 500 feet in altitude during the launch.
Feste plans to charge between $0.50 and $1.25 for his launch service.
â€œBased on weight,â€ he said.