It’s not quite a monorail, but visitors to the Toronto Zoo could once again have an opportunity to try out a new-age transportation system that would whisk them around the busy zoo.

City staff are recommending that the Toronto Zoo board approve a fully functional magnetic levitation (Maglev) train to be built at the zoo.

With an estimated price tag of $25 million, the train would be completely built and paid for by Magnovate Transportation Inc., a consortium of companies that approached the zoo with an unsolicited proposal to build the train.

Magnetic levitation technology uses magnetic forces to float a vehicle on a guideway, reducing friction and allowing for quick acceleration and high speeds. According to Magnovate, the technology also uses less power than other technologies because it loses almost no energy to track friction.

The company is interested in showcasing a lower-speed magnetic levitation system that emulates high-speed maglev trains already in operation in Shanghai, China and in Aichi Prefecture, Japan.

The Maglev train would replace the Domain Ride monorail which operated at the zoo between 1976 and 1994 and would partially be built on infrastructure left over from that time.

“The Magnovate collaboration with the Board would ultimately result in a Maglev Ride on the zoo site that will not only serve as a prime site for Magnovate to exhibit the technologies, but would also create a new attraction for Zoo visitors to ride the first commercial maglev transit system in North America,” the staff report says. “This will serve to improve mobility options at the zoo and would be an opportunity for demonstrating sustainable technologies.”

The enclosed, climate-controlled vehicle would operate year-round.

The proposal from Magnovate says the Toronto Zoo would be the perfect place to showcase the technology.

“The existing infrastructure at the zoo would be an ideal place to begin building the world’s first commercial Magline system,” the proposal says. “It is well matched to Magline technology from a structural perspective and obviates the substantial cost of building infrastructure from scratch for our development program.”

The company has touted its train as “a breakthrough development of maglev (magnetic levitation) propulsion.”

“It is a silent, frictionless and highly energy-efficient powertrain that can run without recourse to carbon-based fuels. Solar panels mounted on stations and on other elements of the infrastructure can supply much of the system’s day-to-day power requirements,” the company proposal says.

If the Toronto Zoo Board gives the idea a nod at its meeting Thursday, Magnovate will begin raising funds to build the project, which it hopes will showcase the technology to a North American audience.

The zoo train would be the first commercial Maglev train in North America. Magovate is hoping to commercialize the technology and expand its use to public transit networks.

According to the proposal, Magnovate would maintain and operate the ride for 15 years and then hand it over to the zoo, though it would continue to maintain the system and equipment under a service agreement.

Magnovate and the board would share net revenues 50/50 after operating and financing costs. The staff report contemplates a price point of between $12 and $18 for a ride.

Roughly 28 per cent of visitors to the zoo took a ride on the monorail during its time. Magnovate has based its potential revenue projections on capturing between 15 per cent and 35 per cent of the zoo’s annual 1.2 million visitors.

The project would take an estimated three years to complete once funding and approvals are in place.