I had a chance to test the new Kitchener GO train route from Toronto to Guelph while in town this summer. The experience has given me hope for the future of transportation in southern Ontario if people start to adopt train travel. Car culture runs deep though and people are used to the independence they afford, but with just a bit of planning I was able to save money and not have to worry about parking the car downtown.
I took the train from the above ground Bloor GO station at Dundas West and Bloor, so I could avoid the rush hour of downtown Toronto’s Union Station. This will also be a stop on the new Air Rail Link coming in 2015.
The nicest part of the whole journey was the walk from uptown and down the West Toronto Railpath where there’s bike trails, green space, smart new buildings and pedestrian bridges over the tracks. This is area has great potential!
Buying the ticket was easy from the touch screen automat. There was a nice visual representation of the stops which were selectable and the interface was very responsive. Adult ticket cost $12.10 CDN, credit or debit, but no cash. The printed ticket is good for 4 hours from purchase. Nobody actually checked my ticket… I don’t know if you can buy them on the train.
Another thing, I was travelling with the dog. On GO Transit’s website it states that pets can travel in a secure container, so I called them to check if this soft air travel bag would cut it and they said that should be ok — so it was on!
The train was actually really full when we got on and there seemed to only be one free seat on the upper level. The train emptied out by the time it got to Brampton however, and so from there to Guelph we had a whole section to ourselves. The train was about a quarter full at this point, and I reckon that if the train were more popular for travelling to Guelph / Kitchener, it would be nice to have some express routes.
In fact, there’s actually only two trains running on weekdays that leave from Kitchener very early in the morning, and two in the afternoon rush hour back. Compare this for example to the hourly trains that run between Turku and Helsinki.
The nicest thing about the train is being able to do work for the whole time of the commute, however the GO trains don’t seem to be incredibly conducive to productivity: there were no tables, it was very crowded for most of the trip, and even the plugs are not normal sockets that you could plug a laptop into. But the views were nice!
In conclusion, this is a great route that allows one to stay connected with Toronto, while enjoying life in a smaller city. I’d like to remind commuters the the train is a practical option and I hope that it will gain in popularity here.
Toronto has everything in place to have a world class intercity rail network — there just needs to be a consumer push, and perhaps some more government support, and the trains could be more modern, fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly.
Ride the rails!