It was my turn early Thursday morning to be on the platform of the St. Marys VIA Station as part of the ongoing campaign in support of improved passenger rail service to our town.
The experience provided further practical evidence of the need to continue our efforts to pressure both the federal and provincial governments to do the right thing for the citizens of this great province and make passenger rail service a priority.
In perusing the latest VIA rail schedule posted in the station I was shocked to find that there is no way for me to catch a train to London in the morning. The earliest train departs at 1:36 p.m. arriving at 2:19 p.m. This would hardly leave me enough time to conduct business with companies that close at 5 p.m. or to visit family members in the suburbs before rushing back to the station to catch the 8:23 p.m. train back home.
On the other hand, should I want to go shopping in downtown Toronto or take in a sporting event, I could arrive there at 10:50 a.m. in time for lunch. Dinner and the theatre or a seat at the Air Canada Centre for a Leafs game would be out of the question since the train returning to St. Marys departs at 5:40 p.m. As a pensioner, the $58 return fair is reasonable compared to the cost of gas and parking but the option of staying overnight in TO, to make a day out of it, just isn’t in the budget. Go figure!
The microcosm of VIA passengers this particular morning represents for me the obvious need, and potential benefit to the citizens of St. Marys of improved services. Furthermore, I believe it signals that commuting has to be considered a realistic option and possibly the only option for many young working individuals in the future, especially those who wish to avoid the high costs associated with living in the Golden Triangle.
That morning, there was a young man representing a local bank who uses the St. Marys/Stratford corridor regularly as a practical means of transportation in conducting his business affairs in Perth; the first-year student travelling back to Nipissing University in North Bay after visiting with family over the Thanksgiving weekend — no doubt she will be a regular student commuter over the next 2-4 years between semesters; a local business consultant heading off to a meeting at the University of Toronto for an early afternoon presentation; as well as a retired Queens alumni heading up to Kingston where he is involved in an ongoing university project.
Improved passenger rail service for St. Marys represents an important sustainability factor that will help attract, and in fact keep folks in our town, while providing a convenient and affordable link to the rest of southwestern Ontario and beyond.
On Oct. 26 in Sarnia, I plan to attend the premiere screening of “De- Railed,” a documentary film about the crumbling state of the Canadian railway system sponsored by RAIL (Rail Advocacy In Lambton).
(Editor’s note: The Save VIA Committee, which has had representatives occupying a pair of made-in-St. Marys, Baseball Hall of Fame-themed seats at the VIA station for several weeks during passenger train arrival and departure times, held its final two “chair sits” on Monday, Oct. 21. The Committee’s efforts continue to lobby politicians and build citizen support for and awareness about passenger train travel in southwestern Ontario.)