Stratford Gazette editorial
There was a time, not that long ago, when a round trip train ride from Stratford to Toronto cost well over $150 for the average person. This exorbitant pricing meant that riding the train was simply not an option for a lot of people due to finances, and many have since written the train off as a lavish expenditure; no longer considering it when it comes time to travel.
For these people, recent cuts to VIA service were a non-issue. After all, they could be running five trains daily in both directions on the London-Toronto line; but if it still costs too much to ride, expect the low numbers to continue. And if no one rides, expect even further cuts to service.
But ask yourself: When was the last time you priced a ticket on the train? It may be worth some investigation, as VIA has drastically reduced its ticket costs. The new “Escape” ticket option available on the VIA website will have you pay only $56.50 for a return trip ticket from Stratford to Toronto; $56.50 is the price after taxes, by the way.
Considering the hassle of getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the 401 somewhere around Milton, navigating your way downtown Toronto, and paying for parking (not to mention gas), $56.50 suddenly seems pretty reasonable, at least compared to what it used to cost to ride the train. In fact, it’s less than what students used to pay when travelling with an ISIC card.
$56.50 for a jaunt down to the Big Smoke? Not having to worry about who’s driving? It’s a deal worth taking advantage of. Hopefully, as word gets out, ridership numbers will rise back up to where they should be.
But now the bad news: Since the reduction in service, the latest train leaving Toronto for our end of the province leaves at 5:40 p.m. That doesn’t leave you much time for a day downtown. It means, if you’re there for an evening out, you’ll be crashing on a friend’s couch until the next train leaves at 8:34 the following morning, or spending money on a hotel room. It should also be noted VIA only offers minimal discounts for kids, making the train a pricey alternative for families as opposed to the minivan.
Under these circumstances, the train doesn’t seem like such an economical option after all.
This is what those fighting so hard for increased train services are trying to change; but if more people take advantage of the new ticket pricing, VIA will notice, and will increase service to meet demand. Also, according to Save VIA Rail petition organizer Chris West, writing to our Ontario politicians at every level of government and telling them train service is important wouldn’t hurt either. Nothing beats a train ride. Let’s use it before we lose it.