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Editorials

Ahh... Spring!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014   by: David Root
It's finally here! Spring. I went away for the weekend, first flying to Toronto (Boy, are my arms tired!), then taking the train to London.
 
It was quite obviously Spring in southern Ontario: trees flowering and leaf buds opening, riots of flowers in planters and gardens, birds singing. It made me miss living there.
 
Of course, the humidity level even this early in the season reminded me that "muggy" is a word that is more often than not included in the weather report. There are tradeoffs wherever you live, I guess.
 
Back home, just a couple of days of warm -- hot? -- weather has advanced a spring a few steps, and trees are no longer budding, but emerging into full leaf. 
 
All I can say is, "Ahhh!"
 
The scents of flowering trees hang in the air, the greenery growing fuller each day and, of course, the longer days conspire to elevate my mood tremendously.
 
Taking the train last week reminded me of how much more convenient everything is in southern Ontario. I also witnessed how much has changed since I spent any time there.
 
Yes, I've been down to Paris for workshops occasionally, but typically I would drive down on the I-75, 402, hand 403, never really going in to any cities along the way.
 
VIA shares the Go Train route between Toronto and Aldershot (Burlington), and then at the junction in Hamilton branches off and climbs the Escarpment above Dundas, then descends into farmland as it passes through Brantford, Paris, Woodstock, Ingersoll and finally into London.
 
These are cities I have spent a lot of time in, although taking the train you gain a different perspective on them. It really is a case of peeking into people's (and business') back yards.
 
I was surprised at how much some of these cities -- especially Dundas-- have grown. When I moved to Dundas in 1990 the population was 17,000. When I left in 1994 it was 21,000.
 
Even when I was in Hamilton for a month in 2008, when I took my Driving Instructor's course, then growth was evident, but not too extensive.
 
Not sure what it is now, as Dundas was amalgamated into Hamilton in the mid-90s, but judging by the growth into what had been forest and field when I lived there, I would guess its well over 25,000 -- perhaps approaching 30,000 -- today. (Due in part because planning permission is now granted by Hamilton, and not Dundas.)
 
Growth wasn't as evident in other cities along the way, only because the tracks ran through existing, older parts of the community. 
 
I noticed that London has grown much bigger, Brut also reminded myself that it has been 20 years since I had visited London, and 30 years since I spent any real time there.
 
Back to the train...
 
What a remarkably civilized way to travel. Its quick and direct, there are rarely any traffic delays, and although the price is a bit high (especially compared with the free snacks on Porter), there are beverages and snacks available.
 
My train was about 15 minutes late getting into London, but we made up that time; there were no stops until Brantford, and (according to a 'speed tracker GPS app on my tablet) there were a couple of stretches where we were going 150+ km/h.
 
I vaguely remember taking the train to Sudbury as a child, once a full train, and once on a 'Budd Car'. I certainly an support the Coalition for Algoma Passenger Trains, although I am less certain their efforts will bear any fruit.
 
The train IS a great way to travel, and I would love to be able to hop on board here and head on vacation on a train, but I don't think the economics will bear that out.
 
Certainly, the Northlander should be maintained. It services communities that do not have roads, and air flights are inconvenient and expensive.
 
I'm not sure that, romantic notions about train travel aside, people from the Sault would trade a quick flight to Toronto for a more comfortable but longer train ride.
 
The Porter flight, gate to gate, is 90 minutes. With stops along the way, and a transfer at Sudbury, I cannot see how a train could get to Toronto in less than 5-6 hours.
 
Still, it would be a nice trip.
 
But... That's just my opinion.
 
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