Larry Wayne Richards (former Trust Board member, Professor Emeritus and former Dean, John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto)

Ontario trains

My first views of Ontario were from a passenger train 45 years ago. In 1972, I crossed the border at Detroit and took a train from Windsor to Toronto. From my window, I experienced the southwestern Ontario landscape – rolling green farmland and orderly towns – unfolding like frames in a film. I’ve never forgotten that civilized introduction to Ontario, rolling along on the comfortable train.

Ontario has a fascinating railway history from pre-Confederation into the early 20th century. But, by 1932, with the extension of the Temiskaming and Northern Ontario Railway line to Moosonee near James Bay, railway growth in Ontario had ended. And by the 1970s, passenger service began shrinking dramatically. Automobiles became king, impacting dramatically and negatively on Ontario’s cities and towns.

This past December, taking a TGV high-speed train from Paris to Reims, reaching speeds over 300 km [per hour], I reflected on Ontario and our densely populated, rapidly growing Greater Golden Horseshoe region – wondering if an efficient, integrated regional transit system will ever be realized. Will the day come when we can board a super-fast train from Toronto to Hamilton? Might we fantasize about speeding comfortably to Ottawa or even Sudbury?

This is the future, civilized Ontario that I dream of, where cars are no longer king.

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