Editors Blog

The Great Green Train

October 28, 2011
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They say that getting there is half the fun. This year I passed up the options of flying or driving to the Greenbuild event in Toronto, and instead opted to take the train from the Windsor, Ontario, station (10 miles from my home in Detroit) to Toronto and back.

I didn’t do it just because I was going to Greenbuild; I’ve already forgotten how many carbon credits I earned. Fact is, I had taken that line years ago, both to Toronto and to Niagara Falls. Taking it again was almost a matter of course. I felt a little silly for the praise it seemed to earn. If I did not have my earlier experiences, I could have easily talked myself into one of the other options, convinced that they were more convenient because I knew what they entailed.

As I walked from the station to the convention center, I wondered if this kind of early familiarity is how people deal with other energy-use decisions. For all the people doing the right thing now, did some earlier experience in their lives make this action feel like “no big deal”? Will their children make the transition to greener lifestyles more seamlessly because of what they grew up with?

Then again, perhaps the more important lesson children can learn from their parents is how to make life changes.

Last blog I mentioned that I would give a little review of my Toronto train travel experience. I took Via Rail’s business class one way and coach the other; both included free WiFi and both had clean bathrooms. Business class included meals, snacks, drinks, and slightly more comfortable seats. Would I travel that line again? Sure, in a heartbeat. And you know what? Train stations are a lot easier to navigate than airports.

I still have some reservations about taking Amtrak. The one experience I’ve had riding those rails (coach) was less than positive, especially where the bathroom was concerned. I don’t think the line I’m interested in (Detroit-Chicago) has WiFi yet. But even the business class price (less than a third the cost of an airline ticket, depending on when it’s purchased) makes it worth checking out, especially for a shorter distance trip.

Any advice from regular train travelers? Post a comment below and share your experiences.

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