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Time for the Train: Long Distance Climate Action

a twilight photo of a rail car in the snowy BC mountains with "ALL ABOARD" painted across it

Travelling long-distance by rail can be a relaxing journey – even when away for work. A trip from Vancouver to Toronto offers four days to settle into a beautiful, relaxing and productive work space. Although it might feel like a vacation, your time aboard a land cruise with phone and laptop allow for more productive workdays with fewer interruptions. Even better, the price of a sleeper on a long-distance train trip is comparable to a business class a plane ticket. But then when you consider the added benefits, it’s the greener choice where the real benefit is your time.

You Get A Lot More with a Train Fare

Comparing a low season return trip between Vancouver and Toronto, a typical Business Class airline ticket (lowest standard price) costs more than a discounted Upper Berth train ticket.* And yes, meals are included. But the cost difference seems to magnify when considering that a return flight averages just short of 10 hours and the rail journey is about eight days. Again, all meals are included.

Of course four days on a train will not be a practical choice for everyone, but for those who might enjoy it, it could be an option if your start and end is one of the few Canadian cities served by train. The train offers relaxation which leads to more productive time. There is spectacular scenery, reduced stress and hospitality which generate a far lower carbon footprint today. But more importantly, each train ticket we each purchase is a vote to invest in a balance of improved North American rail infrastructure alongside highway and airport investment.

Time Well Spent

The train offers ample time for work where you can even indulge in the rare luxury of reading, rather than simply skimming articles and books. Wifi in city stations is useful for downloading larger documents, and your phone can be a hotspot practically everywhere else.** There’s time to write and review if you’ve got an upcoming presentation, or if seeing family, there’s time for that list of files waiting for your …time.

Working on a train creates an atmosphere unlike the typical workday for paying attention, where that un-hurried, rarely interrupted calm can sometimes match a typical workday’s productivity in a fraction of hours. Undisrupted time also inspires reflection - something that busy timelines, pilot projects and Gantt charts often don’t. And reflection often leads to innovation and creativity.

Less Stress and Rush

So, on the train you gain time. Over a few days, there is no commuting. But unlike working from home, there is also no grocery shopping, food preparation, cooking or dirty dishes. Passengers with a sleeper berth or small room are served excellent food by wait staff in a dining car on real plates while chatting with folks from around the world. And yes, there are showers.

You meet folks from around the world because the scenery is spectacular. And although they might have been saving up for this bucket list trip, for you it is simply a rolling office where beautiful landscapes glide past your windows – shifting from mountains to prairies and farmland to lakes and forests (or the reverse). You can work in your allotted seat, in the club car or under the overhead windows of the dome car.

Landscape Views and Forests and Forests

Travelling by train gives evidence to how little of this country is city or suburb - but natural landscape. And its health, and climate action requires that we make decisions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even while getting down to business. Train travel generates a fraction of the emissions per passenger-kilometre when compared to air travel.*** And with increased use, this greener mode of long-distance travel will improve to become more efficient. As more people choose the train, investment can include rail infrastructure and not only airport and highway expansion.

Vote With Your Dollars for Climate Action

It is time for train travel in Canada to re-emerge as an attractive choice for business mobility. Setting off for a few days on the train is not a ‘waste' of precious time, but a choice to cover long-distance business travel without rush or urgency. It’s a conscious shift to allocate productive time to work in a relaxed, healthy state with time to be reflective.

Taking the train is simply an extension of one’s personal and business commitment to reduce the impact of our ecological footprint while doing the things we choose to do. But ironically, the unrushed choice is greener, luxurious and arguably more productive.

* Prices were compared on October 20th, 2023 for travel from November 10 - 29th, 2023: Air Canada $2,468.46 (Lowest Fare Business Class ticket), Via Rail $2,333.10 (Lower Berth discounted by purchasing in advance).

** Northern Ontario seems to be the most electronically remote part of the journey and where you might even find time to pick up a novel.

*** EcoTree CO2 counter cited October 20th, 2023

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