I was chatting with someone at a party about a month ago about what Ontario needs to help kick-start our already budding technology industry into high gear and make us even more like “Silicon Valley North”. We got on the topic of why there needs to be a GO Train service from Waterloo to Toronto – just like the Caltrain in California from Palo Alto to San Francisco. The distances between these cities in California and Ontario are very similar and having a train from Waterloo to Toronto would tie the cities closer together - with Waterloo as an R&D technology hub and Toronto as a major business center in Ontario.
Someone from Metrolinx must have been listening in on our conversation – or at least had the idea before we did. A week ago, I read the good news that GO Transit announced that it will be expanding rail service on the Georgetown line to Acton, Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo by the end of 2011. Until this happens, you can only take the GO Train as far as Milton from Toronto and then you have to take a bus or drive from Milton to Waterloo (see the Google Maps images above).
Having just left a very large technology company that had offices in both Toronto and Waterloo, I am very much aware of the challenge in commuting between the two cities for meetings. I had a co-worker who lived in Waterloo and took a GO Bus to Toronto at 5am every morning to come in to work. I can’t even fathom what his commute must be like every day. We also had clients in Waterloo and we had to rent a car to drive there from Toronto every time we wanted to go for a meeting. It’s not that driving is so bad but having a train would be so much better for getting work done while commuting. It would also make for a much more enjoyable commute in harsh winter weather.
I believe that building this train is a major leap forward towards making Toronto/Waterloo a world-class technology and innovation center. A major parallel between Toronto/Waterloo and San Francisco/Palo Alto is their proximity to high-profile technology universities in Waterloo and Palo Alto (Stanford). I truly believe that building this train will attract more technology companies to set-up shop in Ontario.
Please share your thoughts on what else you think is needed to make us a true “Silicon Valley North”?