If you want to be reminded how you likely once felt about riding on a train, come meet young Jamie Kauri. As one of Toronto’s most devoted transit fans, his passion may rekindle a memory of being led aboard a big vehicle by an adult, when you were just a child. Only, Jamie has taken it to a whole new level. A main construction material for him? Toothpicks.
Remember when trains and buses were a really big deal?
When you were very young, and a ride on transit was like a trip to the moon?
Let’s look at the future of transit in and around Toronto, including the Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit (LRT) project like that, as we see it through the eyes of one transit enthusiast. We met Jamie Kauri some time ago at one of our Crosstown community offices. At 12 years old, he’s among a legion of young followers of the continued progress on the Toronto route.
But it’s his unbridled joy in all things transit that made us think you may like to see things his way – and perhaps be reminded of a day when you sat wide-eyed inside the first transit vehicle you were ever taken on.
When he was just five years old, Jamie would make his way to the very front of the train, kneel on the seat next to the driver’s compartment, and face out the window.
“I liked to pretend I was driving it,” he explains, while wearing a black t-shirt with a map of a subway system printed on it.
Jamie’s interest in transit began in kindergarden, but was kicked into high gear at the age of eight after spending one year in New York City with his mom.
“They have a very big subway system, but the stations are dirty,” he says, adding Toronto’s system is much cleaner.
“There’s so much potential for new stations all over the city.” – 12-year-old transit fan, Jamie Kauri
When that year ended, Jamie returned to Toronto and dove right into his newfound passion. Although he loved to swim and play with his friends, he always looked forward to finding time to learn as much as he could about transit vehicles. As he grew, he would carefully plan how to build model buses and trains, complete with windows and doors that open, as well as seats for passengers. He even built a model bus station for those trains to drive into.
His bedroom is filled with transit or vehicle-related items. His walls are covered with transit signage, posters, and other paraphernalia. When he entered fifth grade at the age of 10, he drew his first fantasy transit map and hung it close to his bed. His sophisticated and complicated maps include new subway stations on routes that do not currently exist.
“There’s so much potential for new stations all over the city,” he says.
He is quick to point out the Eglinton Line on his maps.
“I have all the stations being built currently, but I marked out the west extension to the airport too,” Jamie says, pointing to – on his route – lines he’s drawn east of Kennedy Station for a potential east extension of the Eglinton LRT.
You have to understand that for Jamie, it’s not about playing pretend with toy trains. It’s about imagining Toronto transit lines of the future.
He first learned about the Eglinton Crosstown when he saw all the construction activity taking place and asking questions to the adults around him. That was when he discovered Metrolinx: “I was so excited to learn they had a community office.”
Soon, Jamie was travelling all the way from his home in The Beaches to the community office in Leaside. On his first trip, he could barely see over the counter. His questions were always carefully thought-out and ranged in topics from construction to design to service. One of the perks of visiting the office in person was access to even more transit items to bring home for his collection, including foam boards with station designs printed on them given to him as gifts.
In the fall of 2019, before the global pandemic, Jamie brought his mom to one of Crosstown’s open houses held at Eglinton Square Shopping Centre.
“He wanted to go so bad – it makes him happy,” His mom says.
“I remember our walks together (within sight of) the train tracks, when he was a little boy. I would take him there and he would just watch the trains go by.”
During the pandemic, he found time to create more maps and design moving pantographs out of cardboard and toothpicks.
Jamie understands he`s still got time before he can work at a place like Metrolinx. He wants to learn how to drive the trains, revisit a transit control centre to understand the service side, and be involved in the development and design of new transit routes and vehicles.
But before you get the idea that this young transit mega-fan is old for his age, there are still reminders of the kid inside the enthusiast.
“One day I’d like to own my own transit company called Fast and Reliable Transit,” he boasts.
Then quickly adds: “Or F.A.R.T, for short.”
Story by Carlos Hernandez, Metrolinx community relations team lead, Eglinton Crosstown.