Recently we made a short survey regarding GO Transit service available through our social media networks. It was described as being about the service extension, and we avoided describing its purpose. That purpose was two-fold: to get a sense of the demand for the upcoming GO train service from Kitchener to downtown Toronto and – more importantly – to see how much demand there is for weekend service, which GO Transit is not currently planning.
We had 84 respondents to the questionnaire – 48 from Kitchener, 32 from Waterloo, 2 from Cambridge, and one each from Elmira and Guelph. Some conclusions from these data follow. More details are at the bottom of the post.
While current bus service seems to meet weekend travel needs as well as weekday travel needs, people don’t use VIA Rail service on weekends for travel from Kitchener to Toronto. This is not surprising, given that a return trip costs over $50 and that there is only one available round-trip – which leaves Toronto rather early for a weekend (5:40pm). This suggests a high latent demand for train service suitable for weekend trips.
There is a sizable weekday travel demand from Kitchener-Waterloo to downtown Toronto, and GO trains are poised to capture a substantial portion of it. However, the weekend demand from K-W to downtown Toronto is about twice as high as the weekday one, and survey responses indicate that weekend GO train service from Kitchener is more than justified.
Though GO Transit has historically been a commuter service, its extension to Kitchener has reached beyond the GTA to what is a self-contained urban area. Few people commute daily to Toronto from Kitchener-Waterloo. However Toronto is close enough to be a destination for non-commuter travel. It’s about time for GO Transit to acknowledge and embrace the intercity travel market, and not pigeonhole Kitchener-Waterloo into an ill-fitting role as a suburb.
Only 8% of the respondents (n = 7) were frequent commuters to Toronto, as defined by an average of 5 weekday trips or more per month. However 32% of respondents (n = 27) travelled to Toronto on average 2 times or more during weekends.
In total, the pool of respondents indicated an average of 146 weekday trips to Toronto a month (8% of total weekdays), of which 44% were by car, 34% were by train, and 22% were by bus. Respondents expected to travel by GO train a total of 144 weekday trips a month to Toronto, and another 45 trips a month from Kitchener to Guelph.
Respondents indicated an average of 115 weekend trips to Toronto a month (16% of total weekend days). Of those trips, 62% were by car, 34% were by bus, and only 3% were by train. (Percentages don’t add up to 100 due to rounding.)
The survey provided a hypothetical scenario of two GO trains a day on weekend mornings from Kitchener to Toronto, and two evening return trains. Respondents predicted they would travel by GO train a total of 128 weekend trips a month to Toronto, and another 51 trips a month from Kitchener to Guelph — if such a service were in place.
Overall, predictions of respondents suggest:
-On an average weekday, about 8% of people would travel to Toronto by GO train. An average of 2% would travel from Kitchener to Guelph.
-On an average weekend day, about 18% of people would travel to Toronto by GO train if weekend service were provided. An average of 7% would travel from Kitchener to Guelph.
It is important to note that our sample, drawn as it is through TriTAG’s social networks, may be biased towards higher overall estimate of GO train use. Participants may also be overestimating how much they will use GO trains. However, this is not likely to account for the higher per-day demand for weekend service relative to weekday service predicted in the survey.