Underwhelming Start to GO Train Service

On Friday, the province finally announced the schedule for GO trains in Kitchener and Guelph. They’ll be starting on Monday, December 19th — and the Georgetown Line will become the Kitchener Line. A trip from Kitchener to Toronto is two hours each way and a round trip costs $29.20. Kitchener to Guelph is 22 minutes and a round trip costs $12.60. VIA is more expensive, but provides faster runs during other parts of the day – no word yet on any combined GO/VIA fares nor for that matter on any fare discounts with Grand River Transit.

Combined GO/VIA schedule (eastbound)
Kitchener Guelph Brampton Toronto – Bloor Toronto – Union
GO (Mon-Fri) 05:52 06:14 07:05 07:38 07:53
VIA (Mon-Fri) 06:29 06:57 07:44 08:20
GO (Mon-Fri) 07:10 07:32 08:21 08:53 09:08
VIA (Mon-Sun) 09:10 09:42 10:22 10:50
VIA (Mon-Sun) 21:35 22:07 22:51 23:20
Combined GO/VIA schedule (westbound)
Toronto – Union Toronto – Bloor Brampton Guelph Kitchener
VIA (Mon-Sun) 10:55 11:29 12:08 12:36
GO (Mon-Fri) 16:45 16:54 17:30 18:18 18:42
VIA (Mon-Sun) 17:40 18:14 18:52 19:20
GO (Mon-Fri) 17:45 17:54 18:30 19:18 19:42
VIA (Mon-Fri, Sun) 22:10 22:45 23:29 23:57
GO Train testing in Kitchener

GO train in Kitchener (Photo: Gord Spence via Flickr)

Judging by how much the coverage of Friday’s announcement has been linked and discussed, there is much enthusiasm for GO trains finally rolling into Kitchener. But local politicians clearly are not thrilled with Kitchener being treated as a bedroom community for Toronto. The Globe has written about the frustration that the new service does nothing for commuters from the GTA into Waterloo Region, who Communitech says are now more numerous than the reverse. And as our survey helps to show, the general public has a keen interest in travelling to Toronto on weekends – something for which GO Transit has no apparent plans.

But more problematic than a limited train service to start is that GO is not rolling out bus service on the corridor during off-peak times and the reverse direction. Officials from GO and Metrolinx are quoted by CTV as saying that train service will be added and adjusted according to the demand. However, without the bus service there on the same corridor, GO has little means to gauge the demand for anything other than commuter service to Toronto.

Service on Route 25 (between Waterloo Region and Mississauga) is barely relevant to the trips which a Kitchener Line train serves. One can hope that GO will at least have the sense to try running Friday evening and Sunday evening trains for students to/from the GTA, when Route 25 and Greyhound are very busy. GO could even run shuttles from the universities to the train, and replace a dozen buses with a couple of shuttle buses and a couple of trains. Since existing bus ridership is a poor indicator of Kitchener Line demand, GO Transit will need to actually try out service at other times to convince itself of the demand – such as on a weekend.

All that said, there is still reason to think that the trains will be well-used, as I’ve written before. They may prove particularly useful both to occasional commuters to Toronto, but also commuters from Kitchener to Guelph and Brampton. Though here too, GO undermines its utility by having the exorbitant price of $12.60 for a round trip between Kitchener and Guelph — quite a bit more expensive than gas and parking for such a commute by car.

7 thoughts on “Underwhelming Start to GO Train Service”

  1. Is it known whether trains will be stored in Kitchener Friday PM-Monday AM or returned to Toronto? If the latter, it should be explored whether for instance the first PM train could be dispatched to Toronto after the arrival of the second and the second PM train sent back on Saturday morning. This would assist not just the student market but also K-W-C residents looking to spend the weekend in Toronto. Both trains could then be serviced in Willowbrook over the weekend and returned on Sunday evening.

  2. Michael, A bit late to the party on this post, but great blog you guys have. Glad to see more transit activism, in 2006 when I started GOKW.ORG there was no one else… just two of us plus volunteers making the rounds with all the politicians :)

    Nonetheless, your comment on round trip to Guelph: $12.60 for a round trip is not true. The average vehicle round trip is 62 KM is $8 in gas (at 10l/100KM), parking is how much, say $5 for a monthly pass user, plus insurance ($4), depreciation/capital/car payments ($3), your looking at $19/day to commute by car if you pay for parking, $14 if you don’t. Also don’t forget the fact some of these car numbers are paid on weekends and holidays, and when you don’t use commuter transit, you don’t pay.

    At least at $12.60 it’s almost half the price of VIA :)

  3. Thanks, Stephen.

    I stand by my calculations, though. I counted 52 km for a downtown to downtown round-trip – about 5 litres with your fuel efficiency, which is under $6 at current gas prices. Parking in downtown Guelph can be had for $50-60 a month, or under $3 per workday. Which brings the marginal cost of driving the commute to less than $9. Those marginal costs are what people most see when they are comparing travel modes, and it is always strange when transit costs more than driving, especially at the margin. The pricing is wrong in this case.

  4. Also, on the subject of the Reverse commute option: I analyzed the current situation and came up with the following, which ultimately puts a fairly uphill battle to bring Train services in the reverse commuter direction of the present flow:


    I definately agree that starting with a Bus service would be a great beginning, and activisim of this type would be a worthwhile endeavour – what does the current private sector bus service provide and does it indicate demand in the reverse commute direction?

  5. Anybody have a sense of GO Train ridership levels from KW and Guelph now that the holiday period is over?

  6. On another blog, someone talked to VIA/GO guy in Guelph, they said they get $2000.00 a day, break that down on a 10 ride ticket value and you get about 185 people.

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