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.
|Kitchener||Guelph||Brampton||Toronto – Bloor||Toronto – Union|
|Toronto – Union||Toronto – Bloor||Brampton||Guelph||Kitchener|
|VIA (Mon-Fri, Sun)||22:10||–||22:45||23:29||23:57|
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.