The announcement for electrified Regional Express Rail on the GO network and the provincial budget have raised concerns in Waterloo Region as to when we will be getting two-way, all-day GO train service. (Kitchener-Centre MPP Daiene Vernile confirmed that the CN freight corridor through Brampton is a barrier, but that acquisition of that corridor was an option the province is considering.) Lost in the details however, is another area of GO service that is likely to improve much more quickly.
We’re talking about GO buses.
Presently, there’s a bus (or two) nearly every hour between the universities, downtown Kitchener, Sportsworld, Cambridge Smart Centres, and Mississauga Square One terminal. There are three ‘train-bus’ trips, one taking passengers to a train at Bramalea, the other two to Milton. On weekends, there is a bus that runs between UW and York University. All in all, the Region is served by roughly 300 trips per week via clean, comfortable buses.
But we could soon see many more.
One of the less-talked about details of the Shirley Drive facility, designed to hold 4 trains and scheduled for completion in 2016, is that it will also provide space for about 30 buses. While we shouldn’t expect to see all those spaces used at once, that kind of capacity would not be inconsequential. (The provincial budget suggests that about 250 new trips will be created in 2015-16 with only 14 new buses.)
Other changes in the GO network suggest more buses are on the way as well – the Metrolinx Five-Year Strategy calls for increasing the total number of GO bus trips by 20% from 2015-20, while at the same time, re-allocating buses to less-served areas as frequency is increased on parallel rail corridors.
So, what might more bus service look like? We might see more train-bus trips to Milton, or especially to the 15 minute all-day trains at Bramalea. Bus trips are one way in which GO can build up and demonstrate demand for more train service. But we’re also hoping that new connections with Guelph and Hamilton on Highways 6 and 7 will be prioritized.
The stars are beginning to align for such a service. In addition to Kitchener’s bus facility, Hamilton is also receiving a new facility that will hold up to 40 buses. Coach Canada, which operates the only bus directly between Kitchener, Cambridge, and Hamilton, has been cutting trips, and it looks as though the company’s abandonment of that corridor is imminent. Once construction of the new Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph is complete in 2020, it will be more likely that consistent travel times between the two cities will be possible. Such a bus link could fulfill a significant latent transit need between all three city-regions, while also providing new access to the Lakeshore West GO train corridor.
We should be keeping an eye out over the next while for not just rail announcements, but also for what new opportunities for bus travel will be made available.