Category Archives: Intercity Transit

Is Greyhound pulling an Uber?

Greyhound recently launched scheduled service between Waterloo Region and the Toronto Pearson airport, to much fanfare. To many, this is an obvious and useful connection. It is also, as best as I can tell, illegal under Ontario’s Public Vehicles Act.

Ontario has a licensing system for intercity bus service (that we’ve written about before) which effectively grants perpetual monopolies for a private company to run scheduled service on a corridor. GO Transit, the regional transit agency operated by the provincial government, is exempt from these regulations, but prefers to avoid its buses directly competing with private carriers. Last year the Ministry of Transportation put forward a deregulation proposal that is still under review.

Greyhound and Coach Canada are the biggest beneficiaries of the current licensing regime. For Waterloo Region in particular, Greyhound provides the direct service to Toronto, Guelph, and London – and no other private carrier is allowed to. It has poor reputation among riders, but there’s no other direct options. Similarly, Coach Canada provides the direct service to Hamilton. And Airways Transit provides scheduled van service to Toronto Pearson airport.

I was curious how Greyhound dealt with the system given Airways Transit’s license, so I looked up recent issues of the Ontario Gazette (where new license applications must be published). Failing to find anything, I emailed the Ontario Highway Transport Board, and was able to obtain the current operating licenses for Airways Transit and for Greyhound. And indeed, Greyhound’s license not only doesn’t allow airport service; it explicitly prohibits it.

Greyhound is using a move from Uber’s playbook, with the difference that it’s already the dominant player. The same licensing system that serves to protect profitable monopoly routes for Greyhound is the one that it’s apparently breaking in order to get more business.

If this is the case, it is not a tenable situation. If Greyhound can brazenly and intentionally break the rules, then there shouldn’t be anything stopping anyone else from offering service that would break Greyhound’s stranglehold on bus service along the Highway 401 corridor.

Photo credit: Frank Deanrdo, “Greyhound Canada” (Licensed under CC BY 2.0.)

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Photo by Sean Marshall on Flickr, licensed under CC-BY-NC

What about the bus?

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. (more…)

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North mainline track condition (a)

What does the GO service expansion mean for Waterloo Region?

On Friday, the province announced its ten year plan for implementing “Regional Express Rail” (RER) throughout the GTHA. Previously cast during the provincial elections as electrification and  15 minute service frequency on all corridors, this plan narrows the scope of this expansion to certain lines and more central areas. Nevertheless, if implemented, RER would represent a quadrupling of the number of weekly train trips in the network, and an expenditure of $13.5 billion. It’s both ambitious  and, for those commuting to or from Waterloo Region, disappointing.

The announced schedule for increased service over ten years only pledges 30 minute “peak period, peak direction” service from Kitchener – a far cry from all-day service in both directions for those travelling from the GTA to work in the Region. Electrification of the Kitchener line, which would enable more frequent and faster trains, is only planned to the Bramalea GO station. (There is also no mention of electrification the CP-owned Milton Line or its extension to Cambridge [1].)

Considering that Kitchener is already expecting two new trips by the end of 2016,  we will soon be close to the pledged 30-minute peak service promised, meaning we may not see many improvements in the remaining nine years. Two adjacent bottlenecks appear to be at play here: the single-tracked Guelph Subdivision from Kitchener to Georgetown, and the freight corridor in Brampton between Georgetown and Bramalea.  (more…)

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Shedding light on Ontario’s intercity bus system

In a recent post, we took a look at the issues with Ontario’s intercity bus system, the role of the Ontario Highway Transport Board (OHTB), as well as what we don’t know. Since then I’ve spoken with Felix D’Mello, Board Secretary at the OHTB, and I can shed some light on current licence holders and cross-subsidies. It turns out to be a simpler story than I had anticipated.

Here are the questions I raised earlier:

Clarity from the OHTB is needed on what, exactly, is the current state of intercity transit in Ontario. Which companies hold the licence for which city pairs, and what amount of service do they provide? What cross-subsidized service is provided by private companies, and what are the arrangements supporting it?

(more…)

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Let’s talk about Ontario’s intercity bus system

[Update: Our new post provides some important information about the below discussion.]

Here in Waterloo Region, people love to complain about Greyhound buses to Toronto, but few complain about Ontario intercity bus regulation as a whole. They should, as it has much to do with the relatively poor quality and availability of intercity transit here. Now Coach Canada and Pacific Western Transportation (PWT) have launched a campaign for “modernization” (read: deregulation) of the Ontario intercity bus system, with a “Where’s The Bus?” website aimed at the general public.

Where’s The Bus points to more competition and innovation as reasons to deregulate. And to its credit, PWT has shown innovation and competition with its successful luxury Red Arrow service between Calgary and Edmonton. But Ontario intercity bus regulation is an important issue, and one on which more than just financially interested parties should weigh in. (more…)

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hwy7

Highway 7 Alternatives

Update: With work on Highway 7 expected to begin in 2015, there appears to be little chance of a change in plans for the road corridor. However, your support is still needed to ensure transit connections are prioritized between Waterloo Region, Guelph, and the rest of the GTA, including two-way all-day GO train service. Contact your representatives today.

With the upcoming Kitchener-Waterloo by-election, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has pledged to construct an 18km grade separated 4-lane freeway. This 18km roadway will be placed along a new 100m wide right-of-way to the north of the existing highway, include a new crossing of the Grand River and include 6 interchanges. Of particular interest is the modification of the existing Wellington Street interchange with the Conestoga Parkway into a 4-level interchange with high-speed direct flyover ramps set to be a quarter of the cost of this project.

Image of the planned Highway 7 route taken from a presentation made to Regional council in 2011

However, is the construction of a highway at an unknown cost (>400 Million according this presentation) best way to meet travel needs on this corridor? TriTAG’s position is that before a new highway corridor is constructed between Kitchener and Guelph, less invasive approaches to this issue involving transit need to be investigated.

(more…)

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University Area LRT Station Spacing

One of the main goals of rapid transit is to decentralize the bus network from a system of hub-and-spoke routes to a system of cross-corridor bus routes which connect to rapid transit stations. However, the current planned LRT station locations in Waterloo between Uptown and Northfield are not optimally placed to achieve this goal.

Currently, stations in the University area are planned at Seagram Drive and mid-block between University Avenue and Columbia Street:

Current station locations at Seagram and UW Davis Centre with 600m walking radius

The issue with the above setup is that it would divert cross-corridor routes off their corridors and into a terminal station in front of UW Davis Centre. Diverting trips from these corridors would result in longer cross-town travel times, and would reduce the amount of mixed-use development potential at the cross-corridors. Anyone who has travelled on Routes 7 and 8 through Charles Street Terminal knows the frustrating experience that even a minor route diversion can have on your overall travel time. Time wasted sitting at a terminal is time spent thinking about how much quicker it is to drive or even walk.

As such, TriTAG supports altering the University station locations to the following:

Modified station locations at University Ave and Columbia Street with 600m walking radius

Placing a station at the street provides many benefits over a station mid-block: (more…)

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Hourly GO Transit to Mississauga

Amidst the talk of GO trains (or the lack thereof) between Toronto and Waterloo Region, GO Transit has quietly and steadily been increasing service on its Waterloo-Mississauga Route 25. Starting March 31, when university-related service is cut back, it is actually adding an extra regular weekday run in both directions. (At the same time, it is cutting back on some Friday express runs and extending others to run on Thursdays as well.) Details are available at GO Transit’s schedule page, as well as on Google Maps when you ask for transit directions.

That will bring us to pretty much all-day hourly scheduled bus service between Kitchener and Mississauga on weekdays and Saturdays. It’s less than hourly in the early morning, evening, and Sundays, but still pretty impressive for a service that doesn’t seem to get much media attention. Yet, GO is increasing the service likely because there is high demand for it.

Why would you want to go to Mississauga, apart from the city itself or the Square One mall? At the Square One terminal, there are regular buses to Toronto-Union station (Route 21), to York University (Routes 45, 46, 47), and mostly commuter runs to Yorkdale and North York (Route 19).

In addition, with a Presto card you can easily ride both GO buses and MiWay local buses without buying tickets (and with a transfer discount). MiWay routes 26, 3, and 20 will take you from Square One to Islington station on the TTC Bloor-Danforth subway line. Routes 107 (weekday only rapid) and 7 both go to Pearson Airport — the 7 goes directly to Terminal 1 and the 107 stops at the Viscount LINK train station. Apart from being dropped off and picked up at the airport, GO + MiWay is by far the cheapest way of getting to Pearson from Waterloo Region.

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Clues to King/Victoria Transit Hub Plans

A sign at the northwest corner of Kitchener’s King / Victoria intersection proclaims the future home of an inter-modal transit hub, with LRT, GO and Via trains, and local and intercity buses. Hidden away in Regional purchasing documents are some clues as to how the planning of this site is taking place.

Early last month, the Region of Waterloo issued a request for proposals (addendum) for a “Preliminary Design Study and Station Access Plan”. Bidding closed two weeks ago, and the project is to be awarded next Tuesday. Consultations with various advisory committees are required of the winning bidder; general public consultation is encouraged but not required.

These documents also indicate that the Region “has undertaken a design study for the City of Kitchener, which includes building envelopes, heights, and massing for this project.” The City of Kitchener’s vision for this part of the downtown is grand, and it appears likely that the transit hub will be a substantial presence physically.

Interesting aspects and quotes found in the RFP about the study: (more…)

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