Consultations and feedback deadlines
On the blog, Chris takes a first look at Grand River Transit’s upcoming business plan. Stay tuned for more over the coming weeks as we delve into the questions this report raises. Meanwhile, Mark spoke with Eric Drozd of 570 News about pedestrian crossings of ION tracks for the Traynor neighbourhood (interview starts around 22:50).
One Tuesday, the federal and provincial governments announced nearly $23 million in funding for transit projects in Waterloo Region. About half of the money will go to vehicle replacements and upgrades, while the rest will be spent on iXpress and ION connection stations (including a transit plaza at UW), and a new bus facility on Northfield Drive. (Here’s the full listing of projects in Ontario municipalities.) There’s also about $12 million left in Waterloo Region’s share of transit funding from the feds, with potential projects it could fund to be presented to Regional Council this fall. (more…)
With yesterday’s announcements about future all-day GO trains in Kitchener, improvements to bus service might not seem all that exciting. But it would be a big mistake to overlook this leap forward in improving inter-city mobility that express buses to Brampton represents. (more…)
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…)
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 .)
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…)
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?
[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…)
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.
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)
||Toronto – Bloor
||Toronto – Union
Combined GO/VIA schedule (westbound)
||Toronto – Union
||Toronto – Bloor
|VIA (Mon-Fri, Sun)
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.
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.
This survey is no longer active. Thanks to those who responded!
We’ve put together a very short survey (about 3 minutes) relating to the extension of GO Transit train service to Kitchener. Please help us out and fill out the survey by clicking here.