GO Transit’s Addiction to Parking Lots

The GO Rail system has for years depended on parking lots small and large to bring riders to its trains.  Local bus services do some of the work, but the parking lots are the mainstay of GO ridership.

With the recent announcement of substantial increase in GO capacity and reach, especially on the Lake Shore corridor, the linkage between parking lot construction and GO rail service must be drastically reduced.  There is an upper limit to the amount of land available for parking, and huge lots poison the land around stations — natural focal points for communities — by limiting development.  I have even heard a politician complain about the opening of a GO station because of the traffic it will generate through her community enroute to the parking lot down the road.

GO has started to think about developing the land around its stations, but this is still in the context of even more parking.  Garages are expensive, and GO hopes to defray this cost by including them in condo developments or office buildings.  This is a very short-sighted view.

A major gap in MoveOntario is the absence of funding for local transit operations, especially lines that will feed new and expanded regional services.  Many families cannot afford to have enough cars that each person can drive to the GO station as and when they need to use the service.  GO’s ridership is already at a level where they cannot provide parking for everyone, and even before MoveOntario was announced demand was expected to double over the next 20 years.

Today, I learned that about one third of the riders boarding at Oakville Station come by transit.  The rest drive in either to park or be dropped off.  As the Lake Shore line becomes a frequent, all-day service, accessing GO by car will not be a realistic way to travel because the lot will be full early in the morning.

MoveOntario forces all of the GTTA to change the way it thinks about transit both regionally and locally, although I’m not sure Dalton McGuinty’s advisors thought that far down the road when they cooked up this scheme.

GO must break its dependence on parking if it is to grow out of its role as a peak-period commuter network, and the local systems must expand to complement the regional improvements.  I am not saying we should close GO parking lots, but we have to think hard about stopping expansion plans, especially on heavy routes with present or soon-to-come all-day service.

49 thoughts on “GO Transit’s Addiction to Parking Lots

  1. Jon

    if you have ideas about how to “add bike capacity” in areas of the carriage where it would not sacrifice passenger capacity you should write to GO Transit. But while there is a rush hour restriction and insufficient bike lockers you can’t blame people for wondering what they would do with their bikes once they got to the GO station.


  2. Most of the posters are assuming that people are going straight home, and can just hop on a bus. I commuted by GO train from Milton, then Oakville for a total of 10 years. There are kids to be dropped off at day care, and then picked up. There are errands that are easier to run on the way home, rather than getting all the way home, only to jump in your car and drive back the way you came. Things like picking up stuff to make dinner, picking up a prescription, etc etc. Not everyone drives from home right to the GO train and then directly home at the end of the workday.


  3. If anything places like Clarkson need MORE parking spaces. Living in Mississauga I don’t have any other option but then to drive to the Go station and park. There are simply no bus stops in my area, I would have to walk 45 minutes to the nearest bus station and then wait anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour for the next bus. This is just not an option.

    If you do not arrive well before 8:00am, drivers are forced to be creative and park on the grass or double park in lanes, anything to make the next train in time after circling the lot 20 minutes. If the province wants to promote going green and encourage drivers to use public transit, it must accommodate for the people who don’t have many options in terms of local transit and need to drive to the nearest hub.

    Recently Go started giving out $100 tickets to people at Clarkson who are forced to be creative in their parking methods. I pay $130 for a month pass to Union, A $100 parking ticket is just ridiculous.

    Steve: The problem with GO is that it is too successful within its own limited model that depends on parking as its primary feeder. Part of this is due to the complete lack of a reasonable local transit system, and part to the limitations of useable land for parking. Parking structures bring their own problems including cost, security and traffic jams.

    A major challenge for the GTTA will be figuring out how to get all of the people who might use proposed new transit lines to those lines, and there’s no money in all of that MoveOntario2020 capital to pay for expanded local transit.


  4. I Aint paying for more parking and I m not taking the bus to the go station, it already takes me 1.5 hours to get to school. 15 min drive to the station, 35 min at least to the station , and a 20 min walk from Union to Ryerson (not paying $2 and something for 3 subway stops)

    In japan and france they have trains that go over 400km/h, what go tranist needs to do is get faster trains.

    I go to bramela station and rite now its about 99 % full when it comes to parking, the local tranist here sucks and 2 slow, I woulnt even take it for free, that would mean that it would take me more than 2 hours just to go to school, when its only 40 km away and a 30 min drive if theres no traffic.

    Steve: I have published this comment unedited. What amuses me is the idea that we should provide parking for free, when every other service anyone uses tries to generate revenue to partly cover its costs. 400 km/hr trains travel between points slightly further apart than Bramalea and Union Station, and are totally impractical on the narrow, congested rights-of-way used by GO.

    I will leave it to Ryerson University to deal with the fine points of grammar and spelling.


  5. I sincerely hope that Patel isn’t in the planning program. I am sure that any number of our professors would have some choice words for this comment.


  6. ED has some good points on LONG BRANCH, especially on needing more bike racks – glad to see the Bike Lockers, but only 2? That’s one less than the # of bikes I’ve had stolen from there over a 5 year period. I’d be against closing any parking lots near GO stations, I’m all for adding to them or building up. & I’d pay. Long Branch parking is critical because its an easy decision to drive downtown from there if there’s no parking – and if yours is later than the 7:26am train, you will not get a parking spot at Long Branch. And this will mean all those people drive to work instead of GO’ing it, like I think everyone wants us to do. Me, I park anyway, risk a ticket …including one today. So after all these years of parking tickets I think I’m going to buy the $60 reserved spot for the winter season.


  7. I would like to know if anyone has fought the parking tickets they got? I got about $500 in the last two weeks. I cannot afford that.


  8. The critical issue is to find a balanced long-term approach. Ween people off their cars by building a more efficent and reliable transit network, including local bus and LRT connections to GO stations, while at the same time improving the quality of the urban fabric around the stations to attract more residents and employers to these areas. Unfortunately this generally means spending money now that won’t reap benefits for a long time to come.

    The short-term solution may be to build parking structures that maintain the current level of parking, but locate them in the less desirable parts of the station property. This will free up the more desirable areas for transit-oriented developments. After twenty or thirty year the parking structures will hopefully become un-necessary relics.


  9. I take the 7:24 AM train from Long Branch – there are no parking spots available after 7:10 AM – and you can not park on the streets for longer then 3 hours.

    Yes, I would commute by bike (about 25 minutes) but unfortunatelly I don’t get to wear casual clothing to work and riding a bike in rain or slush wearing business clothes is not an option.

    I would also take a bus from Mississauga, except that it takes me 15 minutes to walk to the bus stop in Mississauga (Ogden/Atwater area) plus 10 minutes on the bus plus a minimum of 10 minutes spare time – commute is too long.

    So the only option is to drive.

    Getting a reserved parking would be an option and I am looking into it, I was told at the Go Station there is a waiting list…

    I see a few options:

    1. increase the number of paid parking spots (but then Go might lose some riders who will opt out to drive to down town). How about asking the Canadian Legion branch to sell monthly parking spots? Or getting some of those unused parking spots from the co-op on the 43rd street to be converted into paid parking spots?

    2. improve the Mississauga transit to run buses in less populated areas (probably too expensive to implement)

    3. Yes, another option sell the current house and buy one within walking distance to GO…


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