Getting On GO Transit

At the GTTA Board meeting yesterday (see previous post for additional information on this), GO Transit presented an overview of its plans for additional parking on the network.  I won’t go into the fine details here, but broadly this contained two important directions:

  • GO is moving toward parking structures, possibly in conjuction with development of its parking lot properties, as an alternative to continued outward expansion of the lots.
  • The target growth rate is from 1,500 to 2,000 spaces per year.

GO currenly operates 48,500 parking spaces, and the park-and-ride sector now account for 67% of ridership.  Other modal shares are kiss-and-ride (15%), walking (9%), local transit (8%) and cycling (.5% to 1%).

In the long run, parking is not sustainable at its current modal share.  Assuming a 20-year growth rate in the middle of GO’s cited range (1,750), this would give 35,000 more spaces.  However, GO expects its riding to double over the next 20 years, and external factors such as a stepp rise in oil prices could accelerate this.  Clearly, parking will handle a lower, even if still important, proportion of total ridership.  A further problem is that a route such as Lakeshore with plans for large increases in capacity through electrification and extension is not necessarily where the additional parking capacity can be easily located.  Rapid growth in ridership may outstrip parking growth on this line.

This puts a considerable additional demand on local transit service to the GO stations both in quantity and in hours of service.  This will be a challenge for local transit operators and, by extension for the GTTA.

As the GTTA contemplates the future role of transit, it must adapt from provision of downtown-oriented, peak Monday to Friday communting service (including the local transit component) to service that makes travel by transit within and among the regions easy.  After all, much of the GTA gridlock comes not from commuters to downtown, but from travel between the regions including phenomena such as the lunch-hour traffic jams.

This is one of several cases the GTTA must not adopt a “more of the same” approach to transit.

39 thoughts on “Getting On GO Transit

  1. The GTTA needs to help improve feeder bus services to GO stations, stop building new parking, start charging for existing parking, and build new mixed-use development near existing and new stations. Building more “free” parking is clearly not the solution – not only for environmental reasons and due to the traffic congestion it will create but due to the massive amount of space it will take up, especially if GO adds more peak and off-peak service. It is appalling that 82% of GO Transit passengers already get to the GO station by car – if we care about sustainable transportation, we must reduce this.

    The first step should be to improve bus feeder service to GO stations. Not only should the bus feeder service network be frequent and dense, but it should be free (not just cheap) with the purchase of a GO ticket to encourage use. This will be difficult at first due to our mostly low-density neighbourhoods, but even in low-density neighbourhoods convenient feeder service should be practical at least at rush hour. For routes where there is already high density (e.g. Hurontario), we should consider light rail.

    Secondly, GO Transit should place a moratorium on increasing the number of parking spaces near stations, and start charging for existing parking spaces. This won’t cause most people to drive downtown because parking is extremely expensive there, much more expensive than it will be at GO stations. It should then contract with the private sector to build transit-friendly mixed-use developments near stations, on the land occupied by the existing parking lots; they should incorporate a small parking garage, but with less capacity than the parking lot it replaces.

    Finally, GO Transit needs to build stations near existing population centres and high-density development, where possible. For example, the new station in Barrie is in a terrible location, south of the city and far from downtown, so that a massive parking lot can be built. If it were instead built closer to downtown, but with less parking, it would be much more accessible to transit.


  2. GO is moving toward parking structures, possibly in conjuction with development of its parking lot properties, as an alternative to continued outward expansion of the lots.

    I was afraid it would go down this road. It wouldn’t be so bad though if they replaced “possibly” with “but only”.

    I read once in one of GO’s quarterly publications way back that GO wants to offer local service around its stations with its own buses. I think there is some potential for that, although it is difficult to make it effective. Is there any news on what the future of that idea? If more parking expansion is still their best answer, it sounds like the idea is not at the forefront of anything at the moment.

    Steve: The real question is how soon will the GTTA take over responsibility for GO and merge its schemes for local services into plans for the existing local networks? GO seems to be an extension of Queen’s Park’s desire to have a presence everywhere, something that must stop if the GTTA is to have any hope of establishing its own presence in this area.


  3. I agree with Andrew. The more GO builds car friendly stations the more it becomes supportive of sprawl type developments. We need improved local service and better planning in the areas surrounding GO stations.


  4. One thing that struck me is the measly 0.5-1% bicycle market share. This is largely due to the lack of secure bicycle parking. Last year’s legalization of electric bicycles in Ontario made the lack of secure parking a much bigger problem. Sinced the motor does the work, ebikes are an excellent commuter tool, but at $1,000 per, security is a vital issue.

    There are solutions that are much cheaper than building car parking structures. For example, see the video at:


  5. The way GO is set up in the suburbs, you really have to drive to the stations. Everyone is coming in from such a wide area that it’s difficult to set up a shuttle bus service.

    And, these are business class travellers. They’ll take a train, but not a bus, and definitely not two buses. I’m surprised they haven’t gone to multi-level parking garages already.

    As a service though, GO really sucks. The mad rush at Union, the backups to get out of the parking lots at night, delayed and cancelled trains, and high fares = a service that stinks. I’m glad I don’t have to use it anymore.


  6. A follow-up to my previous comment. I see that the 2000 Decima Research Poll of Toronto bicyclists reported that:

    “When those mentioning distance (48%) as the cycling barrier were asked what steps could be taken to encourage them to begin cycling to work or school, 59% said “nothing.” However, when prompted, 53% of those who said “nothing” said they would combine cycling with public transit if there was convenient and secure bike parking.”

    Source: Page 14 of

    Click to access decimareport.pdf

    The same source, on page 19 states:

    “Of those cyclists who have combined cycling and public transit, 82% would be more likely to do it more often if secure bike parking facilities were available”

    Also on page 19:

    “Of those cyclists who do not combine cycling and public transit, 60% would be more likely to try it if secure bike parking facilities were available.”

    Conclusion: A lot of cars would be taken off the road if there was secure bike parking at GO/TTC stations. That should be the cheap priority, instead of very expensive car parking structures.

    Steve: I have to say this: it snows in the GTA. On days when the streets to and from the GO lot are not exactly prime territory for cycling, especially by the “business class” travellers described in another comment, people need another way to get there.

    An important statistic is missing from your analysis:

    You speak of those who combine cycling and transit, and of those who cycle, but don’t use transit. However, you completely miss the much larger population of people who do not cycle at all, or would be unlikely to except under the most ideal weather conditions. These are predominantly car users, and they are the hardest to wean out of the comfort of their vehicles. The real question is “how many people who now drive to a GO parking lot would switch to cycling” and, as a corollary, “what conditions such as weather or additional trips enroute (e.g. shopping) would reduce the frequency of their cycling use”?

    If we don’t have a way to handle the demand in the middle of February, the transit service will have failed just when it is most needed.

    People who want to bike should be encouraged to do so, but this will not eliminate the need for parking and feeder bus routes.


  7. People talk about biking to GO or TTC stations here like this is southern California. This is Canada folks!

    If I’m going to work, even if the weather is perfect, I’m going to get all dressed up after a shower and then get all sweaty and windblown on a bike?

    Oh yeah, and my dress pants can get caught in the chain — that always helps.

    I wish GO had bus feeders in the 416 timed to meet downtown-bound trains, but it just isn’t practical or economical.


  8. There are year-round cyclists. They are strange and brave people.

    Rolling your sock up over your pants leg keeps it out of the chain. Recommended.

    And sure, plenty of people who drive to the GO station will never in their lives ride a bicycle. But can we get some cheap, secure bike parking so that the people who actually want to commute that way are served?

    I’m surprised to hear that any parking at GO lots is free. How did that survive the Harris Era?


  9. GO should seriously consider promoting carpooling to their stations, even though this practice hasn’t really caught on with the majority of the commuting public. However, if GO were to start charging single-occupant vehicles for parking, while allowing carpoolers free and prime parking spots, that would certainly be an incentive for people to make the effort. Of course, this would require enforcement, which could be accomplished by using the funds generated by parking fees to hire an attendant for each entrance to each lot. In addition, GO could set up a website for would-be carpoolers to find each other. There are many people who get to any given station at the same time every day, and surely there are others who live closeby with whom they could carpool.


  10. The Harrisites were part of the 905 area that’s why.

    But that aside, the notion to charge GO Transit parkers is….. debatable. Steve and I already slugged it out in one thread. But I will point out some facts:

    1) despite what some people may say about downtown parking being expensive, a lot of companies provide car allowances for those parking downtown. These allowances also cover parking costs. What some companies do NOT do is cover the cost of Public Transportation. It is for this reason why downtown companies are often clamouring for more expressway infrastructure rather than public transit infrastructure. I’ve seen people who work downtown who would rather drink antifreeze than to take GO Transit or TTC to work because of perceived inconveniences. If anything, this schism with regards to the benefits of Public Transportation vs Driving Downtown needs to be addressed and this starts at the top level.

    2) AFAIK, the cost of parking is already built into the price of the ticket, mostly because GO Transit was initially built for the driver who wanted to commute downtown. That is how GO Transit has regulated fares. Not only that, a good portion of parking spots are “prepaid convenience spots” meaning that customers can have a predefined spot where they can park their car to take the train. Obviously, this does cost money and there are people who will pay for it.

    3) There are people out there who say that the cost of GO Transit is already prohibitively high and they are considering simply jumping back into their car and driving instead. Skips having to be at a certain station at a certain time to catch a certain train. For these guys, flexibility is a concern, and I’ve even heard people who say they save money by driving downtown instead of taking public transportation.

    While I agree with Steve’s points on how the future of GO Transit should be planned, simply charging for parking is not the answer. The GO Transit people pay a much higher share in terms of transit and we simply cannot punish them more for trying to do their part to ease commuter gridlock.


  11. The problem that cyclists always seem to have while convincing cities to add cycling infrastructure is that other people think about themselves riding bikes. Non-cyclists say “that’s not gonna work for me.” So all the people who are on the cusp of cycling get ignored. Some people would need an electric bike and an enclosed heated bike path before they start cycling. Lots just want a solid bike rack.

    5% cycling rates for the short distance to the train would be a pretty attainable goal to aim for. That’s 2000 fewer parking spots, and many people that are likely to use buses when they don’t cycle.

    You’d think this is Montreal or Ottawa by the way people are talking! It’s just Toronto. We get a couple months where it’s too cold for most people to ride bikes, and even then, the snow melts or is cleared. If anyone starts riding a bike regularly, they quickly find there are simple solutions to just about every problem people have described (like chain guards, for example). Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting you do it! But you can help others do it.

    A person who rides a bike to the train 3/4 of the year, and rides the much needed feeder buses the other 1/4 of the year, is probably going to be happy living in a 1 car household, and is going to be a very reliable GO customer.


  12. The one reason I’m optimistic about the GTTA is that it purports a holistic view of transportation in the GTA. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that anyone in government is in the right mindset yet to take everything into consideration.

    Go Transit could be the centerpiece of a sustainable transportation revolution in Southern Ontario, but it’s still stuck in commuter mode. There are a number of changes that need to be made for this to happen.

    Parking at GO stations is obsolete. This is a fundamental shift in philosophy that we have yet to see. If it is our goal to discourage single-occupant vehicles and the carbon dioxide they produce, we need to stop providing free parking at GO stations. It will be argued that this will cause more traffic on the region’s freeways, but that is also part of the solution. Driving all the way to work must also be seen as oboslete due to congestion.
    To work, this strategy would need a number of complementary changes:

    First and foremost, a complete freeze on investment in 400-series highways.
    Offering two different tiers of GO passes, those for people who want to park, and those who don’t, in effect removing the subsidy to those who drive to their station.
    To start building fairly dense streetcar suburbs on the parking lots around the stations, similar to Port Credit, Mimico, etc. With retail, commercial, and residential development, there could be a healthy mix of captive transit users. This also allows the vast expanses of pavement to be shared between commuters that use it during the day, and residents that use it overnight (not that they should have cars in the first place, but these things don’t happen overnight. For now, we can maximize the efficiency of the parking lots).
    Another obvious shift is to stop locating stations in wastelands where land is most easily acquired for parking and start choosing stations that best serve human beings.
    A minimum standard of day-long service on every line. Until then, in all of GO’s marketing, a strong differentiation should be made between commuter service and all-day service. (I acknowledge that this is by far the most expensive piece of the puzzle. It also happens to be the most vital.)As well, service to the airport is a no brainer.
    Rather than congestion tolls, which could be tricky and pricey to implement, we should see a rise in the cost of owning a vehicle across the board, most of which should be in the form of a considerable rise in the gas tax. This is more equitable to those that attempt to drive efficient cars.
    High-occupancy vehicle and bus lanes on every freeway in the region. This serves the dual purpose of encouraging carpooling and of reducing highway capacity causing more congestion for single-occupancy vehicles.
    Use every effort to reduce the amount of parking spaces, everywhere. This especially includes driveways and garages, which can be turned into more housing. A good start would be to implement a parking tax, which charges the landowner a certain amount per space. This could correspond with a drop in property taxes.
    A heavy increase in feeder service to stations will logically follow. Where volume dictates, construction should begin on higher order transit (bus lanes, LRT, etc.) that connect with GO stations.
    Andrew McKinnon suggests free feeder buses, but I would rather see the Presto card implemented across the service area, and then a move away from fares based on which transit system you’re on to a system based on cost (ie. peak fares will be higher because it requires the purchase of buses that sit vacant for most of the day, an inefficient use of capital).Ideally, though, people should be able to walk to their station. Walking is at the top of the transportation hierarchy that GO Transit should use to make every one of their decisions (followed by cycling, transit, and finally the private vehicle).
    Although I agree with Steve that cycling would be largely seasonal in the GTA, effort should still be made to accomodate it. Plentiful bike racks, bike lockers that could be paid for and accessed using your Presto card, and designated, space-efficient spaces on trains for bikes. (pipe dream: on-train showers to save time?)

    We need to come at the climate change problem from a number of different angles, with transportation being absolutely key. It just so happens that shifting our transportation habits to reduce emissions is not only convenient but beneficial in a number of other ways (land use, health, convenience, etc.). It’s time to start retreating from a failed investment, the single-occupant vehicle, and to start maximizing our return.


  13. Steve wrote:

    “You speak of those who combine cycling and transit, and of those who cycle, but don’t use transit. However, you completely miss the much larger population of people who do not cycle at all…”

    Kevin’s comment:

    True. My comments were not directed at that category of people. What I write about are those who are cyclists but do not bicycle to the GO station due to the lack of secure parking. This is rather a large number of people, and it accounts for the fact that cyclists comprise only 0.5-1% of GO users. It is my belief that that number would substantially increase if secure bicycle parking were provided.

    Doing so is, of course, vastly cheaper, about 1/17 the cost, of the incredibly expensive car parking structures GO is currently proposing.

    Steve: The distinction I am making is that during the winter when the number of cyclists falls, there has to be enough capacity one way or another to handle the ridership that wants to get to the GO station. This will require either additional parking capacity (unlikely given that it will probably be filled with regulars) or better feeder bus service that riders can count on in bad weather. I’m not saying bikes don’t have a place, but we have to be able to handle the situations where they are impractical for the segment of the cycling population that takes other modes in bad weather.


  14. M. Briganti wrote:

    “If I’m going to work, even if the weather is perfect, I’m going to get all dressed up after a shower and then get all sweaty and windblown on a bike?”

    Kevin’s comment:

    This is one of the reasons why the Ontario government legalized electric bicycles last year. The electric motor does the work, so no need to break out in a sweat. No registration, no license, no insurance required, just like with a conventional bicycle. Some ebikes “look like” conventional bicycles, some “look like” scooters.

    My favorite are the Veloteq ebikes. See:


  15. Eric Smith wrote:

    “There are year-round cyclists. They are strange and brave people.”

    True. I should know because I am one of them. This winter I plan to use my ebike (a Veloteq Commander) every day unless the weather is really bad. My definition of “really bad” is daytime high less than -10 or roads unploughed with more than 10 cm of snow on them.

    This ebike has a fat scooter-style tire, so I anticipate it to be OK with normal winter (ie ploughed roads) snow, but this will be my first winter ebike experience. Time will tell.

    I”m not recommending that everyone do this, but those who cycle are being much more environmentally friendly than car users, so should be priority #1 for parking infrastructure. I’m not holding my breath…


  16. Eric S. Smith said “There are year-round cyclists. They are strange and brave people.”

    If those brave winter cyclists had any idea how little control of our vehicles us winter car drivers had on a snowy and slippery day, they would come to their senses and not play in traffic without adequate safety protection!

    (though personally on those awful days, that’s when you’ll find me on the subway – but I’ve been scared to death on busy roads when everyone is doing their best not to slide sidways, to have a bicycle come try and undertake me in a narrow spot!). But we digress …


  17. A lot of service qualities regarding GO Transit are being brought into the picture now, and is getting very interesting.

    GO Transit is percieved as the best 905 service because of its speed and ROW characteristics – and it goes long distances across borders on one fare (but the fare varies by distance).

    There are a lot of pros and cons to the network, most are well-known, some are not. Among the more well-known ones are that, apart from the Union Station Corridor itself, GO does not own its ROW – CN and CP do. This creates reliability issues. While GO is responsible for the maintenance of its rolling stock and the Union Station Corridor ROW Infrastructure, the rest of the network’s maintenance needs are looked after by the freight rail companies – on which note, CN’s record has been nothing but appaling and deplorable. This increases the risk of delays due to poor/deteriorating track conditions. Harper is obviously rather cozy with Harrison (the American CEO of CN), as the federal government seems to not mind CN’s poor safety practices as long as it does well for the national economy (according to the stock market, they do well, but I say there are more important factors to weigh in). GO Transit users get to suffer as a result.

    Tracks added and paid for by GO also do not belong to GO either, I have read, which I found shocking and should be considered fraud. They pay for the tracks, and then the freight rail company turns around and charges them for their use. Bill C-11 might allow this to change in the future, as GO might be able to buy corridors where it is the only user/customer. Right now, at the mercy of the freight companies, they cannot run frequent service easily. Part of this comes from an inability to run trains in two directions at the same time, either because the corridor has only one track, which is common in the network outside Lakeshore and Milton, or, in Milton’s case, the corridor is owned by CP (who has a less-than-flattering opinion of GO Transit using their tracks).

    The frequent service is GO’s biggest killer. GO service would be significantly more attractive if it could run frequent trains outside rush hour (ev. 10 minutes for Georgetown and Milton, 15 minutes for northbound corridors. With Lakeshore electrification, every 5 minutes). However, this is not realistic before redevelopment happens around their stations, and on a large scale. GO needs to be involved in turning their stations into communities. Port Credit has already achieved this to a notable extent, Cooksville can lay similar claim but needs work on its parking approach. Other parts in the network have long ways to go. The black deserts need to change into development somehow. Expanding parking for the sole use of parking is a practice that needs to be banned – all new parking needs to be incorporated into other developments that actually turn stations into communities or destinations.

    As for bicycle parking, what we don’t need is for bicycles to run into the same problem as cars. With bikes, the problem could become worse, too. While you can’t just lay a car anywhere by a fence, a bike can be. I’m in Tokyo, and here, bicycles are extremely popular – and train stations seem to struggle badly to satisfy demand. Tons of bikes get parked illegally and obstruct passageways sometimes, it is becoming a notable social problem. We don’t want to end up with this problem, even if it would only occur is summer. The best approach would be a dedicated and efficient feeder system, but this is an extremely complex and challenging task.


  18. Sadly, this was expected.

    One issue that I am curious about, is the traffic around GO Stations. How does the GTTA plan to address this? You do not hear much talk about increasing the capacity of the roads around stations.

    One example is Bramalea GO Station. In the morning, the traffic is atrocious due to everyone driving to the GO station. Add to that, a new condominium complex has been built close by. The main North South road, Bramalea Rd is only 4 lanes wide, and as far as I know, there are no plans to increase the capacity of the road.

    If Go Transit is going to stick with providing commuter parking, they should also look at improving the capacity of the local roads.

    Steve: Early in 2007 when the GTTA was still getting started, I attended a meeting at the Canadian Urban Institute where Rob McIsaac spoke about early plans for his agency. In the audience, a member of a local council in the outer GTA asked, no pleaded, that GO avoid locating new stations in her municipality because of the traffic congestion they cause.


  19. We don’t need GO owning the corridors, we need the Province of Ontario owning them as they own the 400 series highways. GO should revert to being a train operating company. Provincial ownership would guarantee fair and open access not just for GO but VIA and Ontario Northland too, and stronger accountability for track quality. It was shocking to read recently that GO-requested track upgrades didn’t proceed for a long time because it wasn’t a CN priority.


  20. These e-bikes sound interesting. How fast and far can they go on a single charge?

    Interesting posts about density — if the majority of North Americans wanted Manhattan-style density, then we’d have it. The reality is, they don’t — they want low-density suburban design so they can raise kids. Crap, people even think that Bathurst and Bloor (my neighbourhood) is a bad place to raise a kid.

    Freezing highway expansion and reducing parking isn’t the answer. We need a balanced approach to improving transit — that includes LRT, subways, and highways.


  21. As a former GO Transit user from the north cycling was a viable option, albeit a not very attractive one. First there’s the safety issue, the suburbs are not pedestrian or bicycle friendly. It would have required me to depart and return to the same station every day. I was fortunate enough to be located almost equal distance from the Newmarket GO bus and train stations. So depending on my mood, traffic and weather I could depart on the B bus and return on the Union bus or train (at an additional cost).

    I walked to Yonge Street and not to the terminal to board the bus which shaved about 10 minutes off my travel time. I noticed in the statistics that walk-in exceeds cycling by almost an order of magnitude. Yet most GO terminals are far from pedestrian friendly. I suspect that many of these walk-in commuters are either boarding at GO bus stops (which are now mostly serviced by Viva) or brave souls crossing the parking lots at risk of life and limb.

    I never took YRT/Newmarket transit in my nearly 2 decades of commuting because the bus routes weren’t convenient to my location in the core of Newmarket.

    My point is I could walk in just about any weather and in spite of the less than pedestrian friendly nature of the suburbs could do so relatively safely.
    Had there been adequate frequent local bus service to the GO terminals I would have used that option but it just wasn’t there. Regardless of the the fact there was no bus nearby the service didn’t start until after 6am, when I had already left on the 5am B out of Newmarket. Good local feeder service tied to the GO service will deliver more users to the terminals (express bus or train) than the oceanic parking lots or bike lockers ever hope to!


  22. I skimmed but I want to remind some that posted about free transit to the GO stations, not everyone is going to the GO station that is on the bus and it use to be free at one time that is why all buses in Durham will take you to the GO station. Now it is only 65 cents with GO co-fare.

    Carpool to Stations is not promoted and should be, even neighbours will wave to one another as they hop in their cars and maybe they see eachother on the Train.

    GO is not doing a good enough job to get people to take Local Transit to the Trains. GO has partnered Autoshare car rental in Mississauga (Port Credit), no doubt because that Hip downtown executive that must get to meeting might not have a car if he is living in the core also.

    They are promoting that as Take the GO to the meeting in the burbs but don’t even think about expecting Mississauga Transit to get you to your meeting on time! No, contribute to local gridlock and drive a car.

    We need solutions for around GO Stations to reduce the gridlock — Diamond lanes from all directions leading to GO stations, peak hours if need be.

    Someone said pay for parking and free for carpoolers — well in Ajax they have expanded the reserved pay for spots, maybe they could have reduced that for carpoolers but someone has to make a visible check, a gate will cause problems in current form and cause more arrival and departure gridlock.

    Existing parking lots in retail locations should be considered as Shuttle Pickups — I don’t get why business does not think of this. If I came off at the end of the day at a commercial place where my car is, I would probably do some shopping on way home. Not the stores at the GO stations but the grocery stores, the Shoppers the big video stores.

    I have no idea about the West End GO’s locations — yet but out here in Durham every station is within 5 mins of major large retail. Whitby has no retail at its station, Oshawa does not, Pickering does not. But they are all close to large shopping centres with excess parking during the normal work day.

    We have a new Minister of Transportation, he is from St. Catherines, aren’t they wanting to expand GO down that way?


  23. As to Michael’s comments above, the modal split stats are from GO’s 2005 GO rail passenger survey (released in February 2007) and refer only to train trips. It does capture bus passengers in terms of riders transferring from other GO bus routes, but this is a very low percentage, essentially negligible.

    The 9% pedestrian mode split is an average across the system, and it ranges a fair amount. The survey shows a breakdown by station (of course, with greater statistical variability inherent in a smaller sample).

    Mimico, Long Branch and Weston have more than 30% walk-in passengers. Port Credit, Hamilton, Scarborough, Newmarket and Stouffville have more than 20%, and Cooksville is almost there. In some cases, this reflects a major population base within a short walking distance (e.g. Port Credit); in others, low parking levels mean that more riders proportionally have to be out of their cars (e.g. Hamilton). In others, it could also be a statistical fluctuation.

    At the low end of the scale, Bronte, Milton, Etobicoke North, Malton, and Bradford are all at 2% or below.

    The survey was done in early November, so it’s possible that cycling demand could be somewhat higher in milder months, although it’s not like it was done in February with a foot of snow on the ground.


  24. To Denis Agar:

    Sorry, but the approach you propose will not work because it is highly divisive.

    “… a complete freeze on investment in 400-series highways”. Please note that people who live near the proposed 404, 407, 427 extentions do need those new roads. Frequent local transit is not viable in the majority of those areas. In the areas of major transit enhancements, primarily around Toronto, new 400-s are out of question anyway because there is no space left for them.

    “High-occupancy vehicle and bus lanes on every freeway in the region.” Not every section of every freeway needs those.

    “…reducing highway capacity causing more congestion for single-occupancy vehicles.”; “Use every effort to reduce the amount of parking spaces, everywhere.”

    Hey, this is a democracy, people just will not vote for those actions. I, for sure, will not vote for the party that makes such proposals, especially if it words them in such a confrontational way. No surprise that as you say “it doesn’t seem that anyone in government is in the right mindset”. Yes, since they actually want to be re-elected.

    The approach must be balanced and take into account all major demographic groups. Toronto and other urban centers need massive transit improvements; suburbs need both transit and road development; and remote areas – yes, they actually need more roads. Funds must be split reasonably between those tasks, and most importantly – in no case should the goverment’s actions look like deliberately making life more difficult for one group or another.


  25. @Mark Dowling:

    I can agree that GO doesn’t need to own the corridors, but they do need to own their tracks, which currently isn’t happening even though they are paying for track-laying. A corridor can be owned and managed by the province, I can agree with that idea, but each company, should they choose to pay for track-laying, be given the right to own them like they should be fairly entitled to. Right now, the way the deal works is that the corridor is owned regardless of who buys the tracks that get laid on them. Thus, GO buys tracks and it becomes a freebie for CN. What’s the point at that rate? That’s blatant theft if you ask me, but according to the rules right now, CN can get away with this, and this has to change. It is unrealistic for the province to actually take control of the corridors anyway, since CN is no longer a crown corporation of the federal government, that opportunity is long gone.


  26. Karl

    I disagree entirely. We don’t allow Air Canada to own separate runways within an airport or airway routes and we don’t allow Greyhound to own lanes on the 401.

    Track, signals, platforms, the whole kit and caboodle should be owned by the Province and space allocated to operators on a rental basis to ensure that maintenance can be done when it is needed rather than playing off one owner over another.

    Obviously we can’t do it over the entire province but any track which has passenger movement should pass into the public realm, starting with GO. Now, this could mean resistance from the point of view of getting currently freight only trackage back into passenger but the Province should commit to sufficient capital improvements in adding track, electrification and signal improvements to make it an offer they can’t refuse.

    The question is how to get political buy-in to what is essentially a re-nationalisation of rail in Ontario.


  27. M. Briganti asked:

    “These e-bikes sound interesting. How fast and far can they go on a single charge?”

    Kevin’s answer:

    As required by Ontario law, the motor is programmed to stop providing power when the speed goes over 32 km/hr. I have got my ebike up to 60 km/hr while coasting downhill.

    The type I use, the Veloteq scooter-style ebike, will provide over 80 km of powered transportation according to the manufacturer. However, that is 80 km with an 80 kg rider, on level ground, with no cargo in fair weather. In my real life experience where there are hills, stuff being carried, winter weather and a rider (me) that may weigh just a tad more I rely on only 60 km. However, that’s just fine for me since I usually don’t go more than 40 km, leaving me with plenty of juice when I get home.

    Further details at my particular ebike at:


  28. I have been looking at some GO stations lately, Cooksville near my dentist, and Brampton, Bramalea and Mt. Pleasant because I live in Brampton.

    Cooksville: The parking lot is operating at about 200 cars beyond capacity. Every driveway that crosses parking lanes is full of 6 parked cars. You must drive to the extreme East or West end of the lot to get to another row and then drive down it to the far end which is much longer than a 12 car train to turn up to the next row. The driveways on the East and West end are full of cars parked at the curbs under the no parking signs. The only area where there is no illegal parking is in the bus bays and the emergency access areas to the station. This is a high demand area and when GO increases capacity by 20% with 12 car trains something is going to break. I don’t know if they can put in another station between there and Erindale or not.

    Bramalea has a South parking lot but it is not convenient to the residential areas as it has to be entered by a maze through an industrial area. When I have used it, it has not been full. This station is in an industrial area and is not easily accessed by pedestrians.

    Brampton has limited parking which is full but there is a lot of high rise condo development happening and planned. It will look like Port Credit in a few years and I welcome that as it will put more people in downtown Brampton and make it more people friendly.

    Mt. Pleasant has a huge parking lot that is currently underused and room for more parking. As this will be the base service terminal it probably needs this. The problem is it is only accessible from Highway 7 by mainly one entrance which will cause major traffic jams when it gets real busy. There is a road that will replace Creditview to give access from the development to the South that will feed into the same entrance. The people to the North have to go out to Highway 7 and then over to this single entrance. There is a road that goes to the North side of the station but at the moment there is no provision for parking or kiss and ride.

    The third track from the Weston sub to the Etobicoke creek bridge is in on the South side of the line but the second track on the North side from Kennedy road to the bridge is not in yet. The second track from the West side of the Bridge is in to the existing double track. This means that the line is double tracked except for the 50 feet across the bridge. The grading for the third track is done on the South side from the CPR diamond to where it ends to West of the storage yard at Mt. Pleasant. There is apparently talk between CP and CN about removing the diamond and re-connecting the Halton Sub to the Orangeville line and letting The O and B drop and pick up cars from the CN. This would get rid of the high maintenance diamond which causes a permanent slow order and allow CP to abandon the track from there to the industry at the North side of the 401. This would actually be a win-win situation for both lines.

    The line to Barrie is completed but the yard at Allendale is not finished yet nor is the station or parking lot that I can see. What I thought was the Parking lot is actually the storage yard. They have rebuilt the track connection to what I believe is the Meaford sub but it has to be entered by going North of the switch and reversing in to it.

    I am interested in the plan to provide:

    – Double passing tracks to facilitate all-day two-way GO train services on the Toronto-Markham and Toronto-Newmarket corridors;

    This will really make GO transit more attractive in these corridors but I can’t help but notice the absence of the Richmond Hill and Milton lines. I believe that CN and CP will not allow this to happen without a major upgrading of the lines’ capacities.


  29. Mark,

    You cannot run trains every five to ten minutes if you are renting track all the time. It is a really bad situation, and it will add up to a huge loss. Think of it as if I sold you a DVD player and then I charge you a fee to watch any DVD you pop into it… even though you bought the player. That is exactly what is happening to GO Transit, and it must stop. GO will not be able to satisfy its demand targets on Lakeshore especially without being able to own the tracks it lays in the corridor.

    Under Bill C-11’s new provisions for handling railway corridors, GO should investigate if any of the following are possible to purchase:

    – Union Station Corridor to Humber Bridge around St. Phillips
    – Union Station Corridor to York University
    – Union Station Corridor to Oriole Via CPR (the reason here is that is an opportunity to shave off a sizable chunk of travel time by making the route vastly straighter. AFAIK, CP doesn’t really go south of the Midtown Corridor these days, but in anycase, these tracks all sit in the Don Valley, should be worthless to CP)
    – Oriole Station to Steeles
    – Union Station Corridor to Willowbrook (critical, most important part for the entire network of GO Trains)
    – Union Station Corridor to Scarborough Station
    – Stouffville/Uxbridge Corridor north of 407 (because it is a dead end from here on, does not reconnect to other parts of network)

    This would shut CN freight services out of the central 416 except for the airport district which is still heavily industrial and requires the freight access. CP is not being targetted here because they have no real rerouting options like CN does. CN’s Steeles Corridor allows for the possibility of CN not needing to really be in Toronto at all except at the outskirts. Given how Toronto has redeveloped along its rail corridors, CN really doesn’t have much business in there anyway. GO is by far the heaviest user within the city, except along the Milton Corridor which does see higher freight traffic, but this is due to the strict conditions of CP and not an issue of a lack of demand for service along the corridor.


  30. Michael Forest:

    The last thing I want to do is get into an argument, but there is one point you made that I must take issue with:

    “Funds must be split reasonably between [transit and roads], and most importantly – in no case should the goverment’s actions look like deliberately making life more difficult for one group or another.”

    The last thing I want to do is to divide people into groups. The only reason I would want to see all of the aforementioned things happen would be because of the benefits they hold for everyone. Not just everyone in the GTA, but around the world.

    Scientists’ predictions of climate change seem to get worse every day, and our current system of transportation is one of the most wasteful on the face of the planet. We have to face the fact that we’re all in this together, and that something must be done.

    Anyone who was to attempt a transportation revolution such as this would have to certainly word it differently than I did, and I would absolutely not advocate doing any of this overnight. But the truth is that it needs to be done. Not for us, but for our grandchildren.

    Steve: The difficult word here is “reasonably”. In the early days of somewhat enlightened transit funding from Queen’s Park, someone came up with the term “balanced transportation plans”. What this really means is: “you take transit, I drive”. The problem is in finding a metric.

    For example, if we look strictly at dollars, we can announce a huge highway system at an absolute cost way below that of a transit network. However, the highway system hasn’t got anywhere near the capacity, and there are the hidden costs associated with the fact that all those cars are going “somewhere” that may not have room for them plus the direct and indirect environmental costs.

    Subways can move large numbers of people long distances and without the inconvenience to road users of a surface right-of-way. However they are very expensive, and by their nature tend to encourage high density point developments rather than medium density linear forms. There are many tradeoffs one way or another in this debate [which we don’t need to repeat again, thank you], but the ultimate measure of a “fair” or “reasonable” or “balanced” plan will depend on what weights and priorities we give to the many dimensions of the evaluation.


  31. Steve wrote:

    “…the ultimate measure of a “fair” or “reasonable” or “balanced” plan will depend on what weights and priorities we give to the many dimensions of the evaluation.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    How true. A major part of this should be to make automobile users pay for the true costs of their habit. Including things such as:
    *Environmental costs
    *Health care costs
    *Policing costs

    A 2001 survey of various estimates of these costs shows that if they were all put into a gasoline tax, this tax would be around $1.20 per litre. See:

    Click to access beyond_gas_taxes.pdf

    In addition to gasoline taxes, the study also discusses congestion taxes, road tolls and parking taxes. I am in favour of a balanced mix of these taxes to ensure that those who choose to drive automobiles pay their fair share, which is at least the true costs of their habit.


  32. To Denis Agar: I understand your strategic point, and find it quite agreeable. The current transit modal split in Canada is not helpful at all when it comes to curbing the greenhouse effect.

    I’d prefer to see solutions that are balanced / flexible, in terms of providing more environmental benefits per a unit of “inconvenience” they bring to the everyday life. Definitely we have to accept some “inconveniences” to address the problem. Encouraging compact, transit-friendly development through the land use policies is a good idea, and so is introducing a carbon tax.

    It seems to me that some of the solutions you proposed in the first post, are not “balanced” in that sense. For example, the carbon impact depends not just on the number of cars per capita, but also on the frequency and length of car trips. Someone who uses a car for a 10-min grocery trip once a week, produces roughly 20 times less greenhouse gases than someone who drives to work 40 minutes each weekday. But if parking places are slashed everywhere, it would equally inconvenience both those types of motorists.

    As a final note, directed evolution almost always works better than a revolution when it comes to social matters.

    To Steve: I agree that deciding on the reasonable / balanced fund allocation is not an easy task, and simply dividing the funds proportionally to the local population is not a universal solution. In the southwestern Ontario, there is a good reason to give preferential funding to public transit for the time being.


  33. All the recent gnashing of teeth over layoffs in the auto sector is not going to encourage any level of government in reducing expenditures on roads.

    The auto sector is Ontario’s largest private employer. That sector relies heavily on both road transportation and rail freight. Any restrictions on freight traffic especially in the GT/HA would be political suicide.

    The province could not take over the rail lines without the approval of the federal government. I think we all know that Ottawa has been laying traps for Queen’s Park of late (see the 1 Cent Now discussions).

    Additionally, the road construction industry would be up in arms about any reduction in highway infrastructure spending. The electors in the hinterlands would also be up in arms over spending money on Toronto and not their fair burgs.


  34. I just can’t believe some of the things I am reading. Do we, as a society, want more people to use transit or not? (This is, or at least I think it is, a pro-transit site).

    I pay $12 per day to use GO Mississauga-downtown, and some people want to charge an extra couple of bucks to park my car? Meanwhile the TTC cost just over $4 per day and people whine about paying a few cents more. Pricing GO out of existance is a brilliant strategy.

    Hasn’t anybody noticed that almost everybody on the GO train is either going to or coming from Union Station? There is a reason for that. If you are going somewhere else, it is way too expensive compared to driving. So let’s charge for parking too and make it even more expensive. That will ensure nobody ever uses it for anything else (like commuting from home in Burlington to work in Mississauga).

    I have friends who work for Royal Bank. They were so happy when it moved out to Mississauga because they could drive and would never have use transit again.

    Bike to and from stations? Give me a break. Like I am going to ride a bike in business attire, in the dark (because most of the year it is dark either when I go to the station in the morning, or when I come home at night), or in rain or snow.

    And taking over rail lines is a real good one. I own shares in CN so I am a (microscopic) owner. Is the government going to buy me and all the other shareholders out? Fat chance.


  35. I work an 8 hour day, by the time I get to and from Union to work and Whitby GO to home I am gone for almost 12 hrs, Now imagine I had to ride my bike 12KM to and from the station. because parking was not available… OMG.

    GO needs more trains and more parking. there are at capacity right now.


  36. Kevin Loves bike locker link is incredible. I would use one not so much because of the value of my bike, but for peace of mind of knowing that my bike will be there for me at the end of a hard days work and commute. It’s a no brainer and could be another revenue generator for Go Transit.


  37. I have been riding my Veloteq E-Bike since I bought it at the Green Living Show back in late April. I have the Commuter and use it for short commutes. I work way to far to use it for commuting to work. I had it out today….You dress for the weather and away you go.

    Best “toy” I ever bought. Apparently there is a new one coming out that is better at climbing steep hills…Mine is okay on hills so I probably won’t trade up for a year or two.


  38. QUOTE: Andrew MacKinnon Says:
    October 27th, 2007 at 11:27 pm “Secondly, GO Transit should place a moratorium on increasing the number of parking spaces near stations, and start charging for existing parking spaces. This won’t cause most people to drive downtown because parking is extremely expensive there, much more expensive than it will be at GO stations. It should then contract with the private sector to build transit-friendly mixed-use developments near stations, on the land occupied by the existing parking lots; they should incorporate a small parking garage, but with less capacity than the parking lot it replaces.”

    Hmm. If I have to pay for parking on top of the $180+ a month for the monthly train pass, I’m better off driving to the city. This idea will lead to increased traffic congestion and reduce ridership. I can park downtown for less than $150 a month and have the comfort of my own car, instead of the Go crowds, and POOR and POINTLESS GO CUSTOMER SERVICE!


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