From time to time, discussions here about Union Station turn to the question of a bus terminal. A bigger terminal. A better terminal. A terminal with seamless connections to the trains.
GO/Metrolinx has major service expansion plans for its rail network including all-day service to cities now with, at best, peak hour, peak direction trains. As service frequencies increase and good, all-day service is the norm on GO rail corridors, what do we need the bus routes (and their terminal) for?
A review of the list of all GO scheduled services shows us the future, such as it is, of GO bus operations downtown.
Timetables 01, 09, and 12 are all Lakeshore rail services whose bus components connect with rail terminals at all hours.
Timetable 16 is the Hamiton QEW bus service. When GO reaches the point of having all day, 30 minute rail service to Hamilton, why run a parallel bus service?
Timetables 21 and 31 are the Milton and Georgetown services, both of which will receive frequent rail service that, like the Lakeshore routes, should be fed by buses at the outer, all-day terminals.
Timetable 32 is the Brampton to Union via Thornhill bus service. Although this route connects today with the Yonge Subway at Finch and Sheppard Stations, it will eventually connect with the Richmond Hill subway extension. The buses do not need to come into downtown. Updated August 29, 2008.
Timetable 61 is the Richmond Hill service. Like the other rail corridors, this is scheduled to receive frequent all-day service, as well as a subway extension.
Timetables 65 and 71 are the Barrie and Stouffville services. All-day train service over part of these lines is included in the 15-year Regional Plan. Off-peak buses services beyond would feed the trains as on other all-day corridors. In the same timeframe, the subway will be extended to Vaughan. Even without all-day train service to Bradford, Vaughan Centre (or York U) is a much more appropriate connection for the bus service than bringing trips all the way into downtown.
Timetables 19, 20, 22, 27, 29, 32, 34, 37, 38, 40, 46, 50, 52, 60, 62, 64, 66, 69, 81, 88, 93, 94, 95 and 96 are all bus services that do not come into downtown. They either connect with the subway at suburban stations, or they are between points in the GO network outside of Toronto.
Planned expansion of rail service in the Niagara peninsula and northwest from Georgetown will compete with and may replace private bus operations to these areas.
Land near Union Station for bus operations is difficult to find, and the last thing we need is an oversized bus terminal that will have no buses operating from it in less than 20 years.
Metrolinx is studying possibilities for such a terminal, but they need to step back and ask whether such a terminal is even required. The rail networks of both GO and TTC are expanding at very substantial cost well into the GTAH. Why spend all this money only to perpetuate limited capacity bus operations running all the way to Union?
Overall, operation of intercity bus routes into downtown Toronto will decline substantially over the next decade and beyond. If we are to have a new bus terminal, it should be planned for the services that will exist, that will survive into the future, not for today’s routes that are soon to be replaced with rail.