Commentary

Missing Link to Toronto Commute?

GO to add additional morning train to Hamilton.

By Stavros Rougas
Published April 30, 2008

What does it mean for Hamilton with the addition of a morning GO train from the Hunter station?

I'm a member of the 7:04 crew (last train in the morning) to Toronto. The 7:04 warriors range from a resident who flies down West 5th on his briefcase bicycle that he folds up to take on the train, to a sleeping beauty in the upper level of the car closest to James (I don't think I have ever seen him with his eyes open).

As for me I walk - door to train in five minutes.

The Possibility

An additional train at 7:30 am would give a GTA resident the true means to live in Hamilton and work in downtown Toronto. It offers the flexibility to take a job that starts at 9:00 AM (would arrive around 8:40 AM at Union Station) and increased confidence that if one changes jobs to an 8:00 AM start they will still have GO service match.

But the ideal time of 7:30 AM is not confirmed. Should the train run earlier than 7:04 AM, my argument loses some of its thunder.

As good as the GO service is, it's still a long commute. Often the commute is a compromise with another member of the family working locally. This way a family can take advantage of the lower cost of a home in Hamilton.

It's not that commuters are not passionate about Hamilton, but there is limited joy in a 15-hours-plus weekly commute.

Hidden Treasure

The Hamilton GO bus is one of the few GO bus lines to run seven days a week from early morning (5:10 am on weekdays) to the late bus leaving Union at 12:30 am. Not to mention it's an express, meaning one can get to Union Station in 50 minutes without traffic.

So if one takes the bus to Toronto after 9:00 AM or returns after 7:00 PM, it's normally faster than the express train and comparable to driving. Last year I did this type of bus commute for four months.

While Hamilton's GO serve is a hidden treasure few people are willing to commute from Hamilton using only the GO bus and even fewer will relocate to the city based on bus service.

Like in the rapid bus vs. light rail debate, people changes habits to take rail, but few do regardless of how good bus the quality of bus service.

The secret is almost out of the box:

Buy a house in Corktown close to the Hunter station. It's a reasonably priced neighbourhood where the quality of the housing is on the upward swing with the flavour of numerous pubs and access to not only the GO station, but coach buses and most HSR lines.

If the city adds two light rail lines to the equation, one McMaster to Eastgate Square and another LIUNA up Upper James, and those who wait for the floodgates to open will all appear in the GO station area. But our Hunter GO river is not so bad either.

Stavros Rougas lives in Hamilton and works in media.

20 Comments

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By Myrcurial (registered) - website | Posted May 01, 2008 at 13:46:30

I'm a 'bus in the morning, train at night' commuter -- because I can't get my beauty sleep on the train (dunno how the guy does it) due to the insanely bright lights.

A 7:30 train would be PERFECT - and I'd be on it pretty much daily as the 7:20 bus can not always make it to the city (via the 407, 403, Cawthra, QEW) by 9.

And heck ya - we need more trains. It shows commitment.

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By Jon (registered) - website | Posted May 01, 2008 at 14:47:56

How do I do it? I'm small, and have a refined technique.

A 7:30 train would be super. Has there been any official word on the schedule?

They might have effectively crushed my dreams of regular service to the TH&B but it's up us Duranders and Corktowners to demand full service to the downtown.

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By JH (anonymous) | Posted May 02, 2008 at 21:01:13

I live exactly a 2 minute ru-at-top-speed distance from the Go train doors.
Although the rents are pricier in the recently gentrified Durand neighbourhood, it is well worth the running distance to the train.
In my building, all of the other renters have a similar demographic to our households'....one partner working or studying in Toronto, and one in Hamilton.
A 7:30 train would make total sense for such people! I arrive at school at a ridiculous hour, and have to sleep on my desk....oh, the sweet potential of a half hour extra!

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted May 08, 2008 at 12:17:53

Some system of getting people from outlying areas to the Hunter St. GO stn. would help too..shuttle bus etc.
(We all don't start work at 9 a.m. 'Try getting to TO. from Hamilton to start at 7 a.m.!)

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 08, 2008 at 12:57:42

"Some system of getting people from outlying areas to the Hunter St. GO stn. would help too"

Something like ... light rail lines running out to Dundas, Stoney Creek and the Mountain. :)

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted May 09, 2008 at 11:48:16

Given that the argos still suck, I think the success of Hamilton downtown renewal and quality of commuter train service to Toronto are so closely tied together they are the chicken and the egg.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted May 11, 2008 at 23:00:08

"Some system of getting people from outlying areas to the Hunter St. GO stn. would help too"

Something like ... light rail lines running out to Dundas, Stoney Creek and the Mountain. :)

I note that you have omitted Ancaster... Even if a light rail line ran to Dundas, it would be impossible to get there from Ancaster without driving/parking, if you were not travelling a peak rush hours (or what some people like to designate as peak rush hours). It's next to impossible at any time of day.

Heck, we can't even get a bus to run on Sunday from Mohawk Rd. on to Golflinks! Has anyone heard how that petition that the bus driver started has progressed?

(Before I even Dared to think about a light rail link being Allowed here, I'd need to know that normal bus transit isn't looked on as 'over the top'! IMHO, there is no committment to even basic public transit in Ancaster. Light rail? 1st we'd have to convince them that SARS won't arrive on the bus.)

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By Jon (registered) - website | Posted May 12, 2008 at 10:29:07

I have to assume if you live in Ancaster you don't mind relying on a car. In that case, why not drive to Aldershot station? You don't really hit the traffic until after Waterdown Rd. I think that's more realistic than providing transit from Ancaster that would be attractive on top of an hour commute.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted May 14, 2008 at 20:28:34

Quote: "I have to assume if you live in Ancaster you don't mind relying on a car. In that case, why not drive to Aldershot station? You don't really hit the traffic until after Waterdown Rd. I think that's more realistic than providing transit from Ancaster that would be attractive on top of an hour commute."

No, when we moved here we didn't do 100% of our homework. We assumed (wrongly) that having public transit actually meant that it was a viable means of transportation, not a token committment or a check mark on our municipal taxes. Yeah, I Do mind relying on a car, or multiple cars!! Most places that have public transit, don't stop it at the border.

(So we are part of Hamilton are we? The only things that set us apart are resistance to change & crumby infrastructure. Does Hamilton have a Volunteer Fire Dept. or a 9 to 5 , 5 day a week Police Dept.?... I thought not.)

So I have to assume that what you are saying is "No, Ancaster will never have Light Rail, or a reasonable bus service"-? In 2020 Ancaster will be at least 7 times it's current size, & there will be a never ending conga line of cars in gridlock on the 403, Wilson St, & Garner/Rymal Rd. for most of the morning & afternoon? Does that sound like a 'desirable, beautiful, heritage communittee with a village atmosphere'? It sounds more like smog city to me,& somebody had better wake up & smell the coffee & exhaust fumes.

My major priority is getting to Hamilton, Downtown, or Dundas, never mind Toronto. Baby steps. If you can't even get to Dundas or West Mountain in some sort of reasonable time with some sort of reasonable effort & number of bus transfers what can we say about public local transit?..Welcome to biddness as usual, the 19th century. We can all prentend that fossil fuel is cheap & unlimited & sprawl will take care of itself. Dream On!

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By western guy (anonymous) | Posted May 15, 2008 at 21:32:55

Oh that and job in downtown Toronto, not, heaven forbid Mississauga or Scarborough

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2008 at 16:50:35

"Oh that and job in downtown Toronto, not, heaven forbid Mississauga or Scarborough."

I'm retired. I don't work outside the home. So I'm not sure what you are trying to say..(?)

However my family does work in Downtown Hamilton & they 'can't get there from here'. At least not by public transit.

Driving to Aldershot Go Stn. is kind of a 1/2 way solution, & frequently the parking lot @ Aldershot is full of people doing the same thing, so it's not even a solution that is coping with now, never mind next year.

(When I visit Toronto, I usually go to visit & assist a handicapped friend. She needs help getting large quantities of groceries, & sometimes large items for her apt./person care.) However I do remember the horrors of the Toronto commute from years past, like getting on a TTC bus in Toronto at 5:15 p.m., & not getting home until after 9 p.m. because of track problems with Go train, etc. And that was with a car picking me up at the Hamilton Go Stn., because reasonable public transit from the Go. Stn to here doesn't really exist.)

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted May 16, 2008 at 17:00:34

I guess what I'm wanting to say is:
"To make Light Rail a huge financial success, access for 'The Outer Limits' Ancaster, Dundas, Waterdown, etc. would be a huge boost to ridership, & I'm sure many people there would be more than happy to leave their cars at home, given the stress of driving the 403 daily, & the cost of gas,insurance & car upkeep.

And as part of the (Provincial & Hamilton) taxbase that will pay for Light Rail, should we be given an opportunity to use it?"

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted May 22, 2008 at 14:02:09

I would suggest a 7:25am train that would put you at union at about 8:30am and still give you about 1/2 hou to take the subway and/or walk to work and be in around 9am.

I would also like to propose a 6pm Union to Hamilton train.

The express buses are fantastic outside of rush hour.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted May 22, 2008 at 14:39:31

It is truly horrendous that our city will easily commute to hundreds of millions of dollars of suburban highway infrastructure to facilitate the automobile commute to Toronto (which, as mentioned above, kinda destroys the bus option at rush hour), but will not commit even a fraction of that to getting regular train service, which uses a fraction of the land, energy and money.

It's definitely worth mentioning, though, that such a change would require light rail as well, or else all of the downtown affordable housing would be gentrified out of existance within weeks - imagine the millions of professionals commuting into Bay St and the like realising that they could forego their overpriced suburban homes and get to their job in Toronto in an hour or less, right from the same downtown hamilton where a large 2-bedroom can be found for $600/month and houses can be found for just over $100 grand. Without an efficient way to get them TO the Go station (or LIUNA Station), thousands of low-income (without the option of cars with which to live in un-walkable neighbourhoods) people will lose their places to live.

Transit is without a doubt the most important component in "rejuvenating" our core. Nearly every bus line in the city passes through it, as well as intercity bus and train lines. In many cities, such hubs generate booming business. In Hamilton, the square kilometer surrounding all of this is largely derelict. Lower fares, more efficient service (whether it's LRT or BRT, anything beats waiting 20 minutes on Main St. for 4 different busses on nearly identical routes to come at once), more trains, better integration and denser developments are needed to accomplish this, but none of that compares in cost or difficulty to the constant expansion of our suburbs and highways to handle automobile traffic.

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By anon (anonymous) | Posted May 26, 2008 at 13:25:53

For me, the missing link is how GO has designed the service so that it's completely impossible to commute with a bike from Hamilton.

Check out this misery:

From any station on the Lakeshore West line, you can take a bike on the train, as long as it reaches Union after 9:30AM....but the Hamilton trains arrive only at peak times.

From Hamilton, the only way to access trains after peak times is to meet them via bus. Bus trips don't carry bikes.

In the next year or two, they will be phasing in bike racks on the QEW Express bus, which basically only connects Hamilton Go and Union, but STILL doesn't open up access to any other stations.

As far as I can tell, the Hamilton GO is unique in being cut off from bike access.

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By cinnamint (registered) | Posted May 27, 2008 at 17:15:38

I agree it would be a great idea. Having done the commute last summer, I arranged to work a later shift so I could take a later bus (when it wouldn't be as busy. It was a naive thought) but I hated the idea of getting up to catch a 7:04 train and then wait 40 minutes (as I worked very close to the GO station) and just did not have the comittment to my employer to go in THAT early every day.

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By cinnamint (registered) | Posted May 27, 2008 at 17:18:20

I meant to add, the other GO service vacuum is getting to Mississauga. I have had to turn down the possiblity of working at several jobs in Northern Mississauga because the 407 express does not stop at several of the GO stations (Streetsvill and Meadowvale) in Mississauga unless you leave from Guelph for some reason???

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By Frank (registered) | Posted May 28, 2008 at 12:59:00

Cityjoe, once a light rail line is established it will allow for realigning of current busroutes to facilitate movement of users from other outlying areas. Also, it does seem that the majority of Ancaster residents do enjoy driving in their cars and you happen to be in the minority. I would also like to ask why those who intend to use Rousseau at the extreme west end of the Linc feel it necessary to drive at 90 while chatting on their phone in the left hand lane from the Red Hill Creek Expressway and force other drivers to pass on the right... Of course that doesn't mean you shouldn't have an appropriate transit system but the amount of people using the two main corridors outlined in the proposal is significantly larger than the amount of people who need to drive downtown from Ancaster. May I propose the following: Drive to whatever station gets built on South U. James and take the transit line from there down the escarpment. I live in Stoney Creek and although I'm relatively close to Eastgate which means I can use LRT with relative ease, the majority of Stoney Creek residents live east of Eastgate meaning that's not the case for them.

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By Ed O'Hara (anonymous) | Posted July 28, 2009 at 10:22:50

Hello,

I have been commuting to Toronto via bus and train for 2 years now. Yes I pay the $300 a month.

This morning i biked it. 72.7km in 2h34min. I aim to do this once a week going forward. My colleagues think I'm completely nuts.. but I like leaving in the dark and watching the sunrise as I ride into the big city...

I would recommend everyone try it at least once. It's a lot easier than you think.

Cheers!
Ed

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By CityJoe (anonymous) | Posted February 03, 2010 at 01:05:51

I hear you on the 'multi-tasking', Frank, & it ain't pretty!

I enjoy driving @ times. It just seems so much of a waste & so tiresome to see the same boondoggles @ the same time & places every day. You can see the die off in the trees at Rousseau & Wilson St. just from being subjected to hours & hours of car exhaust every day, twice a day.

Good for you Ed.!!

I think it's criminal to estrange a suburb, (esp. on that is relatively close) from the Downtown core, & even other places like Dundas, or the West Mountain. Maybe Isolation was a selling point back in the day, but that day was over nearly a decade ago.

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