Rail service improvements are crucial, but GO needs to maintain all-day flexibility for it riders.
By Stavros Rougas
Published June 05, 2008
Imagine all-day GO train service from Hamilton. Four trains from the Hunter station in the morning, another four returning in the evening, as well as service at LIUNA station throughout the day until midnight.
Ideal GO service from Hamilton to Toronto, right?
GO bus service runs express from Hamilton to Union Station in a mere 50 minutes outside of high traffic periods. In contrast, 65 minutes is the best a GO trains runs - and this only occurs on some rush hour trains that run express from Oakville, thus avoiding five stops before Union Station.
As it stands, a daytime train from the soon-to-be-constructed LIUNA station would likely make all 11 stops to Union Station bringing the trip to at least 80 minutes.
If highways become too congested, 80 minutes may actually become competitive with a car during much of the day. But if high occupancy vehicle lanes are build widely then a bus trip of 50 odd minutes may continue to be a reality.
GO generally develops ridership on buses than changes to trains where possible. So as train service increases bus service decreases.
Economically it's hard to make the case to maintain similar service with two modes of transit. Once ridership reaches a certain level, trains are far cheaper to operate.
It's important to note that trains have a superior image while attracting riders and investment at levels buses do not. Clearly additional GO train service is tremendous news for the Hammer, but can we have the train cake and eat the bus services too?
Now is the time to make it known that Hamiltonians demand continued express GO bus service to Toronto. I have heard from a reliable source that GO is already telling the City of Hamilton that GO bus service is likely to change when LIUNA service starts.
If the reality of an electrified Lakeshore train line with all-day service ever becomes reality, which could cut the length of the trip, then at that point the express GO bus service could be eliminated.
Until that point, which is optimistically five years away, we need all-day express GO bus service to Toronto and even better express GO bus service to K/W as well.
I work in downtown Toronto. If I unexpectedly have to work late or on the weekend, I know I can depend on a return to my starting point – the Hunter station – in a reasonable time.
This flexibility allows people not only to move to Hamilton, but the ability to actually stay and make long-term investments.
While I loudly applaud additional GO train service, officials must be aware that it's the package of GO transit service (and to a lesser extent HSR service as well) that makes living in Hamilton and working in Toronto a reasonable option.
No matter the excellence of the service, it's a long commute - and every bus counts.
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