Update on GO Train Service to Hamilton

By Michael Borrelli
Published April 23, 2012

Almost every day for the past five and a half years, I've walked my dog by the nicely kept grounds of LIUNA Station on James Street North. This beautiful building was completed in 1930, moving people along the Windsor-Hamilton-Toronto corridor until the construction of highway 401 took a big bite out of rail traffic in the early 1960s.

After it was bought and wonderfully restored by the Laborer's International Union of North America at the turn of this century, Hamiltonians were further heartened by announcements in 2008 and 2010 that indicated commuter service would return to James North, if not LIUNA itself.

If you're like me and have been patiently waiting for a new station that will cut precious minutes off the 75 it takes to commute to Toronto, you might also have wondered what's going on with the project.

Last week curiousity got the better of me and I contacted Metrolinx asking about the progress of the new James North Station.

Dwayne Newfeld, Senior Project Officer for Railway Corridor Infrastructure kindly reaffirmed the plans laid out in the Environmental Assessment, completed in May 2011, that call for one additional track to be built on the CNR corridor from the Desjardins Canal to approximately Centennial Parkway.

He also confirmed that one new platform is to be built underneath the Bay Street and McNabb Street bridges, and that the new station is to be constructed on the west side of James North opposite LIUNA.

Though we already knew these were the plans, Mr. Newfeld was also able to confirm that the first part of the new track, from the canal to Wellington St., is currently being designed and Metrolinx/GO has committed to having this track in place with service in time for the 2015 Pan-Am Games.

Though I'm not sure what a new James Street North station has to do with the Pan Am Games anymore, I'm still pretty sure that fellow commuters will happily greet enhanced Hamilton-Toronto train service when it finally arrives.

Michael Borrelli is a social researcher living with his family in Hamilton's North End. He tweets @BaysideBadger.


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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2012 at 12:08:38

So is the idea to have a GO train station at LIUNA station in addition to Hunter street or will LIUNA stn be replacing Hunter street? If not, does anybody see a problem with two station so close to each other offering train service. This could be so confusing as to deter use of the trains (which I use frequently).

All trains should use Hunter as it is closer to the population centre of Hamilton than LIUNA. For the time it takes to go to LIUNA I could drive to aldershot and park for free.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted April 23, 2012 at 12:37:27 in reply to Comment 76134

From my understanding, the plan is to still have Hunter run it's "Rush Hour" trains to and from Toronto out of Hunter and to continue the bus service there. CN Rail for some reason, completely refuses running more then two commuter trains a day along the Hunter St. and why that is, I'm not exactly sure. I think it's because it's designated as a heavy freight line. I believe they also plan on setting up a bus between both sites (at least, I would hope they would and not depend on the HSR for it).

I believe also was also talks for a temporary game day platform at Gage St for Ti-Cat games and the Pan-Am games, but I know GO isn't too keen on setting up a permanent stop there as it would slow down service and the area doesn't boast enough population density.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2012 at 13:54:55 in reply to Comment 76138

Thanks for clearing this up.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted April 23, 2012 at 12:29:43

I say this with no authority whatsoever, but my impression of the setup was that Hunter would continue to provide peak-hour service to Toronto, as it stands, but because of the Hunter St. tunnel, the line can't handle all-day service.

James N., however, has been bandied about as a possible station for all-day train service, though I'm sort of sceptical about the need for such service with buses being faster in off-peak times.

Regardless, James N. would be the gateway to stations further east stations in the Niagara peninsula. Niagara-bound service can't/won't make use of Hunter.

I highly doubt the two stations in 1km proximity to one another will confuse or deter any existing riders from getting on the GO. If anything, James N. service running a few minutes faster than that from Hunter will attract some new riders and open up the North End to colonization by Torontoians fleeing insane home prices.

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By Moosey (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2012 at 12:50:22

Are there plans for transit to service the new station? That area of James North is basically devoid of busses and the narrow streets will a huge bottleneck.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted April 23, 2012 at 13:46:59 in reply to Comment 76139

That's what bugs me about this whole thing.... there's nothing there. The Hunter St Terminal is a bit of an inconvenient location a few blocks away from the bus stops downtown, but that's nothing on how comparatively remote LIUNA is.

I'd wager the real purpose is a nice massive parking-lot-style station over near the Red Hill for the suburbs in Upper Stoney, furthering Hamilton's transformation into Mississauga's Mississauga.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted April 23, 2012 at 13:24:54 in reply to Comment 76139

The #4 Bayfront already comes down right by where the new station is planned, but perhaps having a station on James will encourage the A line to sneak north a bit and make James N. its terminus.

N Rail for some reason, completely refuses running more then two commuter trains a day along the Hunter St. and why that is

As I mentioned above, I'm pretty sure its due to the limitations of the Hunter St. Rail Tunnel being only one track, creating a bottleneck.

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By conductor (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2012 at 14:35:26

The reason that hunter st would only run rush hour trains is because bombardier (who operates go transit) has to pay CPR every time a train runs along the CPR trackage to desjardins. Unless the go trains get shorter or they tear apart the tunnel at hunter st then only one train at a time can run through the tunnel. I would rather see a station at the Liuna complex. If hamilton would stop acting in such a short sighted manner then we never would of sold the station to the crooks
at Liuna in the first place.
I think you have to give the population of hamilton a little more credit than to suspect they would disregard train service simply because we would have 2 stations.

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted April 24, 2012 at 23:23:28 in reply to Comment 76151

If Hamilton's former CN station was actually on the main Windsor-Toronto-Montreal line, keeping it as a train station would have made tremendous economic sense. It would likely have become THE main transit hub for the Hamilton-Burlington area, and remained the most spectacular station building next to Union Station.

Trouble is, the Niagara line is not a high-volume corridor. During its heyday, trains had to back in to the station several kms to access it from the main line. In the modern transportation world, that's just not cost effective for train service providers.

Re-purposing the station was probably the only way to save it. Hate LIUNA if you wish, but their adaptive re-use (and forthcoming expansion) has been a huge success in my opinion.

Even if the station was still an empty building, GO would not have been able to make the most of all that space.

I do agree though that people will quickly figure out that the 4 morning peak period trains and 4 evening peak period trains use Hunter, and all-day service can be found at James N.

Comment edited by ScreamingViking on 2012-04-24 23:24:13

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By Hang on a sec (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2012 at 15:04:54

Parking is the real reason Hunter won't be considered. That tunnel is a billion years old and will probably need to be replaced soon anyway, but good luck finding enough parking around Hunter to build a proper commuter lot. They'd sooner expropiate and raze a bunch of lots north of Barton than have to deal with the problems at Hunter. If I were the folks in the James/Strachan/MacNab/Ferrie area I wouldn't get too attached to my house.

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By Jonathan Dalton (registered) | Posted April 24, 2012 at 11:14:51 in reply to Comment 76152

Hunter was considered in studies going back 4 or 5 years ago which included expansion to Niagara. I went to both PIC sessions for the first and second rounds of studies. James North emerged as the preferable alternative. From what I recall, these were the reasons Hunter was eliminated:

-The Hunter Street tunnel would need to be improved and double tracked at the insistence of CP Rail

-Maximum speeds due to track conditions are lower (about 80km/h max) on the CP line.

-CP line passes through Welland and Fort Erie, CN line passes through St. Catharines and Niagara Falls. More population density around CN line.

-CN line allows for East Hamilton / Stoney Creek station.

Metrolinx objective is to take GO from a park and ride commuter railway to a true regional transportation solution in the next 25 years. Parking for urban train stations is not in the vision. In fact it is the opposite, they are looking at increasing density around GO stations by replacing surface parking with garages and developing the parking lots.

There will not be any homes demolished on James North. It is covered by the downtown area ban on new parking lots. The parking for the new GO station will be on what is now a gravel lot behind Chris's Store Fixtures (formerly the beer store) at James and Murray.

The #2 buses (every 6 minutes) and #4 pass this location. A-Line rapid transit is planned for James all the way to the lake.

Comment edited by Jonathan Dalton on 2012-04-24 11:15:32

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted April 23, 2012 at 15:26:07 in reply to Comment 76152

You might want to consult Google Maps for a second, Hang on.

There are already a number of private parking lots very close to Hunter. They're probably worth a gajillion dollars, too, so unlikely to be bought up by Metrolinx/GO.

But now that the Rheem factory is gone on Tiffany, there's not much left to raze up there, and plenty of city-owned land for a parking lot for a James N. station.

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By No (registered) | Posted April 23, 2012 at 16:45:10 in reply to Comment 76153

Private lots charge money for parking, GO Transit typically does not. That's going to have to be part of the deal if this is going to work.

As for Rheem, whatever gets built there is going to become the defacto GO parking lot if we don't find a better spot for it. I just don't know how building a new sea of parking anywhere near downtown is going to fly, and I don't know that there's money to build a parking structure for non-paying customers.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted April 24, 2012 at 09:10:15 in reply to Comment 76158

I don't know that there's money to build a parking structure for non-paying customers.

GO is on a multi-level parking garage building spree across the GTA right now. I've not heard of plans to charge, as that would just piss a lot of suburbanites off, though it wouldn't surprise me if that's the end-game.

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By CouldWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2012 at 16:29:14 in reply to Comment 76153

Is the proposed James St North station parking lot going on the west side of James?

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted April 23, 2012 at 22:07:01 in reply to Comment 76157

Yes. And from what I recall at the public information centres, there are only a couple hundred spaces planned for the James N. station.

Even Centennial won't have a huge lot compared to the ones in Burlington, Oakville, and Mississauga. Something like 700 spaces are planned (the big lots range from 2000-3000).

Transit will need to be the primary access to those new Hamilton GO stations.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted April 24, 2012 at 09:38:10 in reply to Comment 76176


Making the James Street North location work in this sense is going to be a challenge...but they definitely put the Centennial stop on the wrong side of the road. Never mind the aesthetics, but can you imagine the traffic in the morning, making all those left-hand turns?

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted April 24, 2012 at 23:05:41 in reply to Comment 76183

Centennial wasn't even in the plan until people responded at the PICs (I'm not certain but the city may have asked for it too). Personally, I could not understand why it was not being considered, and that was a comment I did provide. In the east end, it provides the best access to connect with the HSR's prime routes.

The trouble is, the power centre was already a go, so the eastern side of Centennial was a no GO. I agree would have been the better option.

With only 700 or so parking spaces, the traffic demands will not be as high. And who knows, perhaps the station can help breathe new life into that quiet commercial strip just north of the tracks.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted April 23, 2012 at 18:11:49

Couple of points.

Be prepared to start paying to park at GO lots everywhere. It won't be the eyegouging rates you pay on private lots, but you will be paying.

Second. If you take a gander off the bridges at James, McNabb you can see survey stakes and paint, demarking track lines and platforms. I'm in the Victoria/Ferrie area and walk my dog frequently over the tracks. There are survey stakes and paint out here too.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 23, 2012 at 23:01:55

Though I'm not sure what a new James Street North station has to do with the Pan Am Games anymore,

Didn't you hear? Tourism Hamilton is going to be operating bus and train tours of Hamilton's original PanAm plans. It'll be akin to the Peterman Reality Tour, complete with historical references and photo images of the great Pan Am village that was sacrificed because the realities of 21st Century stadia require them to be located in remote areas of town surrounded by acres of parking.

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