Update: see previous posts – February 15, 2013 GO Transit: Metrolinx CEO Bruce McQuaig to Start Charging Parking to Raise $$$$, February 12, 2013 GO Transit: “Quiet Zones” on Barrie Train Line Looks Promising, February 6, 2013 GO Trains On Barrie Line to Conduct a “Quiet Zones” Pilot Project Beginning on February 11, 2013 , November 14, 2012 GO: If Train is Delayed by 15 Minutes, the Ride is Free – Beginning Nov. 15/12,
In the largest single service expansion of its 44-year history, GO transit is increasing train service along the lakeshore — from Oshawa to Aldershot — to every 30 minutes, seven days a week.
“This is the final step in turning GO from a bedroom commuter service into full, regular transit,” said Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray. Some 263 trains a week will be added on the Lakeshore East and West lines, starting June 29.
The announcement comes as the provincial Liberals prepare the ground for new taxes to pay for an unprecedented Toronto region transit expansion.
Other cities such as London and Stockholm that have introduced road pricing and transit taxes say the public is more accepting of new charges if they are accompanied by a significant increase in service.
Calling the half-hour GO service “a remarkable improvement in the quality of life” for municipalities along the lakefront, Murray said transit users will be able to tear up their GO schedules, knowing they can go to the station and, in less than 30 minutes, catch a train.
The $7.7 million annual increase in GO operating costs from the 30-minute Lakeshore line boost is expected to attract 50 per cent more GO riders almost immediately, said Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig.
On a typical weekday, 60,500 people ride the Lakeshore West line and 51,500 ride east of Union Station, frequently packing the 1,500-seat trains.
There’s still plenty of room in the off-peak, however, when trains attract about 350 riders on average.
As well, McCuaig said, “The renewal of Union Station will triple the size of the GO passenger concourse, double the size of the platform and transform the train shed.”
On the east end of the line, it means 18 more weekday trains. From Union Station west to Aldershot, there will be 19 additional trips.
Both lines will have 24 more trains on Saturdays and 15 on Sundays.
While Kitchener, Barrie and Milton trains run only during the rush hour, Metrolinx, which operates GO, is expanding those lines.
It will be more than 15 years, however, before trains travel all day to the end of the Kitchener and Milton lines. But service will be added to both those corridors sooner to stops closer to Toronto — Meadowvale on the Milton line and Brampton and Bramalea on the Kitchener rails.
Unlike an LRT line, which usually gets built end to end, GO tends to expand services incrementally, said GO president Gary McNeil.
“We just gradually push out more and more service — it’s an incremental process as opposed to throwing a switch and you’ve got all-day service,” he said.
Officials in Halton Region have threatened to abandon their provincial residential growth targets if they don’t get more GO service sooner than Metrolinx is promising.
A new station in Hamilton is set to open in 2015 and more trips will be added at that time, say transit officials.
The expanded Lakeshore service has been in the works for years. A third track and crews contracted from Bombardier needed to be in place before it was launched, said McNeil.
Expanding the service to 15-minute intervals would, however, require a more extensive infrastructure investment.
The new 30-minute service will mean using 50 per cent more crews, crossing three shifts.
“It takes two years to train a locomotive engineer,” he said.
McNeil said GO has added at least 10,000 parking spots to stations along the Lakeshore in recent years, and new parking decks are still being built at some stations to make sure riders can access the new off-peak service.