Further to my last post about fuel prices and the rising fortunes of our continent’s railroads, the Toronto Star reports that work is beginning on a project to expand full, hourly, two-way service on the Milton GO line, seven days a week.
GO Transit is Toronto’s “other” transit network, the second most travelled and, with the TTC finally getting additional subsidy, the most “profitable”, with a farebox recovery of 89%, but of the seven train lines operating on the service, only the route along the Lakeshore offers off-peak and weekend service, with trains operating even on Sundays between Aldershot and Oshawa. Additional service is slowly being added to other routes, but it’s still very much a commuter line connecting suburban residents to jobs in downtown Toronto and that doesn’t describe people like me.
The expansion of Milton service is long overdue, but what is frustratingly not mentioned is the status of the much-desired (by Waterloo Region, anyway) extension of that service to Cambridge (either at the east end of town or near downtown Galt). Our regional council keeps on making overtures, but nothing seems to get done. Perhaps when full service is extended to Milton, GO Transit, or possibly Greyhound, will start running shuttles between downtown Kitchener, Cambridge and the end of the Milton line.
If this happened, or if trains operated at convenient times to Cambridge, this would change my behaviour. Currently, when I travel into Toronto, I tend to drive to an outlying subway parking lot and take the TTC the rest of the way. If I’m travelling into Toronto during rush hour, I head for the Aldershot GO station and take the GO train the rest of the way. VIA Rail is an excellent service, but it’s expensive, and the few runs are centred around commuter travel. If I could take public transit to the end of the Milton line, and reasonably expect to have a train waiting for me when I needed it, I’d leave my car at home more often.
And, as this website shows, I’m not alone.
That’s one step forward. For two steps back, consider Greyhound’s boneheaded decision to suspend ticket sales at Kitchener’s downtown bus terminal, relocating the ticket centre to the Sportsworld development on the south side of town.
When I took the bus into Toronto earlier this month, this was the talk of a number of commuters who were very displeased at the inconvenience involved, not to mention the ten minutes the new stop added to the schedule.
I can see why Greyhound wants to stop at Sportsworld. It’s on the route between Kitchener and the 401, so it’s no major inconvenience. It also has oodles of free parking, which might be the deciding factor, here. But why suspend ticket sales in the downtown terminal? That makes no sense. Kitchener commuters to Toronto now have to drive or take transit down to Sportsworld and take the bus there. Kitchener commuters to Guelph are even more screwed, because either they won’t be able to purchase tickets for their bus running along Victoria Street (likely they’ll have to buy the ticket from the driver), or that bus is going to go well out of its way in order to serve the Sportsworld facility.
Just when GO Transit tantalizes us with the hope of improved transit service for the region, the private provider of public transit sees fit to kick us in the nuts. For shame!
The picture at the top of this post was taken from the observation car of the Waterloo Central Railway as it headed backwards from St. Jacobs to Waterloo, crossing Randall Road in the north end of the city.
After reading about the Milton GO train preparations, I felt a sudden desire to take the train again, and arranged to have Vivian and I take our tourist line up to St. Jacobs just a few hours later. Vivian loved it, and especially loved being invited to check out the observation car (actually, the business car) which was being used by the railroad as a cab that allowed the crew here to drive the train backwards by radio.
The line has been doing well since the charitable organization dedicated to restoring steam trains picked up the pieces left by a private excursion company who couldn’t make the previous version of the tourist line work. With a lower capital outlay and backing from Waterloo Region, service has flourished, and talking with a crew member, there’s talk about expansion. There will be a station and a passing siding built at the Farmer’s Market (thanks to a contribution from the nearby Walmart store going up there) and a proper station platform at St. Jacobs. The talk is of running two trains, providing hourly service to the Market, and possibly even to Elmira.
The line is being used as an extended parking lot, allowing people to leave their cars in Uptown Waterloo and shop at the Farmer’s Market and St. Jacobs at the north end of the city. There is further talk about how to turn this into more of a commuter service, and how to keep the service operating alongside a proposed LRT.
As the crew member noted, ten years ago there was serious talk about pulling up this freight line. Now there’s not. The end of cheap oil may be doing this. So that’s a silver lining to this cloud.