Frequently Asked Questions about Regional Transit in the Greater Toronto Area

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What is Metrolinx and how is it related to GO Transit?

GO Transit was formed in 1967 by the provincial government to deal with increasing congestion on the provincial highways leading into the City of Toronto from the old counties of Peel and Durham. In May of that year, a single line was established, operating on Canadian National railway tracks from Oakville to Pickering, running through Toronto's Union Station. The theory was that by intercepting a number of drivers that would otherwise take the Queen Elizabeth Way, the government could save money through reduced maintenance and expansion requirements of local highways. The Lakeshore GO Train proved immensely popular and service was expanded, and lines added. A bus feeder network was soon established, until GO Transit became the second largest public transit agency in the Greater Toronto Area (after the TTC). (A full history of GO's growth can be found here.)

Metrolinx was established by the provincial government in 2007 as part of its MoveOntario 2020 initiative. It was initially set up to study how to improve public transit throughout the Greater Toronto Area and to prioritize and consider ways to pay for a number of major public transit infrastructure projects like LRT lines, new subways and new commuter rail routes. In 2009, Metrolinx was merged with GO Transit. GO Transit remains the corporate identity of the commuter rail and bus lines that operate between the various municipalities within the GTA, while Metrolinx is the overriding authority managing GO Transit and looking at ways to cooperate with local transit agencies and municipalities to improve public transit in the GTA. It is currently responsible for building the TTC's Eglinton LRT, the Union-Pearson Express, and numerous GO Transit improvements. It has helped local transit agencies save money on purchasing new equipment by acting as a pool buyer.

Is GO Transit expanding its service? Is Metrolinx?

Definitely. Since the start of the millennium, GO has been gradually increasing service on all its train and bus lines. It has added rails, and even purchased lines outright from Canadian National. In 2011, it extended train service beyond Georgetown to Kitchener. Through 2012 and 2013, it has worked to significantly improve the track conditions on the Weston sub between Union Station and Bramalea, eliminating level crossings, expanding stations and adding tracks. In June 2013, it increased Lakeshore GO Train service between Aldershot and Oshawa to every half-hour or better, seven days a week. Its Highway 407 bus service, serving York Unviersity, has been hugely popular, and the agency is investing in double decker buses to handle passenger loads.

GO's work throughout its network aims to allow two-way hourly-or-better service on not just Lakeshore but its Milton, Georgetown, Barrie and Stouffville lines. It plans to more than double ridership by 2031.

Metrolinx's main construction work has been seen outside of GO Transit, including building the $8 Billion Eglinton LRT and assisting with the construction of the Mississauga and VIVA bus rapid transit networks. Major projects in the next twenty-five years include subway extensions to Richmond Hill and possibly a Downtown Relief Line.

Is it my imagination, or is GO Transit more reliable than VIA Rail?

We can't quote you numbers, but a number of people have plenty of personal experiences to suggest that GO Trains are delayed far less frequently than VIA Trains in the Greater Toronto Area. Before you criticize VIA, however, note that GO has a number of advantages that its federally funded cousin does not. For one thing, GO Transit's commuter rail service is focused primarily on the inner ring of the Greater Toronto Area (east of Oakville, west of Oshawa, south of Richmond Hill). The freight railroads have largely pulled their trains out of these inner-city tracks, preferring new freight-only lines and huge classification yards outside the City of Toronto. GO Transit is, according to some sources, CN Rail's largest customer within the Greater Toronto Area. On some lines, GO is practically the only customer. Outside the GTA, where most of VIA's trains operate, these freight-only bypass railroads join up with the lines that VIA makes use of, meaning that VIA is far more likely to be forced behind a freight train than GO Transit is.

This fact has an impact on GO's ability to extend rail service to the outer reaches of the Greater Toronto Area. GO would love to extend full service to Hamilton and institute rush hour service to Cambridge and Peterborough, the railroads they are operating on are demanding that GO expand the capacity of these rail lines with new rail before considering such a thing, and such a project would cost tens to hundreds of millions of dollars -- far more expensive than it was to get GO operating between Oakville and Pickering. This competition between the freight railroads and GO's commuter service is further illustrated by GO's eastern extension to Oshawa. Rather than purchase rail time on one of CN's busiest lines, it proved cheaper to build completely separate right-of-way.

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