Challenges still ahead but agency hits a milestone
GO Transit’s 40th anniversary this week offers a chance to take the long view of our fast-growing regional rail and bus service.
Begun as a single rail line in 1967, GO has grown from 2.5 million riders per year to almost 50 million. Rail customers might be a little nostalgic for more recent history — when late trains were a rarity.
In February and March of this year, trains arrived on schedule just over 80 per cent of the time, compared to 95 per cent in the same months of 2006.
Some of the causes were entirely out of GO's control — such as a major freight train derailment in early March.
Whatever the reason, nearly one in five trains was late or cancelled in February and March. More recent on-time statistics won’t be available until early June, but presumably conditions have improved.
GO tracks the exact causes of delays and cancellations, ascribing the responsibility to itself or one of its contractors — such as the private companies that run and maintain the tracks and trains.
Riders have an idea of the various reasons for delays — faulty switches, stalled locomotives, slow freight trains or collisions at rail crossings. Nonetheless, many just want to get to work or home at a predictable time and expect GO, the province and the railways to sort out the problems — soon.
The solutions to growing congestion on the rails are numerous and complex including extra tracks, new and stronger train engines and even federal legislation that updates the relationship between passenger train agencies and the for-profit railroads. We’ll hear more about these changes over the next year, but further patience will likely be required of GO riders.
At least there was no fare hike this year. GO usually raises rates every spring, and riders adjust without saying much. I suspect this year would have been different, considering how many delays riders have experienced.
With the GTA’s highways and trains overflowing during peak hours, congestion may be a big political issue during this fall’s provincial election. That means we could hear a lot about how well GO Transit is meeting the demands placed on it — along with more than a few simplistic solutions.
I plan to focus on GO’s challenges in coming months, but in the meantime let’s acknowledge the transit agency’s milestone. A 40th anniversary celebration starts at 10 a.m. tomorrow in the Great Hall of Union Station. I hope to check out the photos of 1960s commuters in their groovy outfits.
Go to gotransit.com before 9 a.m. tomorrow and enter to win a monthly pass.