GO Transit is a regional public transit system serving the Greater Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario, Canada. With its hub at Union Station in Toronto, GO Transit's distinctive green and white commuter rail trains and coach-style buses serve a population of more than seven million across an area over 11,000 square kilometres (4,200 sq mi) stretching from Brantford and Kitchener in the west to Newcastle and Peterborough in the east, and from Barrie in the north to Niagara Falls in the south. GO Transit carried 68.5 million passengers in 2017, and its ridership continues to grow. GO Transit operates diesel-powered double-decker trains and coach buses, on routes that connect with all local transit systems in its service area, as well as Via Rail, Canada's national rail system.
Canada's first regional public transit system, GO Transit began regular passenger service on May 23, 1967 as a part of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Since then, it has grown from a single train line to seven, and expanded to include complementary bus service. GO Transit has been constituted in a variety of public-sector configurations, today existing as an operating division of Metrolinx, a provincial Crown agency with overall responsibility for integrative transportation planning within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area
Cities in and around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) expanded greatly during the 1950s, influenced by growth in immigration and industrialization. Much of the existing commuter service was provided by the Canadian National Railway, which faced mounting pressure to expand its service beyond Lakeshore trains it ran between Hamilton in the west and Danforth in the east, to Toronto; however, CN lacked the financial and physical capital to do this. Real improved commuter service was not considered until the 1962 Metropolitan Toronto and Region Transportation Study, which examined land use and traffic in the newly created Metropolitan Toronto. The idea of GO Transit was created out of fear of becoming lost in years of planning; it was "approached as a test, but recognized to be a permanent service." In May 1965, the Government of Ontario granted permission to proceed with the launch of Canada's first specially-designed commuter rail service, at a cost of $9.2 million ($75 million in 2020 dollars).
Creation, growth and recession
Government of Ontario Transit (later shortened to "GO Transit") started as a three-year long experiment on May 23, 1967, running single-deck trains powered by diesel locomotives in push-pull configuration on a single rail line along Lake Ontario's shoreline. GO Train service ran throughout the day from Oakville to Pickering with limited rush hour train service to Hamilton. The experiment proved to be extremely popular; GO Transit carried its first million riders during its first four months, and averaged 15,000 per day soon after. This line, now divided as the Lakeshore East and Lakeshore West lines, is the keystone corridor of GO Transit. Expansion of rail service continued in the 1970s and 1980s, aimed at developing ridership in with the introduction of the Georgetown (now Kitchener) line in 1974 and the Richmond Hill line in 1978. The Milton GO Train line opened in 1981, followed by the Bradford (now Barrie) and Stouffville lines a year later, establishing GO Transit's present-day service of seven rail corridors
Other than establishing new rail corridors, GO Transit introduced the Bi-Level coaches in 1979, in order to increase the number of passengers carried per train. These unique rail cars were developed in partnership with Bombardier Transportation. In that same year, the former Bay Street GO concourse at Union Station was built to accommodate these additional passengers. GO Bus service also started on September 8, 1970, extending the original Lakeshore line to Hamilton and Oshawa, as well as providing service north to Newmarket and Barrie. It eventually became a full-fledged network in its own right after 1989, feeding rail service and serving communities beyond the reach of existing trains.
Near the end of 1982, Ontario Minister of Transportation and Communications James W. Snow announced the launching of GO-ALRT (Advanced Light Rail Transit), an interregional light rail transit program providing $2.6 billion (1980 dollars) of infrastructure. Although this plan did not come to fruition, certain key objectives from it were established in other ways: additional stations were built, all-day service to Whitby and Burlington was established and networks of buses and trains interconnected the network.
GO extended limited rush hour train service on the Bradford, Georgetown and both Lakeshore lines and began offering off-peak service on the Milton line in 1990. Train service was also extended to Burlington on the Lakeshore West line in 1992. In a series of cost-cutting measures, then-Ontario Premier Bob Rae announced a "temporary" reduction in spending on services, causing all of the expansions of the 1990s to be reduced or eliminated.
Reconfiguration and revival
All day train service was restored from Burlington to Whitby, and peak service was finally brought to Oshawa in 2000, but this would be only one indicator of things to come. A large initiative to expand the GO Transit network in the mid-2000s under the GO Transit Rail Improvement Plan, or GO TRIP. $1 billion was invested in multiple rail and bus projects, making it the largest commuter rail project in Canadian history. This was later dwarfed by a further slate of new GO infrastructure proposed in MoveOntario 2020, the provincial transit plan announced by Premier Dalton McGuinty in the leadup to the 2007 provincial election. With significant re-investment in regional transit, GO experienced significant growth in its train network: all day service was restored to Oshawa in 2006 and Aldershot in 2007; service was expanded to Barrie South in 2007, to Lincolnville in 2008 and to Kitchener in 2011; and an excursion train now operates on summer weekends to Niagara Falls. This service was later expanded to all year round.
GO Transit also went through three major reconfigurations. In January 1997, the province announced it would transfer funding responsibility for GO Transit to GTHA municipalities. The Greater Toronto Services Board, composed of regional municipality chairs, city mayors and municipal councillors, was created as a municipal agency in January 1999, and GO Transit was transferred as an arm of this agency in August 1999. However, then-Premier Mike Harris announced the province would re-assume funding responsibility for GO Transit two years later, and this was completed with the abolition of the Greater Toronto Services Board on January 1, 2002. The Greater Toronto Transportation Authority was created in 2006, with the responsibilities of co-ordinating, planning, financing and developing integrated transit in the GTHA. This agency would then become merged with GO Transit in 2009 under the name Metrolinx. GO Transit would continue as an operating division alongside two other major initiatives: the Union Pearson Express and Presto card.
As part of the 2011 provincial election, Premier Dalton McGuinty made a campaign pledge to provide two-way, full-day train service on all corridors. Metrolinx is continuing to move forward with planning for this service expansion, which is now known as Regional Express Rail, in likeness to the service of a similar name in France. Part of Metrolinx's Big Move regional transportation plan, it is estimated to cost $4.9 billion and serve 30 million additional riders by 2031. Other possible future rail service extensions identified in GO Transit's 2020 plan include Niagara Region, Bolton, Brantford, Peterborough and Uxbridge. Metrolinx also announced plans in January 2011 to electrify the Lakeshore West, Lakeshore East and Kitchener rail lines, as well as the Union Pearson Express.
Improvements are being made to Union Station, which is the busiest passenger transportation facility in Canada, and is expected to have its current passenger traffic double in the next 10 to 15 years. Improvements currently underway include a new roof and glass atrium covering the platforms and railway tracks, new passenger concourses, additional staircases and vertical access points and general visual improvements to the station. Other longer term options such as a second downtown station and/or connections to a future Relief Subway Line are also being studied to meet future demand.
GO Transit primarily serves the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area–the cities of Toronto and Hamilton and the surrounding regions of Halton, Peel, York and Durham. GO Transit's lines extend into the nearby Niagara and Waterloo Regions, the cities of Brantford and Peterborough, and Simcoe, Dufferin and Wellington Counties– an area largely coextensive with the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Under the provincial charter, GO Transit is permitted to serve cities elsewhere in Ontario, but has no plans of doing so.
In total, GO trains and buses serve a population of 7 million in a 11,000 square kilometres (4,200 sq mi) area radiating in places more than 140 kilometres (87 mi) from downtown Toronto. Present extrema are Brantford and Kitchener to the west; Orangeville, Barrie and Beaverton to the north; Peterborough and Newcastle to the east; and Niagara Falls to the south.
The GO system map shows seven train lines (or corridors), all departing from Toronto's Union Station and mostly named respectively after the outer terminus of train service. Although colours are assigned in a consistent fashion to each line in all official media, in colloquial parlance lines are only ever referred to by their names. Buses are numbered in blocks of 10, corresponding to the nearest train line, with the 40s and 50s reserved for express services along the 407 ETR corridor which does not have a corresponding train line.
GO Transit's commuter rail services (reporting mark GOT) carry the large majority of its overall ridership. Until 2012, five GO Train lines operated only during weekday rush hour periods in the peak direction (inbound towards Union Station in the morning and outbound in the afternoons and early evenings), with off-peak service on these routes being provided solely by buses. Since then, partial off-peak train service has been added to three of these lines. The present off-peak service is as follows:
GO Transit's rolling stock uses push-pull equipment. Its passenger car fleet is composed entirely of Bombardier BiLevel Coaches built in Thunder Bay, Ontario. These double-decker coaches, easily identifiable by their elongated-octagon shape, were designed in the mid-1970s for GO Transit by Hawker Siddeley Canada as a more efficient replacement for GO's original single-deck coaches, built by the same company. Later coaches were manufactured by Can-Car/UTDC and the most recent coaches are produced by Bombardier Transportation, who now owns the designs and manufacturing facilities. GO Transit owns approximately 700 BiLevel Coaches, which are also used by a number of other commuter railways across North America. They have a seating capacity of 162 people per coach, or 1,944 per train. All upper levels of the coaches on rush hour trains are designated "Quiet Zones".
The coaches are primarily hauled by MPI MPXpress series locomotives. The current model, the 4000-horsepower MP40PH-3C, is more powerful than their predecessors, the EMD F59PH. They are capable of pulling or pushing trains of 12 coaches instead of 10. More than 60 of these locomotives have been ordered since their introduction in 2006, with a further 16 types of an even more powerful model, the 5400-horsepower MP54AC, to enter service in coming years. Opposite the locomotive, trains are bookended by cab cars, which are coaches with driver controls incorporated into them. While most of them closely resemble ordinary coaches, GO Transit began upgrading their rail fleet with newly designed, more crashworthy cab cars in the summer of 2015, incorporating an improved visibility, safety features and comfort for train crews.
Rolling stock is maintained at the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility, located west of Mimico station in Toronto and also at the newer Whitby Rail Maintenance Facility. The Willowbrook facility occupies the Willowbrook Yard, a historical freight yard established by Grand Trunk Railway in 1910. GO Transit acquired the Willowbrook Yard from Canadian National sometime after its inception, and built and expanded the Willowbrook facility onsite to maintain the expanding fleet. GO Transit built a second maintenance facility covering 500,000 square feet (4.6 hectares) in Whitby to accommodate additional trains for its upcoming Regional Express Rail project, and was completed by the end of 2017.
Ownership and crews
GO has always owned its locomotives and coaches, but its trackage used to be owned entirely by Canada's two major commercial railways: the large majority by the Canadian National Railway (CN) and the remainder (the current Milton line) by Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). In 1988, as part of expanding service east of Pickering, GO built its first section of self-owned purpose-built trackage. From 1998 until 2009, GO owned only 6 per cent of the railway trackage on which it operated. Starting in 2009, Metrolinx incrementally acquired further trackage from the two commercial railways in order to improve GO service. As of 2014, Metrolinx has complete ownership of the Barrie, Stouffville and Lakeshore East lines, and a majority of the Lakeshore West, Richmond Hill, and Kitchener lines. CP still owns most of the Milton line. This puts Metrolinx ownership at 80 per cent of GO Transit's trackage
Each train runs with a three-person crew: two operators control the train from the cab at the front end of the train and handle related operations, while a third crew member is the Customer Service Ambassador. Stationed in a designated car in the middle of each train, the Customer Service Ambassador operates the doors and wheelchair ramp, makes station stop announcements, and is dedicated to assisting customers on board. Bombardier Transportation is responsible for providing train operations, taking over from CN crews in 2007 and CP crews in 2015. GO trains achieve on-time performance of approximately 95 per cent, and a refund will be provided if a train is more than 15 minutes late, with some conditions.
GO Bus service consists of a combination of routes, many of which stand in for train service when it is not operating and/or which extend the reach of train service to communities beyond their terminal. Other GO buses are independent of rail services, such as the Highway 407 series of routes, which provides an orbital-type service that encircles Toronto proper and makes connections between all train lines. There are also routes that serve Pearson International Airport, seasonal destinations such as several colleges and universities. The vast majority of GO train stations have connecting GO bus service, of which almost all the exceptions are situated within Toronto proper. There are also 16 bus terminals served by GO buses, many of which provide local transit connections, as well as intermediate stops and ticket agencies.
The first buses operated by GO Transit, a suburban variant of the GM New Look bus, were unveiled at Queen's Park on August 11, 1970, about a month before commencing operations on its expanded services east, west and north of Toronto. Operated by Gray Coach, a pilot program to test them was conducted in Pickering before they entered service on 8 September 1970. Later buses included a combination of single-door, suburban-type transit buses built by Orion Bus Industries and New Flyer, and single-level highway coaches built by Prevost Car and Motor Coach Industries (MCI, now a subsidiary of New Flyer).
Today, GO Transit operates a combination of single-level coach buses and commuter-type double-decker buses. All buses are equipped with bike racks and are wheelchair accessible. Most of the older buses in the fleet are 45-foot (13.72 m), single-level D4500CT coach buses built by Motor Coach Industries, which can seat 57 people and features a wheelchair lift for disabled users. The first models of this type entered service in 2001 and orders have continued until 2015. In April 2008, GO began operating 43-foot (13.11 m) Enviro 500 double-decker buses built by British manufacturer Alexander Dennis in the United Kingdom. These buses come in three different designs differing mainly in their size and height. All double deckers have a low-floor design and a wheelchair ramp at the front door.
The first two batches of double deckers have a height of 4.2 metres (13 ft 9+3⁄8 in), too tall to meet many height standards set by the provincial Ministry of Transportation. Thus, they are restricted to routes which avoid low bridges and underpasses. In particular, they are found exclusively on routes on the Highway 407 and Highway 403 corridors, providing service between Peel and York Regions.
In 2012, GO ordered new Enviro500 double-decker units for its fleet. Designated as "Go-Anywhere" models, they have a redesigned front end, based on the Enviro400 (and which would later form the basis for the global Enviro500 MMC refreshed design), and a height of 4.1 metres (13 ft 5+7⁄16 in), 10 cm (3+15⁄16 in) lower than the previous models. The lower height allows these buses to meet many more clearance standards as a result and are used on a wider variety of routes, including those that travel on Highway 401. Three additional batches of "Go-Anywhere" Enviro500s were ordered until 2015.
Despite the lower height, these buses are still too high to fit in a number of GO terminals, namely Hamilton, Yorkdale, York Mills, and Union Station. Beginning in 2016, GO Transit began placing further orders of Enviro500 double-deckers. These buses, designed specifically for the GO Transit network and designated as "Super-Lo", have an even lower height of 3.9 metres (12 ft 9+9⁄16 in), low enough to operate on virtually the entire GO bus network. They also have a longer length than previous orders, being 45-foot (13.72 m) long (the same as its coach buses), and dedicated space for luggage at the rear. The chassis for these vehicles are being locally assembled at a newly established facility in Vaughan, creating up to 30 new full-time jobs.
Stations and connections
GO Transit stations are designed to provide seamless and barrier-free connections between its trains and buses. They include amenities such as elevators, washrooms, parking, pay phones, ticket vending machines, ticket sale kiosks and automated teller machines. All GO stations have Presto card readers. Most bus terminals are also served with a ticket sales booth or vending machine. As of 2016, the capital costs of building a GO Transit train station is about $50 to $75 million.
Most GO stations include large commuter parking lots, some of which have recently included large parking structures, and also include onsite bus loops for buses making timed connections to GO Buses.
Ten of GO's train stations are shared with Via Rail. GO also connects with fifteen other municipal transit providers, such as the TTC. Metrolinx calls many of these transfer points between services mobility hubs, and it has made them a priority as it moves forward with The Big Move regional transportation plan.
GO Transit Annual Ridership (2017)
Corridor Riders %
Lakeshore West 17.7 million 25.8%
Lakeshore East 13.7 million 20.0%
Kitchener 8 million 11.7%
Milton 7 million 10.2%
Barrie 4.6 million 6.7%
Stouffville 3.9 million 5.7%
Richmond Hill 2.5 million 3.6%
Total - GO Rail System 57.4 million
Bus 11.1 million 16.2%
Total 68.5 million
On an average weekday, GO runs 322 train trips carrying 206,167 riders, and 2,386 bus trips carrying 48,477 passengers. This adds up to 254,644 passengers throughout the entire system. In 2017, GO Transit ridership totalled 68.5 million, and if expansion plans are realized, is projected to total over 200 million by 2055.
At least 91 per cent of the train ridership is to and from Union Station in downtown Toronto, while about 70% of all bus passengers travel to and from the City of Toronto. The average trip taken by a passenger is 33.5 kilometres (20.8 mi) long. The majority of GO Transit commuters have a private vehicle available to them for them for their commute, but choose to use GO Transit instead. About 80% of train commuters, and 60% of bus commuters choose GO Transit over driving. Over half of GO's ridership occurs on the Lakeshore West and East lines, which can be attributed to the almost continuous development along their corridors, as well as being the only two lines with two way, all day service since their inception. This is followed by the Milton line, carrying almost 14% of all ridership. Other corridors carry 4–11% of riders each.
The GO Transit logo has remained largely unchanged since the agency was founded. The design was created by Gagnon/Valkus, a Montreal-based design firm that was also responsible for the corporate identities of Canadian National and Hydro-Québec. The firm's team wanted to create a unified logo using the initials of the Government of Ontario ("GO"), via two circles with a T incorporated into it. Lead designer Frank Fox described the creation of the logo as "a happy accident. More or less, we had this feeling among us that this couldn't be true. We went off trying many other solutions, but nothing else was good enough."
The logo has since become woven into the cityscape of Toronto, and is a prominent identifier of the agency. As one graphic design expert stated, it achieved "an enviable goal that most graphic designers strive to accomplish with any logo they design". Only one minor revision was made after the original version was unveiled: while the G and O used to touch each other, a gap now exists with a bolder white T to enhance them. The primary corporate colour was known as "GO Green", matched the green on Ontario Highway signs, and was used on all vehicles, signage, and printed material. In 2013, GO introduced a two-tone colour scheme that changed the primary colour to a darker green, and added a second lighter apple green. The changes were made to better harmonize with the branding of Metrolinx and its other operating divisions, as well as to improve its display digitally.
Safety and security
By-law No. 2
GO Transit By-law No. 2 is a document of rules and regulations governing actions of passengers and employees while on GO Transit property, which includes land, facilities, trains, buses and other structures. Besides issues relating to fares, the by-law specifies permissible and prohibited actions such as staying in designated safe areas, commercial or distribution activities, parking and other personal actions that promote or endanger the safety of passengers. It covers items like paying fares, parking, general behaviour, fines and rule enforcement. These rules can be enforced by a "proper authority" which is defined as "an employee or agent of GO Transit wearing a GO Transit uniform carrying an identification card issued by GO Transit, a GO Transit Special Constable, or a municipal police officer." Any contravention of the by-law can result in a fine under the Provincial Offences Act.
GO Transit employs Transit Safety Officers, who are designated special constables that patrol Metrolinx properties, and are responsible for ensuring passenger safety and protection, enforcing relevant laws or by-laws, offering customer assistance and supporting local police, fire and ambulance, and promoting railway safety. Under the Police Services Act, Transit Safety Officers are appointed by the Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, with approval from the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. In addition to By-law No. 2, they have the authority to enforce other certain federal and provincial laws.
GO Transit also employs Provincial Offences Officers, known as Fare Inspectors, to enforce the proof-of-payment system. GO Transit operates a 24-hour Transit Safety Communications centre operated by Communications Operators. They are mainly responsible for taking calls from the public with regards to actionable complaints, dispatching special constables or relevant emergency services to all areas serviced by Metrolinx.
Owner: Government of Ontario (through Metrolinx)
Locale: Golden Horseshoe
Transit type: Commuter rail
Intercity bus service
Number of lines: 7
Number of stations: 66 rail
15 bus + numerous stops
Daily ridership: 276,500 (all modes)
Annual ridership: 68.5 million (2017)
Chief executive: Phil Verster, President & CEO, Metrolinx
Ian Smith, Chief Operating Officer
Headquarters: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Operation: Began operation 1967
Reporting marks: GOT
Host railroads: Canadian National Railway
Canadian Pacific Railway
Number of vehicles: 81 locomotives
694 passenger coaches
198 (double decker)
Technical System length: 452 kilometres (281 mi) (rail)
2,776 kilometres (1,725 mi) (bus)
Track gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in) standard gauge