Canadian Commuter Rail Summary 2018

Commuter rail operators across the country have released their 2019 schedules, which means it’s time for my annual summary of Commuter Rail service.

As with every year I have made these summaries, there has been expansion of rail service in Ontario, and absolutely no improvement anywhere else in the country.  The only progress outside of Ontario is that the Réseau de Transport de Montréal (RTM) has now branded their commuter rail services as “Exo”, which means that for the second year in a row, Montréal commuter rail lines received sharp-looking rebranded schedules with the same train times as always.

Improvements highlighted in green, deteriorations highlighted in red:

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Canadian Commuter Rail Summary 2017

It’s that time of year again, where I scan through all the commuter rail timetables in Canada, to see how the the fastest-growing motorized transport mode is doing.

For the third year in a row, there have been major expansions of train service in Ontario, but no improvements anywhere else in the country.

Improvements highlighted in green, deteriorations highlighted in red:

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Parking a bicycle at Hamilton Centre Station

Hamilton Centre station a great example of an integrated transit terminal.  In a single facility there are GO Transit regional trains and buses, Greyhound and Coach Canada intercity buses, and Hamilton Street Railway local buses.  Having all these different agencies operate out of a single facility makes transfers between services easy, which benefits all services involved.  But the station’s integration isn’t just limited to transit services.  It also provides some of the best bicycle parking options of a station in Ontario.

I did a walkaround of the station to tally up the parking options available, and here’s what I found.

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Days numbered for York University GO Station

York University GO Station was my local train station for many years.  But for most of that time, I never used it because it was only served by two trains per weekday, which were not at useful times for me.  In more recent years, I used it a bit more, thanks to an ever-increasing number of train departures.  But after the end of 2017, I will likely not be using the station at all – as it is planned to be closed permanently.  In its place will be the new Downsview Park station at Sheppard Avenue, on the new extension of the TTC’s subway Line 1.

The decision to close York University GO Station has not yet been finalized, but it would be rather difficult to justify maintaining the station.  It currently serves only 225 passengers per weekday, which makes it the least-used train station in Toronto.  And it’s not hard to figure out why – it’s nearly impossible to get to.  The station is located deep in an industrial area, so there is little to no walk-up traffic.  There is no car parking, so park-and-ride isn’t an option either.  There are also no public transit connections – the only bus which serves the station is a private shuttle operated by York University for its members.  That shuttle only connects to certain weekday train trips, and there is no service at all on weekends.  Not being a York University member, the only ways I could access the station were to cycle on some rather unfriendly North York roads or get someone to drop me off with a car.

York University Station surroundings. (Image from Google Earth)

As with any station closure, there is some amount of controversy.  Over the past couple years, there have been periodically been protest posters and petitions plastered on the fence at the station, and more recently the CBC published a story featuring people who are upset about the possible closure.

According to a York student, “it would be a disaster” to travel from the GO Train to York University on a subway train rather than a bus, because there could be subway delays.  And according to the York University manager of transportation, the new configuration would add 20 minutes to the trip to campus for train passengers coming from the north.

But the article fails to point out that neither of these statements are based in reality.  While subway delays certainly do exist, the same is true with any mode of transportation.  And in general, a subway line will be more dependable than an individual bus driving in mixed traffic between the campus and the station.  And whereas the current shuttle bus only connects to select weekday GO trains, the subway will operate frequently all day every day, thereby connecting to every GO train departure.

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Canadian Commuter Rail Summary 2016

Over the past couple years, I’ve been making year-end summaries of all the commuter rail lines in Canada, identifying changes and trends.  So here is a look back at the year 2016 in Canadian commuter rail.

Improvements compared to January 2016 are highlighted in green, while deteriorations are highlighted in red.

For the second year in a row, there were no significant changes to commuter rail service outside of Ontario, and GO Transit introduced significant new off-peak train service.

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Neglecting pedestrians in Vaughan Centre

This afternoon I visited Vaughan Metropolitan Centre to see the progress in one of the largest urban transformations underway in Ontario. The City of Vaughan, with a lot of help from York Region and the Province of Ontario, is turning a big-box commercial area best known for Ikea and Wal-Mart into a high-density mixed-use centre featuring highrise office and residential towers. The hub of the development is Vaughan Centre station, which will be the interchange between the Toronto Transit Commission’s Line 1 subway and York Region Transit’s Viva Purple bus rapid transit line.

I was impressed by a lot of the transit infrastructure I saw, especially Vaughan Centre station. I was also happy to find a relatively pleasant pedestrian environment along Highway 7 for such a busy and high-speed road. But my pleasant experience was abruptly ended when I decided to cross Highway 7 to head back along the other side of the road.

Because it took me almost four minutes to do so.

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Do pedestrian buttons actually work?

When people find out I have a working knowledge of traffic signals, this is often the first question they ask.  “When I press the button, does it actually do anything to the signal timing?”  The short answer is: sometimes.  Because there’s more to pedestrian buttons than just getting a walk light to cross the street.

There’s two parts t0 the answer here, which are:
1. There are some pedestrian crossings where someone needs to press a button for the walk light to be displayed, and other crossings where there is no need for anyone to press a button,
2. Pedestrian buttons are being installed at all pedestrian crossings, whether or not those buttons actually have an effect on signal timing.

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