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:

Frequency

On June 24th, all-day weekday train service was introduced on the GO Transit Stouffville line with off-peak trains every hour between Toronto and Unionville.  Trains cross each other using the pre-existing double-track between Unionville and Milliken stations, as well as the triple-tracked mainline between Scarborough and Union.   But because the line is still mostly single-track, there is a gap in service during peak periods in the counter-peak direction.

On December 30th, the GO Transit Barrie Line also received all-day weekday train service, with off-peak trains every hour between Toronto and Aurora.  Those trains cross each other using a new segment of double-track between York University and Rutherford stations, which was completed mere days before the start of service.  But as with the Stouffville line, there is no service on weekdays in the counter-peak direction, because there are not enough sidings to encounter all the frequent trains heading in the peak direction.  The new track also allowed the weekend service to improve from every 75 minutes to every 60 minutes.

When I started making these summaries in January 2015, the Toronto and Montreal lines were fairly interspersed on the chart, as ranked by weekday frequency.  But now in 2018, the chart is looking more sorted, with Toronto at the top, Montreal in the middle, and Vancouver on the bottom.  In those 3 years, the number of weekday GO Transit train departures has doubled from 123 per direction to 248, and the number of weekend departures has more than doubled from 64 per direction to 158.  Meanwhile the number of departures on the other systems has remained the same.

The big news outside of Ontario has been a restructuring of the former Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT) into separate operating (RTM – Réseau de Transport Métropolitain) and planning (ARTM – Autorité Régionale de Transport Métropolitain) agencies.  As far as I can tell, the train service is the same as always, though there are now fewer restrictions on bringing bicycles onto trains.

Speed

There has unfortunately only been negative change in average speeds, as measured during the AM Peak period in the peak direction.

The GO Transit Barrie Line is now 2 minutes slower because York University GO station has remained open despite the opening of the new Downsview Park station nearby.  The Barrie is now no longer the fastest commuter line in Canada during peak periods, but it retains that title at other times, when trains skip York University station and average 62 km/h.

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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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Posted in Passenger Rail, Toronto | 3 Comments

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.
canadiancommuterrail2016

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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Richmond-Adelaide cycle track review

In November 2011, City of Toronto council voted to introduce separated bicycle lanes on Richmond Street, Adelaide Street, Simcoe Street and Peter Street, creating a continuous network of bicycle routes through the core of the city.  Prior to the Richmond-Adelaide bicycle route project, the financial district had been a notable blank spot in the city’s cycling network.

The backbone of this new part of the bicycle network is the Richmond-Adelaide route.  It consists mostly of separated bicycle lanes on Richmond Street and Adelaide Street, a pair of one way roads that form the main east-west motor traffic route into the financial district from the Don Valley Parkway.

Strengths

In general the Richmond-Adelaide route is a huge improvement over the previous options for cycling through the centre of downtown.  It also includes some notable steps forward in important areas of design.

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