Can you imagine what the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) would be like without transit?
How would you commute to work, social events, or your first date?
Thankfully, you don’t have to worry because the fast-growing urban region is served by one of Canada’s best networks – GO Transit. And on May 23, it’s celebrating 50 years in operation.
Because living in downtown Toronto can cost a fortune, you can opt for a more affordable, bigger place in Hamilton and ride to work from Union Station in no time. This means you don’t have to compromise your career choice based on where you’re living.
And with a population of over six million people, having an efficient GTHA transit system that matches our busy lifestyles is essential.
The GTHA is the biggest metropolitan area in Canada, accounting for 46.51% of Ontario’s total population. The area is obviously thriving and tons of people want to live here. Thankfully, greater connectivity is in the pipeline for the GTHA; the first subway line from Toronto to York Spadina is underway, plus Hamilton and Toronto have introduced bike-sharing programs.
GO Transit has experienced huge growth in the last half-century, with so much more to come. But before we think too much about the future, let’s take a look at how GO has helped the GTHA become one massive, connected urban community.
This one’s for all the history buffs: the first commuter rail service was launched by the Government of Ontario on May 23, 1967. It launched as a three-year experiment with just 14 stations along Lake Ontario’s 84 kilometre shoreline.
Greater connectivity in the region was badly needed. GO Transit acted more than efficiently, meeting its second year volume for passengers in only six months.
Downtown Toronto’s workforce expanded, so GO Transit began connecting Newmarket with downtown, launching the first bus service in the city from Queen’s Park.
In the first year of operation, Lakeshore GO Trains carried 2.5 million riders.
All-day GO Train services were launched from Oakville to Pickering, with rush-hour service extending to Hamilton.
In 1974, the Georgetown line was launched, serving Bloor, Weston, Malton, Bramalea, Brampton, and Georgetown stations. A year later, the number of monthly riders hit almost 36,000.
Monthly rider numbers almost doubled to just over 63,000 in 1976. With 80% of people settled in urban areas, taking transit became the fastest, most affordable way to get to work.
All aboard! Bi-level trains were introduced in 1978 and could take up to 162 commuters from the city to the suburbs.
GO Train lines kept on expanding, and the Milton, Bradford and Stouffville lines were launched.
Rush-hour GO Train services were extended to Barrie, Guelph, Acton and Oshawa in 1990.
In 1991, Unionville GO Station officially opened as the suburb developed rapidly and commuters wanted direct transit routes to downtown.
10 GO Train stations became wheelchair accessible in 1995.
GO Transit broke records by carrying 40 million passengers in 2000.
All Union Station GO Buses moved from Front Street to a fancy, new GO Bus terminal in 2003.
Celebrations were had in 2006 when GO Transit carried its one billionth passenger.
All buses were equipped with bike racks in 2008, making it easier for commuters to cycle as well as take transit
In 2009, GO Transit merged with Metrolinx and played an important role in helping coordinate transportation for millions of Torontonians in the GTHA.
And presto, you don’t have to carry cash for transit anymore! In 2009, the PRESTO payment system was introduced so riders could pay with an electronic fare across GO Transit and another nine transit systems in the GTHA.
2010 – 2016
GO Transit announced its largest ever expansion in 2013 and launched 30-minute, all-day service on the Lakeshore lines. This meant riders had an extra 263 weekly train trips to choose from.
Metrolinx launched North America’s first express rail train in 2015 – the Union Pearson (UP) Express. Now, commuters could get from Union Station to Toronto Pearson Airport in just 25 minutes, with trains departing every 15 minutes.
2017 – the future
On your average weekday, GO Transit carries roughly 251,000 passengers through the GTHA by train or bus.
By 2025, it’s aiming to support 6,000 trips per week for commuters. Just think how many passengers that will be!
Metrolinx will provide two-way, all-day electrified services every 15 minutes on the Lakeshore West, Kitchener, Barrie, Stouffville and Lakeshore East lines.
Right now, 91% of rail passengers start or finish their journey at Union Station. And GO Transit plans to almost double the number of train stops here from 29 to 50 trains per day by 2025.
You’ll be able to commute quickly and conveniently with 52 kilometres of new bus routes in York Region and Mississauga.
Metrolinx plans to electrify and extend all-day services on the Kitchener, Barrie and Stouffville corridor and extend all-day services to Milton, Bowmanville, and Niagara Falls.
The future of urban transportation also features Light Rail Transit (LRT) as populations grow. Metrolinx plans to build several LRT routes in the GTHA which will connect communities far into the future.
Since its inception, GO Transit has gone from 750 weekly trips to approximately 1,500. And with the population of the GTHA expected to reach over 8 million by 2031, our community relies on transit that will take us further, faster.
GO Transit and Metrolinx are committed to connecting the GTHA community not just now, but far into the future. So the next time you’re taking transit, take a moment to think about how far you’ve come, and where you’re going.