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GO Transit: Service thread (including extensions)

Richard White

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I have to disagree with the idea of raising the weekend pass price, it defeats the entire purpose on grabbing ridership back with an affordable solution.

The way to fix the trains and buses being over capacity isn’t to raise the prices; it’s to add service. There was a 4th Niagara train last year, why hasn’t that returned? That should be the question rather than raising the prices for transit.

(I was just told that the 4th Niagara train was at 10pm, so it really wouldn’t have affected ridership. But I think my overall point still stands)

The problem is with boat traffic in the Welland Canal, crewing and coordination with CN you can only add so much service.

Right now, there is little to no wiggle room for extra trains to be added. The only way to reduce crowding is to force people to pay the true cost of the service.
 

Northern Light

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The problem is with boat traffic in the Welland Canal, crewing and coordination with CN you can only add so much service.

Right now, there is little to no wiggle room for extra trains to be added. The only way to reduce crowding is to force people to pay the true cost of the service.

@reaperexpress previously modeled how more service could be placed on the line; particularly the idea of double-pumping an extra run in that key morning timeslot.

Absent evidence to the contrary, I see no reason that is not a viable answer.

Truthfully, we need to hear from Mx on this; and any alternatives they have considered or been offered.

****

There is very little CN service in this corridor unless something has changed; there are posters here, notably @smallspy and/or @crs1026 that can speak to that issue better than I.

But I am certainly challenged to see that as a serious conflicting issue at this time. (its much more likely to be one we when look at getting to hourly service to Niagara or the like.)

Still we need to hear Mx on why they have mismatched capacity to demand.

****

Cutting demand, by way of rising prices, when service, is frankly pretty abysmal and demand, in absolute terms not all that high does not seem like an acceptable outcome.

Demand management is something for when you run up against the limits of infrastructure and there is no near-term prospect of improvement. I certainly hope we aren't there!
 

APTA-2048

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I have to say, despite the good $10/15 deal to Niagara Falls, the chaotic service stories have made me avoid it so far. A packed train and long lineups doesn’t sound appealing to me.
 

crs1026

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[But I am certainly challenged to see that as a serious conflicting issue at this time. (its much more likely to be one we when look at getting to hourly service to Niagara or the like.)

I am actually pessimistic about ML’s options here.

The problem for CN is that they are accustomed to running their two regular trains on this route (one each way) in the same morning slot as GO might covet…. and with the Maple Leaf returning, there is not much wiggle room.

Both CN freights are notoriously long, meaning they take time to clear, and there are not many places to hold them without blocking crossings.… and an overflow train happens on occasion. I am certain that CN will be very reluctant to surrender track and time in the morning. There is also a local freight serving the East Hamilton - Stoney Creek area. It ties up track for substantial amounts of time. Its schedule is a bit more flexible.

Afternoon track and time? Much less of a problem, I suspect… but that doesn’t help get day trippers to the Falls for the day.

As for the Seaway, they can stage boat traffic for short periods, but once the bridge goes up, it will be a while before it can come down again. That really constrains any potential to run a fleet of GO/VIA trains to the Falls in the morning. I suspect the Seaway can accept one-of train passages a few times a day, but a fleet of three trains following each other on 20-30 minute headways (which is about as close as the signalling system will allow) looks to the Seaway as basically one long occupancy. They will be opposed also.

It may not seem like a big ask, but actually ML’s needs are pretty specific and inflexible - in the sense that only a morning slot or two with a fleet of trains will solve their overload issue. And that’s operationally a big ask for the other two stakeholders.

- Paul
 
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Northern Light

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I am actually pessimistic about ML’s options here.

The problem for CN is that they are accustomed to running their two regular trains on this route (one each way) in the same morning slot as GO might covet…. and with the Maple Leaf returning, there is not much wiggle room.

Both CN freights are notoriously long, meaning they take time to clear, and there are not many places to hold them without blocking crossings.… and an overflow train happens on occasion. I am certain that CN will be very reluctant to surrender track and time in the morning. There is also a local freight serving the East Hamilton - Stoney Creek area. It ties up track for substantial amounts of time. Its schedule is a bit more flexible.

Afternoon track and time? Much less of a problem, I suspect… but that doesn’t help get day trippers to the Falls for the day.

As for the Seaway, they can stage boat traffic for short periods, but once the bridge goes up, it will be a while before it can come down again. That really constrains any potential to run a fleet of GO/VIA trains to the Falls in the morning. I suspect the Seaway can accept one-of train passages a few times a day, but a fleet of three trains following each other on 20-30 minute headways (which is about as close as the signalling system will allow) looks to the Seaway as basically one long occupancy. They will be opposed also.

It may not seem like a big ask, but actually ML’s needs are pretty specific and inflexible - in the sense that only a morning slot or two with a fleet of trains will solve their overload issue. And that’s operationally a big ask for the other two stakeholders.

- Paul

Thanks Paul.

So overall CN traffic is light on this section of track; it just happens that as currently scheduled, its in conflict with optimally placed additional GO runs.

So the options (in theory) are:

1) Get CN to shift its schedule, if needed, to gain at least one additional slot (which you see as unlikely)

2) Build sufficient passing track at at least one location en route such that GO can move around the CN movement (cost being the key question here, I assume, since the majority of this sub was historically double-tracked, so the space is there.)

3) Find a different way to handle that peak demand

- Buses?
- Use CP via Welland and the spur to hit Niagara from the opposite side (requires investment in the spur, a minimum of one round trip clearance from CP and a platform/station in Niagara for off-loading passengers. (cost?) ?

****

Sound about right? If so, what makes sense here in the near-term?
 

crs1026

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If it were my decision, I would run the added service to St Catherines only and figure out how to shuttle people from there. Might be hard with all the bikes, but it would solve some of the conflicts.

I haven’t done a detailed look on the map, but even adding track is problemmatic because of the need to keep the freight moving so crossings aren’t blocked.

Possibly one could expedite re-installing the missing second track segment, and that might appease CN… but that’s a lot of money and a lengthy project.

I wonder if a GO train could be J-trained behind the Maple Leaf and making only its stops. I’m really stretching at this point.

Reserved seats might be the best one can accomplish - or beef up the bus alternatives.

- Paul
 

anb

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Maybe the buses are key to solving some of the problem. You could have one express bus go from Burlington, and the other from West Harbour so it splits the traffic into 2. Or as crazy as it sounds, we could start a Ferry service which could save a lot in the long run. Looks like that is actually a thing that they're planning in the long run. https://www.blogto.com/travel/2022/06/toronto-niagara-falls-ferry/
 

reaperexpress

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So overall CN traffic is light on this section of track; it just happens that as currently scheduled, its in conflict with optimally placed additional GO runs.

So the options (in theory) are:

1) Get CN to shift its schedule, if needed, to gain at least one additional slot (which you see as unlikely)

2) Build sufficient passing track at at least one location en route such that GO can move around the CN movement (cost being the key question here, I assume, since the majority of this sub was historically double-tracked, so the space is there.)

3) Find a different way to handle that peak demand

- Buses?
- Use CP via Welland and the spur to hit Niagara from the opposite side (requires investment in the spur, a minimum of one round trip clearance from CP and a platform/station in Niagara for off-loading passengers. (cost?) ?

The line still is majority double tracked. 52km out of 72 km (72%). The only portions which are single-tracked are east of Clifton (where most of CN's trains branch off anyway), and a 16.5 km segment between Grimsby and St Catharines. CN would presumably want to schedule meets at the Welland Canal (just east of St Catharines) so each bridge closure can be used by 2 trains simultaneously. So trains probably wouldn't be meeting between Grimsby and St Catharines anyway.

Double-tracked segments in green
Capture.JPG


Based on Paul's comment, our concept of adding an additional morning GO train would result in a total of 4 eastbound trains in the morning (2 GO, 1 VIA, 1 CN), and 3 westbound trains (2 GO, 1 CN).

The current passenger rail schedules are below.
Capture1.JPG
Capture2.JPG

Eastbound trains cross the canal at 10:03 and 10:35, and westbound at 11:33. If the eastbound CN train crosses at 11:33, then the new GO departure would need to depart Union at 10:51 and cross the canal at 12:33, to leave an hour to raise and lower the bridge between 11:33 and 12:33. If the CN train doesn't cross at 11:33, that's a slot which could be used by an additional morning GO train, departing Union at 09:51 and skipping St. Catharines because there's no platform on the south track.

Given that the line over the canal is double-tracked, it seems like it would be practical to schedule 1 closure per hour, shared by 2 trains (1 per direction). Given the bridge is over a dual lock, each bridge raising would be useable by 2 boats (1 per lock).
Capture4.JPG

I'm not sure what the capacity of the lock would be in the absence of the railway bridge, but I don't imagine it's much more than 1 boat per hour per direction anyway, given that it takes 15 minutes to fill the lock, a few minutes to manoeuvre the boat out, 15 minutes to empty the lock for the next boat, and another few minutes to manouevre that boat in.

Conversely, the 30-minute gap between the Maple Leaf and the GO train might not be enough to raise and lower the bridge, in which case an additional slot for boats could be created by shifting one or both trips to create a 1-hour gap, to let 2 boats through.
Maybe the buses are key to solving some of the problem. You could have one express bus go from Burlington, and the other from West Harbour so it splits the traffic into 2. Or as crazy as it sounds, we could start a Ferry service which could save a lot in the long run. Looks like that is actually a thing that they're planning in the long run. https://www.blogto.com/travel/2022/06/toronto-niagara-falls-ferry/
Buses may be key in the short term. I like your idea of a Hamilton-Niagara bus - the hourly Lakeshore West trains which turn back at Aldershot could have a 12B connection at Burlington, while the hourly trains which continue to West Harbour could have an express bus connection there. That would provide departures every 30 minutes from Toronto to Niagara. I'd suggest that the Niagara-Hamilton bus should start at Hamilton Centre so it provides a convenient new connection from Hamilton itself, in addition to providing additional frequency for the Toronto-Niagara route. That route would probably generate decent ridership in its own right.

In addition, perhaps the morning train could run non-stop from Union to Burlington, to force people coming from Exhibition, Port Credit, and Oakville to instead take the Lakeshore West local to Burlington, and then the 12B express bus to Niagara.

That option is actually just as fast anyway:
Exhibition - Niagara: 2h01 via route 12B, 1h59 via direct train
Port Credit - Niagara: 1h42 via route 12B, 1h46 via direct train
Oakville - Niagara: 1h28 via route 12B, 1h35 via direct train

June 2022 Route 12 timetable, highlighting the bus trip simultaneous with overcrowded train trip
Capture3.JPG

So although people do prefer taking the train, taking the bus instead wouldn't actually be an inconvenience.
 
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reaperexpress

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I have to disagree with the idea of raising the weekend pass price, it defeats the entire purpose on grabbing ridership back with an affordable solution.

The way to fix the trains and buses being over capacity isn’t to raise the prices; it’s to add service. There was a 4th Niagara train last year, why hasn’t that returned? That should be the question rather than raising the prices for transit.

(I was just told that the 4th Niagara train was at 10pm, so it really wouldn’t have affected ridership. But I think my overall point still stands)
We are not talking about affordability here. We are talking about providing dirt cheap getaways to Niagara, which cause the Niagara trains to take money out of GO's operating budget rather than putting money into it. Meanwhile the GO system continues to have plenty of places/times with prohibitively expensive tickets.

If we were to make the weekend passes distance-based as I described, the cost per ride to Niagara would increase from $5 to $8.90. That's still extremely cheap for a 130 km journey, and I highly doubt it would dissuade any significant number of riders given that it's still far cheaper than any alternative, and would be a small proportion of the total cost of a trip to Niagara.

If we actually want to make meaningful changes to affordability, we should be implementing systematic changes which address actual affordability issues. For example, by providing free transfers to/from the TTC, just as are provided to/from 905 agencies. And by providing discounts for off-peak travel in general.
 
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Krypto98

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There is very little CN service in this corridor unless something has changed; there are posters here, notably @smallspy and/or @crs1026 that can speak to that issue better than I.

As far as I know they only run A421 and A422 on the Grimsby and a road switcgee in the hamilton area, and a road switcher(562) on the Stamford sub... I think the biggest constraint is the welland canal

As for the Guelph Sub, CN only runs 568, 540(guelph local), 533(overnight to Kitchener from macyrd) and 566(waterloo spur overnight)
 

IRT_BMT_IND

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421/422 is the only regular CN train pair on this line, it's a huge train with a little bit of everything including autoracks and double-stacks and is mostly interchange traffic to/from CSX and NS. It gets broken up at Port Robinson. There used to be another manifest freight (330/331?) that went from Sarnia/Port Huron and avoided Toronto using the north-to-south curve at Bayview. There might be other random as-needed trains but someone with more insider knowledge would have to confirm. CP probably has a slightly better route for freights, just because they have a tunnel under the Welland Canal, and AFAIK they actually run more freights in Niagara than CN does (CP runs its double stack trains to the Midwest this way because they won't fit in the Detroit tunnel).

Restoring the second track between Jordan and Nelles and constructing second platforms at St. Catherines (at least) should really be priorities for Metrolinx, at least in the medium term. I wonder if it would be feasible for Metrolinx to add an extra morning train 20-30 minutes after the existing one in busy periods (basically going old-school and adding a second section)?
 

crs1026

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If we actually want to make meaningful changes to affordability, we should implementing systematic changes which address currently excessive fares. For example, by providing free transfers to/from the TTC, just as are provided to/from 905 agencies. And by providing discounts for off-peak travel in general.

Agreed. I get my back up when people want a discount on everything expensive in the name of “affordability”. In this case, imagine a family of four touring the Falls, riding the Maid of the Mist, visiting the Wax Museum, maybe dropping a few dollars at the casino, having a nice lunch at a winery.. It’s not a cheap day out. The impact of the GO fare is marginal. If there were an affordability concern over the fare, they wouldn’t be going at all.

There is a case for discounting fares of this type, but it is
- developing public awareness of where the GO network runs and building habitual use of GO for non-workday, non-commuting trips and to destinations other than Downtown Toronto
- developing recreational attitudes and practices that rely on public transit versus auto.

As we watch the GTA intensify, I see a crying need for non-auto-centric recreational venues. Not everybody will fit in High Park and the Islands on a Sunday. Our entire realm of hinterland recreational venues (conservation areas, nature trails, small towns, lakes and beaches) is tied to the automobile….. even avid cyclists need a car to get to the nice trails ! Reaching places like the St Jacobs market or Wasaga Beach or the RBG by transit is part of our urban future. So while I’m happy to see GO discount the Niagara fares as a step in this direction, I think affordabilityof transportation (which is certainly a valid issue, in other contexts) is a red herring here.

- Paul
 
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gweed123

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Increasing infrastructure investments along the Hamilton-Niagara Falls corridor is a tricky one. The weekend service is clearly incredibly popular, but weekend service alone doesn't justify significant investments to improve the infrastructure along the corridor.

For that, you need sufficient weekday commuting numbers. And to get those numbers, you need increased development along the corridor, which inevitably will generate far more auto traffic than it will transit traffic, just based on the nature of the development.

I wonder if there's any potential of using the Port Colbourne Harbour Railway Canal Spur to go between St Catharines (just west of the Welland Canal bridge) and the CP Townline tunnel. It would be a longer trip for sure, but it would provide the opportunity to have rail service to Thorold and Welland.

CP's track in Niagara Falls also terminates in a much better location than the CN line, which requires a WEGO transfer. If GO were to build a new station on Portage Rd just south of the Falls, that would be within easy walking distance of all of the main attractions, including the Falls themselves.
 

Northern Light

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I wonder if there's any potential of using the Port Colbourne Harbour Railway Canal Spur to go between St Catharines (just west of the Welland Canal bridge) and the CP Townline tunnel. It would be a longer trip for sure, but it would provide the opportunity to have rail service to Thorold and Welland.

CP's track in Niagara Falls also terminates in a much better location than the CN line, which requires a WEGO transfer. If GO were to build a new station on Portage Rd just south of the Falls, that would be within easy walking distance of all of the main attractions, including the Falls themselves.

Interesting, I hadn't thought of routing that way; I had considered, as previously noted, using the CP tracks all the way from Hamilton.

Your routing represented a net increase of about 28km of distance by rail.

I haven't the foggiest notion what the approved track speeds would be vs CN.

****

The challenge would be how to get from the PCHR to the CP Main.........this is the intersection, so to speak, of those 2 corridors today:

1656444591407.png


If the connection were made here, it would almost certainly require a level crossing of the tunnel road.

***

I've reviewed area maps, at a cursory glance I don't see any instantly restorable connections. There is some mostly intact ROW but it would be quite the rebuild; looks to be missing at least one bridge/culvert and would divert the train by a few km as well.

The most obvious also involves crossing the old canal through the heart of Welland as well. That's a lot of headaches.
 

gweed123

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Interesting, I hadn't thought of routing that way; I had considered, as previously noted, using the CP tracks all the way from Hamilton.

Your routing represented a net increase of about 28km of distance by rail.

I haven't the foggiest notion what the approved track speeds would be vs CN.

****

The challenge would be how to get from the PCHR to the CP Main.........this is the intersection, so to speak, of those 2 corridors today:

View attachment 410365

If the connection were made here, it would almost certainly require a level crossing of the tunnel road.

***

I've reviewed area maps, at a cursory glance I don't see any instantly restorable connections. There is some mostly intact ROW but it would be quite the rebuild; looks to be missing at least one bridge/culvert and would divert the train by a few km as well.

The most obvious also involves crossing the old canal through the heart of Welland as well. That's a lot of headaches.
Yup, it would definitely be a big increase in total trip distance, but it would be interesting to see if the addition of Thorold and Welland to the route would increase ridership to the point that it would be justified. I honestly don't know the answer.

There is a connection between the two right now, but it would require about a 10km loop (in the SW quadrant of the T formed by the two lines). A fly-over would definitely be required, and would be an engineering challenge for sure.

This routing, at least to Welland, may be worth exploring as a branch option for weekday peak service. It would effectively allow for increased frequencies on the St Catharines-Hamilton portion of the line, without needing additional slots at the Welland Canal. For example, every 2nd train goes to Niagara Falls, while the other goes to Welland.
 

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