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GO Transit: Service thread (including extensions)

Is there any particular reason why so many GO buses are late departing their very first stop?

I use the GO bus about 10 times a month, most of the time it's the same routes at or near their terminal station. At my local stop, it is fairly common for the bus to be 5 minutes late by the time it gets there, even though the travel time is only 5 minutes. And, since August, every single time I've found myself at ANY terminal away from my home one, without fail, the scheduled bus departure occurs 10+ minutes after the scheduled time. Literally not once has it ever been on time. This wouldn't be a big deal if frequencies were quasi reasonable, but at the frequencies that are run in this region, it's pretty bad. The passengers start panicking about whether the bus has been cancelled or broken down, no announcements or information on the departure board, nothing on the website, and then after 10-15 minutes the bus that has been sitting nearby, dark, for the last 20-30 minutes pulls up and does the trip.

What is going on? I'm usually pretty understanding of the delays that plague transit, and could even understand if the departure from the terminal point was late occasionally, but for it to happen every time I take the bus seems REALLY odd.
I think it greatly depends on which route you are taking. Some routes always depart on time as well.
 
There's a lot that needs to be done with the Kitchener line. Some suggestions could be first of all to introduce more trains per hour overall. 30 min to Bramalea seems likely in the current state while 2 12 car trains per hour along with bike coaches would help a lot. When Mount Dennis opens and the 401/409 tunnel project is fully complete they should aim to do 20 mins as that could be more than doable by then.

The next thing would be to at least attempt a regular scheduled Kitchener train going back and forth on the weekends. Even if its just 2 or 3 round trips per day, or if its like the Niagara weekend trains that skips a few stops, that still makes an overall impact and can help relief the bus crowding on the 30 route as people would prefer going on a train over bus.
 
Is there any particular reason why so many GO buses are late departing their very first stop?

I use the GO bus about 10 times a month, most of the time it's the same routes at or near their terminal station. At my local stop, it is fairly common for the bus to be 5 minutes late by the time it gets there, even though the travel time is only 5 minutes. And, since August, every single time I've found myself at ANY terminal away from my home one, without fail, the scheduled bus departure occurs 10+ minutes after the scheduled time. Literally not once has it ever been on time. This wouldn't be a big deal if frequencies were quasi reasonable, but at the frequencies that are run in this region, it's pretty bad. The passengers start panicking about whether the bus has been cancelled or broken down, no announcements or information on the departure board, nothing on the website, and then after 10-15 minutes the bus that has been sitting nearby, dark, for the last 20-30 minutes pulls up and does the trip.

What is going on? I'm usually pretty understanding of the delays that plague transit, and could even understand if the departure from the terminal point was late occasionally, but for it to happen every time I take the bus seems REALLY odd.

I've found that many GO bus timetables have impossibly optimistic travel times at the start of the route. For example, Route 25 is scheduled to depart LaurierU only three minutes after it departs UWaterloo:

Screenshot 2024-02-02 at 23.56.07.png


To depart Laurier only 3 minutes after departing UW, you'd need to be unbelievably lucky with the traffic signals, traffic volumes (notably waiting for a gap to turn right onto Phillip Street) and number of passengers boarding at Laurier.

In my experience it always takes at least 8 minutes between departing UW to departing Laurier during busy periods, so the bus always departs Laurier 5 to 10 minutes late. In the five years I boarded the bus at Laurier, I never once experienced a departure less than 5 minutes late, though it's possible that buses could depart as little as 2 minutes late during times of day when only a couple passengers are boarding at Laurier.
Screenshot 2024-02-03 at 00.17.05.png

The reason they schedule the routes like this is to avoid the chance of a bus getting ahead of schedule early in its route and thereby needing to sit around causing unnecessary delays to passengers. It is better to concentrate all of the schedule padding later in the trip when there has been more time for delays to accumulate, and when some passegers will already have alighted from the bus and will thereby be unaffected by the time spent sitting around waiting for the schedule to catch up. Furthermore there are typically no good places for GO buses to sit around on-street at the stops immediately following the start of the route, so including any schedule padding at those stops could result in the buses unnecessarily obstructing other road users.

Generally speaking I think it's a good practice to keep schedules as optimistic as possible at the beginning of GO bus routes, but there's no point of having a schedule that's faster than any bus could ever possibly go. In the case of the 25, there will always be a fairly large number of people boarding at Laurier during the day, so there will never be a situation where a bus would be ready to depart less than 5 minutes after it departed Laurier. Ideally the timetable would leave the 3-minute timing for trips with very light ridership but use timings of 5 to 10 minutes during most of the day, scaling according to the number of riders expected to board at Laurier. I think the reason this isn't done is simply that it wouldn't be worth the effort to micromanage the schedules like that.
 
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I've found that many GO bus timetables have impossibly optimistic travel times at the start of the route. For example, Route 25 is scheduled to depart LaurierU only three minutes after it departs UWaterloo:

View attachment 537633

To depart Laurier only 3 minutes after departing UW, you'd need to be unbelievably lucky with the traffic signals, traffic volumes (notably waiting for a gap to turn right onto Phillip Street) and number of passengers boarding at Laurier.

In my experience it always takes at least 8 minutes between departing UW to departing Laurier during busy periods, so the bus always departs Laurier 5 to 10 minutes late. In the five years I boarded the bus at Laurier, I never once experienced a departure less than 5 minutes late, though it's possible that buses could depart as little as 2 minutes late during times of day when only a couple passengers are boarding at Laurier.
UW and WLU are a good example of the scheduling just assuming the passengers don't have luggage. When I used GO services to UW, I along with almost every other person going to/from had a big bag of stuff that had to go in the luggage compartment. It adds time!
 
A couple of hypothetical questions about service to West Harbour to those that would have more insight:

  1. What would it take to increase train speeds between Aldershot and West Harbour? This is currently a slow crawl.
    • I know there are steep grades involved, but say they switched to shorter and lighter trains. Is the speed limit through yard and bayview still a limiting factor? If so, what infrastructure would it take to increase speeds through those points?
  2. What infrastructure is required to increase frequencies to ~4-6tph?
    • I know the current infrastructure can support 2tph, but is limited to only one train at a time between West Harbour and Aldershot.
    • My assumption is that you would have to somehow do a rail-rail grade separation between the tracks to West Harbour and the south side of the CN yard. And also then also do a grade-separated transfer over to the south side of the CN corridor with 2 GO tracks.
I expect this would be a longer-term Horizon. But at some point, the CN yard and Bayview will be a limiting factor in improving Hamilton to Toronto service and I expect it will be cheaper to re-configure the area around West Harbour rather than try and re-configure lines coming into Hamilton Center. Is there enough linear space to start a guideway climb immediately west of the station and gain enough elevation to fly over the main line tracks? I expect not, but don't have enough knowledge in the area to really know.
 
A couple of hypothetical questions about service to West Harbour to those that would have more insight:

  1. What would it take to increase train speeds between Aldershot and West Harbour? This is currently a slow crawl.
    • I know there are steep grades involved, but say they switched to shorter and lighter trains. Is the speed limit through yard and bayview still a limiting factor? If so, what infrastructure would it take to increase speeds through those points?
The grades have nothing to do with the speed limits here. The curvature does.

Increasing the speeds is possible with some curve realignments, but would be tricky as there is a limited amount of room between the RBG, hill and pond. And I'm not sure that there is enough land, either in terms of the slope and hillside or in terms of the distance between the segments, to increase them beyond only a small amount over their current limits.

Even then, realigning the curves only helps until you get most of the way into Hamilton. There, the current PSO is determined by the alignment of the corridor through the city to the south/east. I'm not sure whether the whole of the line would need to be grade-separated, or whether simply tightening up the access to the ROW through better fencing and crossing protection would be enough.

  1. What infrastructure is required to increase frequencies to ~4-6tph?
    • I know the current infrastructure can support 2tph, but is limited to only one train at a time between West Harbour and Aldershot.
    • My assumption is that you would have to somehow do a rail-rail grade separation between the tracks to West Harbour and the south side of the CN yard. And also then also do a grade-separated transfer over to the south side of the CN corridor with 2 GO tracks.
The main issue is that CN needs as much capacity as it can get on the stretch between Burlington West and Bayview. A fourth track through this stretch would likely be a prerequisite for any additional sustained service (not a 3 hour burst like rush hours) west of Burlington. South of Bayview there are already 2 mainline tracks and a service track to the yard & station, so that should be sufficient.

And a third platform face at West Harbour would also be very helpful for this.

A grade separation is not really needed through this section.

I expect this would be a longer-term Horizon. But at some point, the CN yard and Bayview will be a limiting factor in improving Hamilton to Toronto service and I expect it will be cheaper to re-configure the area around West Harbour rather than try and re-configure lines coming into Hamilton Center. Is there enough linear space to start a guideway climb immediately west of the station and gain enough elevation to fly over the main line tracks? I expect not, but don't have enough knowledge in the area to really know.
Part of this whole equation is whether the yard needs to be there at all. Hamilton has made lots of noise about having it moved out of the city, but to this time that's all it's been - noise. While there is a need to have a yard somewhere due to all of the industry at the harbour, there isn't specifically a need to have the yard in that exact spot.

Beyond that, figuring out how to get rid of the 30mph PSO through Hamilton south of West Harbour will really bring the greatest amount of improvement.

Dan
 
The grades have nothing to do with the speed limits here. The curvature does.

Increasing the speeds is possible with some curve realignments, but would be tricky as there is a limited amount of room between the RBG, hill and pond. And I'm not sure that there is enough land, either in terms of the slope and hillside or in terms of the distance between the segments, to increase them beyond only a small amount over their current limits.

Even then, realigning the curves only helps until you get most of the way into Hamilton. There, the current PSO is determined by the alignment of the corridor through the city to the south/east. I'm not sure whether the whole of the line would need to be grade-separated, or whether simply tightening up the access to the ROW through better fencing and crossing protection would be enough.


The main issue is that CN needs as much capacity as it can get on the stretch between Burlington West and Bayview. A fourth track through this stretch would likely be a prerequisite for any additional sustained service (not a 3 hour burst like rush hours) west of Burlington. South of Bayview there are already 2 mainline tracks and a service track to the yard & station, so that should be sufficient.

And a third platform face at West Harbour would also be very helpful for this.

A grade separation is not really needed through this section.


Part of this whole equation is whether the yard needs to be there at all. Hamilton has made lots of noise about having it moved out of the city, but to this time that's all it's been - noise. While there is a need to have a yard somewhere due to all of the industry at the harbour, there isn't specifically a need to have the yard in that exact spot.

Beyond that, figuring out how to get rid of the 30mph PSO through Hamilton south of West Harbour will really bring the greatest amount of improvement.

Dan
I want to see improved passenger rail, but not at the expense of freight. There has to be a win/win solution for both passenger and freight. Demanding CN to move their Hamilton yard to make way for more passenger trains seems like it would hurt the freight network. Make it less efficient. Potentially result in more trucks on the road. Is there room for Metrolinx to build it's own dedicated tracks next to CN's west of the Burlington GO station? Can we not replicate Lakeshore East (Pickering - Oshawa) west of Burlington? It would be awesome to have some kind of "downtown - downtown" express connection between West Harbour and Toronto Union.

I don't know why there is so much focus on electrification when so much of the network still shares tracks with freight. To me it doesn't make sense to start electrifying the network until Metrolinx has more dedicated tracks. Build the freight bypasses for the Kitchener and Milton lines. Lay down dedicated tracks beside freight tracks for the Richmond Hill line and Lakeshore West, west of Burlington. What's the point of electrification if we're only going to electrify just a portion of the line? Or the fact that, as of right now, Milton will probably never see electrification.

Want improved service? Separate freight from passenger. Afterwards we electrify the network.
 
I want to see improved passenger rail, but not at the expense of freight. There has to be a win/win solution for both passenger and freight. Demanding CN to move their Hamilton yard to make way for more passenger trains seems like it would hurt the freight network. Make it less efficient. Potentially result in more trucks on the road. Is there room for Metrolinx to build it's own dedicated tracks next to CN's west of the Burlington GO station? Can we not replicate Lakeshore East (Pickering - Oshawa) west of Burlington? It would be awesome to have some kind of "downtown - downtown" express connection between West Harbour and Toronto Union.

I don't know why there is so much focus on electrification when so much of the network still shares tracks with freight. To me it doesn't make sense to start electrifying the network until Metrolinx has more dedicated tracks. Build the freight bypasses for the Kitchener and Milton lines. Lay down dedicated tracks beside freight tracks for the Richmond Hill line and Lakeshore West, west of Burlington. What's the point of electrification if we're only going to electrify just a portion of the line? Or the fact that, as of right now, Milton will probably never see electrification.

Want improved service? Separate freight from passenger. Afterwards we electrify the network.
That is a good point. Why did electrification take priority over more dedicated tracks?

Electrification should only become cheaper and cheaper in the future as the technology gets more advanced. Making dedicated tracks though will likely become more and more expensive as land only goes up and will have to be acquired.
 
That is a good point. Why did electrification take priority over more dedicated tracks?

Electrification should only become cheaper and cheaper in the future as the technology gets more advanced. Making dedicated tracks though will likely become more and more expensive as land only goes up and will have to be acquired.

I guess you didn’t notice that the only tracks they are electrifying are all ready dedicated and wire ready…. LSE to Oshawa, Stouffville, Barrie, Kitchener to Bramalea, LSW to Burlington…. No freight interference of note along those.

I support more dedicated tracks on current freight lines, but there is no impediment to getting on with electrification on the already dedicated lines - and much advantage to doing so.

- Paul
 
I want to see improved passenger rail, but not at the expense of freight. There has to be a win/win solution for both passenger and freight. Demanding CN to move their Hamilton yard to make way for more passenger trains seems like it would hurt the freight network. Make it less efficient. Potentially result in more trucks on the road. Is there room for Metrolinx to build it's own dedicated tracks next to CN's west of the Burlington GO station? Can we not replicate Lakeshore East (Pickering - Oshawa) west of Burlington? It would be awesome to have some kind of "downtown - downtown" express connection between West Harbour and Toronto Union.
Why do you think that it's an either/or situation?

Hamilton's want of the removal of the yard has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that GO services the area. They see it as usable land for the City - but not in its current configuration.

I don't know why there is so much focus on electrification when so much of the network still shares tracks with freight. To me it doesn't make sense to start electrifying the network until Metrolinx has more dedicated tracks. Build the freight bypasses for the Kitchener and Milton lines. Lay down dedicated tracks beside freight tracks for the Richmond Hill line and Lakeshore West, west of Burlington. What's the point of electrification if we're only going to electrify just a portion of the line? Or the fact that, as of right now, Milton will probably never see electrification.
I've said it before, and will say it again - electrification need not prevent the use of freight trains. Hi-cube boxcars, autoracks and double-stack container cars run every single day in the Philadelphia area under the wire. There are other locations on the Northeast Corridor where freights run multiple times a day in concert with the hourly-plus Amtrak trains and even more frequent commuter trains. There is nothing physically preventing CN and CP allowing someone else to string up overhead other than their own stubbornness.

And as other people have already correctly pointed out, Metrolinx already owns a huge portion of their network. With the exception of the Milton line every single branch of the rail system has a very substantial portion of the line owned by Metrolinx - and even on the Milton line it's still several miles of track.

What's the point of electrifying only a portion of the line? Extending that logic, they shouldn't electrify the Lakeshore West line, the single most-used line on the network. It's a silly position to hang your hat on, and thankfully is not one that Metrolinx or the government is taking.

Want improved service? Separate freight from passenger. Afterwards we electrify the network.
You're only about 15 years too late to the party for this. That's why electrification is happening.

Dan
 
I've said it before, and will say it again - electrification need not prevent the use of freight trains. .

And in fact, when (not if) ML electrifies the Oakville Sub, a meaningful amount of freight including auto racks and hazardous material tank cars will move under wire between Burlington and Clarkson. Easy peasy…. Just because CN and CP are opposed will not prevent ML from running their traffic under wires.

- Paul
 
And as other people have already correctly pointed out, Metrolinx already owns a huge portion of their network. With the exception of the Milton line every single branch of the rail system has a very substantial portion of the line owned by Metrolinx - and even on the Milton line it's still several miles of track.
I think some people underestimate how much of the GO network is now owned by Metrolinx:
You_Doodle+_2023-07-12T03_34_49Z.jpeg
 
Why do you think that it's an either/or situation?

Hamilton's want of the removal of the yard has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that GO services the area. They see it as usable land for the City - but not in its current configuration.


I've said it before, and will say it again - electrification need not prevent the use of freight trains. Hi-cube boxcars, autoracks and double-stack container cars run every single day in the Philadelphia area under the wire. There are other locations on the Northeast Corridor where freights run multiple times a day in concert with the hourly-plus Amtrak trains and even more frequent commuter trains. There is nothing physically preventing CN and CP allowing someone else to string up overhead other than their own stubbornness.

And as other people have already correctly pointed out, Metrolinx already owns a huge portion of their network. With the exception of the Milton line every single branch of the rail system has a very substantial portion of the line owned by Metrolinx - and even on the Milton line it's still several miles of track.

What's the point of electrifying only a portion of the line? Extending that logic, they shouldn't electrify the Lakeshore West line, the single most-used line on the network. It's a silly position to hang your hat on, and thankfully is not one that Metrolinx or the government is taking.


You're only about 15 years too late to the party for this. That's why electrification is happening.

Dan
It seems like always an either or situation when we know we are working with limited funds.
 

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