GO Transit

This article is about the transit system in Ontario. For the transit system in Wisconsin, see GO Transit (Wisconsin). For the transit system in North Carolina, see GoTransit (North Carolina).
GO Transit

A GO Train and a GO Bus at Union Station.
Owner Government of Ontario (through Metrolinx)
Locale Golden Horseshoe
Transit type Commuter rail
bus service
Number of lines 7
Number of stations 64 rail[1]
15 bus + numerous stops[1]
Daily ridership 251,000 (all modes)[1]
- 194,000 (train)
- 57,000 (bus)
Annual ridership 69.5 million (2015)[1]
Chief executive Greg Percy, President
Headquarters 97 Front Street West
Toronto, Ontario, Canada[2]
Website www.gotransit.com
Began operation 1967 (1967)[1]
Operator(s) Bombardier Transportation (rail)
Reporting marks GOT
Host railroads Canadian National Railway
Canadian Pacific Railway
Number of vehicles 75 locomotives
656 coaches
505 buses
- 366 (single-level)
- 139 (double decker)[1]
System length 452 kilometres (281 mi) (rail)
2,709 kilometres (1,683 mi) (bus)[1]
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
System map

GO Transit is a regional public transit system in Southern Ontario, Canada, serving the Golden Horseshoe region. With its hub at Union Station in Toronto, GO Transit's operations extend as far as Niagara Falls to the south, Waterloo to the west, Peterborough to the east, and Barrie to the north. GO Transit carried 69.5 million passengers in 2015, and its ridership continues to grow.[1][3] GO Transit employs diesel trains and coach buses; it connects with all municipal transit providers in its service area, as well as Via Rail and the Union Pearson Express.[1]

Canada's first such public transit system, GO Transit began regular passenger service on May 23, 1967 as a part of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. Since then, it has grown from a single train line to seven, and expanded to include complementing bus service.[1] GO Transit has been constituted in a variety of public-sector configurations, today existing as an operating division of Metrolinx, a provincial Crown agency with overall responsibility for integrative transportation planning within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.[4]


Main article: History of GO Transit

Early days

Cities in and around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) experienced huge expansions in the 1950s, influenced by growth in immigration and industrialization. Much of the existing commuter service was provided by Canadian National Railway, and it faced mounting pressure to expand its service beyond Lakeshore trains it ran between Hamilton in the west, and Danforth in the east, to Toronto; however, CN lacked the financial and physical capital to do this. Real improved commuter service was not considered until the 1962 Metropolitan Toronto and Region Transportation Study, which examined land use and traffic in the newly created Metropolitan Toronto. The idea of GO Transit was created out of fear of becoming lost in years of planning; it was "approached as a test, but recognized to be a permanent service."[5]

Creation, growth and recession

GO Transit trains in the 1960's and 1970's, prior to the predominance of the Bombardier BiLevel Coach.

Government of Ontario Transit (later abbreviated as 'GO Transit') began as a three-year experiment on May 23, 1967 running single-deck trains powered by diesel locomotives in push-pull configuration on a single rail line along Lake Ontario's shoreline.[6][7] All day GO Train service ran from Oakville to Pickering with limited rush hour train service to Hamilton. The experiment proved to be extremely popular; GO Transit carried its first million riders during its first four months, and averaged 15,000 per day soon after. This line, now divided as the Lakeshore East and Lakeshore West lines is the keystone corridor of GO Transit.[6] Expansion of rail service continued in the 1970s and 1980s, aimed at developing ridership in with the introduction of the Georgetown (now Kitchener) line in 1974, and the Richmond Hill line in 1978.[8][9] The Milton GO Train line opened in 1981, followed by the Bradford (now Barrie) and Stouffville lines a year later, establishing the 7 rail corridors that today's rail service is based upon.[9]

Cab control car of a GO Train with a view of the CN Tower in the background

Other than establishing new rail corridors, GO Transit introduced the Bi-Level coaches in 1979, in order to increase the number of passengers carried per train. These unique rail cars were developed in partnership with Bombardier Transportation.[10] In that same year, the current GO concourse at Union Station was built to accommodate these additional passengers. GO Bus service also started out in 1970 as an extension of the original Lakeshore train line. It eventually became a full-fledged network in its own right, feeding rail service and serving communities beyond the reach of existing trains.

Towards the end of 1982, Ontario Minister of Transportation and Communications James W. Snow announced the launching of GO-ALRT (Advanced Light Rail Transit), an interregional light rail transit program providing $2.6 billion (1980 dollars) of infrastructure.[11] Although this plan did not come to fruition, certain key objectives from it were established in other ways: additional stations were built, all-day service to Whitby and Burlington was established, and networks of buses and trains interconnected the network.[11]

GO extended limited rush hour train service on the Bradford, Georgetown and both Lakeshore lines, and began offering off-peak service on the Milton line in 1990. Train service was also extended to Burlington on the Lakeshore West line in 1992.[6][8][12] In a series of cost-cutting measures, then-Ontario Premier Bob Rae announced a "temporary" reduction in spending on services, causing all of the expansions of the 1990s to be reduced or eliminated.[12]

Reconfiguration and revival

All day train service was restored from Burlington to Whitby, and peak service was finally brought to Oshawa in 2000, but this would be only one indicator of things to come. A large initiative to expand the GO Transit network in the mid-2000s under the GO Transit Rail Improvement Plan, or GO TRIP. $1 billion was invested in multiple rail and bus projects, making it the largest commuter rail project in Canadian history.[13][14] This was later dwarfed by a further slate of new GO infrastructure proposed in MoveOntario 2020, the provincial transit plan announced by Premier Dalton McGuinty in the leadup to the 2007 provincial election. With significant re-investment in regional transit, GO experienced significant growth in its train network: all day service was restored to Oshawa in 2006 and Aldershot in 2007; service was expanded to Barrie South in 2007, to Lincolnville in 2008, and to Kitchener in 2011;[15] and an excursion train now operates on summer weekends to Niagara Falls.

GO Transit also went through three major reconfigurations. In January 1997, the province announced it would hand over funding responsibility for GO Transit to the GTHA municipalities. The Greater Toronto Services Board, composed of regional municipality chairs, city mayors and municipal councillors, was created as a municipal agency in January 1999, and GO Transit was transferred as an arm of this agency in August 1999. However, then-Premier Mike Harris announced the province would re-assume funding responsibility for GO Transit two years later, and this was completed with the abolition of the Greater Toronto Services Board on January 1, 2002.[16][17][18] The Greater Toronto Transportation Authority was created in 2006, with the responsibilities of co-ordinating, planning, financing and developing integrated transit in the GTHA. This agency would then become merged with GO Transit in 2009 under the name Metrolinx. GO Transit would continue as an operating division alongside two other major initiatives: the Union Pearson Express and Presto card.

The 'Georgetown South' project involves expanding tracks shared by trains on the Barrie, Georgetown and Milton lines, as well as the Union Pearson Express.


As part of the 2011 provincial election, Premier Dalton McGuinty made a campaign pledge to provide two-way, full-day train service on all corridors.[19] Metrolinx is continuing to move forward with planning for this service expansion, which is now known as Regional Express Rail, in likeness to the service of a similar name in France.[20] Part of Metrolinx's Big Move regional transportation plan, is estimated to cost $4.9 billion and serve 30 million additional riders by 2031.[21] Other possible future rail service extensions identified in GO Transit's 2020 plan include Niagara Region, Bolton, Brantford, Peterborough and Uxbridge.[22] Metrolinx also announced plans in January 2011 to electrify the Lakeshore West, Lakeshore East and Kitchener rail lines, as well as the Union Pearson Express.[23]

Improvements are being made to Union Station, which is the busiest passenger transportation facility in Canada, and is expected to have its current passenger traffic double in the next 10 to 15 years.[24] Improvements include new roof and glass atrium, covering the tracks platforms and railway tracks, new staircases, additional vertical access points, and general visual improvements of the platforms and concourses.[25][26] Other options such as a second downtown station are also being studied to meet future demand.[27]


Service area

Approximate service area of GO Transit.

The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) consists of the City of Toronto, the City of Hamilton, and the surrounding Regions of Halton, Peel, York, and Durham. GO Transit also reaches beyond the GTHA into Niagara and Waterloo Regions, and Peterborough, Simcoe, Dufferin, and Wellington Counties.[1]

In total, GO trains and buses serve a population of 7 million in a 11,000 square kilometres (4,200 sq mi) area radiating in places more than 140 kilometres (87 mi) from downtown Toronto. Present extrema are Hamilton and Waterloo to the west; Orangeville, Barrie, and Beaverton to the north; Peterborough and Newcastle to the east; and Niagara Falls to the south.[1]

The GO system map shows seven train lines (or corridors), all departing from Toronto's Union Station and mostly named respectively after the outer terminus of train service. Although colours are assigned in a consistent fashion to each line in all official media, in colloquial parlance lines are only ever referred to by their names.

Lakeshore West (to Hamilton, with buses and seasonal weekend trains to Niagara Falls)
Milton (to Milton, with buses to Waterloo)
Richmond Hill
Stouffville (to Lincolnville, with buses to Uxbridge)
Lakeshore East (to Oshawa, with buses to Newcastle and Peterborough)



A GO Train along the Lakeshore West line.
An MP40PH-3C locomotive.

GO Transit's rail services (reporting mark GOT) carry the large majority of its overall ridership. Passengers are carried by Bi-Level coaches built by Bombardier Transportation.[28] These coaches, easily identifiable by their elongated-octagon shape, were designed in the mid-1970s for GO Transit by Hawker Siddeley Canada as a more efficient replacement for GO's original single-deck coaches and cab cars. Later coaches were manufactured by Can-Car and finally Bombardier, which now owns the designs and manufacturing facility. There are more than 700 such coaches in service and almost all have been built at the company's Thunder Bay, and Plattsburgh, New York plants. They are used by a number of other commuter railways across North America. They have a seating capacity of 162 people per coach, or 1,944 per train.[29]

The coaches are primarily pulled/pushed by MPI MP40 locomotives, which replaced most of the older EMD F59PH locomotive. The new MP40 is more powerful, allowing it to pull 12 coaches instead of 10.[29] Opposite the locomotive, trains are bookended by cab cars, which are coaches with driver controls incorporated into them. While they have closely resembled ordinary coaches, GO Transit began upgrading their rail fleet with newly designed cab cars in the summer of 2015. Along with the new design, the new cab cars incorporate improved visibility, safety features and comfort for train crews.[30]

Most GO Train routes operate only in peak rush-hour periods towards Union Station, which accounts for over 90% of its train ridership.[1] Off-peak train service is provided only on parts of the Lakeshore lines and the Kitchener line to Mount Pleasant; half-hourly trains operate on weekdays off-peak hours and weekends between Aldershot and Oshawa. Each train runs with a three-person crew: two commuter train operators drive the train and handle related operations, while a third crew member is the Customer Service Ambassador who is dedicated to assisting customers on board.[31] Bombardier Transportation is responsible for providing train operations, taking over from CN crews in 2007 and CP Crews in 2015.[32] GO trains achieve on-time performance of approximately 95%,[33] and a refund will be provided if a train is more than 15 minutes late, with some conditions.[34] All upper levels of the coaches on rush hour trains are designated "Quiet Zones".[35]

GO has always owned its locomotives and coaches, but its trackage used to be owned entirely by Canada's two major commercial railways: the large majority by the Canadian National Railway (CN) and the remainder by Canadian Pacific Railway (CP). In 1988, as part of expanding service east of Pickering, GO built its first section of self-owned purpose-built trackage.[36] As of 1998, GO owned only 6% of the railway trackage on which it operated. Starting in 2009, Metrolinx incrementally acquired further trackage from the two commercial railways in order to improve GO service. As of 2014, Metrolinx has complete ownership of the Barrie, Stouffville and Lakeshore East lines, and a majority of the Lakeshore West, Richmond Hill, and Kitchener lines. CP still owns most of the Milton line. This puts Metrolinx ownership at 80% of GO Transit's trackage.[37]

All trains are maintained at Willowbrook Yard, located west of Mimico GO Station in Toronto. A historical frieght yard established by Grand Trunk Railway in 1910, GO Transit acquired the yard from Canadian National sometime after its inception, and has expanded the facilities onsite to maintain the expanding fleet.[38] GO Transit is currently building a second maintenance yard covering 500,000 square feet (4.6 hectares) in Whitby. The second facility will accommodate additional trains from Regional Express Rail, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.[39]


Thousands of passengers move between GO and TTC service at Union Station on Toronto's Front Street

The first buses operated by GO Transit were unveiled at Queen's Park on August 11, 1970, about a month before commencing operations on its expanded services east, west, and north of Toronto.[40] Operated by Gray Coach,[41] a pilot program to test them was conducted in Pickering before they entered service on 8 September 1970.[42] Today, GO Transit operates single-level coach buses and double-decker buses. Most of the older buses in the fleet are 45-foot (13.72 m), single-level D4500 coach buses built by Motor Coach Industries (MCI), which can seat 57 people. In April 2008, GO began operating 43-foot (13.11 m) Enviro 500 double-decker buses built by Alexander Dennis.[43] The first two batches of double deckers have a height of 4.2 metres (13 ft 9 38 in) and due to height clearance restrictions on many routes, these buses run exclusively on GO's Highway 407 and Highway 403 corridor, with an additional order of these buses allowing them to provide service to York Region.[44] All of the buses are equipped with bike racks.[1]

These original Enviro 500 buses were too tall to meet many height standards set by the provincial Ministry of Transportation and thus are restricted to routes which avoid low bridges and underpasses. For this reason, GO ordered new units for its fleet in 2013 with a redesigned front and a height of 4.1 metres (13 ft 5 716 in), 10 cm (3 1516 in) lower than the previous models. The lower height allows these buses to meet many more clearance standards (restrictions) as a result and are used on a wider variety of routes.[45]

These buses, though, are still too high to fit in a number of GO terminals, namely Hamilton, Yorkdale, York Mills, and Union Station, so a further order of double deckers will have an even lower height of 3.9 metres (12 ft 9 916 in) and can be used on the entire GO bus network.[46] As part of this latest deal, a new bus chassis assembly facility is to be established in Ontario, creating up to 30 new full-time jobs.[46]

Most GO bus service is designed to stand in for train service when it is not operating, or extend the reach of train service to communities beyond their terminus by buses. Other GO buses are independent of rail services, such as the Highway 407 GO bus, which provides service that circles Toronto and makes connections between all train lines. There are also routes that serve Pearson International Airport, seasonal destinations such as Canada's Wonderland, and several colleges and universities. GO buses serve most GO train stations, 16 bus terminals, and intermediate stops and ticket agencies.[1][47]

Stations and connections

GO Transit stations are designed to provide seamless and barrier-free connections between its trains and buses. They include amenities such as elevators, washrooms, parking, pay phones, ticket vending machines, ticket sale kiosks and automated teller machines. All GO stations have Presto card readers. Most bus terminals are also served with a ticket sales booth or vending machine. As of 2016, the capital costs of building a GO Transit train station is about $50 to $75 million.[48]

Ten of GO's train stations are shared with Via Rail. GO also connects with fifteen other municipal transit providers, such as the TTC. Metrolinx calls many of these transfer points between services mobility hubs, and it has made them a priority as it moves forward with The Big Move regional transportation plan.


GO runs 269 train trips carrying 194,000 riders on a regular weekday as well as 2,340 bus trips carrying 57,000 passengers. This adds up to 251,000 passengers throughout the entire system on a typical weekday.[1] In 2015, GO Transit ridership totalled 69.5 million, and is projected to total over 120 million by 2020.[1][22]

At least 91% of the train ridership is to and from Union Station in downtown Toronto, while about 70% of all bus passengers travel to and from the City of Toronto.[1] The average trip taken by a passenger is 33.5 kilometres (20.8 mi) long. The majority of GO Transit commuters have a private vehicle available to them for them for their commute, but choose to use GO Transit instead. About 80% of train commuters, and 60% of bus commuters choose GO Transit over driving.[22] Over half of GO's ridership occurs on the Lakeshore West and East lines, which can be attributed to the almost continuous development along their corridors, as well as being the only two lines with two way, all day service. This is followed by the Milton line, carrying almost 15% of all ridership. Other corridors carry 5–9% of riders each.[49]

A graphic representation of actual and projected annual ridership, 1980–2020.[22][50]
GO Transit Rail Weekday Ridership (2014)[49]
Corridor Riders %
Lakeshore West 60,000 29.7%
Lakeshore East 52,000 25.7%
Milton 30,000 14.9%
Kitchener 18,000 8.9%
Barrie 17,000 8.4%
Stouffville 15,000 7.4%
Richmond Hill 10,000 5.0%
Total - GO Rail System 202,000


A GO Train Delays board in the Long Branch Train Station
Main article: GO Transit fares

Fares on the network are based a zone tariff set between two specified points by GO Transit, and the type of passenger using the ticket.[51] Passenger categories exist for adults, students, seniors, children, and groups. Tickets are also sold for single trip, or passes for one day or one month.[52] Tickets can be used on a GO train, bus, or a combination of both. They can be purchased at train stations, bus terminals, ticket agencies, or on GO buses.[51]

The Presto card, available on all GO trains and buses,[53] is a unified smart card-based payment system used throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Presto is a sister operating division of Metrolinx and the card can also be used on numerous local transit agencies in the GTHA.[54] Discounted fares are available for passengers who use local transit to connect with a GO bus or train.[51]

The Presto system allows passengers to load a re-loadable card with any amount starting at $10, up to $1,000. Passengers pay their fare by "tapping" on and off on busses and trains. With each tap, the system calculates the fare for the ride, and it is deducted from the balance of the card. The card can also be linked to a credit card and set on autoload, so that it automatically adds a certain amount of money as soon as the balance decreases past a certain level (e.g., setting it to add $100 every time the balance decreases to less than $25).

GO Trains utilize a "Proof-of-payment honour system" on which passengers may be subject to random inspections to prove that they have paid their fares. This system is designed to reduce costs and improve efficiency. The integrity of this system is protected by Metrolinx's By-law No. 2, which by reference to the Provincial Offences Act imposes a $100 fine for fare evasion.[55][56]

The GO logo and colours were adjusted in 2013.

The GO Transit logo has remained largely unchanged since the agency was founded. The design was created by Gangon/Valkus, a Montreal-based design firm that was also responsible for the corporate identities of Canadian National and Hydro-Québec.[57][58] The firm's team wanted to create a unified logo using the initials of the Government of Ontario ("GO"), via two circles with a T incorporated into it. Lead designer Frank Fox described the creation of the logo as "a happy accident. More or less, we had this feeling among us that this couldn't be true. We went off trying many other solutions, but nothing else was good enough."[57]

The logo has since become woven into the cityscape of Toronto, and is a prominent identifier of the agency. As one graphic design expert stated, it achieved "an enviable goal that most graphic designers strive to accomplish with any logo they design". Only one minor revision was made after the original version was unveiled: while the G and O used to touch each other, a gap now exists with a bolder white T to enhance them.[57] The primary corporate colour was known as "GO Green", matched the green on Ontario Highway signs, and was used on all vehicles, signage, and printed material. In 2013, GO introduced a two-tone colour scheme that changed the primary colour to a darker green, and added a second lighter apple green.[59][60]

Safety and security

By-law No. 2

GO Transit By-law No. 2 is a document of rules and regulations governing actions of passengers and employees while on GO Transit property, which includes land, facilities, trains, buses, and other structures. Besides issues relating to fares, the by-law specifies permissible and prohibited actions such as staying in designated safe areas, commercial or distribution activities, parking, and other personal actions that promote or endanger the safety of passengers. It covers items like paying fares, parking, general behaviour, fines, and rule enforcement. These rules can be enforced by a "proper authority" which is defined as "an employee or agent of GO Transit wearing a GO Transit uniform [or] carrying an identification card issued by GO Transit, a GO Transit Special Constable, or a municipal police officer." Any contravention of the by-law can result in a fine under the Provincial Offences Act.[55]


Shoulder flashes for GO Transit Safety Officers.

GO Transit employs Transit Safety Officers, who are designated special constables that patrol GO Transit property, and are responsible for ensuring passenger safety and protection, enforcing relevant laws or by-laws, offering customer assistance and supporting local police, fire and ambulance, and promoting railway safety.[61] Under the Police Services Act, Transit Safety Officers are appointed by the Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, with approval from the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services.[62] In addition to By-law No. 2, they have the authority to enforce other certain federal and provincial laws.[61]

GO Transit also employs Provincial Offences Officers, known as Customer Attendants, to enforce the proof-of-payment system.[63] GO Transit operates a 24-hour transit safety dispatch centre that is able to dispatch police and special constables to all areas served by GO.[61]


On December 12, 1975, a westbound GO train collided with a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) bus that was stalled on a crossing at St. Clair and Midland Avenue. Nine passengers on the bus were killed and 20 others were injured. This was the worst accident in terms of loss of life in the history of the TTC and GO Transit systems. The level crossing was replaced by an overpass a few years later.[64]

On November 17, 1997, an empty train collided with another train waiting to depart Union Station with over 800 passengers on board. The empty train's locomotive engineer was at the opposite end of the train, and the conductor at the leading end failed in his attempts to relay the situation to the engineer or apply the emergency brake. The two trains then collided at a speed of 19 km/h (12 mph), causing a partial derailment and minor injuries to fifty-four passengers and two crew members. The subsequent Transportation Safety Board report made recommendations that included making emergency brakes more accessible, and that the locomotive engineer must always control the train from the leading end in the Union Station Rail Corridor.[65]

An unusually heavy rain storm affected a GO train on July 8, 2013, when a record-breaking 123 mm fell over a few hours. A Richmond Hill-bound GO train encountered flood waters in the Don Valley and stopped. As the crew worked to change the direction of the train, flood waters continued to rise and submerged the tracks behind the train. The train itself began to flood, and approximately 1,400 passengers had to be rescued by boat.[66]

On January 14, 2015, a GO bus on Highway 407 near Weston Road hit a guard rail and rolled into a ditch. One passenger was ejected and crushed to death, and another two in addition to the bus driver were injured.[67] On March 2, 2015, the GO Transit driver was charged with careless driving causing death.[68]


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General references


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