It’s a GO, In Toronto – A Report From Toronto

Screenshot 2022-04-22 at 08-28-59 Pictures Proving A Point - - Gmail


It’s officially a GO (sorry for the pun), all the EA’s are done, we have the company’s (2 Consortium’s) ready and the work thankfully, has already started. We are about to create what will be, electric regional railway service on the core part of the GO network (about 263 km worth of it. It will be on 5 of the 7 GO Train lines. The total cost is expected to be around $27-$30 Billion.

THIS IS A BIG DEAL because it will really be a game changer for the entire GGH planning Region (Greater Golden Horseshoe Region -Toronto’s official and legally defined, commuting zone) none of this unofficial GTA crap anymore. This area has a current population of 9.87 million and an area of 31,561 km2. The entire province of Ontario has only 14.5 million in population. By 2051 the GGH Region is expected to have 15 million. The federal and provincial governments have already built:

8.8 km of Subway,

2 Bus-ways of 52 km (18 km of heavy Bus-way in Mississauga and 34 km of Light Bus-way in York Region)

They are both spending big for the current round of projects:

2 subway extensions about 17km in total (1 already under construction and 1 to start next year)

1 15. 5 km long Automated Metro Line, (under construction)

1 19 km LRT line (11 km of it in tunnels) about to open and a 9.2 km extension  (8 km of it in tunnels and yes, it’s under construction)

3 Surface LRT lines, Finch West-11km, Hamilton B-Line-10 km, what was the Hurontario Line but is now the Hazel McCallion LRT Line-18 km (all under construction)

That’s almost 100 km of rail rapid transit under construction or about to open, with more Subway, LRT and full scale BRT lines (real BRT lines with actual busways not BRT Lite, Vancouver) coming in the future.

Unfortunately, THIS JUST ISN’T ENOUGH.

Subways/Heavy rail/Metros can’t go everywhere. Even LRT and BRT have limits because like a Metro, Light Metro, LRT and BRT lines, they all have geographic travel limits. These lines can’t or more accurately, shouldn’t try to service into regional distances, they aren’t designed for it. Any operating cost saving you think you are getting is blown apart if the lines are too long. This is one of the big issues with the Langley extension of the Expo Line. It’s becoming too long to be useful. Do you want to go from Langley and sit for over an hour, stopping at every stop along the way to get to downtown Vancouver. I like trains and that would be hard for me. Considering the cost to build, the ever increasing high cost of operating the Expo Line, contrary to popular belief, the Expo Line isn’t cheap to operate. Add in the really small numbers this line extension will generate, is it worth it?

Even the most ardent subway proponents here know that, although you could probably get a few more km’s of outward expansion from of a couple of Toronto’s existing Subway lines, any of the major planned extensions are all, well within the boundary of the City of Toronto.

Could LRT and BRT lines go regional distances outside of the boundary of the City of Toronto yes, some have definite plans too but, if you are going to travel those kinds of distances, you sure can’t stop at every station. As the distance increases stopping at every stop takes too long for most commuters and offering local and express services on rail systems eats up huge amounts of carrying capacity. That’s why most of New York’s express subway lines operate on the older but numerous 4 track sections. The cost of building lines this long and grand are well documented but it’s the operating costs are where the real devil is.

It’s important to remember that, there are 30 separate, regional, semi-regional and municipal  transit agencies in the GGH Region. There is some interest in having a common fare structure but due to the vastly different funding levels, provided to each of the agencies, an overarching super-regional transit agency is functionally and technically, a difficult issue (my thesis was on this subject), it’s more than likely, politically impossible.

No other local transit agency in Ontario, let alone the GGH Region wants to spend TTC levels (European spending levels) on their operational transit budget and Torontonians won’t tolerate less service. There basic operating and service frequency levels exceed TransLink’s by over 30%. It’s almost at what Montreal local transit service levels are. The current provincial government, well no provincial government, has had the desire to create an agency like TransLink here, even the pathological budget conscious Conservatives of the 1990’s “Common Sense Revolution” weren’t up for it. So the only answer is to use GO Transit, like it was originally intended, as a regional wide bridging service for all the region’s individual transit agencies.

Instead of normal commuter rail service on the cheap and already existing railway rights of way. Instead of dropping Billions on rapid transit lines built from scratch, that become more and more unaffordable to build and operate the longer they get, spend money on expanding the long distance rail lines that already exist. You go to true regional railways  instead of commuter railways.

Where there is 1 track build another. When you have a 3 track corridor expand it to 4 tracks. Having to use over powered diesel locomotives to move longer and longer trains of passenger cars. Go electric, it provides the constant high power needed to move heavier longer trains. The electric trains can move and accelerate faster as well. Yes $27-$30 Billion is a lot but for 263 km of great electric powered service plus another 259 km of upgraded diesel train service. Think about it, how much would 263 km of SkyTrain cost? (a minimum of $65,750,000,000, based on current per km cost of SkyTrain, not including the extra costs for subway construction)

This why destroying Montreal’s Deux-Montange electric commuter rail line (Canada’s only one) for the s**t storm that is the REM is such a tragedy. The transit agency even owned all the track, including the tunnel into downtown Montreal and the yard for the EMU’s (Electric Multiple Units). The new REM line will actually have less passenger carrying capacity than the peak hour capacity they gave up using the EMU’s. It was only a lack of vision and budget that kept them from greatly expanding the line’s service. It not only destroyed one line, it essentially killed a brand new commuter rail line to eastern Montreal, equipped with dual diesel and electric powered locomotives, that shared the tunnel and downtown rail right of way as part of its route.

The improved GO service will be 1 train every 15 minutes, all day, both directions. Service of at a minimum of 1 train per hour, all day, both directions using diesel trains (off peak) on most of the remaining sections of the network and most of outer portions of the electrified lines, peak hour service will be higher on the rest of the network. The system is expected to be fully complete by 2032 and will run from 5 am to 2 am, daily. The first operating portions will be available by late 2026-early 2027.

The existing GO Train system has 7 rail lines, using 526.1 km of track (GO owns about 70% of it), with 90 locomotives and 845 Bi-Level passenger coaches (120 Cab-Control cars for push-pull operations). Initially, electric locomotives will be purchased and Bi-Level 4 section (4 Car) EMU’s will come later. 4 Section (Car) EMU’s are going to be used because they can be easily joined to form 8 and 12 section (car) trains in the peak hours and more financially viable, 4 car trains for weekends or late evening service.

The Lakeshore East and West lines already have a minimum service frequency of every 30 minutes (off peak), both directions, all day, between Hamilton-Toronto Union (Lakeshore West) and Toronto Union-Oshawa (Lakeshore East).

Currently, the system uses Bombardier designed (originally UTDC), Bi-Level passenger equipment similar to the West Coast Express.

The diesel locomotives are tier 3&4 (the highest 2 levels) compliant and considerably more powerful than the ones WCE (West Coast Express) uses. GO Transit uses MPI (Motive Power International) MP40 PH-3C, tier 3 compliant at 4000 hp (horse power) and MPI MP54AC, tier 4 compliant at 5400 hp. WCE uses 3000 hp tier 3 compliant, diesel locomotives. GO Transit must use these behemoths because the Lakeshore East Line, Lakeshore West Line (with some through service to Niagara), the Kitchener Line (with some through service to London) all use 12 car trains and the 4 remaining lines use either 8 and 10 car trains.



Toronto’s service transit service area, superimposed on Metro Vancouver.

Compare the two maps!

The Toronto transit map, superimposed on Metro Vancouver


6 Responses to “It’s a GO, In Toronto – A Report From Toronto”
  1. Haveacow says:

    The current GO Train Map (the London Ontario service and the new Bloomington station on the Richmond Hill Line hasn’t been added yet). The second map is the rough service area of GO Transit’s Bus and Train operations.

    This the GO Expansion Plan Map or what was called GO RER or Regional Express Rail (which is a much better name than GO Expansion)

    *All these maps were courtesy of Wikipedia

    This map is again the expansion but it shows specifically the municipal boundaries to the City of Toronto and the graphically obvious importance this project will have. The map doesn’t show the subway and LRT expansion projects either and the combination of both systems finally working together.

  2. Haveacow says:

    This project yes, its about the Toronto area but it has profound implications for Vancouver. Essentially they have or will create a true regional railway with already existing railway rights of way with very frequent service, especially peak level service, using rapid transit like but mainline railway friendly vehicles, what the Germans call an S-Bahn. For a considerably lower cost than if you tried to build hundreds of km’s of Skytrain, like the recently unveiled 2050 transit plan, tries to do.

    For the City of Toronto, this doesn’t mean the end of the TTC’s subway and LRT building program but what it does introduce is a very frequent, higher speed, regional or longer distance service, leaving the TTC network to deal with medium level distances and shorter distance travel. This shows what is really possible when the thinking about reusing what you already have instead of building all new lines from scratch. Already this is causing quite a stir throughout North America.

    Technology like this and yes even Zwei’s Tram-Trains, share the basic concepts of simplicity and reusing what you have. Limiting new construction to quick short connections.or considerable capacity upgrades to existing lines. When a major piece of new infrastructure is needed, this type of approach gives you a much clearer view of what has to be built and what doesn’t need to be built.

    Vancouver’s 2050 blueprint puts a whole series of new lines on a map but has no logical thought on what is actually needed. It treats the whole plan as a single level system everything is local rapid transit, with no thought about how far people are actually traveling and how intensive, the service really needs to be.Getting on a Skytrain at Langley and going downtown is possible with the Skytrain 2050 plan and it might even have some what frequent service but it won’t be fast at all because I have to go through 20+ stations to get there. As we have seen, it sure isn’t cheap to build or that cost effective to operate.

  3. Haveacow says:

    More about GO Expansion

    Lakeshore East Line Expansion

    Lakeshore West Line Expansion

    Stouffville Line Expansion

    Kitchener Line Expansion

    Barrie Line Expansion

    A 12 car westbound GO Train in push-pull operation on the Lakeshore West Line with the new generation Cab-Control Car leading.×300.jpg

    A southbound GO Train on the Richmond Hill Line heads over the crowded Don Valley Parkway, known locally as the “Don Valley Parking Lot” to Torontonians.

  4. The comments you make about the Vancouver system, that Zwei has been talking about as tram-train, make all the sense in the world—even if we just use 2018 estimates for construction costs:

    • $600 million/km Skytrain UBC subway
    • $200 million/km Skytrain to Langley
    • $50 million/km Modern Tram (UBC estimate, Patrick Condon)

    But, costs are whole story. Skytrain is light-automated technology which comes with a further burden than mere sticker-shock: low passenger capacity.

    • 15,000 pphpd for Skytrain (Transport Canada certificate)
    • 7,500 pphpd for Millennium Line/UBC subway (according to reports I’ve heard but have not been able to confirm)
    • 7,500 pphpd for ONE car modern tram (250 people; 2 minute headways)

    Head to head comparison of a 4-car train set Broadway subway with 10 car modern tram is decisive: Modern Tram 12-times cheaper to build; carrying 10-times more passenger capacity; for a combined 120-times transit advantage.

    We have a Housing Affordability Crisis burning out of control in Metro Vancouver. The cost of the Skytrain alone means that it will not be able to reach places where we can access cheap land for affordable houses.

    Transit after all has always been about that: railroads, urban railways, freeways and skytrains are built to connect us to places where we can live affordably, while remaining hard-wired to the regional job center.

    Problem is… Skytrain cannot deliver on the promise. Its footprint of operations right now measures 85% of the size of the city of Surrey. That spells: constricted land supply with obvious market implications.

    Skytrain cannot go beyond Langley (if it ever gets that far)… THAT spells constricted land supply & obvious market implications.

    Yet, perhaps the most unbelievable part of the Vancouver regional transit picture is that government OWNS a proprietary R.O.W. stretching from Vancouver all the way to Chilliwack (126.5 km). That is a 66-foot ROW already in our possession, lock, stock & barrel.

    It comes with the following notable features built in:

    • 9 km Arbutus ROW (100% in CoV hands)
    • 18.5 km Kent Street ROW (currently used by a railway; alternative is to run tram on Marine Drive where there is abundant road space for both operation and stations).
    • 1 km New Westminster Rail Bridge (government owns 33% trackage)
    • 20 km Scott Road to 184th Street (100% in government hands)
    • 13 km Pratt-Livingston Corridor with 33% trackage (184th to 232nd Streets; upgraded free of cost as terms of lease)
    • 65 km Abbotsford-Chilliwack line (from 232nd Street—100% in government hands)

    Without breaking a sweat, urbanists can realize housing for 5,000 souls at each of 20 urban tramstops and housing for 500,000 in 25 tramtowns located on the regional periphery (say, east of Cloverdale). For a combined population of 600,000 living behind market speculation-proof doors.

    “Limiting new construction to quick short connections… ”

    How about building 5.7 km of new/rebuilt tunnels connecting Downtown Vancouver to the North Shore. That’s a third crossing of the Burrard Inlet—hardwired to the airport—carrying 75,000 pphpd with 10-car train sets. Currently there are 5 bridge lanes with a combined capacity of 4,000 pphpd (!). You can throw maybe 500 to 1,000 more trips on tedious bus service.

    • 1.2 km tunnel connects the Arbutus Line with the Canada line tunnel on the Downtown peninsula. A new station is built at the end of the tunnel at Granville and Davie, affording a lay over before entering the Canada Line tunnel.

    • 1.1 km Canada Line tunnel mandated rebuild to lower levels by 20 – 35 meters for Canada Line Yaletown and Waterfront stations (Waterfront Canada Line station reported as 12.5 m below grade).

    • 3.4 km tunnel connects to Londsdale Quay & Waterfront (

    In the link provided, the north shore tunnel portal is shown surfacing north of the railway tracks that connect to Horse Shoe Bay ferry terminal and Whistler.

    A 2030 Winter Olympics Bid would make the Burrard Inlet tunnel with tram-train connections to Whistler & YVR all the more pressing. A third crossing is needed today to alleviate congestion and boost the economy.

    Once in place, the Whistler tram would support a further 600,000 population living north west of Vancouver, hardwired to the core by fast and efficient modern tram service.

    Shifting to a different technology makes possible taking advantage of existing infrastructure to create a true Regional Service:

    • Tram Train connections deliver space needed to build affordable houses to 1.2 million people. 200,000 inside the regional core and the balance linked by fast and efficient modern tram/S-bahn service.

    • Passenger systems (Canada Line, Arbutus Tram) sharing tunnels; passenger & freight sharing bridges (NW Fraser Bridge); both lower the sticker price.

    • So… for the price of the 12 km UBC subway we can deliver 144 km of modern tram.

    • 12 km Granville Island to UBC tram on the historic 4th Avenue alignment could be added to the bill [12 + 126.5 = 138.5 km].

    • 5.5 km Granville Island to Waterfront Station (stopping at: 2010 Olympic Village, Canada Line transfer, Millennium Line link, Science World, New Vancouver Hospital, Expo Line transfer, Chinatown Square, Gastown & Waterfront) [5.5 + 138.5 = 144 km].

    • Putting a different spin on it, since the BCER ROW already services both Langley and Langley Township (excluded from Skytrain extension), the 16 km Langley Skytrain extension projected to cost $3.2 billion could be diverted to building the 5.8 km tunnel to the North Shore (estimated price tag: $3.48 billion).

    Thus, the principle of using existing corridors first, would make possible linking the North Shore, Downtown Vancouver, UBC, YVR, south Vancouver, south Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, the two Langleys, Abbotsford, Sumas and Chilliwack.

    The modern tram system would also share at least 2 transfer stations with all the other systems in operation today: Millennium, Expo and Canada Line. All lines would connect at Waterfront making for a significant regional transit hub.

    The price tag all in is equivalent to the 2 proposed Skytrain projects on the table today.

  5. Haveacow says:

    When I ment “quick and short” it was not really short distances, although that can work too but quick and easy time lines and less complex projects. Here in Ottawa, the eastern expansion of the Confederation LRT Line is an example of what I really mean. It’s actually 12.5 km long, so not short by distance really but, it’s construction is far more simple and easier than the very complex western extension of the Confederation LRT Line.

    The western extension is 3 km longer, had up to 4 km of shallow tunnels forced on it, has a very large number of rail right of way fly-overs and bridges, several km’s of deep trenches, a “Y” shaped track intersections and requires a satellite light maintenance and storage yard to be built as well as more numerous and more complex stations.

    The southern extension of the TrilliumLine (Line #2) is long and has many reconstructions and upgrades as well as new constructions but, they are far simpler than the western extension. As a result, the western extension has had more complex issues like, supply chain problems, geotechnical issues and labor shortages and is the most behind schedule, where as the eastern extension is on time, and the southern extension of Line #2 is only late because of Covid supply related issues.

  6. Haveacow says:

    Here is an actually physically short project, 1.9 miles or about 3 km. It’s the Regional Connector Project. Although it’s an expensive and complex tunnel it’s absolutely critical for LA Metro’s 4 LRT lines. Currently 3 of the 4 lines don’t go to the region’s hub, LA Union Station. The forth line does connect to Union Station but it is functional cut off from the rest of the network. This connector tunnel connects every LRT line and allows for changing existing lines and allowing through running through downtown L.A., thus instead of tangential LRT lines or lines that must end in downtown at Union Station, multiple numbers of new through lines are possible, making the existing network more useful. As the network grows and both LA’s LRT and Metro Lines are exexpected to greatly expand in the next 4 years even more new routes are possible. Below is the line’s latest update.–66486

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