A GOing Problem: How we can build ridership on the GO Train in Guelph & Kitchener

There a lot of things Guelph could, no should, be doing to get GO ridership up.
According to Go Transit (Info from http://www.gokw.org), the average daily ridership, between December 19 2011 and January 27 2012 the average daily ridership was 150 persons. Divided as follows:
* 85 passengers per day from Kitchener (With about 100 parking spaces provided by the City of Kitchener)
* 65 passengers per day from Guelph (No parking provided by GO, riders have to use City of Guelph expensive $ parking options)
These numbers are in line with GO’s estimates for initial ridership, and GO expects ridership to continue to grow.
For comparison, The Barrie expansion in 2007 within 2 months saw ridership numbers of 400+ people, and provided free parking! GO has since re-opened a second station in Barrie (Allandale) and added parking. Parking is the main issue and needs to be solved sooner then later!!!
The city did the right thing to make a deal for discounted GO fares on Guelph Transit, however, promotion of this seems to be lacking as of late. No one I have talked too at Guelph Central Station seems knows they only have to pay 60 cents or buy a 18$ monthly pass. Plus we need to pick up the PRESTO system to have smooth transfers between Toronto and Guelph. As well, the early morning shuttles don’t seem to be getting more than a half a dozen people, especially from the commuter heavy south end. Greyhound added a additional bus in the morning because its ridership is growing, no decreasing, with the GO train. Again, better promotion is needed – especially in the south end.
One of the problems with the shuttle service is that its great to get to the station in the morning for the first train (For the 2nd train regular bus schedules seem okay to make the connection), but getting home after work – forget about it! The trains arrives at 6:18p.m. and 7:18p.m., when all the city buses are out of the square ( and soon to be open new transit terminal) at 15 after the hour.
It is already a long commuter day for some people (up to 12-14 hours a day). A simple solution would be to have the shuttle routes run at 20 or 25 after the hour instead of leaving people in (the wintery cold) downtown for 20-25 minutes to catch a bus. There is no excuse not to at least try to do this since all the ‘extras’ are not in use at that time (15 min service ends earlier). Doing at least that would convince more people to leave the car at home/not be dropped off. More promotion of this service & any improvements is needed. I haven’t heard or seen anything since the December launch week.
The other issue is parking. Is there is a shortage of parking in downtown? After reading how much parking passes are sold to the Co-operators & other nearby businesses, many of these spots are not used at all plus there is always about 400+ empty spots a day on average according to a staff report I think there is an opening to free up a few spaces for the GO commuters. If Kitchener can find 100 spots, I would expect Guelph could free up at least 50 spots either at one of the parkades or at the Neeve St lot – Even the Fountain Street lot is not 100% full during the week. The loss of the 45 spots at VIA and some Carden Street parking is partly made up at the new Baker/Wyndham lot so there is some capacity available. Alas, as I have learned, The ‘Guelph Factor’ rears its head on this one, since staff say there is no room, yet many people I known from Guelph have seen hundreds of empty spots each day near the station. As well, there is this “we don’t want to loose revenue” on monthly parking fees mantra at City Hall. No one wants to to cut the price to a affordable amount without some subsidy from GO, which at the moment is unlikely, but needed.
If the city is serious about keeping and growing this new GO train service, it needs to suck up the lost spaces/revenue on parking for the short term so that long term we get better ridership, new parking facilities and expanded service levels. If Kitchener can do it, why can’t Guelph? Otherwise, its back to Georgetown for me.
These changes would go a long way to building ridership and convincing GO Transit to stay here and not pull up its stakes 3 years later like in 1993. MU

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5 Comments

Filed under On the Buses

5 responses to “A GOing Problem: How we can build ridership on the GO Train in Guelph & Kitchener

  1. Kate B

    People aren’t going to pay to park downtown Guelph to catch a train when we can drive to Georgetown, get a free spot close to the train, and we don’t have to catch it at ridiculous hours for a 9 a.m. shift downtown Toronto.

    My problem with the Guelph trains are the times the trains leave. If I work at 9 a.m., I have to take a train that leaves Guelph at 6:14 a.m. (because the one at 7:32 doesn’t get me in before 9 a.m.). I also have to figure out how to get downtown to catch that 6:14 a.m. train (another 20-25 minutes on the bus). This train gets me to downtown Toronto at 7:53 a.m.

    But if I go to work via Georgetown, I leave my house on the east end of town at 6:15 a.m., drive to the Georgetown station, park my car mere steps from the train, and catch the 7:06 a.m. train, which is an express train, and still arrives in Toronto at 8:01 a.m. (times are all according to the schedule).

    It’s not much extra time – but it gives me an extra 30 minutes or so in the morning to get ready or sleep (and frankly, I enjoy my sleep).

    Either way, I’m an hour early for work, but I go to Georgetown every single time.

  2. Kelly H

    Agree with Kate 100 %. I tried the Guelph train for a while, but the times are not convenient. I do the exact same route to Georgetown at the exact same time. (Maybe we should carpool Kate!)

    Luckily I’m walking distance to the Guelph GO. Scrap the 730am train and throw in a 7am to get people downtown by 830. When this happens, I’m in.

    To end, a quote from a friend: “Why can’t Guelph just have good transit?”.

    I agree. Why?

  3. It is because of the tracks. The train would be a lot faster once they do repairs and double track between Guelph and Georgetown. Please read up on all of this at gokw.org

  4. James

    I have a issue with city staffs attitude toward those who want to park but not pay these crazy prices. Ina recent article, staff ignore the need for parking by claiming the ‘research’ has shown them the most get dropped off, take the bus, walk or bike to the station. Umm of course they do when there is not FREE (or low cost) parking available like all GO stations. So this is a flawed excuse. There is a NEED for parking for GO customers and potential GO customers. I have even heard many Greyhound users who would LOVE to switch to the train but will not because there is NO PARKING available.

    There is a GO Shuttle for the first train now. Guelph Transit runs it from 4 areas of Guelph and it only costs 60 cents per ride if you show your GO ticket/pass. Alas, it is not well used because there is no buses when the train arrives back into Guelph leaving your stranded for a good half hour.

    It is time Staff get their act together. Do we really want to lose this service AGAIN like in 1993? Parking is needed and should not be ignored by staff.

  5. Anne C

    People from the south end of Guelph generally go to MIlton to catch the train where there is plenty of free parking and is stops in Mississuaga, and Etobicoke where a lot of people work. Why are people obsessed with travelling and working/studing in Toronto. I am tired of you can/t get there from here too. In order for me to go to McMaster University from Guelph I have to take to Go Bus to Square one and then take a bus down to Port Credit and get on the GO Trian to Aldershot and take a bus from there to the university…. why is there know bus that goes down HWY 6. Greyhound is worse.

    Way to not GO,

    AC in the South End,

    why don’t my counsellors have blogs???

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