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