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GOing from Uxbridge to Toronto

by Tim Foran
July 27, 2001

I left my car at work and hopped on the GO bus bound for downtown Toronto last Wednesday afternoon in order to catch the premiere of Jurassic Park III (not worth the effort - I assure you).

As usual, the bus was empty save for a couple fellow travellers, who I hope for their own sake had more culturally developed tastes than me. As I paid my $7.60 one-way fare I began to wonder why the bus is never used. Parking in and gas to the city costs far more than a $15 round trip ticket. And the running time to Union Station is an hour and a half, only 15 to 20 minutes more than taking the car.

I could tell you about the environmental benefits too, but the truth is my real preference for transit is because I can spend my time reading rather than griping over Toronto’s worsening gridlock.

Unfortunately, it appears Uxbridge residents have not caught on to the transit alternative. According to GO Transit, only about 60 riders a day use the GO bus to get to either Stouffville, Markham, Unionville, Scarborough or Toronto. This despite the fact 60 per cent of Uxbridge residents work in Toronto or York Region.

Why the service is used so poorly is anyone’s guess. Uxbridge councillors often complain there is no central location for GO in Uxbridge, one that could sell tickets and offer information. However, it says clearly on the bus poles scattered along Toronto St. that tickets and information can be purchased at the Uxbridge Travel Centre on Brock Street, right in front of the parking lot where the GO bus parks. To make it easier, riders can also buy their ticket directly from the bus driver.

Another complaint often heard is that there are only two buses going down to Toronto in the morning and two coming back at night. However, while that was the case when private operator Trentway-Wager ran an Uxbridge-Toronto bus run in the late 90s, GO Transit has three buses that run from Uxbridge through to Toronto each morning, two more in the late morning, and four more throughout the afternoon. That’s nine southbound buses. Coming back from Toronto, there’s even more options - 11 trains and buses.

Lately, Mayor O’Connor, chair of Durham’s planning committee, has been talking about starting a regional transit system, presumably one that would service North Durham. Why she thinks this is possible is unknown. As said, 60 per cent of the work trips (which is the bread and butter for any transit system in the GTA besides Toronto’s) in Uxbridge go to York and Toronto. Go Transit offers service there. But it doesn’t make anything close to what it should on this run. For every fare an Uxbridge rider pays, Uxbridge property taxpayers pay GO more than $22, a figure that also takes into account capital and improvement expenses. That’s a heck of a lot of subsidization, especially considering GO recovers 80 to 90 of its operating costs across the rest of its system.

It’s not likely GO will pull its Uxbridge bus service, even though they did in 1995. The $593,000 Uxbridge residents pay to GO gives Uxbridge council quite a bit of heft in demanding some form of public transit.

GO Transit’s planners also keep their eye on a municipality’s official plan, and would therefore know Uxbridge’s urban area plans to grow by almost 5,000 people over the next 20 years.

But don’t expect GO to extend its train service through Stouffville to Uxbridge any time soon, like within the next decade. There’s about $350 million worth of obstacles before GO even considers that, and there’s got to be a whole lot more than 60 riders to make it worth coming up here for.

And service to Newmarket, a destination for many Uxbridge commuters? Forget it, says a GO spokesman. The company’s focus is getting people into and out of the city, a job GO does admirably.

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