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50 Years of GO Transit Bus Operations

By Adam Zhelka

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This article was originally published in the August/September 2020 and October 2020 issues of the Toronto Transportation Society's publication, Transfer Points. It is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author and TTS.

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GO Transit #1000 is seen on display at the Canadian National Exhibition on August 22, 1970. GO Transit set up a display to showcase the new transit service for CNE attendees. Bus #1000, the pilot bus of the order, was the only bus to have an emergency exit at the middle window on the street side of the bus. It has been cleverly used with stairs on this display to allow attendees to access the inside of the new coach. To the left of the photo is a Van Hool minibus along with a Ford Econoline van that would be used in dial-a-bus service. Ted Wickson photo.

It has been 50 years since GO Transit began commuter bus services connecting Toronto to its suburban communities. At that time, a modest network of bus routes was established east and west from the GO Train terminus stations of the original GO Train line, as well as north from the city, to improve commuter access in and out of Toronto's downtown core. It is a far cry from today's GO Transit consisting of multiple rail lines and a vast web of bus routes which serves almost eight million people and an area of about 33,000 square km. But it did not happen all at once and it often involved politics and economics. Here is a history of that GO bus development which seeks to capture the major expansions, contractions, and other significant events of the past 50 years.

The concept of GO Transit (Government of Ontario Transit) started years earlier following several studies which considered urban / suburban growth in Toronto and surrounding area. The postwar population boom was in full swing and with the City of Toronto mostly built-up, new development could only push outward in the inner and outer suburbs. Since 1954, Toronto's metropolitan area was well served by a growing Toronto Transit Commission and select routes even extended out to the more distant communities of Port Credit, Malton (Toronto Airport), Woodbridge, Keele North and Richmond Hill. Beyond this, Gray Coach Lines (a TTC subsidiary) provided suburban and interurban coach service to much of southern Ontario. Although much of this GCL service to the closer communities was evolving into commuter style operations, it was not at a frequency or capacity to satisfy the expected growth the provincial government anticipated.

The same situation existed with Toronto area railway services. Both Canadian National and Canadian Pacific provided limited commuter opportunities where they happened to overlap on their existing passenger network, but the ongoing trend in the 1960s was a continual withdrawal of passenger rail operations, not expansion.

Up until that time, provincial investments in transportation growth did not include public transit and instead focused on highway construction. Although this highway construction seemed to indicate progress, it was obvious even then that increasing road capacity was only a short-term solution. Thus, the Province launched the GO Transit commuter rail service in May 1967 which was begun as three-year trial to test the feasibility of such a service. Unlike private business (including CN, which participated heavily in GO Transit's creation), financial profit was not to be the measure of success for the new commuter service; rather it was treated as a necessary investment to ensure long-term prosperity in a growing region. The gamble paid off and the GO Transit trial was an immediate success; so much so, that the phased increase of service was dramatically accelerated to meet the instant demand. With commuter rail firmly established, the Ministry of Transportation prepared for new initiatives which included establishing local transit in suburban communities and introduction of a dedicated commuter bus service.

BAY RIDGES DIAL-A-BUS SERVICE

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A Ford Econoline van is seen at the Pickering GO Station shortly after the inauguration of the Bay Ridges Dial-a-Bus service. The lettering just in front of the open door states "OPERATED by the GOVERNMENT of ONTARIO". Jerry Squier photo, Motor Bus Society collection.

Although the GO Transit bus service is rightly known as a high-capacity commuter bus service (with present day routes serving a dramatically increased commuter territory), the first buses to carry the GO name were in fact minibuses deployed for door to door local service in May 1970. This was on the experimental Dial-a-Bus service in the Bay Ridges neighbourhood of Pickering Township, a community on the eastern border of Metropolitan Toronto. The service was centered on the Pickering GO Train station and connected it with a newer suburban development which could not yet support fixed route transit service. A local bus service here could make possible the entire daily commute to Toronto by bridging that gap of what is now termed 'the first and last mile'.

A few years later a similar Dial-a-Bus experiment was set up, also by GO, in the York Mills - Downsview area of Toronto starting October 29th,1973.The hub for this service was York Mills subway station and a zoned service was introduced in stages. Later changes offered connections to intersecting TTC routes. The service quickly proved uneconomical and was withdrawn later in 1974. The now-surplus 16 Rek-Vee minibuses were distributed to the TATOA member municipalities of Halton, Peel, Toronto, Hamilton-Wentworth and York (Markham, Vaughan and Richmond Hill - 1 bus each).

SUBURBAN BUS SERVICE BEGINS

On September 08, 1970, GO Transit commenced true suburban bus operations over four distinct routes. Initial GO service was limited and was routed along three separate corridors:

  • Timetable #1 West - GO bus service operated as an extension of the GO train connecting Oakville to Hamilton via Burlington.
  • Timetable #2 East - GO bus service operated as an extension of the GO train connecting Pickering station to Oshawa via the towns of Ajax and Whitby.
  • Timetable #3 North - GO bus service connecting Newmarket to downtown Toronto via Richmond Hill. Service was operated via Yonge St. as well as Hwy #400. Toronto terminals included Union Station (curb loading on Front St opposite the Royal York Hotel or Union Station), the Bay St. Gray Coach terminal and the TTC North Toronto Yonge St. terminal at Glen Echo.
  • Timetable #3 North - GO Transit express bus service to Barrie via Hwy #400 introduced. One morning trip inbound and one evening trip outbound initially.

    For the initial service, 15 GM Diesel Division T8H-5305A buses, numbered 1000-1014 were delivered to TTC Hillcrest shops during August 1970. These buses featured air conditioning, which were the first buses with this feature built by GM in London. There were other Canadian companies that operated GMC New Look buses with air conditioning (Gray Coach Lines, Niagara Transit, etc.) but these buses were built by GMC Truck and Coach in Pontiac, Michigan.

    These routes were in territory served by Gray Coach Lines (GCL) and operated over existing coach routes. Essentially service was increased by overlaying new additional GO trips on to existing GCL schedules (with appropriate tweaking for maximum efficiency). Initial GO Bus service was operated from the two GO railheads to either Hamilton or Oshawa. Hamilton-Toronto bus service (via QEW or Hwy2) was still a Gray Coach operation as was the Oshawa-Toronto service (via Hwy401-DVP or Hwy2). Within six months, some of the Hwy2 trips were operated by GO and after one year GO service had extended to some of the QEW and Hwy401 express trips into Toronto.

    Although Gray Coach was surely not keen with the intrusion of GO into traditional GCL territory, the impact was lessened by contracting the coach company to operate and maintain the GO bus service, thus the new routes were initially referred to 'confederated' bus routes. From a passenger point of view, service was increased which was a mix of Gray Coach and GO Transit, depending on which particular trip was selected for travel. No doubt in the early days, vehicles were often swapped as needed between the two operations further confusing the matter.

    Initial operations were encouraging and uneventful, no doubt since much of the infrastructure, ridership and familiarity with the territory served was well established. As traffic patterns emerged, some adjustments and modest expansion was made - the June 24, 1971 GO timetable #2 now listed Beaverton service on the Toronto - Newmarket run although the Beaverton extensions (operated to Toronto via Newmarket) were in fact Gray Coach trips. As well, service to King City and Maple were now offered on select GO Newmarket express trips.

    RICHMOND HILL via TRAVELWAYS

    Further expansion occurred in the North corridor in January 1972 with the introduction of Richmond Hill - Toronto GO Bus service via Bayview Ave and the Don Valley Parkway. This overlapped into territory served by Trailways of Canada (which was transitioning to the Travelways name) therefore, as established with Gray Coach Lines, Travelways was also contracted to operate the new GO route. The main routing was on Bayview Avenue, Steeles, Yonge and the DVP. The downtown terminus was Union Station with select trips operating to and from the Trailways/Travelways terminal at Bay & Edward Sts. Thus, the schedules of Travelways, GCL and GO were integrated and coordinated to offer optimal service and expansion to new communities. Note that at this time, the TTC was still operating the extra-fare Richmond Hill bus route (59-NORTH YONGE) along Yonge Street from the Toronto city limits - a legacy operation from the old North Yonge Railways and radial days.

    Additional improvements in 1972 included:

    • Exclusive Ajax buses in rush hours to connect with Pickering GO.
    • Additional stops for Newmarket buses as well as added express trips via Hwy400 & Hwy9.
    • The GO Barrie Express service was doubled to two morning and two evening return trips per day. It was a 90 minute trip costing $2.55.
    • Small terminals were erected along the QEW Hamilton service at Guelph Line and at Bronte as well as the opening of the new downtown Burlington Transit terminal.

    At the end of 1967, ridership on the GO train was up to 16,000 passengers per day. By the close of 1972, GO trains were carrying close to 20,000 passengers per day with another 10,000 passengers on the 'confederated' bus routes.

    MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION OF ONTARIO (MTO)

    Politically, transit had become increasingly important and the provincial Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) was now a very busy department with several initiatives on the 'GO'. The same office and staff that was operating GO Transit, was busy with other MTO projects which included:

    • NorOntair airline, a regional carrier which linked various northern communities.
    • Development of a medium capacity rapid transit demonstration line which it planned to have in operation in Toronto in 1974. This was pegged at being 20,000 passengers per hour (pph) as compared to subway (37,000 pph) or bus (3000 pph).
    • Expanded Dial-a-Bus trials which were now underway in Kingston & Stratford for off peak service as well as planning for Toronto, Peterborough and elsewhere.

    Marine operations with the taking over of the Manatoulin Island ferry service operating from Tobermory.

    However, despite all these other efforts, GO Transit remained the jewel in the crown for the Ministry in terms passenger volume and territory served.

    1974 - 1976

    Big expansion occurred in 1974 with the opening of the Georgetown GO train line (revenue service began April 29, 1974) although initially, bus services were unaffected. As well, the TTC extension of the Yonge subway north to Finch Avenue saw the opening of the suburban bus terminal at Finch Station which became the new connection point for several GO Transit north routes to the TTC subway. Included was the GO/Travelways Bayview service. The old TTC Glen Echo Terminal at Toronto city limits had been closed by this time. New service from Newmarket was now operated via Don Mills Road (today's Woodbine Avenue) serving Vandorf, Gormley, Buttonville and other communities. This operated through to downtown via Hwy401 and York Mills Subway where some GO Transit and Gray Coach routes now served.

    1975 got off to a rocky start as a strike by CNR railway engineers cut GO train operation to an absolute minimum from January 23rd to February 2nd.Supervisory staff operated skeleton GO rail service for first two days which was further cut as CNR needed to move freight for GM and Sarnia Hydro plant by day three. Union-Pickering GO train service was cut for five full days and Gray Coach provided non-stop Pickering-Union bus service with up to 23 buses per rush hour to move as many as 1200 passengers at a time. Also enlisted were Travelways, Charterways, Oshawa Transit and Penetang-Midland Coach Lines during this time. Otherwise, throughout 1975, GO was busy planning for significant expansion of both bus and rail operations but delays obtaining the needed buses pushed the start dates into 1976.

    The first highway commuter coaches were delivered in 1975 from MCI. The MC8 model, numbered 1250-1262, provided an upgrade from the GMC commuter buses. While the GMC New Looks had high back seats, the seats over the rear wheel wells had restricted leg room. The seats over the front wheel wells were perimeter facing. With the MCI buses, all seats were forward facing, and the higher floor provided a smoother ride. The MC8 buses had 49 seats with no washroom and were mainly used on the express routes.

    Effective February 15th, 1976 new service was commenced as follows:

    • Timetable #4 - Northwest Bus service to Georgetown - Brampton - Malton - York Mills Subway. Part of the original Toronto routing was along Wilson Avenue, but service was shifted to Hwy401 in September. Yorkdale Mall was added as a stop at this time, the first GO route to what would become another important hub in the GO network.
    • Another major change involved the service through Malton. The initial routing was via a Malton area industrial park which quickly proved to have negligible ridership use. Instead, GO buses were soon rerouted (effective September 8th) to serve the nearby Toronto International Airport (Pearson Airport or YYZ as it is now known as) which was far more in demand. This was the start of service by GO to this important destination although at that time the GO buses only stopped at the Airport Administration building. Passengers going to or from T1 or T2 had to walk or take the inter airport shuttle-bus.
    • Another new GO bus service started this date was the Guelph - Toronto route via Georgetown. GO took over the local service from Gray Coach which was left with the express trips to this city. Although not initially on GO Transit's agenda, the Guelph bus resulted from the abandonment of the daily CN Guelph-Toronto passenger train on November 14, 1975. The CN trains had been providing reasonable commuter type service but lost about 75% of their ridership with the opening of the Georgetown GO Train. The GO Guelph bus (initially one trip in and out daily) operated via Rockwood and Acton and was timed to connect with the GO train at Georgetown.
    • Timetable #5 - West Bus service to Milton - Streetsville - Toronto Union to support weekend and off peak service for a potential new Milton GO train line. The bus route was taken over from Gray Coach and service levels doubled.
    • Timetable #6 - Northeast serving Uxbridge - Stouffville - Claremont - Markham - Toronto. Several routing variations were offered, and the initial routing had the Uxbridge & Claremont buses travelling to Hwy48 and Hwy7 where passengers could transfer to:
      • Express bus via Kennedy Road to Warden Subway
      • Express bus via Markham Road to Bay Street Terminal
      • Local bus along Hwy7 and Steeles Avenue to Finch Subway

    This odd arrangement did not last, and the Markham bus-meet/transfer concept was abandoned. Eff June 23rd, the new routings were:

    • Markham - Finch Subway shuttle - service upgraded.
    • Uxbridge-Stouffville-Markham to Toronto downtown - New trips added
    • Markham - Toronto downtown
    • Markham - Warden Subway with some trips to operate via Scarborough Town Centre
    • Claremont - Finch Subway service direct to Subway. Weekend service direct to downtown.
    • Musselman's Lake summer weekend service to operate until Labour Day (new seasonal service).

    Also, as of February 15, 1976 GO assumed the Barrie - Toronto local bus service from Gray Coach. This left Gray Coach with express-only service to Barrie which it shared with GO.

    GO bus service to Sutton commenced November 28th, 1976 via Keswick to Newmarket. Sutton-Toronto via Hwy48 was also an option but this service was operated by Simcoe Coach Lines (not part of the GO network) which began service on the same date.

    TATOA

    GO Transit operation had been transferred from the MTO to the Toronto Area Transit Operating Authority (TATOA) as of September 1st, 1974. Its mission was to establish and operate inter-regional transit and to provide coordinating services to municipal transit systems and its board consisted of council members from Metropolitan Toronto, the Regions of Peel and York and non-voting associate members from the Regions of Halton and Hamilton-Wentworth (the latter later becoming full members).

    Since GO bus service began in 1970, local municipal transit was rapidly growing in Oakville, Mississauga, Markham, Richmond Hill, Pickering and other surrounding communities. TATOA provided a forum to resolve cross-border operational issues including GO service. Specifics included:

    • Cost sharing and cost assignment for common terminal facilities - One example of this was the sale of the Finch subway suburban terminal from TTC to TATOA control.
    • Cross border operation - the transferring of the TTC Port Credit route to Mississauga Transit operation.
    • Funding requests - That TATOA recognize (and fund) the inter-regional transit services in the Hamilton area as operated by Canada Coach Lines - by then a subsidiary of the Hamilton Street Railway. (Didn't happen)

    One issue which did impact GO was the TTC campaign to reduce GO bus operation into the downtown area. The TTC instead advocated that GO terminate its bus trips at outlying subway or GO train stations where passengers could transfer to complete their journeys. The TTC noted that the Yonge subway line had enough rush hour capacity available to handle the extra GO passengers (how times have changed!) and that the GO bus routes were duplicating services causing a loss of revenue to the municipality.

    TATOA agreed with TTC concerns noting that recent routing changes to Finch and York Mills stations in fact encouraged such subway use and that GO fares, which are based on distance travelled, were lower to the subway than to Bay & Dundas and Union Station. As of April 1st, 1978, a downtown premium surcharge of 35c was eventually applied to downtown bus trips on the Newmarket corridor where a viable alternative (the TTC subway) existed. The downtown surcharge was gradually applied to other relevant routes as time went on with new fare zones introduced as well.

    RICHMOND HILL YONGE ST SERVICE

    Another TATOA initiative was the rationalization of transit services up the Yonge Street corridor. The TTC was still providing transit service north on Yonge St. to Richmond Hill which it operated under contract dating back to the old North Yonge Railway days. The TTC buses assigned to this route carried two fare boxes to keep a separate accounting of York Region fares, which had several zones based on distance. TTC buses were also restricted to 96" wide due to Provincial highway restrictions at the time.

    The two farebox arrangement passed the costs of any shortfalls onto the municipalities served, so the offer by GO to take over the Yonge Street service would surely have been greeted with enthusiasm by these municipalities which subsidized the TTC bus service.

    Under the new scheme, GO would operate the main trunk line up Yonge from the Finch subway station connecting to local transit systems in Markham & Richmond Hill. This rationalization eliminated duplicate TTC services and allowed GO Transit to better coordinate all its buses using Yonge St. and Highway ll. Advertised as: "The red bus turns green and less green buses run into downtown Toronto come November 28th", the switchover from TTC to GO became effective November 28, 1976. The new GO route was called NORTH YONGE Route 'C' (red colour) and operated from Finch Station north to Richmond Hill (north-east corner of Richmond Heights Plaza parking Lot instead of the Levendale Loop terminus used by TTC buses). No local service was permitted south of Steeles and extra peak service was added between Finch and Thornhill (Royal Orchard). Fares remained at 35c (same as TTC) but extra zone fares were required to Oak Ridges, Aurora, and Newmarket.As well, free transfers were provided to some Markham Transit, Richmond Hill Transit and Vaughan Transit connections.

    Other York Region GO routes rearranged in the transfer included:

    • RICHMOND HILL - THORNLEA - FINCH SUBWAY from Bayview Plaza via Richmond Hill (RH) GO Terminal, Thornlea, Finch Subway.
    • KING - MAPLE - FINCH SUBWAY added as option to the King-Maple service to downtown Toronto.
    • NEWMARKET - TORONTO DOWNTOWN (Express) via Hwy 400.
    • NEWMARKET - TORONTO DOWNTOWN (Semi Express) via Hwy 11. (Became GO Yellow Route A after Nov 28th). Also, Semi-Express from Richmond Hill GO Terminal to Toronto Downtown.
    • NEWMARKET - FINCH SUBWAY (GO Blue Route B after Nov 28th.) Regular stops between Newmarket and Elgin Mills Road. Below that, limited stops at RH Plaza, RH municipal offices, and Markham Road. Fare 60c RH to Finch. Additional fare north of RH.

    TATOA soon reported that the local Richmond Hill service had about 300-400 additional daily passengers with no increase in equipment or manpower. Unfortunately, an increase in equipment and manpower was precisely what was needed as crowding was now a problem. On some days as many as 15 buses a day were being rented from other operators (Gray Coach & Travelways presumably) so GO ordered 20 new GM buses to meet demand. These were the popular suburban-style New Look transit buses which served this corridor for more than 20 years. They featured high backed seats, sealed windows, air conditioning but had a rear transit style exit door. They were built in London Ontario and delivered in the spring of 1977. GO hoped that similar successes might be possible on other corridors north of Metro and studied the matter further. It was noted that the operator of such amalgamated service need not be GO Transit.

    Elsewhere, various adjustments were made to improve service:

    • A new daily round trip was added to the Milton/Streetsville bus to connect with York Mills station commencing January 5, 1977. Initial ridership was fairly low but was expected to increase with the opening of a new Yorkdale bus terminal later in 1977.
    • A new Oshawa bus via Hwy2, Sheppard & Hwy401 to York Mills was introduced April 25, 1977. This weekday peak hour service connected Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, and Scarboro Town Centre enroute. With the reduction of downtown trips, York Mills subway station was becoming an increasingly significant transfer point given its proximity to Hwy401. GO's Hwy 11 service from Richmond Hill, Aurora, and Newmarket (then Barrie or Sutton), Northwest service from Georgetown & Brampton and the Milton and Streetsville services all connected here.

    Further changes in the Newmarket Corridor were introduced June 22, 1977 with off peak 'A' service from Barrie & Sutton to downtown being reduced - buses connected at Newmarket with service to either Finch station or passengers were consolidated on a single bus to carry on downtown. 'A' buses and Hwy 400 express buses were rerouted from Newmarket town centre to instead use the Hwy 11 GO terminal.

    As of April, the two-door transit style GM buses were now standard on North Yonge services, however it was also reported that an articulated MAN-AM General bus was being tested on the Richmond Hill C service. The public statement did say that the Ontario Government would soon tender for 40 such buses to test their use in four Ontario cities.The provincial test of articulated buses (the 53 articulated New Look bus order) ultimately did occur however GO Transit was not involved with that phase of the test.

    Also, at that time GO buses 1000 - 1015 were scheduled for rehabilitation at Hillcrest and received new interior coverings, flooring and new exterior paint for these buses with 350,000 miles service.

    A new Oakville West Station opened Oct 31st on the Lakeshore train line and buses connected there on route to nearby Bronte GO Bus Terminal.

    Lastly for 1977, an agreement was made with the City of Oshawa to store and provide light maintenance for 20 GO buses in an expanded Oshawa Transit garage.

    A new Toronto-Milton express was introduced January 9th, 1978 as well as other improvements.Service to York Mills continued with improved connections at Yorkdale in anticipation of the Spadina Subway opening in January 1978.

    GO Transit received their second order of MC8 highway coaches during 1978. This batch, numbered 1270-1281, were used on the newly introduced express services.

    In the Northeast, a new Uxbridge - Claremont - Pickering bus route was introduced April 30th, 1978 via Brock Road. Two trips a day each way were provided and the Claremont - Markham - Finch Station GO bus was discontinued March 31st and replaced April 3rd with new interim GO service to start from Claremont via Hwy7, Hwy48, Scarboro Town Centre, York Mills and Yorkdale. The abandonment of the Markham - Finch subway segment by GO was due to weak patronage caused by a parallel Markham Transit route which remained in service.

    The new Richmond Hill GO train line was opened April 29th, 1978. A vintage CN steam train was on hand as well as a new GO Train.

    Although not as common today, extra services were operated to special events, major sporting events and other uncommonly large gatherings. GO Transit provided such services almost from the beginning which included hockey, football and baseball games, the Canadian Open Golf Tournament, and the Canadian National Exhibition. In GO's case, some of these extra bus runs fed into the GO train network while other bus runs travelled direct. For the 1979 CNE it was noted that GO CNE Specials as well as Gray Coach Malton service and Travelways Richmond Hill York region services were operating direct to the annual fair.

    STEEPROCK GARAGE officially opened Oct 12, 1979 and was GO's first dedicated bus facility. It was in Downsview to be central to GO Transit's bus operations as well as to the major terminals at Yorkdale, York Mills and Finch Regional Terminal. The $5 million facility on 7.4 acres was built to serve the entire GO fleet of 142 buses which were being maintained by GCL and Travelways. There was storage for 40 buses inside and another 40 outside with room to grow.Also, all radio dispatching was relocated there as the fleet became radio equipped. The northerly location reflected GO's emphasis on shifting bus operations away from downtown and using the Yorkdale, York Mills and Finch terminals and GO train stations as hubs. A considerable amount of deadheading was eliminated as the bulk of the fleet was previously being serviced by TTC and Gray Coach, mainly at the old Gray Coach Sherbourne Division which was scheduled for redevelopment in the near future.

    As well, YORKDALE BUS TERMINAL officially opened October 12, 1979 for use by TTC, GO, GCL, Travelways and Penetang-Midland Coach Lines (PMCL). This replaced a temporary terminal which GO had been using for a few years. It was located on the ground level of an office development there with direct connections to the new Spadina Subway and adjacent to Hwy401. Initial bus movements were about 200 daily with a capacity for 600. Direct overhead connections with the subway quickly followed and future expansion of nearby Yorkdale Shopping Centre ultimately provided direct connections with the retail area. Bus Parcel Express facilities were available from there too.

    Major bus scheduling changes soon followed on October 28th to streamline operations. By GO's own admission: "the revisions generally reflect GO's pressing need to produce a lean, efficient trunk line inter-regional transit system which will be ready to handle the very heavy demands which will undoubtedly be placed on it when the energy crunch inevitably hits here." The new changes reflected high energy costs, limited transit resources and an expected increase in ridership.Part of this strategy was the ongoing emphasis of diverting buses to outlying transfer terminals (subways and GO trains) rather than serving downtown direct. Specific changes effective October 28th were:

    • Hamilton-Toronto Express will now bypass Sunnyside Terminal (and King St.) in favour of University Avenue - Gardiner Expressway routing thus eliminating 10 minutes travel time (55 minutes new time).
    • Four semi-express trips will still serve Sunnyside Terminal (King/Queen/Roncesvalles, the site of the current McDonalds at this location) daily.
    • Newmarket 'A' buses rerouted from downtown to Yorkdale Terminal via Hwy401 to connect with GO buses to Oshawa, Milton and Brampton / Georgetown / Guelph. One or two A buses will continue to downtown via Avenue Road to Bay & Dundas but will not serve Union Station.
    • Hwy 400 Express trips will see more runs terminating / starting at Yorkdale. Express trips from King, Sutton, Milton and Bradford to downtown will no longer operate south of main Toronto terminal (Bay & Dundas) to Union Station.
    • Uxbridge Corridor - buses from Markham, Stouffville and Uxbridge also to no longer operate south of Bay & Dundas.
    • Georgetown Corridor - Through Guelph - Oshawa buses will no longer stop at the Weston Rd - Hwy401 location. Brampton - Islington Subway 1830 trip will no longer carry on to downtown Toronto.
    • Bayview Service - Effective October 1st Richmond Hill - Finch Subway via Bayview reduced due to increased service on Yonge (Route C), the Richmond Hill GO Train and new Markham Transit service between Thornlea and Finch.
    • Cooksville - Toronto - new round trip express service eff. September 5th from downtown Toronto to Sheridan Mall & Woodchester Mall via QEW, Erin Mills Pkwy, Hwy5.
    • Burlington - New Burlington GO train station on Fairview Street to begins bus operations Oct 28th and the old bus terminal at QEW & Guelph line is abandoned. Bus services adjusted accordingly from Oakville station as new Burlington station is phased in.
    • New Oshawa-Bowmanville bus service begins December 1979 when GO took over the Whitby-Oshawa-Bowmanville route from Charterways. This company now included as a GO contractor operating the buses on this route. Whitby Transit started by the Town of Whitby at this time to maintain service to the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital.

    The Early 1980s

    The dual themes of expansion and economies carried on into the 1980s. Eighteen buses were introduced at the beginning of the year of which six were new 30 foot Orion Is (suburban configuration, model 01.503m numbered 1500-1505) and 12 were secondhand Prevost Champions (numbered 1600-1611) which were bought from Murray Hill of Montreal. The 'new' buses were to be used on the Newmarket and Oshawa corridors and total bus trips now totaled about 25,000 a day.

    A similar bus order was made late in the year as well - eight new Orion Is (30 & 35 footers numbered 1506-1509 and 1510-1513 respectively) and five used MC8 buses (1290-1294), also from Murray Hill. Leased buses were being used as needed and 25 new coaches were ordered for spring 1982 (MCI MC9 buses numbered 1300-1324). Demand for new buses was apparently high due to energy crisis and therefore used buses were a viable option.

    Service adjustments effective April 27th, 1980 included:

    • Newmarket buses via Hwy400 will see fewer trips downtown and will terminate at Yorkdale.
    • Milton Express gets realigned and will no longer operate via Meadowvale. Express routings from Hornby to Toronto and Milton Express no longer serves Streetsville / Meadowvale. Lastly, the Milton bus from downtown will pick up Islington passengers on Bloor Street, not in the Islington Subway station as all other GO bus service through the station had been discontinued by this time.
    • In April it was announced that the 1640 Milton bus from downtown will pick up Islington passengers on Bloor Street, not in the Islington Subway station as all other GO bus service through the station has been discontinued by this time.
    • Oshawa Express to York Mills / Yorkdale via Hwy2 & Hwy401. One AM inbound and one PM outbound trips. Also, Oshawa trips midday and weekend to downtown via Kingston Rd cut back.
    • Brampton - Downtown off peak and weekend service reduced favouring Yorkdale / York Mills.
    • Hamilton Express sees additional trips added. Half hourly peak hour service & hourly base service. One less trip daily is routed via Sunnyside Terminal in each direction and the Sherway Gardens stop was eliminated on this route.

    1981 brought more changes. As of February 2nd, 1981:

    • GO Brampton bus service from Brampton-Cooksville-Islington via Hwy10 was discontinued and replaced by new Mississauga Transit route 19 linking Brampton & Mississauga. This apparently was a 12 month trial which was being funded by the MTO.
    • A new GO Brampton Express weekday peak hour service from Brampton GO bus terminal to Yorkdale via Main St, Steeles, Hwy410 & Hwy401 was introduced. Previous weekday expresses to Yorkdale/York Mills via Bramalea City Centre and daily local service to Yorkdale/York Mills via Bramalea City Centre, Malton, YYZ still continue.
    • Additional improvements in the Northwest corridor were vastly improved effective June 24, 1981 taking in the Guelph - Georgetown - Brampton - Bramalea - Yorkdale/York Mills routing.
    • GO bus passengers per day was now measured at 28,000.
    go-1319-oshawa-garage-19820623.jpg

    (Above) GO Transit # 1319, an MCI MC9, was one of 25 buses delivered in 1982 (1300-1324) for service expansion. It is seen at the Oshawa Transit garage on June 23, 1982 when brand new. Kevin Nicol photo.

    The Hamilton Bus terminal at John & Rebecca Streets was now operating under GO management and had been renovated (by GO) at cost of $130,000.This included improved passenger area and expanded BPX facilities. GO was asked by the province to assume responsibility for interregional terminals in its area and was now leasing the 1955 built terminal from Gray Coach. The renovated terminal fit nicely with recent improvements in the Hamilton Express bus which was claimed to now have virtually double the service.

    The express bus eliminated Sunnyside Terminal and Plains Road service although the local Lakeshore Hwy2 bus continued to operate there.

    GO Train Milton (Line 4) opened on Oct 26th, 1981. The 50km line had seven new stations (Milton, Meadowvale, Streetsville, Erindale, Cooksville, Dixie, Kipling) which were served by three am & three pm trains weekdays. CP discontinued passenger service on this line in 1971 and GO service was first proposed in 1974. Bus services were adjusted including:

    • Discontinuance of Cooksville - Toronto Downtown bus serving Woodchester Mall & Sheridan Mall via QEW, Erin Mills Pkwy, Hwy5.
    • Discontinuance of Milton - Toronto Downtown via Meadowvale / Streetsville.
    • Milton - Toronto bus via Meadowvale to Yorkdale/York Mills increased and modified to serve Milton and Meadowvale GO stations.
    • Discontinuance of Oakville Express via QEW to downtown. Passengers can use Lakeshore GO Train and fare integration with Oakville Transit.

    An important local milestone was reached on October 5th, 1981 when Pickering Transit switched over to a fixed route service ending Canada's first Dial-a-Bus service. It was originally started July 1970 by GO Transit and was taken over by the municipality in January 1973. Throughout its time, GO commuters made up the bulk of its ridership although there was some expansion to include local facilities and malls.

    In April 1982, services were increased in the North and the East but GO further eliminated downtown trips where duplicate TTC routes were operating:

    • North Yonge C rush-hour frequency increased and there were more Newmarket-Finch B trips.
    • Highway 400 Expresses to downtown Toronto service cancelled with all Highway 400 trips now originating and terminating at Yorkdale.
    • Hwy2 Oshawa-Pickering service upgraded; Oshawa-Pickering-Yorkdale frequency increased; new rush-hour service between Ajax and Pickering via Hwy. 2; revised Oshawa-Toronto service via Don Valley Parkway (DVP) but service downtown via Kingston Road routing discontinued.

    Major expansion occurred on September 7th, 1982 with the opening of two new GO Train lines and adjustments to area bus services. The new trains came from the takeover by GO of the former VIA Rail Barrie and Stouffville commuter routes which were abandoned by VIA.

    • A shortened Barrie rail line was operated to Bradford and was routed Union - Maple - King City - Aurora - Newmarket - Bradford. From there, bus connections were made north through Churchill, Stroud, Painswick and Barrie via Hwy11. A single inbound and outbound trip operated on weekdays. All former stations of the old VIA Barrie line south of Bradford were served with the exception of the St. Clair station in Toronto which was bypassed by GO (and last used by VIA September 3rd when the final Barrie train ran).
    • The Stouffville line was routed Union - Agincourt - Milliken - Unionville - Markham - Stouffville with bus connections to Goodwood and Uxbridge with a single inbound and outbound train per weekday.
    • The abandoned VIA service to Havelock was not taken over although a new GO train service to Peterborough remains a hopeful possibility to this day.

    On January 17th, 1983, a replacement Newmarket Bus Terminal was opened on Hwy9 just west of Yonge St. This replaced the original terminal which was in an old car dealership on the southwest corner of Hwy9 & Yonge. This facility had become increasingly overcrowded. Ten buses had been stored there at the start of service in 1970 which had grown to 34 by this time. The official opening was not until June 17th of that year.

    go-1511-newmarket-19810625.jpg

    GO Transit # 1511, an Orion 01.505 is seen at the old Newmarket GO Bus Terminal on June 25, 1981. The bus is signed for Bradford via A. Kevin Nicol photo.

    Service adjustments on March 7th,1983 saw two new bus runs added to Oshawa - Yorkdale/York Mills via Scarborough Town Centre bus to serve new offices of provincial Ministry of Revenue which relocated there.

    The Stouffville "train-meet" bus was discontinued due to low ridership around that time.

    A major shift in the structure of GO occurred in January 1984 when GO assumed full operation of the Richmond Hill (via Bayview) and Uxbridge bus corridors. The service agreement with the operator Travelways was terminated with expiration of the contract. For this, GO hired its first bus drivers with 12 full-time and 4 part-time drivers who became employees effective January 28th to work on the former Travelways routes.

    The Newmarket corridor would follow next on April 28th, 1985 when GO took direct control of this corridor from Gray Coach. This included all driving, planning and administration of the route which GCL had been operating since 1970.

    At this time, Hamilton, Georgetown, Oshawa corridors still operated by GCL while Charterways operated the Oshawa-Bowmanville route. In January 1985, GO also assumed central radio dispatch for the entire bus network from GCL. Many of the new GO staff were former GCL & TTC employees.

    These changes signaled that GO was maturing and that the era of 'confederated bus routes' was drawing to a close as operation was brought in-house. No doubt, the elimination of Gray Coach staff from Toronto's commuter services hastened the decline of this pioneer coach company and eliminated an important revenue stream for it and the TTC.

    The big news for spring 1983 included the installation of a 'prototype' hook on bus 1110 to test distribution of the GONews information pamphlet. The pamphlet was to be made available across the system instead of just Union Station if test is successful. Interesting that such an event was even recorded. More important news was that GO buses were being rebuilt and painted to bring about newer standard look to fleet.

    In September 1983, it was announced that ten GO buses had been leased to Travelways and had been spotted in Kincardine and Lindsay and elsewhere. These buses were to remain in service until Travelways received an order for new buses.

    GO started using Adult Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) cleaning staff in December 1983 for the maintenance of 27 GO passenger shelters between Pickering & Oshawa including shelters at Whitby & Oshawa GO stations. Use of ARC began 1977 on North Yonge bus route and expanded to shelters in Mississauga, Milton, Georgetown and Acton areas. The Lakeshore East addition brought ARC's total to 90% of the GO bus shelters.

    GO Transit was still offering Bus Parcel Express (BPX) service to and from select locations on the GO network. Although typically associated with mainline coach companies, BPX was an ongoing sideline since the beginning of GO and would have benefitted from connections with the Gray Coach network.

    Another revenue source was equipment rentals during the Holiday season when much of the commuter fleet would have been sitting idle. For the 1983 holiday season, GO buses were rented to Gray Coach, VIA Rail, Voyageur, and Simcoe Coach Lines. Seasonal service reductions and rental fees amounted to over $100,000 revenue for GO during the holidays.

    The new Scarborough Town Centre (STC) Terminal opened to GO on October 15th, 1984 and was shared by TTC, and others and had six bays for GO buses. The initial arrangement was primitive with ticket sales out of temporary trailer at the platform's east end.An outdoor waiting area with canopy and a small indoor waiting area were also provided. The terminal was adjacent to the new TTC Scarborough Rapid Transit line (TTC RT line) which officially opened March 22, 1985.

    With the TTC RT opening, GO implemented major changes on the Uxbridge corridor. Effective March 23rd, 1985, all GO weekday, evening and weekend Uxbridge trips originated and terminated at STC bus terminal instead of downtown. Peak hour Express buses were still to travel downtown but schedules were adjusted to reflect the worsening traffic on the Don Valley Parkway. And the downtown surcharge (by now 60c) was being applied to all downtown fares as a viable transit alternative was now available. The GO service schedule was now 10 minutes faster to downtown, but traffic conditions often did not allow this.

    New ticket machines were installed in the spring of 1985 on 21 buses on the Georgetown and Uxbridge corridors. These were Australian made micro-processor ticket printing machines which replaced the older mechanical fare registers. The test was to last six months.

    By this time, the Toronto-Hamilton Express bus service was rebranded as City Link Hamilton express service and service was improved with extra trips. For the most part, new buses were assigned to this route before being distributed throughout the rest of the GO network.

    The year 1985 would also see the acquisition of 5 Orion 40' transit buses for use on the Yonge A, B, and C corridors. Ontario Bus Industries had pioneered the small bus market at the time with the 30' Orion 1 originally debuting in 1976. The 35' bus would be developed in 1980 followed by a 40' bus in 1984. The 40' bus would remain at 96" wide, despite the standard 102" width for this vehicle at the time. This limited sales somewhat, but nevertheless, GO Transit tried out five of the vehicles, which would be followed by twelve more two years later.

    The Late 1980s

    During the mid-1980s, the intercity bus industry was changing. The 102" width (8.5') versus the normal 96" width (8') was being developed. While the extra 6" may not seem like a lot, the extra width resulted in 1.25" per seat and 1" additional for the aisle. Manufacturers were also looking at 2 axle coaches, versus the standard 3 axle coach at the time. This request was mainly requested by New York City commuter companies as tolls for bridges and tunnels were based on the number of axles.

    One new bus tested (but not purchased) in early 1986 was an Eagle 10S demonstrator (numbered 1770) which ran in service for three for three weeks over most of the routing and logged 9000km. The coach was manufactured in Texas by Eagle International Inc and was marketed in Canada by Ontario Bus Industries.

    MCI also provided one of their new commuter models, the 102A2 for demonstration. Vehicle # 8605 was tested in service during April 1986. GO Transit had also tested a two axle 96A2 bus during late 1984, numbered 1760.

    Modest expansion (and some contraction) occurred in spurts over the next few years:

    • October 1987 brought adjustments to the Oakville-Hamilton bus schedules with expansion of Lakeshore West train service and the addition of a third Hamilton through train.
    • Also on that date Highway 403 bus service starts to Oakville-Mississauga-Yorkdale-York Mills.
    • Palgrave - Toronto GO bus via Nobleton, Bolton and Kleinburg was started May 02 1988 with GO service to Yorkdale/York Mills. The new GO service (2 trips a day) was added alongside the established route of Penetang Midland Coach Lines (PMCL) which operated through service to Collingwood. PMCL operated several trips a day via Pearson Airport (GO runs did not) and terminated at Bay/Dundas terminal. GO tickets were valid on buses of either operator.
    • Proof of Payment (POP) went system wide on the GO network eff. October 30th, 1988. Bus tickets now had to be bought and used at time of purchase thus return tickets were no longer available. However, 10 ride ticket books and monthly passes were still available. POP bus tickets differed from POP rail tickets and were not valid for use on the other transport mode.
    • The Train-Bus concept was introduced January 1989 which established daytime and evening GO bus service from Union Station to selected stations on Georgetown and Stouffville lines in the early evening after normal rush hour.
    • On December 30th, 1989 GO took over direct operation of Oshawa corridor bus services from both Gray Coach and Charterways. With this, all GO Bus services were now directly operated by GO Transit.

    Into the 1990s

    The early 1990s saw further expansion of the GO Train service with minor bus changes as needed:

    • Lakeshore East GO Train was extended to Oshawa as of October 1st, 1990 with one eastbound and one westbound train each weekday. The Oshawa station is shared with VIA Rail. Shuttle buses were operated between Whitby and new Oshawa rail station.
    • Georgetown GO Train service was also extended to Guelph and Acton with revenue service beginning October 29th, 1990. Service consisted of one westbound and one eastbound train each weekday. One Georgetown Train-bus trip was also extended to serve Acton and Guelph.
    • Lakeshore West GO Trains were extended from Oakville to Burlington (the final push to Aldershot opened a few months later) and hourly daytime rail service on the Lakeshore rail line was introduced May 23, 1992. With this, GO abandoned the Toronto - Hamilton Lakeshore bus service which operated along old Hwy2. The QEW City Link Express buses were unaffected. This Hwy2 line was a pioneer coach route in the Toronto area served by some of the very first bus operators in the province. It was also traversed by the first TTC interurban coach route in 1926 and was a key part of the formation of Gray Coach Lines in 1927.It had been operated by GO since 1970 but by 1992 travel patterns had changed - local transit now handled most of the short trips and the GO train had now become the prime mover for longer trips along that corridor. The last day of GO Hwy2 west service was May 23rd, the same day of the train extension opening. GO anticipated annual savings of $800,000 by withdrawing the service.
    • The route was not yet dead however as Gray Coach Lines Inc. (under Stagecoach management) stepped in to operate it under the Gray Coach Transit banner. Alas, the line continued to be a losing proposition and GC Transit ceased Lakeshore West service a few months later on September 05, 1992. GCL Inc. declared bankruptcy summer 1992 and the remnants were purchased by Greyhound Lines of Canada October 1992.

    Other changes rolled out in October 1992 included:

    • Lakeshore East peak period "train-meet" bus service begins between Burlington GO Station and east Hamilton (Eastgate Square) via QEW.
    • New train-bus service between Richmond Hill GO Station and Union Station via Highway 404 and Don Valley Parkway. Weekday service.
    • Palgrave / Bolton service rerouted via Woodbridge.

    And in November:

    • In November 1992 expanded Newmarket bus service introduced from Newmarket Terminal via Aurora, Richmond Hill GO Station, Langstaff GO Station using Hwy#404 to Toronto Union. Evening service added as well
    • Also, new weekday service from Newmarket Terminal to Scarborough Town Centre via Aurora, Richmond Hill GO Station, via Yonge Street, Major Mackenzie, Hwys #404 and 401.
    • Effective July 05, 1993 direct bus service between Richmond Hill and STC was discontinued but Richmond Hill - Newmarket section via Yonge St to remain to provide connection to Richmond Hill train.
    • Hwy404 Express Newmarket-Richmond Hill-Toronto Union cut back to one NB evening trip
    • Also, consolidation of some other North Corridor trips to streamline operations.

    During the early 1990s, GO Transit entered into an agreement with the Hamilton Street Railway Company to store some vehicles at their new garage at 330 Wentworth Street North. The new HSR garage had opened on December 30, 1989. The agreement allowed 4 rows (eight vehicles long) of interior garage space to be allocated to GO Transit. GO Transit would continue to use this facility, even after HSR consolidated all their operations to the Mountain Garage in the summer of 2000. GO would eventually move out of the HSR garage when their new facility opened in Waterdown.

    Unfortunately, during the early 1990s, poor economic conditions eventually caught up with GO Transit and in July 1993, many service cuts were implemented:

    • Off-peak Burlington-Oakville and Pickering-Whitby train service discontinued. Replacement bus service implemented.
    • Train service to Acton and Guelph discontinued July 2, 1993.
    • Train service to Barrie discontinued July 2, 1993. Replacement of express bus service from Barrie to King City GO Station implemented.
    • Newmarket-STC via Richmond Hill GO Station & Highway 404 GO Bus service discontinued.
    • Richmond Hill-Union Station train-bus service cut back to one evening trip.
    • Uxbridge-Downtown fare surcharge applied to Uxbridge-Downtown Toronto service.

    The service cuts during the early 1990s also affected the size of the bus fleet. The fleet had gradually expanded during the late 1980s. The MCI 102A2 was the standard of the fleet with 69 vehicles being purchased between 1987 and 1991. The GMC New Look buses, except for the ones used for the Yonge/Bayview A, B and C services, were gradually withdrawn. The final ones were replaced by 52 New Flyer D40 Suburban buses purchased in 1991. With the service cuts, GO would not acquire any more coaches for the fleet until 1997.

    Further cuts came in September 1993:

    • Burlington GO Station-Hamilton (Eastgate Square) bus service discontinued.
    • Palgrave-Bolton bus service discontinued.
    • King-Maple bus service discontinued.
    • Uxbridge-Downtown Toronto bus service discontinued. The Uxbridge - Markham - STC GO bus still operating. Trentway-Wagar Coach Lines immediately stepped in to assume the abandoned GO route with minor schedule changes but same fares.

    Effective Saturday, January 7th, 1995:

    • Select weekday Barrie-Bradford-Yorkdale via Hwy400 extended to Finch Terminal via North York Centre.
    • Oakville West Station renamed Bronte Station.

    Effective January 9th, 1995:

    • Lakeshore East peak hour train service was extended to Oshawa from Whitby. Off peak & Weekend Train Meet buses continued to link Pickering with Ajax, Whitby and Oshawa stations as well as Oshawa downtown terminal, Courtice and Bowmanville. The offsite Oshawa GO ticket booth at Simcoe & Hwy401 was to be closed and the site to become a MTO carpool lot.
    • North Yonge C service route extended to Bernard Ave. from Richmond Heights Centre with opening of new Bernard Loop.

    In May 1995, the GO Bus network was described as having nine corridors, 1200 bus trips serving almost 1600 km of routes.

    Effective April 27th, 1996:

    • Hamilton GO Centre opens to buses in former TH&B downtown station. Replaces former CN station located to the north of downtown. Opened to GO train service two days later on April 29th.

    Major expansion occurred in early in 1999 as follows:

    Effective January 2nd, 1999:

    • New Port Perry bus service to provide a daily train-meet connection with the Whitby GO Station during peak periods and at the Pickering GO Station during off-peak periods. Peak hour trips will serve the full route: Beaverton - Wilfrid - Sunderland - Greenbank - Port Perry - Myrtle - Brooklin - Whitby GO Stn while off peak trips will operate Port Perry - Whitby GO - Pickering GO.
    • New Richmond Hill - Toronto weekend bus service (via Hwy404) as well as improved weekday service.
    • New Stouffville - Toronto weekend bus service (including Markham & Unionville) (via Hwy404) as well as improved weekday service.

    Effective January 4th, 1999:

    • New Orangeville bus service to provide a weekday-only train-meet connection with the Georgetown trains at the Brampton GO Station (Bus Terminal) via Snelgrove, Victoria, and Caledon to Orangeville using Highway #10.
    • New Bolton bus service to provide a train-meet connection with the Georgetown trains at the Etobicoke North GO Station and continue in service to the Yorkdale and the York Mills Bus Terminals. Operates from Bolton via Nobleton, Kleinburg, Woodbridge, Hwy27/Humber College Blvd., Etobicoke North GO Station, Yorkdale & York Mills using Hwy50, Hwy27 & Hwy401 on weekdays only.
    • New Beaverton bus service via Pefferlaw as an extension of the existing Sutton, Keswick & Newmarket bus begins as a weekday only route. In a network that was growing such as this, Bus Residency positions were increasingly used where buses were stored at various terminus points and local drivers of that area are scheduled to operate the early inbound trips and late outbound trips so as to avoid costly deadheading. Co-incident with the commencement of the Beaverton service, a new Beaverton residency position was created with four driver positions expected to become available. Buses were initially stored outdoors overnight at Lodwick Transport's yard located in south Beaverton.

    The GO Transit operation was officially transferred from TATOA to Greater Toronto Transit Authority eff. August 07, 1999 as part of provincial downloading. This placed GO under municipal ownership and made the cities and regions responsible for funding as part of a major political realignment for GO.

    A downturn in the economy since 1991 had prevented GO from obtaining new buses for several years. Then, as the provincial government prepared to shift responsibility for GO Transit to the municipalities, it again prohibited the buying of new buses during the transition period. Despite this, demand for transit grew, and GO purchased used buses in 1997 and 1998.

    Thus, to handle the expansion made during the mid-1990s GO acquired 'new' additional buses in the form of 15 second-hand 1990 MCI 102A3 buses, numbered 1500-1514, which were purchased used in 1997. The buses were previously used by Woodlands Express, a commuter operation in the Houston, Texas area. These buses would introduce a new paint scheme for GO Transit. The "Toronto Skyline" scheme would debut on these coaches, except for 1506, which would retain the former green/white stripe scheme.

    A second group of used buses would be acquired in 1998. Twelve 1993 MCI 102C3 buses (1520-1531) that formerly operated for Starline Sightseeing Tours Inc. (of Los Angeles, CA) entered service. These buses had fully painted sides, instead of the standard silver siding on all previous GO highway coaches.

    In late May 1999, the International Union of Public Transport's (UITP) 53rd Congress and City Transport Exhibition was held at the Toronto Convention Centre. This event, held worldwide every two years, was held in Toronto for the first time. On display were subway cars, light rail cars, and buses from all over the world.

    The Prevost Car (Sainte-Claire, QC) booth displayed a brand new GO Transit Prevost LeMirage XL. The bus featured a wheelchair lift in the side of the coach which would allow GO Transit to offer accessible service to the bus network. The pilot bus, the first of an order of 20, was numbered 1600. Accessible service had been implemented at 10 GO train stations effective June 1, 1995.

    A one-time $106.5 million transition fund was provided by the Ontario government of which $55 million went toward GO Transit's share of Toronto's purchase of Union Station.Much of this funding was used to eliminate the curb loading at Union Station and instead build proper bus terminal there. The Train-Bus service, which loaded on street, near Union Station was becoming very congested.

    The New Millennium

    On September 27, 2001, the Province announced that it would take back responsibility for GO Transit and would put $3 billion into public transit in Ontario.

    GO acknowledged that most of the future growth in the outer communities (at least in the short term) was going to be accomplished through expansion of the bus network. Options such as leasing buses to accomplish this were considered although new bus purchases were soon able to proceed.

    On May 1st, 2000, all day weekday GO Train service was reintroduced Burlington-Oshawa although weekend train service was still to be Oakville-Pickering with bus extensions to Hamilton and now Newcastle in the east.

    Accessible Bus Service was introduced on GO on a limited basis on the Hamilton - Toronto QEW Express effective June 24th, 2000. Accessible stops initially were only available at Hamilton GO Centre (Hunter & James) and Toronto Elizabeth St Terminal. Most scheduled trips were accessible (but not all) and the service was assigned new Prevost lift equipped 1600 series coaches.

    The year 2000 also saw the departure of the GMC New Look series of buses. The 1100 series transit buses used on the Yonge/Bayview corridors in Richmond Hill would finally be withdrawn from service after approximately 23 years of service. The buses were replaced by Orion V buses, numbered 1150-1163. Ten more Orion V buses, for use on the Bayview and Yonge corridors, would be acquired in 2002.

    The 1991 New Flyer D40 Suburban buses started showing signs of severe corrosion in the 1999/2000 timeframe. The buses were scheduled for a midlife refurbishing which was cancelled when the corrosion issues became apparent. Instead, most of the buses were retired during 1999 and 2000, but some lasted until 2003. Due to the relatively young age of the buses, a number were resold to other companies. Brampton Transit, Markham Transit and Transport Thom (Gatineau, QC) were among the companies that purchased some of the withdrawn vehicles. The buses would have a short second life at most of these companies.

    The early 2000s was a period of fleet expansion as more and more funding became available for new vehicle purchases. Orion V suburban coaches (#2000-2029) were delivered between 2000 and 2004. These buses replaced the New Flyer D40 buses and were used across the whole system.

    go-2107-union-stn-20010526.jpg

    Brand new MCI 102DL3 # 2107 is seen eastbound on Front Street with Union Station in the background on May 26, 2001. The GO Transit Train-Bus service departed from Union Station which would eventually necessitate a separate off street facility to alleviate congestion on both the roadway and sidewalks surrounding the station. These buses were the first 45' coaches in the fleet, setting the standard for the fleet of today. Kevin Nicol photo.

    A significant addition was made to GO Transit routing with the inauguration of Highway 407 Express services along this new east-west corridor effective September 5th, 2000. Initial service was between Oakville GO and Unionville GO with stops at Square One, Bramalea, York University & Thornhill. Anticipated that toll costs to be $50,000 per year as the Provincial Government had privatized this Ontario highway by this time. All buses serving this route would be equipped with a transponder. Although GO was already providing east-west service across the top of the city, this new corridor was more northerly and cut through rapidly developing areas of the region. It also was the start of GO service to York University which complimented GO's efforts to better connect all the universities and colleges in its area. Thus, GO was now evolving from a Downtown-Toronto based commuter service (a radial pattern) to a cross-border transit system which served the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

    The year 2001 would see the first purchase of 45' commuter coaches (5' longer than the MC8 and MC9 buses in the fleet). The intercity coach industry had switched to a longer 45' coach during the mid-1990s. GO Transit ordered 14, numbered 2100-2113 which were delivered in early 2001. The MCI 102DL3 bus, followed by the D4500, would become the standard of the GO fleet for the next decade and a half. GO Transit would eventually purchase over 500 of the 45' MCI commuter coaches. The coaches are equipped with wheelchair lifts making them fully accessible to all customers.

    During the early 2000s, expansion included:

    • January 2002 - Highway 407 GO Bus extended to Scarborough Town Centre.
    • May/June 2002 - Double-decker bus trial on Yonge St. services takes place using a BC Transit bus. GO ultimately buys an initial order of 12 and deliveries of subsequent orders are still ongoing in 2020.
    • April 29th, 2002 - Highway 407 GO Bus extended beyond Square One in Mississauga to Oakville and Hamilton including stops at McMaster University and Sheridan College; and beyond STC to Pickering, including stops at Centennial College's Progress campus, and UofT at Scarborough.
    • New bus service between Newmarket and north Toronto via Hwy 404, serving the Beaver Creek business area and Seneca College's Newnham campus.
    • December 12th, 2005 - opening of a new Square One Terminal (Mississauga).
    • September 3rd, 2007 - new University of Guelph bus service connecting UofG to Square One via Cooksville and Aberfoyle. As well, the Highway407 Express route serving the Meadowvale and Bramalea GO stations and York University was extended to the University of Guelph. A new park-and-ride facility was also built in Aberfoyle near the 401, which doubles as a storage facility for GO buses in the Guelph area.

    December 2006 - new high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on segments of Hwys403 & 404 were opened on these provincial highways which certainly helped to speed up GO buses. Existing Bus-Bypass Shoulder (BBS) lanes on parts of Hwy403 were also in use and GO encouraged the City of Toronto to install these transit-only lanes on the Don Valley Parkway (a municipal road) which was soon done. GO reported that these HOV and BBS lanes shaved an average of 10 to 15 minutes off travel times.

    The new Union Station Bus Terminal was officially opened March 17, 2003 although service began Labour Day weekend 2002 with the relocation of Hamilton Express coaches there from the Elizabeth Street Terminal. Front Street curbside departures (ongoing since September 1970) were finally eliminated as of March 3, 2003 when all remaining service relocated to new terminal. This centralized downtown Toronto GO bus operations and closed the GO Elizabeth Street Terminal adjacent to the main Bay/Dundas coach terminal. The new Union Terminal was constructed on the location of the old CP Express loading docks between Bay and Yonge Streets but will soon be replaced later in 2020.

    Other infrastructure was soon required too as GO had long ago outgrown the Steeprock Garage in terms of location and size. The Newmarket garage, already several years old was also the same. New storage locations were acquired as of Aug 30, 2003 at Mississauga Truck & Bus (MTB) at Britannia & Mavis (operated as a satellite of the Brampton Division) and at the Ajax Transit Garage (operated as a satellite of the Oshawa Division). The Whitby storage garage was to be closed. Additional garages and storage sites were continually added as needed as well as a new western garage which did not open until 2008 in Waterdown.

    Bus route numbers were introduced on GO bus services commencing in April 2007 but took over four years to be fully implemented across the network. The old designations, which worked well when buses served a few defined corridors, were becoming less relevant as new routes travelled across regions and by-passed Toronto altogether. As well, some routes operated multiple branches which could now be better identified. Route designations were as follows:

    • 01 series - GO Rail Lines
    • 10 series - West Corridor including Niagara
    • 20 series - Milton Corridor including Kitchener & Cambridge
    • 30 series - Kitchener Corridor
    • 40 series - Hwy407 West
    • 50 series - Hwy407 East
    • 60 series - North Corridor
    • 70 series - Stouffville Corridor
    • 80 series - Northeast including Peterborough
    • 90 series - East Corridor

    LOCAL OPERATION

    As many of the outer regions matured, local transit was growing along what had traditionally been suburban throughfares. In York Region, York Region Transit (YRT) had amalgamated several smaller transit systems there and was now looking to lay the groundwork for a regional Bus Rapid Transit network. A key component was the Yonge Street Corridor, and after some negotiation GO reluctantly ceded the Yonge C and Bayview bus services to YRT, which included the sale of the transit-style buses used exclusively there. The transfer was effective August 30th, 2003 and initial service levels and routing was unchanged although the routes were renamed, and the buses given a new YRT livery. GO Newmarket B service via Yonge was unaffected and remained a GO Transit route.

    Other GO routes handed off to YRT included the 69 Sutton / Newmarket line between Sutton and Newmarket. Starting September 2nd, 2012 service was replaced by YRT 50 Queensway route and extended to Pefferlaw. To serve territory beyond Pefferlaw, GO Transit introduced a short 80 Beaverton / Pefferlaw route, but this too was taken in by YRT the following year. A more direct GO route from Keswick to Finch Terminal via Hwy404 was introduced at that time to satisfy commuter needs.

    In the east, local transit was also evolving too. Realizing that the several small transit systems of Durham Region were likely missing out on available transit funding, local authorities there voted to merge them into a single Durham Region Transit (DRT). Plans for a BRT style service (and the anticipated provincial funding) soon followed which resulted in the loss to GO of the Hwy2 east local service through Oshawa, Whitby and Ajax and was replaced by a new route 900 DRT Pulse service. This occurred June 29th, 2013 and resulted in a realignment of area routes by GO.

    • GO route #94 Oshawa - Yorkdale was cancelled
    • GO route #95 Oshawa - Finch Terminal was cancelled (Route introduced April 28 2007)
    • New GO route #92 Oshawa - Yorkdale introduced on Hwy 2 / Hwy 401 via STC & York Mills
    • New GO route #98 Pickering - Finch Express route introduced
    • GO route #96 Oshawa - Finch Express has service increased. (Route introduced April 28, 2007)

    Other notable events during this period included:

    • Improvements to the train network that year included full GO train service along the Lakeshore West line to Aldershot eff. October 28, 2007.
    • The extension of the Bradford GO Train line to Barrie South GO Station, restoring GO train service to Barrie after a 14 year gap on December 17, 2007.
    • Direct GO service to Pearson Airport with the introduction of a new GO route #40 Richmond Hill Centre - Square One via Pearson Airport which commenced April 26, 2008. It was operated in addition to the GO Route #34 Finch - Yorkdale - Pearson Airport which mostly duplicated one of the former Gray Coach Airport Express routes of an earlier era. Airport connections were further enhanced September 15th, 2015 with the extension of the Route #40 to Hamilton GO Centre via Hwy407 giving that city a direct connection to the Airport.
    • The addition of Train-meet bus service between Burlington & Stoney Creek (new Rte #12), and between Bronte & Milton GO stations on June 28, 2008.
    • GO Transit was merged with Metrolinx, a crown corporation responsible for transit planning and funding allocation on May 14, 2009.
    • New Streetsville GO garage and new Ajax GO Garage in 2009. The Streetsville garage (6190 Mississauga Road in Streetsville) had a capacity for over 200 coaches. It was designed to be fully compatible for double-deck buses, which were part of the fleet since 2008. The Streetsville garage opened on February 28, 2009.

    The fleet at GO Transit would undergo changes during the years of 2007 and 2008. MCI buses # 2328-2353, delivered starting in June 2007, displayed a revised paint scheme. The "Toronto Skyline" scheme was replaced with a green stripe "swoop" scheme.

    In 2008, the first double-deck bus would be delivered to GO Transit. Dennis Alexander Enviro500 # 8000 was delivered in March of that year.

    The Enviro500 double-deck coach was 4.255 metres (13', 11.5") in height. This exceeded the allowable vehicle height of 4.15 metres for Ontario highways, as per guidelines of the Ministry of Transportation Ontario (MTO). To receive the necessary approval to operate the vehicle, GO Transit had to define a "geo-fence" corridor where the buses could operate. If a bus deviated from the regular route, the GO Transit control centre would receive a notification. Controllers on site would have the ability to shut down the engine remotely. As a result, the buses were restricted only to western highway 407 routes (45, 46, and 48B) and would eventually also be used on route 12 to Niagara Falls in the summer months. GO would eventually receive 22 of the E500 buses (8000-8021).

    The second generation of the Enviro500 would be the "Go Anywhere" variant. Alexander Dennis re-engineered the bus to be slightly lower and it came in at a height of 4.149 metres (13', 7.375"). This height was just under the legal height of 4.15 metres and thus could be used on additional routes across the GO Network. The bus was still too high for some of the major terminals, however (York Mills Subway Station, Hamilton GO Terminal and Yorkdale Bus Terminal). GO would eventually receive 105 of the E500 "Go Anywhere" model (8101-8205, bus 8125 was originally numbered 8100).

    The second order of Enviro 500 "Go Anywhere" buses (8126-8165) were delivered in Metrolinx colors of two tone green and white stripes. The buses still displayed a prominent GO logo at the front of the bus but also had a smaller Metrolinx logo on each side near the rear wheels.

    GO pushed out into new territory in 2009 in several directions:

    • GO expanded south-east into the Niagara Region June 27, 2009. In an unusual tactic, GO introduced summertime weekend GO Train service Toronto-Niagara Falls with four trains per day, per direction aimed at the tourist market. GO Bus service was also inaugurated at that time with a summertime route #12 service operating Toronto-Niagara Falls (via St. Catharines) to augment the train service. On September 5th, 2009, the new GO bus #12 Niagara Falls - Burlington GO via Stoney Creek, Grimsby, St. Catharines & Niagara Falls Bus Terminal was made permanent with additional short-turn service between Grimsby and Burlington GO Station Mondays to Fridays. The Niagara service was met with criticism from Coach Canada which was operating a parallel line-haul coach service and did not appreciate the competition from a subsidized service like GO. Nonetheless, Coach Canada (and subsidiary Megabus) continued and marketed their schedules and service heavily (which were not geared for the commuter in any event).
    • GO bus service to Peterborough commenced September 4th, 2009 connecting this city with the Oshawa GO Station. The line operated via Hwy35/115 & Hwy401 and served several Park&Ride lots enroute as well as Trent University.
    • On October 31st, 2009 Kitchener-Waterloo bus service via Cambridge, Aberfoyle, Milton to Square One commenced. The Waterloo area was rapidly becoming an important IT hub and good connections to the rest of the GTA was now a priority. GO rail service soon followed to Kitchener (via Guelph) on December 19th, 2011 by extending the Georgetown Line (now known as the Kitchener Line), restoring daily commuter train service to Guelph after a gap of 18 years.

    In 2012 GO implemented an automated bus location and dispatching system and a centralized Train/Bus Real Time Schedule Information system. This allowed for instantaneous tracking of all service enabling automated on-board next-stop announcements and data to support customer service apps.

    Building on the success of the Niagara Falls service, GO introduced a new route #11 Niagara-on-the-Lake - St. Catharines bus. It commenced June 23rd, 2012 running until Labour Day September 3rd. The summer only route operated Friday evenings, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays and connected with GO trains at the St. Catharines VIA Rail Station operating express to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

    A push further west was made as GO Transit buses began to operate from downtown Brantford to Aldershot GO station (Burlington) via McMaster University starting September 3rd, 2016. Service operates all day - 7 days a week via Hwy403. This expansion was the result of a push by Brantford city council to get GO service and reflects the growing footprint of the Toronto region.

    In mid-2011, GO Transit issued an RFP (Request for Proposal) for a new type of commuter coach. The RFP stated that the vehicle had to be low floor and 45' long. The requested height was lower than 13' which would allow the vehicle to be used at any GO Terminal, including Yorkdale, York Mills and Hamilton. At the time, there was no North American manufacturer offering a low floor highway coach.

    Alexander-Dennis was the only manufacturer to reply to the RFP. They responded with the Enviro500 SuperLo which again re-engineered their double-deck bus. The SuperLo has a height of 3.91 metres (12'10"). A contract was awarded to Alexander-Dennis for 253 coaches, to be delivered over 5 years with the option for an additional 150 buses. The first SuperLo entered service during the summer of 2016 and they have quickly become the standard of the fleet. By early 2018, GO Transit had received enough SuperLo buses that the original Enviro500 buses (8000-8021) were withdrawn from service which was earlier than anticipated.

    Since 1970, the GO bus network has continually grown and in 50 years has evolved from a few routes along three defined corridors to become a true network of routes throughout central-southern Ontario. Although the original premise of a downtown Toronto-based commuter system still holds true for many, GO Transit has grown with the urban expansion to provide a multi-regional, multi-directional transit system beyond Toronto's borders. In this regard, the GO bus service has totally succeeded in linking communities and individuals as they travel for school, work and recreation throughout what is now termed the Greater Golden Horseshoe area.

    In 2020, GO continues to plan for the future with several ongoing initiatives including expanded GO Train service, electrification of rail lines, ongoing bus fleet replacement, a new Toronto-Union bus terminal and more. No doubt the impacts of Covid will delay some plans and introduce new priorities but it is clear that population growth, urban growth and the need for efficient affordable travel will not slow and cannot be ignored.

    As a final thought, we should remember that GO Transit remains firmly tied in with Metrolinx and the provincial government, which has taken on various Toronto LRT lines and other transit projects elsewhere. Although GO operations are still focused on Greater Toronto / Golden Horseshoe area, could the benefits of GO be spread elsewhere throughout the province? In June, a small fleet of GO buses were sent down to the Leamington area to assist with the movement of migrant farm workers affected by Covid. In the north, GO Transit and Ontario Northland have partnered to offer combined train-bus service north from the GTA, to Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Huntsville and North Bay. And now, with the ongoing withdrawal of highway bus service from Ontario's small towns, will GO Transit (or Ontario Northland - the other provincially owned bus/train service) be asked to service these former coach routes or partner on other initiatives? It has been a busy 50 years but the next 50 may prove to be even more active!