GO Transit bus drivers reflect on a changing commute

How trip times, driver and passenger behaviours have evolved in the GTHA

Veteran GO Transit bus drivers say they’ve witnessed a surge in congestion in recent years during their daily drive but a boom in infrastructure spending has made their life on the highway feasible.

Gary Styles, a 30-year veteran bus driver out of Brampton, says congestion isn’t new for roadways in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) but bumper-to-bumper traffic is at a new high.

He names Highway 401 between Milton and Guelph Line as one of the worst pinch points. “There are more cars but there’s more highway,” Styles said. “If the 407 was not here, I can’t imagine where we’d be at.”

Anthony Downey has been driving out of Oshawa for 17 years and agrees that traffic is increasing, especially along routes that travel eastbound on the 401.

“It’s increased two-fold, I would say,” Downey said. “This year in the summer, after July 1st, traffic on the 401 normally would be lighter. Not this year. It’s like rush hour daily.”

When veteran driver Mile Kopac reflects back on his 30 years behind the wheel, what moves him most is thinking about his passengers. He used to think of the men and women he ferried around as his friends. He recalls sometimes even going for a coffee with the most amiable regulars but not anymore.

“Everyone is plugged in,” Kopac said. “Everyone is minding their own business. Everyone is texting.”

Styles said driving behaviours have also changed. He said he’s seeing more and more incompetent motorists, like those who abuse the left lane or don’t look in their mirrors and drive like they have tunnel vision.

“People don’t know how to merge,” Styles said. “They don’t know how to yield.”

Below are a few routes that have seen the some of the biggest changes in the past 30 years, according to those in GO Transit’s Bus Operations Planning department.

 Most Improved Route Award: 

  • Hamilton QEW Toronto Route 16: Rush hour travel times improved and stabilized significantly when the QEW High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes opened up between Brant Road and Trafalgar in 2011.
  • Mississauga Hwy 403 North York Route 19: Rush hour travel times stabilized for the west end of the route when the Mississauga Transitway opened in 2014. 

Grab a Book, This is Going to Take a While: 

  • Most of the Hwy 401 services into North York: The 401 does not have any HOV or Bus Bypass Shoulders (BBS) priority travel lanes in the Toronto area and their travel times continue to increase. This includes Routes 19, 27, 33, 36, 92 and 96.
  • Interestingly enough, when the Pan Am Games were held in Toronto in 2015, the Ministry of Transportation created temporary HOV lanes on Hwy 401. Some trips saw reductions of up to 30 minutes in their travel times.