It is one of GO Transit’s most frequently asked customer questions: what happened to express trains and when are they coming back? The answer to that depends on what GO Train line you use. Let’s find out why.
Express lanes, express buses, express trains – people like services that get them there faster.
GO Transit customers are no exception.
Throughout the pandemic, Metrolinx adjusted GO Transit service across the board to respond to fluctuating ridership. Now, trains and buses are busier, and ridership is growing toward pre-pandemic levels.
GO Transit has gradually increased service as well, but without express trains on the Lakeshore West, Lakeshore East and Kitchener Lines. The reasons differ by line, but overall, it comes down to ridership and resources.
GO Transit is continually keeping an eye on ridership levels as well as new travel patterns. With that in mind, GO Transit schedules are designed to prioritize frequency of service based on the resources available. This strategy helps to ensure that as service is added, it meets customers where and when they need to ride.
Let’s dig more into each line to learn more.
While trains are getting busier, overall ridership is about 47 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, so scheduled express trips don’t make the best use of the trains and crews available. Metrolinx will continue to monitor ridership closely and will ramp up service in phases, including the eventual reintroduction of express trips.
Customers who take the Lakeshore East GO Train will have to do without scheduled express trains for a couple more years as Metrolinx works to bring more frequent train service and more connections to the region.
Currently, Lakeshore East customers are benefitting from two-way, all-day service, seven days a week. But construction work to expand GO Transit service is starting, which will bring customers more service in the future.
One part of that plan is the new East Harbour Transit Hub. This will be an important interchange station for the new Ontario Line subway line, more GO services, and future TTC streetcars. It will be near Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood, just east of the Don Valley Parkway and south of Eastern Avenue, on the Lakeshore East and Stouffville GO Lines.
Based on preliminary analysis, the East Harbour Transit Hub is expected to bring about 100,000 daily riders, with an approximately even split between East Harbour customers using the Ontario Line and the new GO Station (numbers are subject to change based on updated service levels). The hub will also help to reduce crowding at Union Station.
To prepare for East Harbour and the Ontario Line construction, Metrolinx is working to rearrange existing tracks along the Lakeshore East corridor. This aims to accommodate additional GO and new Ontario Line tracks.
During this work, there are two tracks available for train services while a third track is out of service, so that construction can continue without disruption.
That third track normally allows for express trains to safely pass all-stop trains that are stopped at stations. So, the removal of this track means scheduled Lakeshore East express trains will not return until sometime in 2024.
Learn more in this Metrolinx News story from late last year:
The construction plans along the Lakeshore East GO Line are part of Metrolinx’s larger plan to expand service to customers in Toronto and the surrounding areas.
The GO Expansion program, East Harbour Transit Hub, and Ontario Line subway are all part of this plan. While scheduled Lakeshore East express trains won’t run for the next couple of years, 15-minute service during the busiest times of day will continue to get GO customers where they need to go.
Why do some trains run express then?
There are times when trains will run express, unscheduled.
When delays happen, GO Transit may make the decision to run an express train to keep customers on schedule.
Hypothetically, say a Lakeshore East train is scheduled to leave Union Station at 3:35 p.m. Due to an equipment issue, the trip is delayed by 15 minutes.
If train traffic allows, GO Transit may decide to run that train express from Union Station to Pickering GO Station (bypassing Danforth, Scarborough, Eglinton, Guildwood and Rouge Hill) to keep that train and the others that follow on schedule.
Another way Metrolinx is responding to increased ridership is lengthening the busiest GO Train trips throughout July. This includes lengthening some weekday and all weekend Lakeshore East and Lakeshore West trains from 10-car trains to 12-car trains.
Some Barrie and Kitchener Line GO Train trips will also be increased from six and 10 car lengths to 12 cars long.
You can read more about these changes here.