How Toronto is Making its Commuter Rail More Like Rapid Transit

Fifteen years in the making, Toronto is finally seeing increased ridership of its main commuter rail system, GO Transit, by changing its model from primarily serving suburban commuters to providing "all-day regional transit service."
July 30, 2014, 6am PDT | Maayan Dembo | @DJ_Mayjahn
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Many commuter rail systems focus on delivering suburban workers to their downtown jobs during the morning commute times, and returning them home in the evening along those same corridors. However, most cities' urban fabric are not monocentric, and more commuters are working irregular schedules. These two factors, coupled with a growing population and ripe political climate allowed the regional transit network in Toronto, GO Transit, to increase service.

"GO has spent a decade and a half preparing for this transition, notably by increasing its ownership of track miles on which its trains run from 6% in 1998 to almost 70% today." Yonah Freemark writes. In addition, "more frequent service, potentially on electrified lines, could be coming within 10 years thanks to investments in smaller, lighter vehicles." The latest improvement—bidirectional, 30 minute, all-day service to one suburban commuter line—already raised the line's ridership by 30 percent.

As more cities consider reshaping their transit systems to accommodate growing metropolitan populations, some of Toronto's policies and programs may be helpful to implement or mimic.

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Published on Monday, July 28, 2014 in the transport politic
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