GO Transit

Bike Train Grows again

[Editors: We'd like to welcome the Bike Train staff who'll be updating us on what's new with this unique service.]

The Bike Train has come along way since its inception as a idea in founder Justin Lafontaine's head. The Bike Train now works with 3 rail companies and has routes that criss-cross the province.

Toronto Niagara GO Transit Bike Coaches

The service that began as four weekends of service to Niagara with volunteer staff and a baggage car commandeered for the occasion has now blossomed into a regular service. After 3 years of working with VIA Rail on the Toronto-Niagara route, the Bike Train is now partnering with GO Transit to service cyclists looking for transportation to the Niagara peninsula.

The expanded 2010 schedule now includes Friday evening, weekend and holiday service every weekend between May 21 and September 26. Perhaps more exciting still is the addition of 'bike coaches'. The well marked bike coaches mark a significant shift for GO Transit from a purely commuter rail service, to a holiday and outting service for those looking to escape the city by bike. Each weekend and holiday departure will feature two of the new 'bike coaches', in which the bottom row of seats on the bi-level cars have been removed and racks for 18 bikes have been installed. The Bike coaches bring the number of space for bicycles to 64 per departures, a boon for cyclists and advocates of intermodal transportation.

Bike parking is expensive? Is this journalism?

Tess Kalinowski of The Toronto Star claims that providing bike infrastructure through transit is expensive. GO Transit is putting in secured and sheltered parking throughout the system. The TTC is putting in bus bike racks on its entire fleet. The price comes out in the range of a couple thousand per spot. Tess gives some "shocking" numbers, but fails to put them in the context of the alternative - the cost of parking a bulky car:

$1,800 per cyclist using GO Transit's new secure bike lock-ups in Hamilton and Burlington, $3,700 per cyclist using GO's new bike shelters, and $1.44 million to put bike racks on about 1,600 TTC buses.

So all we know is that there is a long-term infrastructure cost of thousands of dollars. This a cost that is spread out over the lifetime of the parking. That comes to around $100 a year for some secure bike lock-ups that will surely last at least 15 years. So put in perspective it's not that much.

GO even farther with your bike this summer

Load up your bike and GO touring!Load up your bike and GO touring!
It seems that for the last couple of years, the GTA has seen a huge amount of planned and actual transit service expansion. Some of it has even been exceptionally bike-friendly, though there is also some significant community opposition in certain cases.

Yesterday, GO Transit and Minister of Transportation Jim Bradley announced that there will GO Train service to Niagara on holidays and weekends this summer.

This service will offer four trips daily on weekends and holidays in each direction between Toronto and Niagara Falls, stopping at Port Credit GO Station, Oakville GO Station, Burlington GO Station, St. Catharines rail station, and Niagara Falls rail station.

Visitors from the Niagara region will also be able to take the train to Toronto, making it a great summer travel option for people from across the region.

While this isn't a cycling-specific improvement, it definitely makes car-free travel in Southern Ontario even more accessible, especially since bicycles are allowed on board GO trains. Being a weekend- and holiday-only service, this pretty much limits it to non-commuting travel. However, this adds another exciting option for bike touring, day-trips to Niagara, and more.

Hold on a second though. What about the Bike Train? Doesn't this new GO service conflict with Justin Lafontaine's award-winning multi-modal cycle-tourism project? GO Transit service tends to be cheaper and more frequent than VIA Rail service, so will this have a negative impact on the Bike Train project? I asked Justin for his thoughts today, and here's what he had to say:

All GO Buses now have bike racks

Starting Saturday, April 25th, 2009, all GO Transit buses will be equipped with racks that can carry two bicycles. This means that you can take your bike with you on any GO bus at any time of day, without any additional cost.

Bike racks were first installed on GO buses in August 2008, starting with buses serving the QEW Express (Union to Hamilton) corridor and the Hamilton to Aldershot corridor. It's great to see that this project has been expanded to the whole system!

I've had the opportunity to use the GO bike racks several times now when traveling between Toronto and Hamilton. It's honestly a little bit nerve-wracking when you first put your bike on the front of a bus that's about to hurtle down the QEW at 100km/h, but the system works well and I'm confident enough to keep using it.

I'm looking forward to many other opportunities to use this. It doesn't help me much on my own commute (Dundas West station to Square One), but I have already been scheming to try other trips. Everything from getting around the GTA faster/easier, to using the GO system as a launch pad for weekend bike tours:

  • Take the GO bus downtown after work for events if I don't have the time to cycle
  • Save time and local transit fare by riding to and from GO stations

Railpath can use your help!

Future Railpath, southbound at Bloor St.Future Railpath, southbound at Bloor St.

Perhaps one of the most exciting bits of cycling news happening in Toronto (at least for a west-ender like myself) this year is the opening of the first phase of the West Toronto Railpath. This first section of the Railpath will be from Cariboo St., at the West Toronto Diamond (just north of Dupont/Annette/Dundas), down to the Dundas/Sterling/Lansdowne area (map).

A significant portion of the work was completed in 2008, including grading, new fences, bridge upgrades, and new staircases at Bloor and Dupont Streets. Hopefully the paving and landscaping will be finished in time for a big launch party during Bike Week in the spring.

As exciting as the Phase One launch is, it's now time to start pushing for the completion of the south-eastern section of the Railpath which would end close to downtown at around Strachan Ave. and King St. W. It's a bit of a long and detailed story, but the short version is: The City does not yet own any part of the rail corridor south of Dundas St., and they are waiting to purchase it from CP who of course don't want to give it up until issues like the Airport Rail service and GO Transit expansion are sorted out.

Bike-friendly GO Transit

GO Transit Bike shelterGO Transit Bike shelter
Photo was taken on Christmas Day at Guildwood GO station. Looks like the staff at GO Transit decided to give cyclists a much appreciated present.

GO Transit rocks the bike!

At a press conference this morning in Hamilton, GO Transit announced that they will be adding bicycle racks to the front of inter-city GO buses, as well as allowing cyclists to bring folding bikes on rush-hour trains!

According to GO's updated bicycle page, the bike racks will be added to GO buses on the QEW Express service between Hamilton and Union Station, and the Hamilton to Aldershot Station bus connection. This service will be available starting August 1st, and will expand to other routes over the next 12 months. The new bike racks hold two bikes per bus.

In the past, the difficulty with adding bicycle racks to the front of GO buses comes from a law that prohibits any kind of equipment from being attached to the front of inter-city buses. GO Transit had to work with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and all of the municipalities that their buses pass through to get this approved.

For more information about the bike racks on buses, check the GO bike by bus brochure.

Also, starting June 30th, there will be a pilot project allowing customers to take their folding bike on the GO Trains, even during rush hour. Please check their Folding Bike Etiquette guide too.

Personally, I think this is excellent news! Multi-modal commuting and travel around the GTA will be so much easier. Of course, there are still some limitations on the types of bikes you can bring on the various GO services, but this is still a huge step in the right direction. I'm looking forward to using both of these new GO/bike travel options.

GO By Bike

Bike on Exhibition GO Train PlatformBike on Exhibition GO Train Platform

A few weekends ago, after finishing the Ride For Heart, Jen and I caught a GO Train from exhibition station out to Ajax for the first Sunday of the GO By Bike initiative. Yes, bringing bikes on GO trains isn't really a new idea, but the purpose of GO By Bike is to help promote the idea to people.

Ajax GO StationAjax GO Station

Taking bikes on the GO Train is a great way to quickly get out of the city to enjoy some new scenery for a day ride, or to get a jump on suburban sprawl when starting a bike tour (the rush hour restrictions for bringing bikes on board GO Trains limits their usefulness for multi-modal bike commuting, but that's a whole other story...). We have used the train many times to go on weekend tours of the Oshawa to Port Hope area, Bronte Creek Provincial Park, visiting family in Hamilton, and more.

The GO By Bike program is what lead me to get out at the Ajax GO station for the first time. To be honest, I didn't think there was much reason for me to ever get out there. However, Donald Wiedman, the instigator of this project has worked hard to map out and mark an interesting and safe route from the Ajax GO station, down to the lake along Duffin's Creek, and all the way back to Toronto along the Waterfront Trail. When we got off the train, Donald welcomed us along with another rider to Ajax, gave us some free maps of the area, made some route suggestions and ideas for places to stop, and pointed us in the right direction.

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