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:
Yes, got the news yesterday, we had been expecting the announcement. It's great news for cyclists and cycle tourism in Niagara! The more trains, the more people, the more bikes!
We understand VIA Rail will continue with their current 2009 schedule, and we will continue to coordinate the Bike Train on select weekends throughout the summer. Cyclists will now have more opportunities for travel between Toronto and Niagara Falls, with different service levels to choose from.
The Toronto-Niagara Greenbelt Express provides a value-added service, with knowledgeable staff onboard, cycling maps, itineraries and tourism information, secure baggage car with 56 bike racks, baggage handlers, local cycling expert volunteers, special promotions, and of course comfortable VIA seats and service.
We will soon be distributing the 2009 Bike Train Guide with useful Niagara trip planning information. The guide also features information on our new Bike Train pilot routes and destinations planned for 2009: Ontario North (Toronto-North Bay), Ontario East and Ontario Southwest. The free guides will be available at local bike shops, or at Bike Train booths at upcoming Toronto Bike Month events.
The primary objective of the Bike Train Initiative is to make the business case for passenger rail service with bike transport capacity (without the requirement for boxing). We are excited to be expanding the initiative on new routes across Ontario. Stay tuned to www.biketrain.ca.
So there you have it. More trains, more people, more bikes. Awesome! This keeps getting better and better. I'm sure Donald Wiedman over at bikesandtransit.com is pretty excited about this too.
Lots more press about this online, especially from in the Niagara area, where they are excited about the tourism boost.