Since 1967, GO Transit’s primary focus has been its commuter rail lines radiating from Downtown Toronto, sometimes to the detriment of other transit needs in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, with bus routes complementing and supplementing that rail network. But twenty years ago, the regional transit service launched a new bus route that connected York University with suburban GO stations and bus terminals, filling in a gap and setting a precedent for expansion to other university and college campuses.
Late last year, I analysed the GO Transit rail fare structure that centres on Toronto Union Station, following up on previous work. GO Transit claims to operate on a fare-by-distance structure, this is not quite the case. Generally, the longer one travels, the less the passenger pays per distance traveled.
Though the GO Transit fare structure was recently improved with new lower fares for short trips, there are still significant fare inequities and discrepancies, with Barrie and Richmond Hill Corridor passengers paying the least per kilometre traveled, and Kitchener Corridor passengers paying the most.
The fare discrepancies on the Highway 407 corridor — which is made up of eight bus routes that serve the Highway 407 bus terminal and TTC subway station in Vaughan — are even greater than that on the rail network. A passenger going from Markham GO Station, 27 kilometres from Highway 407 Station, will only pay $3.70 with a Presto card. A passenger from Bramalea GO Station, just 18.7 kilometres from Highway 407 Station, will pay over two dollars more.
The Highway 407 service was launched in September 2000 to serve York University, which was poorly connected by transit at the time. At first, the university campus was connected to Unionville, Langstaff, Bramalea, and Oakville GO Stations, Square One bus terminal in Mississauga, and Sheridan College in Oakville.
Over the next few years, new routes were serving Burlington and Hamilton, Scarborough, Pickering, Oshawa, and the University of Guelph. Express branches were added to meet increasing demand, and a new airport express route was introduced, connecting Hamilton, Mississauga and Richmond Hill to Pearson Airport.
Today, eight GO Transit routes make up the Highway 407 corridor, serving seven university and college campuses. Transfers to local transit and other GO Transit services can be made at fourteen rail stations and bus terminals. Though most commuters from Brampton heading to York University now take the cheaper direct Brampton Transit Züm bus service, the Bramalea GO stop allows for connections to and from Georgetown, Guelph, and Kitchener.
Three bus stops — Aberfoyle, Bronte Road, and Trafalgar Road — do not provide any connections to local transit; just parking spaces. Highway 407 bus passengers may also park at any GO Transit rail station, at the Dundas Street and Brock Road carpool lots, or at the Square One commuter lot.
The map below shows the GO Transit Highway 407 corridor routes and bus stops, with the TTC subway and GO Transit rail lines in the background. Some express branches are not mapped.
The opening of the TTC Yonge-University subway extension to York University and Vaughan in December 2017 offered a new direct GO bus connection to the subway. But once GO Transit withdrew all bus service from campus a year later, in January 2019, all buses now terminate at Highway 407 station. A two stop subway ride — with an additional TTC fare — is now required, though GO passengers currently get a $1.50 discount from the TTC fare each way if paying with Presto cards.
To determine the fare per distance charged on the Highway 407 corridor, I calculated the distance from each bus stop to the Highway 407 Station terminal. Each distance is calculated based on the most direct scheduled routing from each stop, and the cash and Presto fares were obtained from the GO Transit website.
The chart below shows the relationship between the cash fare per kilometre traveled and the distance from Highway 407 Station. The Hamilton GO Centre is the farthest one can travel from the Highway 407 terminal (88.8 kilometres), while the Richmond Hill Centre bus terminal is just 11.3 kilometres away. It costs $14.10 cash to ride to Hamilton (16 cents/km), and $4.90 to ride to Richmond Hill (43 cents/km).
The fare discrepancies endemic to GO Transit’s fare structure are especially apparent on the Highway 407 corridor. Fares to stops on the Stouffville Corridor (Unionville, Centennial, and Markham GO Stations) were reduced to the new minimum fare ($4.40 cash, $3.70 Presto), though they are between 21 and 27 kilometres away. However, the cash fare to Richmond Hill terminal is $4.70. (Presto fares are discounted from cash fares by similar proportions.) Meanwhile, the fare to Bramalea GO is $8.05.
These fare discrepancies make a complete mockery of the “fare by distance” system.
The statistics for each of the stops on the western and eastern sides of the Highway 407 corridors are listed below.
It is clearly time for a complete overhaul of GO Transit’s fare structure. The current price scheme is not transparent, it contains some major discrepancies, and is not fair to many of its passengers.