Ontario Toronto Transit

Reviewing GO Transit’s big April changes

GO Transit bus on the Gardiner Expressway. Route 21 will se major changes with the new schedules

On Saturday, April 8, GO Transit will introduce big changes to its rail and bus services. Brampton and Waterloo Region will see the biggest benefits, while a major gap in Ontario’s intercity bus network will finally get filled.

However, major construction work on the Barrie and Stouffville Lines will require the bustitution of most trains on those two corridors for at least a few months. Most buses serving the Milton Line will no longer operate to or from Union Station, but instead connect with the Lakeshore West Line. Finally, one of GO Transit’s oldest bus routes will finally disappear for good.

Though the scale of these service changes is truly impressive, there are some drawbacks that hopefully will be addressed in the near future.

Kitchener Line/Route 30

Map of the GO Transit Kitchener Line, with bus routes 30, 31, and 33.
From the official timetable.

As part of the April 2023 changes, GO Transit will finally introduce hourly weekend service on the Kitchener Line between Union Station and Mount Pleasant GO in northwest Brampton. Most Route 31 “train-bus” trips will be cancelled, while Route 33 (Guelph-Brampton-North York) takes over the Guelph via Highway 7 service completely.

With the exception of weekday counter-peak periods, early mornings, and late evenings (when Route 31 will still operate), Brampton finally has the all-way, two-way, every day train service it has been requesting for decades. Because of schedule constraints, and limited track space, weekend trains will not be stopping at Etobicoke North.

Route 30, the Bramalea-Kitchener-Waterloo bus, will also operate 7 days a week, with an easy transfer at Bramalea GO Station. This is the fastest and most frequent service between Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo (private intercity bus service to Kitchener are limited, and they only stop at Sportsworld, near Highway 401), and should help build ridership for future train service expansion.

Unfortunately, there remains no quick GO bus service between Toronto, Brampton, and Guelph; passengers must still endure the Route 33 milk run on Highway 7 through Georgetown, Acton, and Rockwood. Weekend service on Route 48, the Guelph-Bramalea-Highway 407 route, timed to connect to Kitchener Line trains, could provide this useful link until track capacity is improved west of Bramalea and through Halton Region and Wellington County.

But finally, Bramalea GO Station, with its new bus loop and easy transfers, fulfills its promise as a useful intermodal transit hub.

Route 17: where GO Transit has never gone before

Map of GO Transit Route 17, connecting Waterloo, Guelph, and Hamilton.
From the official timetable.

The introduction of GO Transit Route 17 between Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, and Hamilton is, in my view, even more significant than the new weekend train service on the Kitchener Line.

This new bus route is the first time a GO Transit service has gone against its 55-year-old business model of a Toronto-centric system, where all train services converge on Union Station, and all bus services supplement the train corridors or connect to a suburban Toronto terminal. This might even be the most significant GO Transit service change since the first Highway 407/York University bus service began in September 2000. The 407 Corridor, originally a single bus route connecting Oakville, Mississauga Square One, Bramalea, York University, and Markham, has expanded into a multi-branched 24-hour/7-day corridor that now extends to Oshawa, Guelph, and Hamilton.

Route 17, which will run hourly on weekdays, directly serves four university campuses (University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Guelph, and McMaster University), a record for any single bus route in Canada (only the TTC Yonge-University Subway serves as many university campuses in a one-seat ride). It also provides a direct Guelph-Kitchener-Waterloo link (which was only provided by infrequent Greyhound buses before 2020) and replaces former Coach Canada/Megabus routes abandoned prior to or during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though Route 17 finally fills several gaps in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, it is, at best, a first good step.

For one thing, Route 17 is too slow to effectively serve as a great Kitchener-Waterloo/Hamilton connection. The travel time from University of Waterloo to Downtown Hamilton is between two hours and twenty minutes and two hours and thirty minutes. The typical driving time is about one hour. It is more competitive between Guelph and Hamilton, though the route diverts to Aldershot GO Station to connect with the GO Transit Lakeshore West corridor, adding 15-20 minutes of travel time over a direct McMaster/Downtown Toronto routing.

Finally, there is no weekend service offered at this point, and the new route misses Downtown Kitchener, diverting via the Conestoga Parkway, though a stop at Victoria and Frederick Streets east of downtown provides connections to several GRT bus routes. There is also a need for better connections between Cambridge and Guelph, something that GRT, Wellington County, and Guelph should work together to fix.

I am hopeful that the new hourly weekday service is attractive to students and commuters, and that ridership grows to a point that GO considers weekend service and either express runs, or a restructuring of the corridor to provide more direct services.

On Wednesday, March 29, I spoke to Craig Norris on CBC Kitchener’s Morning Edition about new Route 17, weekend service on Route 30 and the implications for Waterloo Region and beyond.

Untangling Route 21

Map of the Milton Line and Route 21, after the April 8 2023 service change.
From the official timetable.

Route 21, the Milton GO bus corridor, provides Milton-Mississauga-Toronto service at all times except the weekday peak period direction, when GO operates seven trains between Milton and Union Station. Unfortunately, the busy Milton Corridor is Canadian Pacific’s mainline between Toronto and Chicago. Unlike CN (whose mainline is used by GO’s Kitchener Line between Bramalea and Georgetown), CP has been less amiable to GO service expansion outside the peak period window.

Because of passenger demand in central Mississauga, Route 21 has traditionally been one of GO Transit’s most complex routes, with ten distinct branches, with service to each station every 15-30 minutes at most times. With increasing traffic into and within Downtown Toronto, especially on summer weekends, Route 21 can be very slow and unreliable, with GO Transit forced to divert its buses on Route 21 and 31 away from its Union Station Bus Terminal to Port Credit GO.

Though weekend train service on the Kitchener Line solves the problem for Route 31, without access to CP’s tracks, Milton Line passengers must ride buses, which have to go somewhere.

The solution, then, was to permanently divert Milton Line buses to the Lakeshore West rail corridor. Route 21A will operate between Milton GO Station and Oakville GO Station, serving Sheridan College’s Oakville campus and the 407 Corridor at Trafalgar Road (allowing for new transfers from Milton to Hamilton/McMaster and Mississauga/Pearson Airport). Route 21B will run from Lisgar GO, serving Meadowvale GO, Streetsville GO, and Erin Mills Transitway Station before connecting to trains at Clarkson GO. Route 21C runs between Erindale GO, Square One, Cooksville GO, and Port Credit GO. Only during early mornings and late evenings will Route 21 serve Union Station, making all stops to and from Milton.

Dixie Station also loses its weekday Route 21 service. The station is not well connected with local transit nor is it in a walkable area, so it is completely dependent on drive-up traffic. That should be fine for commuters who can rely on the regular train schedules, and who don’t need to leave Toronto early or late, but it worth pointing out.

These changes simplify Route 21, and provide a reliable and predictable, albeit slower, connection to Downtown Toronto. They provide new connections to the busy Highway 407 bus corridor, and allow GO to divert buses and drivers to other services.

One thing GO can do to improve the utility of its realigned bus service is operate the new branches at all time periods to maximize ridership. For example, Route 21A, while providing new useful links between Milton, the Highway 407 corridor, and Sheridan College, does not run in the peak direction when the Milton Line trains are running, with no southbound buses from Milton to Oakville between 5:03 AM and 9:28 AM. A similar gap exists northbound in the late afternoon on weekdays.

Other changes

The Stouffville Line, which enjoys hourly train service seven days a week, goes down to just peak period rail service starting April 8. Work to double-track the corridor through Scarborough has been continuing, albeit slowly, so hopefully the suspension of off-peak trains will help speed up construction. Work to expand the Lakeshore East/Stouffville corridor through Toronto’s east end has also forced train service reductions between Toronto and Oshawa.

On the Barrie Line, there is similar ongoing work to double track sections of that line continue, including a new viaduct over the CP mainline near Dupont Street. Off-peak trains that normally go as far north as Aurora are being replaced by buses, with limited weekend trains to Allandale Waterfront Station in Barrie continuing in service.

Route 81, one of the older bus routes in GO Transit’s network, will finally disappear. The bus route, connecting Whitby GO Station, Port Perry, and Beaverton, has seen low ridership, with alternative service provided by Durham Region Transit’s Route 905 to Port Perry and DRT’s rural on-demand service.

Finally, though they are not amongst the major upcoming changes, GO Transit’s services to Orangeville and Peterborough remain inadequate. Route 37, between Brampton and Orangeville, still does not operate on weekends, nor is there a morning northbound bus from Brampton. Ironically, there is better service leading north from Orangeville towards Shelburne, Dundalk, and Owen Sound operated by Grey County’s rural bus system.

Meanwhile, Route 88, which connects Oshawa GO Station with Peterborough and Trent University, was diverted several years ago to serve Bowmanville, replacing since-cancelled Route 90. Unfortunately, this results in a long, nearly two-hour bus ride between Oshawa and Trent University, or four hours between Toronto Union Station and Trent. The drive, with moderate traffic, is less than half that. Though Rider Express now operates a bus from Toronto to Ottawa via Peterborough, it only runs once a day, four days a week.

It would be great if GO Transit could speed up Route 88 to make it a viable and attractive option between Toronto, Durham Region, and Peterborough.


On the whole, I am pleasantly surprised by GO Transit’s April service changes. Weekend service on Route 30 and the new Route 17 between Hamilton, Guelph, and Kitchener-Waterloo close some major gaps in that part of the province. The Route 21 changes make a lot of sense and open up new connections, though many bus passengers will not be happy with the new forced transfer to get to or from Downtown Toronto. Though bustitutions on the Barrie and Stouffville Lines are not ideal, they will allow for important work to improve rail service on those two corridors. Finally, attention to bringing faster and fuller service on some bus routes – like 21A, 37, and 88 will help build a complete transit network across the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

12 replies on “Reviewing GO Transit’s big April changes”

Hello Sean,

Your thoughts on the service changes echo my own.

Have you seen anything from GO/ML indicating how long the Barrie and Stoufville service suspensions will last?

All the best,


No, unfortunately. Metrolinx/GO Transit has become increasingly tight-lipped in recent years, perhaps because of the delays on opening the Crosstown LRT, and interference from Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney’s office.

Very informative piece, but this link is dead:
[about new Route 17, weekend service on Route 30 and the implications for Waterloo Region and beyond.]

More comment later.

Sean, I appreciate your thoughts about the changes to the Milton Line buses.

As someone who would be using the new 21C, my concern is not only from the forced transfer at Port Credit but also the impact of Hurontario LRT construction south of Square One.

LRT construction is about to reach the stage where they are excavating guideways and widening part of Hurontario Street south of the QEW, as well as building new LRT stations.

If the work around Matheson Boulevard is any indication, this will be a long process with many diversions and intersections closures, and I do not know how the 21C will be able to manage existing congestion, much less construction.

There is also the possibility of a shut down of the Lakeshore West or Milton railway corridors which could have significant impacts on GO bus service.

The 21 route always has been problematic in my experience, having to use it to connect Square One to Onion (sic) Station to return to Toronto from Guelph or K/W before the 29 ran to Kipling (a huge improvement).

I often chose the Mi-Way express option, either to (in the past) Islington or to Port Credit, even with a bike racked on the front. (The Mi-Way bike carriers are considerably inferior to the GO type).

*In the past* going to Port Credit would have been a reasonable option, but as you point out, your options are to be damned if you do, or damned if you don’t.

Btw: The Presto glitch of being charged *three fares* when transferring off of, say, the GO #29 to the Mi-Way express down to Port Credit and back onto GO again is rendered moot by the #25 now terminating at Kipling Station (and the TTC fare being the only one to pay on top) and even that will ostensibly become moot with the just announced ‘cross-region integrated fare’ structure to include the TTC later this year.

As Marshall states: (gist) ‘There’s still some way to go’ to making GO a ‘World Class’ system. Connecting Guelph to Aldershot *might* be handy for my bike ramblings….but my God…the time it takes to do it is Third World.

I totally understand that too, especially having just taken the 36 Finch West bus that’s deviating around LRT construction.

You’re right that the old Route 21 had several routes it could take between Cooksville and Union, but very limited if going down to Port Credit.

It wouldn’t be quite as bad if the 15 minute service on the Lakeshore line was restored – the anxiety of just missing the connecting train wouldn’t be as great.

The Milton (21) changes are more than “a bit slower.”
Meadowvale Town Center to Union goes from 50-55m to 87m (assuming you don’t miss the transfer) – 60% increase.
From Union to Meadowvale TV up from 42m to 87m (again if no missed transfer) 100%
This means an extra 77m/day & will mean my wife can no longer stay for work events (retirements), concerts, shows or sporting events.

Clearly “TV” was meant to be “TC”
Is the plan to drive up ridership on Lakeshore West AND drop/end Milton line off-peak?
I ask because why do we need a “GO North-South” (Port Credit(21C), Clarkson (21B)) lines when MiWay already offers service along those lines (e.g. the 45 for Clarkson)

Why would they bypass Etobicoke North station on this so-called “hourly weekend service on the Kitchener Line”?

Though I do not know why Etobicoke North Station is bypassed on weekends for sure, there are several specific issues with that station.

The most important reason is that the Etobicoke North only has one platform. Several counter-peak trains skip the stop so they do not interfere with stopping trains going in the opposite direction. Though passenger service will be only every hour on weekends, there are local freight trains serving nearby industries that use the north side track. They are likely served on weekends. Malton at least has two platforms that GO can use.

At some point, Etobicoke North will close to allow for corridor expansion. It sits in the way of two new tracks, for which tunnels were recently bored under Highway 401. A new station is planned at Highway 27/Woodbine Racetrack, but work hasn’t started yet.

Thank you for your reply. I don’t know why they always ignore Etobicoke North station, but it’s in a such location that links major hubs: TTC bus that connects to Kipling Station, the Airport and etc. UP Express bypass that station all the time, and now they are talking about taking the station out of the map completely. Does not seem to be a good way. The more connections we have, the more ways people have to take the public transit. The new station does not connect anywhere. Strange design.

Apparently there are scheduling challenges to fit GO trains in between the freight trains that run on the weekends between Halton’s Sliver Junction and the Halwest Junction in between Brampton and Mississauga (just east of Bramalea GO), so they’re saving time by not stopping at Etobicoke North.

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