GO riders kicked off Newmarket buses

Two under-used routes are ending, but riders complain local bus is costlier, slower and unsafe

Published On Wed Mar 10 2010

 

Tess Kalinowski Transportation Reporter Toronto Star

While the Ontario government is investing billions in public transit, hundreds of York Region riders are accusing GO Transit of driving them back into their cars by cancelling two Newmarket bus routes.

Citing poor ridership numbers and the need to integrate with York Region's regular service and Viva express buses, GO will discontinue the 92B bus to York Mills on April 5, and the Newmarket-York University bus on April 26.

The move will add hours and cost to their commutes, say more than 200 GO riders who attended a Tuesday meeting with GO and York Region officials, organized by MPP Frank Klees (Newmarket-Aurora).

"What is being proposed is unacceptable," said Klees, who accused GO and YRT officials of having failed to properly plan service for the displaced passengers.

He wants to meet directly with Metrolinx CEO Robert Prichard, who oversees GO's operations, and YRT officials.

About 500 people ride the two Newmarket routes, which operate weekdays only. GO did not say how many riders are needed to make the routes viable.

Many of the riders the Star contacted Wednesday said they would drive rather than use York Region Transit (YRT) buses they say are slower and more expensive.

Jennifer McCue said she'll have to drive because the local buses won't get her home in time to pick up her baby from daycare in Aurora.

"It's a Catch-22 - if you want to take transit you have to leave work early every day. Timing-wise, it just doesn't work," she said.

"I pay $180 per month (soon to be $188 when the GO fare increase goes into effect in April) to travel to and from work. With the cancellation of this service, my cost to travel to work will now escalate to up to $271 per month, a 51 per cent increase," said Nancy Andrews, who works at Yonge St. and York Mills.

A rider who would actually save money on the change nevertheless says the end of GO service is like a death in the family. Evelyn Powell says she'll consider driving to work in downtown Toronto rather than use Viva - which she refers to as "the Blue Meanie" or "Free-Va," in reference to people who don't pay their fares.

"I feel very unsafe on the Viva bus. I've had occasion where somebody came and sat beside me and opened up a can of beer and the driver did nothing about it," she said.

York University engineering student Francis Babu says he will probably drive his dad's car to school rather than endure a ride prolonged as much as 90 minutes more on his commute.

The economic climate is forcing GO to make tough choices, said a spokesperson for the agency. But "the motivation for no longer operating this service was not solely a cost-saving measure. It has always been a part of our plan with YRT/Viva to slowly withdraw some of our services from this as YRT/Viva services have matured," said Vanessa Thomas.

The resources will be reallocated to other GO routes, she said.

YRT general manager Richard Leary said he was disappointed GO cancelled the routes on short notice, after running them for five years.

But YRT has capacity to carry those riders, and staff are reviewing the service to see whether there is a way to shave time off the existing routes, he said.

"I'm anxious to have these riders join our service," said Leary. "There's an opportunity there. If we can increase ridership, that's what we're all about. The best thing is that there's an outcry for more and better public transportation."