GO Bus Service to Cobourg

For at least 15 years, local residents have been lobbying for an extension of the Go Bus/Train service to Port Hope and Cobourg (see links below).  In 2015, Mayors from Clarington, Port Hope, Cobourg and others got together to commission a study and subsequently the Province announced that the train would be extended to Bowmanville.  But the hope of lobbyists is that the Go Bus service which currently terminates in Newcastle would continue on to Port Hope and Cobourg’s Northumberland Mall. To do this, they must first convince Metrolinx that there is a viable business case. This recently stepped into high gear when Northumberland County added a goal to its current Strategic Plan to “Advocate for extension of GO Transit to Northumberland”.  To meet that goal, last summer the County hired AECOM to carry out a business case study.

GO Bus
GO Bus

MPP David Piccini is also supportive of the idea but recent correspondence from his office said that:

Metrolinx expressed to our office that given the length of the route and the relatively low densities, none of the options perform well from a Revenue/Cost ratio stand point. They are modelling around 20% revenue coverage of costs, which puts these options in the lowest performing GO bus route revenue categories.

We have followed up to see what metrics they use to determine revenue/cost levels. And what targets we would need to hit to improve our percentage.

Meanwhile, the County says they are “seeking public input to help inform a high-level business case for GO Transit expansion to the community”.  This is in the form of a survey open until February 10 and is available online, or in hard copy by visiting local municipal or County offices.  Go here for the Survey or simply go to the Northumberland County web site.

Currently, a good number of commuters to Oshawa and Toronto use VIA or drive their cars and many others would like to avoid the 401 on trips during the day.  According to the Northumberland News report in 2005:

Between 150 and 175 people board Cobourg’s 7 a.m. VIA train everyday and the 9 a.m. train carries between 80 to 90 passengers

The question is, are there enough potential users to make a viable business case and would these people change their current practice?  The good news is that the County and MPP are listening.

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Charlotte noble

We certainly need this service

Observer

Go Bus is the topic but raising concerns on major highways is part of the question.
Know a driver, long term licensed. – can’t parallel park, back into a parking spot, turn their head and talk to you while driving, aren’t alert – drive through Stop signs in areas they travel every day. Are they age impaired? No – they have always drove that way – just a bad driver. Scary they are licensed to drive the 401.
Bus Driver – Took the bus back from Alberta on commercial bus line. We joked the driver looked like a black bear. Drove like one too – blinding rain, to keep to schedule, they pulled over and passed at 80. Driver Safety – another area sacrificed in licensing – seems no one can say no – standards too low.

Observer

Perhaps a GO bus would remove people who should not be driving but have no other way. Via is expensive. As I travel the 401 watching improper lane changes, people treating it like a speedway, not driving to conditions I wish everyone would take road safety driving. Young or old there are bad drivers in every category. Are you one?

D.A. (Doug) Walker

Having been an O.P.P. Officer in the 60s and a Toronto Police Officer from 1970 to 2001, I have been in on the ground floor as far as the 401 is concerned. In the 60s we were charged with safely opening new sections of the 12 lane Highway and after that, during my time with Toronto, we shared in the policing and in some instances, ideas for the design, although they were never acted upon. The whole moral to my story is two-fold: people who drove the 401 in the 60s did so with ease as they were young and driving was a pleasure….It isn’t a pleasure now. Secondly, with numerous single occupant motor vehicles off of the road, there will be less pollution, less traffic jams and all other benefits that go with reduced traffic flow.

To be against the GO Bus/Train would not make sense. To be for the GO Bus/Train would make a lot of people be looking for ward to the day it begins.

My opinion. There are a lot of stories under my motorcycle helmet of the growing 401 Highway Problems/Benefits.

Thanks,

D.A. (Doug) Walker

Ken

Just did the survey! Hope it helps?
I would like to see GO/Metrolinks, try it for 6 months. See how it goes and if non profitable, then drop it for a later date? The bus, that is. The train will eventually come!
No harm in trying?
I remember when the ‘Northlander’ was taken out of service, a number of years ago, due to poor ridership. What a loss, to the community, that was! This was a Via train, that ran from Timmins to Toronto.
As I watch our own ‘town buses’ running around, with very few on board, I realize that some services still must operate, even with a financial loss!
What’s the old saying……’build it and they will come’!

Ken Strauss

As I watch our own ‘town buses’ running around, with very few on board, I realize that some services still must operate, even with a financial loss!

Why MUST there be a Cobourg bus service even if it is little used and operates at a loss? There are many options for transit in Cobourg — walk, bike, private cars, taxis.

Durka

Sick of seeing people write “little used” and the like. That’s according to who? Personal observation? Town records? Who? Whenever I see the bus it looks well used. I made note to look today and there were 6 riders on the bus I saw. In my opinion that is well used for a bus of their size. Also, show me a transit system anywhere that operates at a profit. They don’t exist. It is a public service.

Ken Strauss

Insofar as I know Cobourg’s most recent transit study was in 2014. Obviously the study should be updated to reflect possible changes. According to the 2014 report Cobourg transit cost $810,395 per year and fares collected were only $132,170. That means that transit in 2014 cost every family about $80 in increased taxes. Do you feel that you are getting value for money spent?
The report says that there were about 112,000 rides per year or 300 rides per day. This double counts actual users since most go somewhere and return home. So that means 150 users per day or 75 users per bus, TOTAL, for a day. Describing the buses as lightly used seems pretty accurate.

Steve Wilkes

Ken, the operating cost is $810K, what about the capital cost to purchase the fleet? There are less expensive and more fuel efficient solutions, however the Town decided to invest in what could be argued as a traditional approach to public transportation. The current asset cost structure is not viewed as expensive. Change the fleet to a Sprinter Van style bus, will dramatically reduce fuel costs and the town will still see a loss, just not as bad a loss. Check out https://innisfil.ca/innisfil-transit-faqs/ for a creative approach taken by another small town.

Ken Strauss

Steve, you are correct that the $810K doesn’t include sufficient reserves to fully fund bus replacements. Also, it doesn’t include costs for bus stops, additional pollution, noise from buses, etc, etc. As you probably know we have the large buses because our previous Mayor assured Council that large buses were “cheaper in the long run” than using appropriately sized buses. Innisfil’s service is far more useful than Cobourg’s and is actually cheaper.

JimT

…which is all just fine right up until the moment, late in the day, when the buses are filled to near capacity as people head home. What are we to do in that case – arbitrarily select who gets to ride and who must be left standing at the curb with no way to get home?

manfred s

Steve, you might want to research the terms of the original capital costs re the buses.

manfred s

does the data you cite make sense in dollar terms? If all rides were based on passes the revenue from 112,000 rides would be about $180,000 and if all rides were based on the single $2 fare, revenue would be about $224,000. The actual split would likely be somewhere between. How do we reconcile the $132,170 revenue figure?

Ken Strauss

I am only the messenger; the $132,170 is copied from the middle of page 7 of the report which represents the best efforts of an expensive consultant. The ridership number is from the bottom of page 17 of the report. See https://cobourg.civicweb.net/document/17878 for the full report.

manfred s

not criticizing you Ken, just asking if the numbers make sense. So, do they make sense or am I misconstruing them? I see that the ridership actually includes the specialized Wheels service which has an impact as well.

Ken Strauss

Manfred, see https://www.cobourg.ca/en/my-cobourg/Public_Transit.aspx for all fees. Note that riders under 5 are free and you can get unlimited use passes for $15 to $60. I suspect that these free rides and unlimited passes explain the very low revenue.

JimT

“If all rides were based on passes the revenue
from 112,000 rides would be about $180,000…”
You’re assigning a value of $1.60 per ride in that case, which happens to be the cost of a ticket, as compared to cash fare. It’s possible that pass users ride much more than others, so that pass sales would be less than $180K,

Rational

You are using statistics that are 5 years old. Unless you have more current statistics how can your position be relevant?

Canuck Patriot

Do you have more current data? Stop attacking the messenger if you don’t.

Ken Strauss

Duplicate deleted.

Ken Strauss

My initial comment started with:

Insofar as I know Cobourg’s most recent transit study was in 2014. Obviously the study should be updated to reflect possible changes.

Do you have better data? Council keeps spending without data. Should we just ignore wasting close to $1-million each year because our info is old?

Durka

It’s nice to see you consider a vital service to many town residents a “waste”. What isn’t a waste in your opinion? The town taxes us and then they spend the money, theoretically it’s all a waste in this logic, because the money isn’t coming back. Do we consider roads a waste because they don’t generate any income? Should we stop building them? Maybe we can toll all of our arterials, or better yet, say the hell with roads, everyone can buy an ATV to get around. Think of the tax savings!

I’m not sure why you chose to move to an urban community. You ideology is much more conducive to rural living where you there are less services and it’s more pay your own way.

Ken Strauss

Please don’t be ridiculous; roads are essential whether you have a car or not. Expenditures that benefit a very small proportion of the residents — perhaps anything that is used by less than 5 or 10% of residents — should not be funded by everyone.

Durka

@ Ken Strauss. It’s called being part of a community. Someone taking the bus may not use the library or go to the beach, etc but they are still helping to fund it. Ultimately all of us receive town services that our neighbor may not use, yourself included.

Ken Strauss

Absolutely, Durka. However the bus costs about 4% of Cobourg’s annual budget. Bus users also benefit from the roads, sidewalks, library, CCC, police/fire, fighting climate change, etc that is the other 96% of our taxes. Why is that fair?

Durka

How do you know what bus users benefit from? For all you know they don’t go to the CCC or Library. I rarely go to either and I also don’t take the bus. Haven’t had a fire, why am I subsidizing those who have? It’s just the way it is. Maybe someone takes the bus but doesn’t leave Cobourg much and you do. Why are they subsidizing the 401 for you? This could go on endlessly.

Ken Strauss

A very small portion of the residents use the bus yet the service consumes about 4% of all tax revenue. Operating the bus costs more than roads, sidewalks, bike paths and fighting climate change combined. It is the largest single item after police/fire and the CCC.
Your comments about the 401 are ridiculous. Whether you travel or not virtually everything consumed in Cobourg arrives using the 401.

Durka

I used the 401 as a loose example. You know full well what I am getting at.

Your list quite obviously omits capital expenditures.

Ken Strauss

Correct. That is the meaning of “Operating the bus costs…”.

Observer

Ken the TTC loses money – with that logic perhaps Toronto should stop funding the TTC.

Ben

I would ask why not the bus and if I was to prioritize I would take out the money wasted on a ridiculous effort that would allow Cobourg to conquer global warming

Jaye

Cobourg bus service is not good. In 2014 a consultant’s report was tabled with the town — where it still sits… among the recommendations was a third route and a re-design of the existing routes to accommodate population change. There are whole swaths of Cobourg (the west end where a lot of new housing has been and is continuing to be built ) with no bus service at all. As for the suggestion to walk, bike, private cars, taxis….there are many citizens for whom these options either do not exist or are completely impractical…

Ken Strauss

The discussion should be about affordable options. A taxi costs rather little more than the bus after including operations, repair/replace older buses, bus shelters, etc. Why not consider something like in Innisfil? Why not taxi passes for those who cannot afford to pay to fares? Public transit may be reasonable in a large city; it is not in Cobourg.

Brenda Zitzer

I wonder if people are aware that bus travel for seniors in England is FREE..so no more empty bus and seniors can get out for shopping daily if needed, appts, meeting with friends etc, putting money back in the economy and generally contributing to physically and mentally better over health and lifestyle. Would be great to just try it for our town buses!

Jaye

There is a fault in the survey. It only assumes that there will be only 1-way traffic into the GTA. It does not account for any kind of reverse traffic – out of the GTA to Northumberland County, et al. There are many residents who have family and friends, living in the GTA, who visit on a regular basis who would likely use a GO service into the area. There are students, not just working people or people travelling for medical appts., who would use a 2-way option on the GO service. There is box at the end of the survey for comments. This appears to be the only option for adding info re: the above suggestions.

Brenda Zitzer

Totally agree, so we must make sure to point this out whenever we can plus the additional benefits for those from the GTA just wanting a day out with lunch and look at the town….like a visit to Port Perry for some

GailR

Sorry, I meant #35/115. Duh.

JimT

Did you know that you can edit your posting after you press Post Comment?

GailR

I echo Greg’s comments about the parking at GO Whitby. I went with a friend to a matinee show in Toronto yesterday. No parking available anywhere near the station, so we crossed our fingers and parked in the No GO Parking section in the arena parking lot.. luckily we got away with it.
Looking at the Oshawa GO bus timetables, the bus from Trent University to the station already takes 1 hr. 25 mins. I don’t think adding to that would be popular with the university. However, there are two GO bus routes from Oshawa to the park and ride at #35/125. One takes 47 minutes, the other express route takes 25 minutes. I would have thought it would be a no brainer to extend the latter to PH and Cobourg. No skin off the noses of the Newcastle riders, and more moolah for GO maybe adding one more bus to the route. So, people, follow up on the survey in John’s helpful article and tell the county and the GO folk how much we want the service. And how on earth did Beaverton qualify for GO bus service anyway??

Barbara Craig

I’ve been going to Princess Margaret Hospital for 3 years now to take part in a clinical trial for stage 4 melanoma. Most of the time I would drive myself. Sometime I would drive to Oshawa and then take the Go train. After I got hit by a taxi coming back one day I decided to take Via when the winter is bad. Its extremely expensive. It’s hard to believe we can’t connect with Go either by train or bus here in Cobourg. Study’s were done in 2005. Come on get with the program its now 2020. Let’s help our community be able to commute in a number of ways. People need to go to work,school as well as medical appointments. Driving on the 401 is terrible now. People are not considerate and most don’t even know the rules of the road.

Anita

Hey, if you can’t get Go bus or Go train on your side, have Cobourg Mayor ever thought of upping property taxes a bit there so they can purchase and use their own Go bus?

cornbread

Hello Anita…ever heard of USER PAYS?

JimT

An increase in taxes isn’t really necessary, it’s just a matter of choosing how we want our taxes used.
For example: the Art Gallery of Northumberland has a budget of $215,000. per annum, which is about $4,100. per week! How many citizens actually patronize the AGN regularly?
Perhaps we should spend less for art and more for GO transit subsidy to enable GO bus to Oshawa, Toronto and maybe points in between.

Pierre

Anita , where do you live?
If you live in Cobourg you know are taxes are very high, and keep going up.
It a provincial transportation issue we need solved.

Albert

John Draper usually indulges moderately-off topic posts, but don’t abuse his patience.
If you can, try to keep your musings relevant to the issue.
Hint: look at the heading.
Something about GO trains and Cobourg in this case.
And take Polonius’ advice,

Greg H

When I go from Cobourg to Toronto my preferred method is to drive to Oshawa and take the GO train. The reasons I prefer GO are: • The drive on the 401 is very busy. • When I get to Toronto it is very congested for vehicles, and almost impossible to find parking spaces. I use to be able to pay the City for overnight permit parking in the downtown Annex area, but now it is generally “unavailable”. • TTC subway and streetcars are the best way to travel in Toronto. • The GO is more relaxing than driving. • The GO avoids further congestion on the highways, and reduces unnecessary carbon use. The reasons I prefer GO to using VIA Rail from Cobourg are: • GO from Oshawa is about $10 per person return, whereas VIA is generally about $50 per person. • Go has more travel time options, and is available later in the evenings than VIA Problems with driving to Oshawa to get a GO Train: • It is only possible to find available parking at the Oshawa GO station after about 4.30 pm on weekdays. • It used to be possible to drive to Whitby to… Read more »

MiriamM

Perhaps, in the meantime, a closer identified transfer link from Northumberland (Cobourg/Port Hope) to catch the GO bus on its existing regular route between Trent University (Peterborough) and east end GO trains?

With VIA set up to create a new train link between Toronto and Ottawa through Peterborough, I wonder if MetroLinx and VIA are talking, too.

Brenda Zitzer

The simplest way to test this is to have a pilot project expanding the present route to Newcastle to Port Hope downtown, along Hwy 2 to Cobourg Northumberland Mall bus stop circling back up to the Burnham St 401 car pool, along the Hwy to a stop at the Hwy 28 junction in Port Hope and the return to Oshawa .

Greg H

Yes, but in Cobourg the GO bus should go to the bus terminal established by the Town on Albert Street, behind Victoria Hall. This would enable better access for Cobourg residents, The bus could also make a stop at Northumberland Mall on the way.

JimT

Not sure I agree. I’ve noticed that lots of people board the local buses at Northumberland Mall but very few at the terminal on Albert St.
Just which “Cobourg residents” do you perceive as using the downtown terminal?

manfred s

it might be better to look at real data than base such decisions on anecdotal ‘evidence’

Greg H

“which Cobourg residents?”. Me, and people like me, who live downtown and are willing to take a GO bus ride. You will note from my post of January 16 that I use the GO train from Oshawa. Lots of people live in central Cobourg, and quite few of us visit Toronto. A GO bus to Albert Street would even help tourists and visitors to the harbour or beach. Or perhaps you would not want to encourage bus users to visit Cobourg ? In Newcastle the GO bus does not terminate at the west end of town, nearest Oshawa. The GO bus goes to the east end, and is therefore useful for all Newcastle residents( geordies?). Equally a GO bus that comes to Cobourg should go to where Cobourgers live. Perhaps I should have suggested it go right through Cobourg along King Street East to the Industrial estate. Northumberland Mall is not a transit hub. People do not live there. Some ( fewer these days) go there to shop. But a person who wants to go to Toronto should not have to go to an out of town mall to catch a bus.

Merry Mary

Yes, and since the redesign of the entrance into the Mall off of Rogers Road, the Town of Cobourg Buses have two difficult turns to make before arriving at the designated Mall Bus Stop and I cannot visualize the standard size GO Bus being able to navigate those other two turns.