‘Almost no notice at all’: GO Transit changes frustrate Mississauga and southern Ontario commuters


Published April 9, 2023 at 7:28 am

It took one GO Transit scheduling change to turn Siddhartha Batra from a regular commuter to a full-time remote worker.

A direct bus operated by the regional transit provider used to provide an easy way for the 31-year-old civil engineer to travel from his home in downtown Toronto to his job roughly 35 kilometres away in Mississauga.

But some changes GO operator Metrolinx recently implemented on some of its most popular train and bus routes effectively doubled Batra’s travel time, based on estimates from GO Transit’s own trip tracker. The prospect of the longer commute prompted him to obtain permission to abandon the journey altogether and work from home permanently.

“There is no way on Earth I’m travelling two hours on public transit, one-way,” Batra said in an interview. “I won’t be using it at all because it just doesn’t work anymore.”

Batra is not alone in his frustration with the scheduling changes, which Metrolinx announced late last month and largely implemented as of Saturday.

The agency bolstered service levels on the busy routes connecting Toronto and Kitchener, Ont., but also scrapped some train services and replaced them with bus routes. Some bus schedules were also adjusted to eliminate a key connection point at Toronto’s Union Station, a transit hub linking the regional and local public transit systems.

Batra’s old Route 21 bus fell victim to the latter change. Rather than catching a direct ride from Union, travellers are now being asked to take a GO train to one of three stations on the Lakeshore West line before reconnecting with the bus to continue the trip.

“We now have to go from Union to Port Credit and then take a bus across. So it’s just made it a lot worse, the transit time,” Batra said, noting the new schedule adds nearly an hour to the commute.

The routes in question run through some of the fastest-growing regions in the province. Statistics Canada’s latest census data shows the population of Milton, Ont., the final destination for Route 21 buses, soared 20 per cent between 2016 and 2021. The population of Milton’s  home region of Halton jumped nearly nine per cent during that time, while neighbouring Peel Region saw its population climb roughly five per cent to about 1.45 million residents.

A statement from Metrolinx said long-anticipated efforts to refurbish Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway prompted the changes on Route 21, arguing the new schedule will make travel times more “consistent and reliable” amid the expected construction.

A message on the GO Transit website announcing the service adjustments said they will result in “faster trips for those heading further west to Oakville, Burlington, Hamilton and beyond.”

Batra, for his part, isn’t buying the effort to position the changes as improvements.

“That’s just false advertising, so that’s my first frustration,” he said. “My second frustration is the amount of notice that we were given and the way this was communicated. Almost no notice at all for people to make adjustments to their jobs.”

Batra believes Metrolinx should have given commuters at least four months to adapt their travel plans or work schedules, noting transit systems in other places he’s lived in like Singapore and Dubai don’t generally overhaul routes on such tight timelines.

He’s not the only one unhappy with the latest changes.

Mississauga resident Quratulain Syeda, 34, anticipates the alterations will turn her commute into “a complete whole mess.”

“This was basically my main way of getting into the city because I only use public transport to get around,” she said of the old Route 21 bus. “I do not have a car, so I rely on it heavily.”

Syeda, who frequently travels to Toronto to visit friends and attend events, said she used to be able to get from her front door to Union Station “in 45 to 50 minutes at any time.” The new configuration has added about an hour to that trip.

“I will be probably looking at (taxi) options or maybe not try and go to as many events or things in the city,” she said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published April 9, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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