Cobourg GO Bus Pilot to Continue

For at least 18 years, there have been people wanting the GO Bus or train to extend service from Oshawa to Port Hope or Cobourg. Last year, the County started a pilot program with two interconnected bus routes – a “Durham” route from Cobourg to Oshawa and a “Northumberland” Route picking up in Campbellford, Brighton and Colborne. The idea was to test if there was in fact enough demand for it to be viable – 20% of operating cost would need to be recovered from fares. After one year of the pilot/trial service, the Northumberland route will be discontinued on November 30 since there were only 513 tickets sold for the approx. 3650 trips (10 trips per day for a year). The Durham route will continue until the end of 2026 – it sold 3065 tickets for approx. 2920 trips (8 trips per day for a year).

Project History

Sources available in resources below

2005 – Port Hope Council supported a citizen’s request to extend Go Service from Oshawa to Port Hope
2017 – The Province confirmed that the GO Train will be extended to Bowmanville.
2020 Jan 15 – Lobbying efforts supported by MPP and County
2020 January 13 – County conducts survey
2022 April 19 – Announcement that this pilot would be happening
2022 Sept 14 – Announcement of pilot project

Bus Stops

Northumberland line (to 30 November)
Campbellford – Canadian Tire
Brighton – Car Park on Telephone Rd
Colborne – Public Carpool Parking Percy Street
Cobourg – Northumberland Mall – pickup at shelter near Giant Tiger

Durham line
Cobourg – Northumberland Mall – pickup at shelter near Giant Tiger
Port Hope – Carpool lot at Phillips Rd. and Wellington St. (near Hwy 28 and 401 interchange)

Time table – Durham Route

Westbound
Cobourg – Northumberland Mall 6:15 AM 9:15 AM 4:35 PM 7:30 PM
Port Hope Carpool Lot 6:30 AM 9:30 AM 4:50 PM 7:45 PM
Oshawa GO 7:20 AM 10:20 AM 5:40 PM 8:30 PM
Eastbound
Oshawa GO 8:00 AM 10:25 AM 3:30 PM 6:20 PM
Port Hope Carpool Lot 8:50 AM 11:10 AM 4:15 PM 7:10 PM
Cobourg – Northumberland Mall 9:05 AM 11:25 AM 4:30 PM 7:25 PM

Financial overview

Operating expenses were $359,000 and ridership revenue was $45,000 – that’s 12.5% – way less than the 20% target. [Metrolinx Policy is that Transit systems should be subsidized such that at least 20% of revenue comes from fares]. The Province provided $50,000 through Metrolinx to gain ridership data and the balance came from the County.

The Northumberland Bus was provided by Community Care and the Durham bus is provided by Eastern Charters.  Tickets on the Durham line are $13 one way and $9 on the Northumberland Line – they must be purchased in advance. Tickets can be obtained online through Commuter Connect operated by Hop-in Technologies although you can also buy tickets at the Cobourg Community Care Office at 1158 Division Street (Cnr of Densmore).

The results of the trial are not a surprise – it’s hard to imagine a whole lot of bus travel inside Northumberland – even a trek to the Oshawa Go Train.  The Cobourg/Port Hope service to Oshawa seems to have some support – it’s not known what the cost to the taxpayer would be for just this service.

Resources

County Web pages

Cobourg News Blog Reports

Other media

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29 Comments
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NAI
5 months ago

I get it – you need ridership to make something viable…..and the corridor after Courtice to Belleville is thin when it comes to daily commuters – but imagine a reliable mass transit that ran to union station every day, once every 3 hours. If I could count on that, I’d totally rely on it vice doing the 401-500 (Nascar reference).

Oh to dream. I know, demographics conspire against us – but oh to dream.

Cobourg taxpayer
6 months ago

Another case of misspending of taxpayer money. If Metrolinx policy is that subsidies for transit must include 20% revenue from fares and that does not occur then that service should be discontinued. To be honest the 20% revenue goal is depressingly low. Never ending taxpayer subsidies for government services at every level (and the list is endless) is not financially viable. We are being taxed to death.

Rob
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer
6 months ago

All levels of government have an unquenchable thirst for our dollars…It won’t ever end.

Cobourg taxpayer
Reply to  Rob
6 months ago

What I find very disturbing and unexplainable is there are those that find this an acceptable way to run every level of government. Most likely all are employees in the public service.

Dunkirk
6 months ago

There was once a couple hundred of us who commuted daily to the GTA on the VIA. It was expensive, but, reliable. It’s value proposition worked for us. It did not have to be subsidized.
VIA reduced their morning schedule dramatically during the pandemic and despite ‘best efforts’ of our elected representatives, that regular service has not been restored.
The current–and ever-changing GO Bus is a band-aid solution that our failed leaders put together for their own motivations…
It cannot compare in any respect to the former VIA service. They know that.
I assume they also know, that the reason it is being subsidized, is that it has not been adopted by the daily, reliable 200 paying commuters who, like me, have chosen to drive.

JimT
6 months ago

This announcement left me confused at first. Since it is the Northumberland route that is to be cancelled and I live in Northumberland, I figured ‘there goes my bus to Oshawa’. But not so, it turns out.

It would have saved me (and maybe others) some confusion if the announcement had said ‘…the Northumberland route between Cobourg and Campbellford…’ vs. ‘the Durham route between Cobourg and Oshawa‘ at the outset.

“Think like a customer” as we used to say at Eaton’s in the Big City back when.

Pete M
6 months ago

A pilot program was commenced and it was found that the ridership wasn’t there that Metrolinx base line. It can be analyzed and debated why the ridership and demand was low- hours of operations not in sync with riders’ needs, lack of marketing and community awareness of service, numbers of users of service not there yet.

Area governments need to pivot and partner with their Durham counterparts and get GO service to Bowmanville.

Once Bowmanville is up and running, you’ll see numbers and use increase with some and maybe a lot coming from Pt Hope and Cobourg.

This is how Lakeshore East line has evolved from the days when the eastern terminus was Pickering. Today it is Oshawa, with parking at a premium there.

The need for stations at Courtice and Bowmanville are more now than ever. Lets get those stations built and Pt Hope and Cobourg will follow.

Cerealboy
6 months ago

I’m tired of subsidizing someone’s wish list…it has to stop….some people must learn to pay their own way.

Sandpiper
Reply to  Cerealboy
6 months ago

Along with the fact that these Town and County Employees have to be held accountable in some fashion This Make work Look Busy tactics that our PubLic Servants are employing are
ridicules , irresponsible , and amount to nothing more than wasting Tax Paying Citizens $$ Money In a Town and County that has seen Double Digit Tax increases every year.
Wait until you see the Cost overages on the Golden Plough and the County Housing Project at Darcy and Elgin 2 yrs in the works ???? No Private sector Builder would stand for this
Negligence .

Gerinator
6 months ago

I guess my head was in the sand. I did not know about this service. I don’t like the fact that taxpayers are picking up 80% of the cost but we have to start somewhere. Also this pilot probably demonstrates that there isn’t enough traffic/desire to have a GO train actually show up in Cobourg. Lobbying efforts, and especially staff and Counsellor effort, should cease immediately, in favour of other real work.

JimT
Reply to  Gerinator
6 months ago

Which came first: the demand or the supply?

marya
6 months ago

Thanks for posting this article and for the timetable to and from Oshawa. Many were not aware of this opportunity to leave vehicles at home and to avoid driving on the 401 that is consumed with transport trucks both eastbound and westbound.

Sandpiper
6 months ago

I wish it was the County Employees that would be held Accountable for these Financial Blunders
if these were private sector jobs loosing this kind of $$$ someone would be out of Work
These losses and underestimations of demand is exactly what went on with the Recycle
operations in Grafton and Colborn and eventually Sold off with huge financial short falls
and eventual Loss of Tax $$$

Dave
6 months ago

This is good news! Previously I was only aware of a Port Hope/Oshawa line, was not aware there was a pick up point in Cobourg to Oshawa Go. Was considering attending the CNE this year but decided against it as so many vehicles are damaged at the GO Station I was reluctant to leave my vehicle there. 300 car jackings this year in the GTA. Anyone with a vehicle on the hit list would probably use this service for a day trip as well as people needing to attend medical appointments and non drivers. Glad the GO does not run all the way to Cobourg from the larger cities. We have enough problems here recently as it is.

Dave
Reply to  Dave
6 months ago

On tonight’s CTV news it states there have been 946 vehicles thefts in Toronto alone this year so far. Seems people would be safer on public transit.

JimT
Reply to  Dave
6 months ago

I sold my Malibu in 1983 in Toronto and moved into a 20th floor apartment at Broadview & Danforth with door-to-door streetcar service to my office down town and back.

It was blissful to be able to lie in bed at night and not have to wonder whether my car down in the underground parking was being broken into or even driven off into the night.

Kevin
6 months ago

If I understand the costs correctly, the Durham Police could pay $13 for a ticket and put somebody on a bus in Oshawa. That would save them the drive to Cobourg. I could find $13 to send anybody from Durham, who is currently living in a tent in Cobourg, back to Oshawa.

Ken Strauss
6 months ago

Why is a transit service for which fares cover only 20% of costs considered acceptable? Unless fares cover at least 100% of costs, every family in Northumberland is paying higher property taxes to benefit the few users of the service.

Kevin
Reply to  Ken Strauss
6 months ago

For this particular service I do not know who was using it nor for what purpose. I tried calling to get info about buying tickets for a friend. Calls were not answered so I ended up driving to Oshawa to pick him up. If public transit is used to get to work then there could be some benefit to the public. The riders/employees will be earning, paying taxes, and doing something at work. For people who need to get to stores, appointments or for not driving after consuming alcohol there can be benefits to the general public. I don’t think fares need to cover 100% of operating costs but it definitely should be run as cost effectively as possible. Using JD’s numbers there were roughly 3000 trips for the Northumberland bus with no passengers. I really hope an empty bus was not being driven around!

John St resident
Reply to  Kevin
6 months ago

The main problem for commuters that don’t drive is our local buses don’t run early enough to get us to the bus stop by the Giant tiger, to be able to get to Go to be into Toronto before 9 am. Local buses start at 6:15 and the GO bus leaves from by the Giant Tiger at 6:15 am too.

That combined with the fact Via rail still has not brought back the commuter train 651 even though they brought back the majority of other communities COVID cancelled trains really is a problem for commuters who don’t have a car or can’t drive for various reasons.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  John St resident
6 months ago

John St resident, you appear to think that the taxpayers should subsidize commuters who choose to not have a car. Why?

Ahewson
Reply to  Ken Strauss
6 months ago

No form of transit is more subsidized than cars. Do you pay a toll every time you drive around Cobourg? My wife and I walk to work, why am I subsidizing those who don’t?

Lets do some critical thinking and look into this a little more. There is severe congestion as one enters the GTA every weekday morning, and again exiting outside the GTA in the evening. The reason? Cars. Too many of them. Imagine if more of those people took subsidized transit. Less congestion. Less transport trucks sitting idle draining on Ontario’s productivity, potential money idling away. No need for highway expansion. If only more people took transit.

That being what it is, what happens currently? Very expensive SUBSIDIZED (your favourite word) highway widening, studies, construction, even more congestion while it all happens, productivity idling away. After years of expensive construction, congestion eases for a couple years, but guess what? Ontario is growing. The congestion returns, SUBSIDIZED highway projects need to happen again and the cycle repeats…until we run out of room. This is how the 401 ended up at 16 lanes with nowhere else to expand and horrible congestion. It’s a vicious cycle that eventually fails.

You know what is cheaper than that? Subsidizing transit to use existing infrastructure and/or expanding transit. Most of the world does it that way. What we do doesn’t work, its failed. You can only expand highways so much. With busses and trains capacity is nearly limitless, it’s just a matter of adding to frequency. In any case it’s a hell of a cheaper, more efficient, better land use practices, better for productivity. Most importantly for you, it’s better for taxpayers.

Kevin
Reply to  Ahewson
6 months ago

Every time I drive anywhere I pay for fuel, including taxes. I pay property taxes which in part covers the cost of local roads. I also support public transit within communities so people can get to work. Even better, if everybody lived close enough to walk/cycle to work there would be much less need for roads and buses. I hate commuting to work but unfortunately it is sometimes necessary. Long term I would find a way to work closer to home or move closer to work. SUBSIDIZED inter-community transit in Canada, with relatively low population density, for people to commute to work will cost a lot of subsidies.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Ahewson
6 months ago

AHewson, consider a few of the problems with public transit:

  • Riders are constrained to a particular schedule
  • Difficult to carry purchases home
  • Riders are at the mercy of striking “workers”
  • Impossible to rapidly move people in the case of an emergency such as an approaching hurricane
  • Riders must be in closed spaces with others which transmits infections
  • Unless a transit stop at every corner one has to walk to actual destination
  • Danger of attacks (terrorists or just bad people)
  • Subject to systemic failures such as the recent national rail stoppage due to software upgrade
  • Only economic in areas of high population density
Ahewson
Reply to  Ken Strauss
6 months ago

What a ridiculous list. Obviously I’m not going to address every individual item, but
most importantly to point out is that more people die per km traveled in cars than do by public transit. It’s not even close either.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Ahewson
6 months ago

Ahewson, not only did you not address *EVERY* individual item, you didn’t address *ANY* item.

Ahewson
Reply to  Ken Strauss
6 months ago

Honestly I thought your list was so ridiculous it is wasn’t worthy of the time.

Schedule comes down to frequency. It’s completely dependent on what system is being used. TTC subway has headway of 2 minutes. Would you find that hard to schedule for? If it’s every hour than yes that is hard to schedule for. Not an issue for a well funded system.

Minor inconvenience or no inconvenience at all depending on how one likes to purchase their products.

Drivers are at the mercy of construction delays and highways closure due to accidents.

Evacuations strain every method of transportation well beyond designed capacity. It’s actually far more efficient to transport people using busses as 30 people in a bus takes up a negligible amount lane space compared to individual cars.

Infectious disease spread, I guess I’ll give you that one. I hope you aren’t driving to a place where there will be other people though….

There’s a reason why people who live in urban areas tend to be healthier. It is because they walk. Walking is not a negative factor. People with mobility issues usually have a separate system tailored to their needs.

Terrorism? Come on. Drunk driving kills more people and on an immense scale.

See 3rd point.

True. And if you’ve noticed, Ontario has been increasing density targets. Access and success of transit is one of the reasons why.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Ahewson
6 months ago

Thank you for a ridiculous list of justifications, Ahewson.

To address your comments:

Do you seriously think that a Toronto bound train departing Cobourg every two minutes is likely? If not then why do you mention the frequency of TTC trains as a justification for public transit from Cobourg to Toronto?

Carrying a bag of groceries several blocks is onerous for many of us who are elderly. Carrying multiple bags is impossible for most of any age.

How well do you think the planned battery powered buses will work for an evacuation? Will there be sufficient buses to hold everyone?

A well designed highway system has alternate routes to minimize the impact of road closures but there is only one track for VIA. What about the recent software failure that impacted all trains?

Increasing density to make public transit less uneconomic is not a reasonable justification for densification nor for public transit.

Ahewson
Reply to  Ken Strauss
6 months ago

My point of the TTC is it is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Scheduling yourself around transit is all dependent on how well funded the system is. I have no idea what the future holds for transit in Cobourg. The Lakeshore East line runs trains every 15 minutes during peak times, off peak it is 30 min. Those frequencies have been gradually increasing with higher usage.

I mentioned that mobility issue users usually have a separate system. There is also food delivery and pickup options. Many elderly people can’t drive at all, how are they currently getting their groceries?

Whether buses are battery or diesel is a whole different discussion. I also don’t know why they need to hold “everyone”, obviously there would be some kind of balance struck. Not implying that 100% of people take public transit in the case of an emergency.

Our well designed highway system has people stranded every single snowstorm as the Emergency Detour Route gets overwhelmed and people try to find faster routes. This leaves Emergency services scrambling to reach people all over the county rather than a single known location.

I said ONE of the reasons why density targets are being increased is to encourage use and expansion of public transit. There are many other benefits but that is different discussion.