Hamilton Harbour from on board a GO train going to Toronto during the morning rush hour Credit: Joey Coleman

The all-day GO train service between Hamilton’s West Harbour station and Toronto’s Union Station is fantastic.

Reliable, convenient, comfortable, and the best view of Hamilton Harbour is included in the ticket price.

As someone who pounded my keyboard tweeting undying loyalty to the QEW Express bus, I now tweet the same for the all-day West Harbour train service. I am a convert.

I appreciate the extra productivity I gain riding the train. I set up a “portable office” on board, complete with a power pack. (Yes, I am that guy.)

Joey’s equipment on the GO Train

The West Harbour service began on August 7, and it appears to be very successful during its first few weeks. There were around 18 passengers on the first August 7 trip.

There are approximately 30 passengers per train in random non-scientific observations when I take the train or walk by the station during arrival/departure times.

It is a good start for a new service regardless of the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, the four rush-hour departures from West Harbour averaged 81 people per day, 20 per train.

I was skeptical regarding the value of all-day service to West Harbour. While GO Transit does not reveal the hourly operating cost of their passenger trains [I asked, they declined to answer], they are not cheap to run.

The earlier ridership alleviates my concerns about this becoming a white elephant. 30 passengers per train during the first month while in a pandemic indicates we can expect over 100 passengers per train in the future.

Last week, GO Transit announced they are increasing train service to West Harbour after Labour Day.

A Hamilton-bound GO bus at the Toronto Union Station Bus Terminal in August 2021

Before anyone frets about losing the QEW Express bus, GO Transit is very clear in their official and unofficial communications that they will increase bus service as ridership returns.

Wednesday’s 20:30 trip left Union Station with around 40 passengers. (I took the 20:45 West Harbour train, more room to work on the train.)

It appears GO is attracting new riders with the West Harbour service and that riders are returning to the QEW Express.

We can expect a discussion of preliminary ridership statistics at the September 9 Metrolinx Board of Directors meeting. I will watch for them.

Until then, I’ll be enjoying the views of Hamilton Harbour from the train.

Hamilton Harbour from on board a GO train going to Toronto during the morning rush hour

7 replies on “COLEMAN: I Swore By The QEW Express Bus, I’m a West Harbour Train Convert”

    1. I write on my laptop during travel and the distance between bus seats is less than optimal for writing. Prior to the West Harbour, I swore by QEW Express. The inconvenience of the train – bus connection at Aldershot meant I avoided the train.

      Now, the bus is 55 minutes compared to the train at 75 minutes. I happily exchange the extra 20 minutes in travel time for the increased productivity I gain with the extra space on the train. (I live around the same distance from City Hall as I do from West Harbour GO.)

      Quick additional on my travel time estimates.

      The QEW Express is around 45 minutes Union to Westdale, add 10 to 15 minutes to get to City Hall. Let’s say 55 minutes.
      The Union to West Harbour Train is 75 minutes.
      Presently, there is a bare minimum dwell time at any of the stations. (The time the train is stopped to embark and disembark passengers). There are 10 stops between Union and West Harbour. As people return to the trains, dwell times will increase. Therefore, we can expect dwell times to increase and add about 10 minutes to the trip.

    1. Definitely. I nap well on the bus. The highway ramp curves at each end wake me up. Never been able to nap on the train.

  1. Nope..still a white elephant and will remain one..has zero benefit to McMaster which is a major user of service in and out of Hamulton.
    Did you move and now the QEW express is out of the way for you now and West Harbour is closer to your home?..West Harbour GO is out of the way for most except those in the North End .it helped inflate North End real estate prices while it was being built but now it only holds value to a real estate listing as it.seems of value but isn’t

    1. McMaster continues to be serviced by the 15 and 15A GO buses which provide a direct connection to the all-day service at Aldershot station. The West Harbour service is a slight improvement for the 15 bus which previously needed to go to Burlington in the afternoon rush.
      The problem of housing inflation is prevalent across the entire GTHA. All-day GO service will have some impact on property values, but it is not the driver of property value inflation.

  2. Love the new train. I definitely like the express bus covenience from westdale. But the train is accessible from westdale by dedicated cycling infrastructure which makes it a convenient option for many west of downtown. Most importantly, is the ability of people along Lakeshore to commute into Hamilton. Sure, driving into Ham is not comparable to Toronto, but some people lack the ability/age or means to travel by car and getting to Hamilton is not getting easier. I also like the convenience of taking train to destinations that are west of Union Stn. This is a huge win for Hamilton and years overdue.

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