GO Transit must reduce delays
Published: December 12, 2007
Source: JEFF GRAY - Globe & Mail
Delay-prone GO Transit not only needs to do more to keep its trains
on time, it should crack down on passengers who fail to pay their fares,
a report by Ontario's Auditor-General says.
Commuters know all about GO Transit's frequent cancellations and
delays - wintry weather tends to make it worse - and even
Auditor-General Jim McCarter said he was left stranded on a platform
"I take the GO train infrequently, and you know, myself and several
hundred people stood on the platform for 40 minutes waiting for the GO
train," Mr. McCarter told reporters yesterday. "It is an issue. They've
got some serious challenges that really need to be addressed."
Riders on the rapidly growing commuter-rail service endured more than
160 train cancellations and 3,400 delays between October, 2006, and
February, 2007, the report says. Over all, only 85 per cent of trains
ran on time, nearly 10 per cent off GO's performance in past years.
The audit chastises GO Transit for failing to plan properly for
future growth on its rail corridors, resulting in overcrowding. The
report also partly blames the delays on GO's complex relationship with
the private freight railways - Canadian National and Canadian Pacific -
that own 70 per cent of its tracks and actually operate its trains, a
problem GO has raised before.
It also criticizes GO for the management of some of its contracts
with private consultants and other firms. One, for experts to oversee
massive repairs to parts of Union Station, was initially approved as a
$275,000, year-long contract but was extended nine times, the auditor
said, growing to $25-million, even though GO knew it would need a
GO Transit's managing director, Gary McNeil, said that kind of
contract - which GO's board approved - was pretty standard in the
infrastructure business, because bringing in new consultants each year
is not practical. Plus, he said, the agency relies on the federal,
provincial and municipal governments for its funds, meaning it must take
a year-by-year approach.
That lack of long-term funding, he said, is also the reason it might
appear that GO Transit operates without sufficient planning: "We'd love
to plan without regard to budgets, but we can't."
To partly address the difficult issue of its relationship with the
private-sector railways, GO Transit next year is ending its practice of
using CN crews and has awarded a contract to operate the majority of its
trains to Bombardier.
The move, Mr. McNeil said, will improve customer service by including
financial penalties for causing trains to run late - filling another gap
identified by the audit.
The report is also critical of the fact that GO Transit inspectors
looking for fare evasion are more likely to target trains outside of
rush hour, with 60 per cent of inspections occurring when the trains are
much less crowded.
Once caught, offenders have only a 40 per cent chance of getting a
$110 fine, the rest getting off with a warning.
"Some inspectors we interviewed informed us that warnings are often
issued instead of fines to avoid confrontations with riders," the report
While GO says it is drafting new guidelines for train inspectors, Mr.
McNeil defended GO's turnstile-free system, saying it has saved GO money
in infrastructure and is more convenient for customers, most of whom, he
said, pay their fare.
When the GO is slow
Montreal's commuter rail system beats all others in North America for
promptness, but it carries only a fraction of the riders that GO Transit
Reasons for delays, Oct., 2006 - Feb., 2007
Weather, medical emergencies, accidents, trespassers and misc. 23%
Equipment failure* 27.4%
Resultant delays 14.3%
Waiting for passengers to load and unload 8.9%
* Switches, signals, crossings, locomotives, coaches etc.
Initial delay results in delays to other trains.
Comparing on-time performance for North American commuter rail
|Metro North (New York)
|New Jersey Transit
|(New Jersey, parts of New York)
|Long Island Railroad (New York)
* Percentage of commuter trains that arrive within six minutes of the
scheduled time (compared to five minutes for other systems).
Jan. to June, 2006, ø Fiscal year ending June 30, 2006.