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Thank you Mr. Speaker. I rise in the house today to tell you about our government’s investment in GO Transit.
Since we took office nearly four years ago, Mr. Speaker, our government has invested $1.8 billion in GO Transit to benefit riders in the GTA and Hamilton, including $457 million this year.
Exactly one week ago today was GO Transit’s 40th Anniversary. And it’s been 40 years of phenomenal growth.
It’s hard to imagine that GO Transit started in 1967, as an experiment with a single train line running along a short stretch of Lake Ontario. As soon as the first trains began roaring across the tracks they were filled with people looking for an alternative to the car. In its first year GO carried 2½ million passengers and its success hasn’t stopped since.
Mr. Speaker, today GO Transit operates seven train lines and a bus system that covers more than 2,200 kilometres. It carries over 48 million passengers a year on a system of trains and buses that connect with each other and regional transit across the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton.
GO has become one of the greatest transit system success stories in North America. Its triumphs have exceeded the wildest dreams of everyone involved in its creation.
And Mr. Speaker, there’s more growth ahead.
Better service for Mississauga residents is only a few months away, as this fall we will open the new Lisgar station. It will be the first new GO station to be built in Mississauga in 25 years.
And we are working with the federal government and Greater Toronto Area municipalities on a $1 billion infrastructure improvement plan that will see many new kilometres of track built on the Lakeshore and Georgetown lines and, by the end of this year, GO rail service restored to Barrie.
We are also constructing underpasses and overpasses so that GO train commuters won’t be delayed by freight traffic on the Georgetown, Bradford, and Stouffville lines.
And Mr. Speaker we can’t forget about the heart of GO’s expansive network – Union Station. GO Transit has also embarked on an extensive renewal program for Union Station and the tracks approaching the historic station. The improvements will double the station’s capacity to more than 80 million passengers per year and will improve train operations and reduce operating costs.
We are making improvements to Union Station so that commuters can easily get around. We have opened a new platform and added new stairways to reduce bottlenecks and make it easier for riders to get to the GO concourse, transit connections and street-level walkways.
The historic train shed roof, one of only two of its kind in Canada, will be rehabilitated providing a cleaner, brighter platform area. A modernized signal system will improve reliability and allow trains to move quickly in and out of the station.
More efficient use of trains means a better system for riders.
These improvements will allow GO to expand routes and increase service to keep pace with the growth in the GTA and Hamilton.
Our investments have provided GO riders with access to four new train stations at East Gwillimbury, Mount Pleasant, Kennedy and the relocated Milliken station. We have opened a new bus terminal at Square One in Mississauga and at McMaster University in Hamilton.
We have also purchased 70 new bi-level railcars that can carry seven million more passengers per year, 27 more powerful and fuel-efficient locomotives, 144 new accessible buses and 12 double-decker buses.
We’ve also added 500 new bus trips per day and 6,000 new parking spaces across the system.
And I’m pleased to say, Mr. Speaker that our investments are paying off.
GO Transit ridership has increased by about 10 per cent from 44.3 million to 48.7 million in the past three years — that’s 4.4 million more passenger trips. Total GO Transit ridership in fiscal 2007-08 is expected to be around 51 million.
That means an average of more than 1.4 million fewer car trips each year in and around the GTA and Hamilton.
Getting more people out of their cars and onto public transit means we’re all breathing cleaner air… burning less fuel… and reducing gridlock.
Improving public transit is a vital part of this government’s plan to create a more sustainable transportation system. We’ve taken a huge step in the right direction by creating the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority. GTTA will build a seamless transportation network across GTA and Hamilton.
Increasingly, transportation patterns in this part of the province are moving away from the “into and out of” downtown Toronto pattern that used to prevail. People are instead commuting right across the region, and we want them to be able to do so easily and conveniently.
We want to give riders the convenience of using one fare card to travel across different transit systems from Hamilton to Durham Region by developing the GTA Fare Card.
Mr. Speaker, I’m proud that our commitment to public transit is making a difference for people who live and work in the GTA and Hamilton and all across this province.
I wish GO Transit and the people it serves even greater success over the next 40 years.
Thank you Mr. Speaker.