GO commuter rail
2.91 million (Toronto Union Station – VIA)
Passenger rail in Toronto helped transformed the city into the economic powerhouse it is today. Over the course of 100 years, from the 1850s to 1950s, the Great Western Railway and Northern Railway, along with other lines, brought significant business to the city, eventually taking up a significant portion of lakeside property as rail lines, stations, servicing facilities, and other infrastructure gradually spread along the coast of Lake Ontario.
There was a time when Amtrak and VIA Rail – Canada’s Amtrak equivalent, offered a line from Chicago to Toronto with stops in between, but the border crossing was eventually cancelled in 2004. Today, Amtrak’s Blue Water operates from Chicago as far as Port Huron and VIA offers service from Sarnia, Ontario to Toronto. Together, these legs serve every single stop along the former International’s route, but there is no connection between the neighboring cities, just two miles apart. There are still other routes to Toronto, however, most notably via Amtrak’s Maple Leaf, which operates out of New York at its easternmost end.
Toronto has a robust network of public transportation. Connected piece by piece by the new PRESTO Card, commuters can access the subway, streetcars, or GO commuter rail systems that lead out of the city.
The UP Express airport connection line is also integrated into the PRESTO system. Originally conceived as a privately-operated rail line connecting Pearson Airport to Union Station, it has transformed into a city-subsidized commuter line, with reasonably priced fares driving ridership up. Although it’s not making a profit, it has substantially reduced its per-ride subsidy by about $20 CAD year over year.
Union Station, the main terminal in Toronto where all of these systems in Toronto intersect, is currently undergoing renovations estimated to cost $823.5 million CAD. Like many construction projects of a similar magnitude, costs have risen and delays have been announced over time. When the project is completed, however, the station will be functionally tripled in size, with increased capacity for more frequent trains and upgraded concourses, platforms, and rails.