GO launches 'bike train' service to Niagara Falls
Published Tuesday, May 11, 2010 7:28PM EDT
TORONTO - Cyclists in Ontario won't have to use their own steam to get a change of scenery this season as GO Transit offers a smoother ride for people wanting to pedal through the towns and cities dotted between Toronto and Niagara Falls.
From the Victoria Day weekend until the trees display their amazing array of fall colours, the provincially operated train service will offer a roll on, roll off service that will let riders easily transport their bikes to new destinations to enjoy a day's ride.
GO Transit is launching its new bike coaches on weekend excursion trains between Canada's financial hub and the country's honeymoon capital.
The excursion trains will make several stops along the way, from Toronto's Union Station, Exhibition and Port Credit stations to Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.
Three times daily on Saturdays and Sundays between May 21 and September 26, GO will run trains in both directions that have two coaches each with bicycle racks. The special bike coaches can carry 36 bicycles while seven regular coaches on the train can hold another 28 bicycles.
Riders can easily slide their bikes into and out of the racks on the lower level of the trains, like they do in Europe.
"I believe it's the first commuter train in Canada that has this," Lousia Mursell, spokeswoman for the non-profit cycling promotion group Bike Train, said Tuesday.
"In Europe they have these bike racks in a lot of trains. You can roll on and roll off your bike in many destinations in Germany, and Switzerland and France, so for Canada to get this I think it's quite novel."
GO Transit managing director Gary McNeil hopes it will encourage more people to take their bikes on the train and get more cars off the road.
"We're hoping more and more people will come down both as families and groups to take advantage of a beautiful area of Niagara region and take the GO service down."
Mursell thinks GO will transport more cyclists than ever.
"I'm really excited. I think it's amazing for cyclists this summer," said Mursell.
"Get people off the highways and onto their bikes and cycling incredible areas."
Mursell said the project director of Bike Train, Toronto cyclist Justin Lafontaine, originally launched a pilot initiative with Via Rail between Toronto and Niagara in 2007.
Last year, on eight various weekends from June to September, Via trains carried bicycles between Toronto and Niagara Falls but only made one stop along the way in St. Catharines, said Mursell.
There was daily Via service for eight weeks between Toronto and Montreal last year where bike racks were installed in a baggage car, she said. Talks continue between her group and Via on whether bike-rack service might be offered this year, she added.
She said for now, most travellers on Via can only bring bikes on trains equipped with baggage cars and must pay an extra $20 to put the bike in a box and remove its pedals.
Mursell said GO Transit's system is easier for riders who can just roll on and roll off bicycles from trains.
Bike Train has also arranged with Ontario Northland to add a baggage car with bike racks on one weekend each in July, August and September from Toronto to North Bay, Ont. It's also worked out a deal for Via Rail to add a baggage car for bicycles for trips from Toronto to Windsor-Essex for one weekend each in June and July.
McNeil said GO could carry about 1,500 people on a train to Niagara Falls but found it had about 1,000 passengers at the most on a train during its summer excursions to the tourist hot spot last year.
About 40 people would normally sit in the area where the bike racks are, so McNeil said there's no problem with losing capacity.
In October, the bike racks will be pulled out and regular seats will be put on the GO trains.
GO teamed up with Bombardier to design the bike coaches, which cost about $100,000 each above the $3 million price of a bilevel coach, he said.
"We're doing an environmental assessment right now on Niagara train service to look at what the impacts would be associated with expanding train service throughout the week," he added.