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Weekend GO train, bus service coming this summer

Lance Holdforth - Special to the Examiner
Mark Wanzel Photo
A GO Transit pilot project will see weekend trains from Barrie to Toronto run from June 23 to Sept. 3. Above, commuters arrive in Barrie, Thursday evening.

Mark Wanzel Photo A GO Transit pilot project will see weekend trains from Barrie to Toronto run from June 23 to Sept. 3. Above, commuters arrive in Barrie, Thursday evening.

Tourism in Barrie may see a boost when a GO transit pilot project extends weekend trips to Toronto and back.

GO train and bus services will be extended on weekends from June 23 to Sept. 3 adding more convenience and direct lines to-and-from Union Station.

The city has been in talks with GO Transit's parent company, Metrolinx, about extending transit for some time, and with six new train trips temporarily added to the schedule, Mayor Jeff Lehman said he's optimistic about the results.

"It's a pilot project and it's only two trains a day, but I think what it's going to do is provide people an opportunity, obviously from Barrie, to get down to events in Toronto which I think is convenient and kind of cool for our residents," he said.

"More importantly it has the potentially for us to bring in people from Toronto for the tourism industry."

The extension was announced on Thursday, and with summer events around the corner, Lehman said the timing couldn't be more perfect.

"The train is going to be arriving right into the middle of things like Kempenfest because of the Allandale station. I think it's just great for tourism," he said. "It's not hugely expensive to run them (trains) back and forth to Toronto if you have the capacity on the system."

The Allandale Waterfront GO Station will add two extra trains to the weekend schedule and four trips stopping at the East Gwillimbury GO Station.

The province will also add four new weekend GO buses meeting trains at East Gwillimbury GO Station, making all stops to and from the Barrie Bus Terminal.

Every year Tourism Barrie representatives hand out Barrie tour guides to people passing through Union Station, and Lehman said all their hard work is about to pay off.

"They actually go right into Union Station and hand them out," he said. "We've been talking with Metrolinx about this for about a year, so we're very excited they went a head and introduced the service."

After hearing the news of the additional trips, Linda Wilson, Tourism Barrie's interim managing director, was excited for future prospects.

"People can come up on weekends and shop downtown or enjoy the beaches," she said. "I'm so excited because this is going to be huge. The economic impact is going to be amazing."

Tourists can avoid rush hour traffic and parking congestion due to extended trains, and will be able to benefit from what the city has to offer, Wilson said.

"We want to encourage visitors to come up and bring their bikes or whatever," she said. "By coming up on the train they can stay over night because they have a train to go back to."

Since 2003, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Bob Charielli says the provincial government has spent more than $6 billion on improving GO Transit service and expanding routes.

Approximately 700 commuters use the GO train service in Barrie's south end during the week.

The Barrie GO line to Toronto carries approximately 7,500 passengers every day.

Local businesses could see a positive influx of clientele as a result of extra trains, which Wilson said is a large portion of Tourism Barrie's goal.

"It's been a long time in the works," she said. "For us, we want to promote overnight stays, shopping downtown and especially market visitors and friends and families."

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