The RER Potential – and How Not to Miss it
In recent years, the province has undertaken a project that has the potential to reshape the Greater Toronto Area. The Regional Express Rail (RER) will convert GO Rail from a network that has limited use beside serving commuters during rush hour, to a frequent transit option that can move people quickly across the region, all day, to a variety of destinations.
This move, which so far gained much less exposure than projects with much less potential, will help address the transportation needs of a region that has become too vast and spread-out to be effectively served by a subway, and too populous to be effectively served by freeways.
The RER can be transformative in providing a big push to resolve the two big issues of the region: the transit infrastructure deficit and the housing affordability crisis. But to achieve that, we should recognize this potential and plan how to realize it.
What is the GO RER
The GO Regional Express Rail (RER) takes its name from the Parisian RER, Réseau Express Régional, and is modelled on systems such as the Paris RER, the London Crossrail and Thameslink, and systems in a few smaller European cities that are called S-Bahn.
The idea behind those systems is to take the existing commuter rail network and its infrequent, peak-only service that is oriented to traditional commuters, and transform it into a frequent all-day system more similar to a subway/metro.
RER differs from North American commuter rail systems like GO Transit in a few substantial ways that make it much more useful:
- Commuter rail runs in one direction during rush hour, and as a result, it can only serve commuters, and more specifically, only commuters who live in the suburbs and work in the city centre during regular hours. In comparison, the RER runs all day and both ways, can serve many types of trips besides commuting to work, and when serving commuters, it provides access to workplaces across the region and at all times of the day.
- When commuter rail operates during the day, it is usually very infrequent, making it much less useful. The GO RER will run at least every 15 minutes during the day and more frequently at times of high demand.