Pictured Above: A bike parking station at Clarkson GO Station. Patrick Yutiga Photo (2018)

Authors: Matthew Graystone, James Schofield, & Raktim Mitra

Research Objectives

GO Transit operates regional bus and rail services in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) in Canada. Like many other regional transit agencies, it is faced with a first/last mile challenge in connecting passengers from their points of origin to a transit station.

Currently, 62% of GO Train passengers drive to a station and park.

Planned service enhancements are expected to increase GO Train ridership by 125,000-150,000 passengers. Continued expansion of parking facilities is financially unsustainable and runs counter to efforts to discourage trips by private automobile

This research explores the potential for cycling the first-mile in a suburban context by examining the various socio-demographic, attitudinal/motivational and built environmental factors that may explain a passenger bicycling to a GO Train.

Study Area and Data

Currently, GO Trains operate along seven rail corridors centering on Union Station in downtown Toronto

Passengers at three rail stations - Burlington, Appleby, and Bronte – were intercepted near entrances and handed a postcard with an invitation to complete an online survey.

A total of 306 survey responses were received, at a response rate of 19.7%.

Data Analysis

A principal component analysis (PCA) of 17 survey variables produced 6 components relating to travel motivation, perception and cycling comfort.

A binomial logistic regression approach identified the correlates of bicycling (versus using any other mode) to access a station.

Due to smaller sample size (n=265), with few instances of the desired outcome (i.e., bicycling to GO station); a set of Firth-adjusted logistic regression models was used. We estimated partially adjusted models that controlled for variations in a passenger’s age and gender.

Key Findings

Other than household car ownership, no socio-demographic characteristics were associated with the likelihood of a passenger bicycling to a GO Train station.

Promoting and facilitating a culture where environmentally sustainable travel modes including bicycling are seen more favourably may be a way of increasing cycling rates to suburban rail stations.

With regard to the built environment, key transportation-related barriers, such as highways and street density likely discouraged bicycling for transit access .

The quantity of available cycling facilities and comfort level in different conditions had no impact on cycling, however, a more nuanced examination of the quality of bicycle infrastructure remains a topic for future research.

Many of our findings are contrary to what is expected in urban settings. Our results begin to emphasize the importance of bicycling research specifically focusing on suburban North American context.


This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Presented at the 99th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, January 2020 (Paper # 20-01915)