The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) consists of the City of Toronto, the City of Hamilton, and the surrounding Regions of Halton, Peel, York, and Durham. GO Transit also reaches beyond the GTHA into Niagara and Waterloo Regions, and Peterborough, Simcoe, Dufferin, and Wellington Counties.
In total, GO trains and buses serve a population of 7 million in a 11,000 square kilometres (4,200 sq mi) area radiating in places more than 140 kilometres (87 mi) from downtown Toronto. Present extrema are Hamilton and Waterloo to the west; Orangeville, Barrie, and Beaverton to the north; Peterborough and Newcastle to the east; and Niagara Falls to the south.
The GO system map shows seven train lines (or corridors), all departing from Toronto's Union Station and mostly named respectively after the outer terminus of train service. Although colours are assigned in a consistent fashion to each line in all official media, in colloquial parlance lines are only ever referred to by their names.
GO Transit's rail services (reporting mark GOT) carry the large majority of its overall ridership. Passengers are carried by Bi-Level coaches built by Bombardier Transportation. These coaches, easily identifiable by their elongated-octagon shape, were designed in the mid-1970s for GO Transit by Hawker Siddeley Canada as a more efficient replacement for GO's original single-deck coaches and cab cars. Later coaches were manufactured by Can-Car and finally Bombardier, which now owns the designs and manufacturing facility. There are more than 700 such coaches in service and almost all have been built at the company's Thunder Bay, and Plattsburgh, New York plants. They are used by a number of other commuter railways across North America. They have a seating capacity of 162 people per coach, or 1,944 per train. The coaches are primarily pulled/pushed by MPI MP40 locomotives, which replaced most of the older EMD F59PH locomotive. The new MP40 is more powerful, allowing it to pull 12 coaches instead of 10. All upper levels of the coaches on rush hour trains are designated "Quiet Zones".
GO Transit operates single-level coach buses and double-decker buses. Most of the older buses in the fleet are 45-foot, single-level D4500 coach buses built by Motor Coach Industries (MCI), which can seat 57 people. In April 2008, GO began operating 43-foot Enviro 500 double-decker buses built by Alexander Dennis. The first two batches of double deckers have a height of 4.2 metres and due to height clearance restrictions on many routes, these buses run exclusively on GO's Highway 407 and Highway 403 corridor, with an additional order of these buses allowing them to provide service to York Region. All of the buses are equipped with bike racks.
These original Enviro 500 buses were too tall to meet many height standards set by the provincial Ministry of Transportation and thus are restricted to routes which avoid low bridges and underpasses. For this reason, GO ordered new units for its fleet in 2013 with a redesigned front and a height of 4.1 metres, 10 cm lower than the previous models. The lower height allows these buses to meet many more clearance standards as a result and are used on a wider variety of routes.
These buses, though, are still too high to fit in a number of GO terminals, namely Hamilton, Yorkdale, York Mills, and Union Station, so a further order of double deckers will have an even lower height of 3.9 metres and can be used on the entire GO bus network. As part of this latest deal, a new bus chassis assembly facility is to be established in Ontario, creating up to 30 new full-time jobs.
Most GO bus service is designed to stand in for train service when it is not operating, or extend the reach of train service to communities beyond their terminus by buses. Other GO buses are independent of rail services, such as the Highway 407 GO bus, which provides service that circles Toronto and makes connections between all train lines. There are also routes that serve Pearson International Airport, seasonal destinations such as Canada's Wonderland, and several colleges and universities. GO buses serve most GO train stations, 16 bus terminals, and intermediate stops and ticket agencies.
The first bus model used with GO Transit livery was unveiled at Queen's Park on 11 August 1970, about a month before commencing operations on its expanded services east, west, and north of Toronto. Operated by Gray Coach, a pilot program to test them was conducted in Pickering before they entered service on 8 September 1970.
Fares on the network are based a zone tariff set between two specified points by GO Transit, and the type of passenger using the ticket. Passenger categories exist for adults, students, seniors, children, and groups. Tickets are also sold for single trip, or passes for one day or one month. Tickets can be used on a GO train, bus, or a combination of both. They can be purchased at train stations, bus terminals, ticket agencies, or on GO buses.
The Presto card, available on all GO trains and buses, is a unified smart card-based payment system used throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Presto is a sister operating division of Metrolinx and the card can also be used on numerous local transit agencies in the GTHA. Discounted fares are available for passengers who use local transit to connect with a GO bus or train.
The Presto system allows passengers to load a re-loadable card with any amount starting at $10, up to $1,000. Passengers pay their fare by "tapping" on and off on busses and trains. With each tap, the system calculates the fare for the ride, and it is deducted from the balance of the card. The card can also be linked to a credit card and set on autoload, so that it automatically adds a certain amount of money as soon as the balance decreases past a certain level (e.g., setting it to add $100 every time the balance decreases to less than $25).
GO Trains utilize a "Proof-of-payment honour system" on which passengers may be subject to random inspections to prove that they have paid their fares. This system is designed to reduce costs and improve efficiency. The integrity of this system is protected by Metrolinx's By-law No. 2, which by reference to the Provincial Offences Act imposes a $100 fine for fare evasion.