Faced with what it calls “ a significant passenger reduction, due to the expansion of GO Transit bus services into the Hamilton-Niagara region,” Coach Canada says it may have to sharply reduce its service between Hamilton and Niagara Falls, and between Hamilton and Kitchener.
A Coach Canada news release says it is impossible to compete with a taxpayer-subsidized service like GO, noting, “The rapid expansion of GO Transit bus services comes at an enormous expense to taxpayers and to you as a regular customer of Coach Canada. A 2011 study showed that taxpayers subsidize $33 of every $100 spent by Go Transit.” Under transportation regulations Coach Canada would be required to provide 90-day notice to the Ontario Highway Transportation Board to eliminate service on the Hamilton to Niagara Falls and Kitchener lines or a 30 day notice to implement a significant service reduction. Coach Canada customers are being urged to write Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca to protest the circumstances that have created the possible service reductions.
The possible departure of Coach Canada from Hamilton would mark the end of more than a century of more or less uninterrupted interurban transit with Hamilton as the hub. In 1896 a group of Hamilton entrepreneurs, all named John (Dickenson, Gibson, Moodie, Patterson, and Sutherland) formed the Cataract Power Company of Hamilton Ltd., with a plan to generate and transmit electricity 56 km from De Cew’s Falls at St Catharines to Hamilton. The company’s name was changed to the Dominion Power and Transmission Company and by 1907 Dominion, which already owned the Hamilton Street Railway, now had bought up electric rail lines radiating from Hamilton to Beamsville, Oakville and Brantford, and erected a transit hub known as the Terminal Building at King and Catharine Streets in Hamilton—a space currently occupied by Effort Square and the Crowne Plaza hotel. Applauding the ambitious plan the Hamilton Times wrote, “ “The idea of the promoters has always been to make Hamilton the centre of a perfect network of electric railway lines that would make all the country for 40 miles every direction tributary to this city.”
By 1931 the popularity of the automobile had made the electric railways uneconomic and they were abandoned. Lawrence Road in Hamilton occupies the former roadbed of the Hamilton, Grimsby and Beamsville Railway, and the Bruce trail on the west mountain angling towards Ancaster is the former Brantford and Hamilton Electric Railway. But the abandonment of the railways opened the door for bus services—more flexible and much cheaper to operate than rail, and what became known as Canada Coach Lines was formed, initially under private ownership. The business prospered and in 1948 Canada Coach Lines actually purchased the HSR from Ontario Hydro who had owned the transit service after buying out Dominion Power in the 1930’s. Then, following a reorganization the roles were reversed and the City of Hamilton ended up owning the HSR and Canada Coach lines which operated routes to Brantford Kitchener and Niagara for more than 40 years. The HSR ownership continued until Hamilton sold Canada Coach to Trentway-Wagar in 1993. The name was changed to Coach Canada after the operation was taken over by the Scottish bus giant, Stagecoach.