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 The Rebecca Street Bus terminal

The Rebecca Street Bus terminal

Located on the north side of Rebecca Street between John and Catharine, the Rebecca Street bus terminal was Hamilton’s third intercity Bus terminal, replacing the Hamilton Terminal Station.

The construction contract was awarded on November 24, 1954 to W. H. Cooper Construction, with work begining shortly after. Construction and land costs totalled approximately $400 000, (Approx. $3.4 million in 2011 dollars) funded jointly by the two largest intercity bus companies that served Hamilton: Gray Coach Lines (which held the rights to run Toronto-Hamilton) and Canada Coach Lines (which held the rights to run between Hamilton and most other cities and towns near Hamilton), with Gray Coach as the owner of the bus terminal. Shortly after midnight on August 4, 1955 moving crews began emptying the Hamilton Terminal Station of furniture, tickets, files and equipment. Using three trucks the building was empty by 5 am, giving movers and staff six and a half hours to have everything organized for the Rebecca Street Bus terminal's grand opening at 11:30 am that morning.

Architectural Details

The Rebecca Street terminal was designed by the architectural firm of Prack and Prack, with 11 bus bays and a two story terminal building. The exterior was covered in light buff brick on the upper level, with dark brown brick on the lower level. Window piers were clad in dark green imitation granite. The second floor consisted of offices and a driver’s lounge, with the ground floor having ticket windows, a waiting room, and a 32-seat restaurant. The basement housed washrooms and originally a barber shop run by Max Kuttas.

GO Transit Arrives

GO Transit began using the terminal on September 8, 1970, running connecting bus service between Hamilton and Oakville, which was the western terminus for most GO trains at the time. This service was actually provided by Gray Coach Lines, under contract to GO Transit. GO Transit would later add the Toronto-Hamilton QEW Express service, and the Toronto-Hamilton Lakeshore Local bus running along Hwy 2.

The addition of these routes pushed the Rebecca Street Bus terminal past its capacity limits. GO Transit’s owner, the Toronto Area Transit Operating Authority offered to take over the terminal from Gray Coach Lines, but an agreement could not be reached. In spite of this, GO Transit began a study in February 1977 for a new, larger terminal. On February 9, 1979 GO Transit called for bids from developers to build a new terminal. GO Transit wanted the new terminal to be part of a large hotel or office building as opposed to a stand-alone building, and GO Transit would lease the new terminal from the building owners. GO Transit received 5 responses to the bid request, but all of these were for bus terminals only, with no additional structure. It was around this time that additional property for bus storage was purchased on the other side of Catharine St, and a small yard was built.

Delays, Delays, Delays

Plans for the replacement bus terminal suffered two long delays. The first revolved around the proposed Hamilton ICTS, as it was necessary to first determine the location of stations in the downtown core, so that the new terminal could be conveniently located near one of them. After the ICTS was rejected by the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Council on December 15, 1981, planning for the new terminal resumed. A new planning study was announced on May 18, 1982 to determine which of four sites would be best. Three of the sites were immediately next to the existing terminal: across John street, across Rebecca street, or on the adjoining property north of the existing terminal. The fourth option was to rebuild the existing terminal with additional bus bays, with additional property added on the north side.

This study was interrupted by the province of Ontario’s proposal for the GO-Advanced Light Rail Transit (GO-ALRT) system on October 7, 1982. As the proposal called for all day GO train service to Hamilton, the number of GO buses would drop significantly, and a replacement terminal would no longer be needed. (At the time, approx 25% of the 300 buses that used the terminal daily were either GO Transit or on contract to GO Transit). The GO-ALRT project was scrapped by the new Liberal-NDP government on November 1, 1985. With this project cancelled, the need for GO buses in Hamilton remained, and once again planning began for a new bus terminal.

A Long Time Coming

One major change that had occurred as a result of the GO-ALRT project was the recognition by Hamiltonians that the recently closed TH&B station in downtown Hamilton was ideally located for GO trains, and that the new bus terminal should be made part of this project. Changes in government delayed the project, but on April 23, 1992, it was decided to transfer operations from the CNR James Street station to the Hunter street station as part of a $56 million Hamilton area GO Transit improvement package. $16 million would be spent on the station itself, including restoration and renovation, as well as the construction of a new intercity bus terminal at the back of the station, on the site of the old freight express building.

During this time, the Rebecca Street Bus terminal ownership had changed, as Gray Coach Lines had been sold to Skipburn Ltd, a subsidiary of Stagecoach Holdings. When Gray Coach was sold to Greyhound in 1993, the Rebecca Street Bus terminal remained in the hands of Skipburn.

On April 27, 1996, at 12:20 am, a London bound Greyhound bus was the last bus to depart from the Rebecca Street Bus terminal. With the transfer of all bus operations to the new Hamilton GO Centre, the Rebecca Street Bus terminal was sold to the City of Hamilton, renovated, and today the terminal building is the home of the Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre. The bus bays now sit unused and empty.

Main entrance to Rebecca St Bus Terminal

The main entrance to the Rebecca St Bus Terminal

Former Rebecca St Bus Terminal restaurant

Right on the corner of John and Rebecca was the Terminal Restaurant.

Old lettering for Terminal Restaurant sign

The old lettering for the Terminal Restaurant in still visible on the Rebecca St side.

Rear side of bus terminal

The rear side of the bus terminal.

Bus bays as seen from Rebecca St

The bus bays as seen from Rebecca St

Bus bays looking east

The bus bays looking east from the terminal building

Bus bays looking west

The bus bays looking west to the terminal building entrance

Looking west from Catherine St

Looking west from Catherine St

Historical photos

Mayor Lloyd D. Jackson is presented with the ceremonial scissors

Mayor Lloyd D. Jackson is presented with the ceremonial scissors as part of the official opening the Rebecca Street Bus terminal on August 4, 1955. Behind him is either Canada Coach Lines #1207 or #1407. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives.)

Mayor Lloyd D. Jackson cuts the ribbon

Mayor Lloyd D. Jackson cuts the ribbon, officially opening the Rebecca Street Bus terminal on August 4, 1955. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives.)

Buses at Rebecca St Bus Terminal in 1969

A lineup of buses at the Rebecca St Bus Terminal in 1969, mostly Gray Coach Lines and Canada Coach Lines. (Photo from the Edward Viveiros collection, used with permission.)

CCL 2191 at the Rebecca St Bus Terminal circa 1991

CCL 2191 at the Rebecca St Bus Terminal circa 1991. (Photo by Bob Hussey, used with permission. From Esbdave's Fotki Page)

CCL 2206 at the Rebecca St Bus Terminal, circa 1991.

CCL 2206 at the Rebecca St Bus Terminal circa 1991. (Photo by Bob Hussey, used with permission. From Esbdave's Fotki Page)

A book of matches from the Terminal Restaurant

A book of matches from the Terminal Restaurant

View of the other side of the same book of matches

View of the other side of the same book of matches

Sources

Hamilton Spectator:
"Bus Terminal Construction Starts At Once." November 24, 1954
"Union Bus Terminal To Be Opened Officially Tomorrow." August 3, 1955
"New Barber Shop To Be Of Most Modern Design." August 3, 1955
"Snack, Full Meal Can Be Obtained At Restaurant." August 3, 1955
"GO buses to make 22 Hamilton-Oakville trips daily." February 17, 1970
"GO buses will make four downtown stops." September 3, 1970
"Hamilton may get new bus terminal." October 14, 1978
"New bus depot planned as a private affair." February 9, 1979
"New bus terminal within two years." February 24, 1982
"Another study on downtown bus terminal." May 18, 1982
Stewart, Bruce. "It's all GO for city." Oct 7 1982
Johnston, Bill "Bus terminal plans stalled." Jan 7, 1983
Crandall, Larry and Hallman, Mark, and Porter, Brian "Burlington gets GO trains but Hamilton gets only talk." Nov 1, 1985
Wilson, Paul "Does bus station deserve tag of 'a shack?'" Feb 11, 1987
Peters, Ken "Bus terminal on sales block." Aug 12, 1995
Wilson, Paul "Last bus will mean end of an era." Apr 23, 1996