The route serves to connect Oshawa, Whitby and Ajax with express service along Highway 401 to the Toronto district of Scarborough and Finch Bus Terminal in the Toronto district of North York, as opposed to sister route 92 operating local service along Highway 2 to Yorkdale Bus Terminal in North York.
Additionally, the route serves to connect passengers at the Scarborough Centre Bus Terminal in Scarborough to route 92 buses for westward travel towards Yorkdale Bus Terminal, or from route 92 buses for westward travel to Finch Bus Terminal.
This route operates primarily on Highway 401.
The 96 Oshawa-Finch Express route operates from the Oshawa GO Station to the Finch Bus Terminal, making stops at Whitby GO Station and Ajax GO Station. However, the majority of trips also make a stop at the Scarborough Centre Bus Terminal.
On June 29, 2013, Durham Region Transit's route 900 DRT PULSE Highway 2 was introduced. Thus, GO Transit routes 94 and 95 were discontinued to avoid duplicating service along Highway 2 in Durham Region. Service along route 96 was subsequently expanded to provided all day, two-way express service between the GO stations and the Finch Bus Terminal, making it the first GO bus route to operate to the terminal on weekends. Meanwhile, to maintain service connecting Highway 2 to Yorkdale Bus Terminal, route 92 Oshawa-Yorkdale was introduced. Route 98 Pickering-Finch was also introduced as a weekday peak service to connect passengers along Highway 2 (via route 92) and in Pickering to the Finch Bus Terminal via connection at the Scarborough Centre Bus Terminal.