Metrolinx considers making dogs on GO a permanent feature

Five months after launching pet pilot project allowing leashed dogs on GO trains and buses with their human commuters, doggone it, the results are in.

Tess Fleming is the ultimate GO train passenger.

She’s petite, well mannered, loves to sit quietly – and she never puts her paws up on the seat.

Tess, a two-year-old miniature Australian Shepherd, has been riding the rails with her owner, Kimberly Fleming, since last July, when Metrolinx launched its pet pilot project on GO trains and buses.

Under the trial, two pooches per passenger have been allowed to ride in style.

The Metrolinx Board of Directors will now decide whether to adopt the measure permanently.

And it largely all began with Tess.

Dogs on trains 2

Leader of the pack – Tess, the little canine who led a mission to allow dogs on Go Trains, happily waits for her next ride at Toronto’s Union Station. (Amanda Ferguson photo)

“People pet her. They love her,” said Fleming of Tess. “We almost always say hi to the customer service agent and they always pet her and talk to her and say what a beautiful dog she is.”

Up until July, all animals travelling on GO Transit had to be in enclosed carriers, including dogs.

Fleming, a retiree living in Port Credit with her husband, said it meant major headaches for her family to visit her daughter. Fleming’s daughter lives in downtown Toronto with her own Australian Shepherd. That meant travelling by car was the only option for the three humans and two dogs to meet.

“On weekends she couldn’t come and visit us because she would need a car and living in a condo downtown, she doesn’t have a car,” Fleming said.

So in August 2017, Fleming started an online petition to ask GO Transit to review its pet policy. Within four weeks, it had more than 26,000 signatures.

 

In response, Metrolinx launched a pilot project this July, allowing dogs on leashes during off-peak hours on the lower levels of its trains and buses.
Metrolinx says the response to its pilot has been positive. About 80 per cent of GO train and UP Express customers said they were satisfied or neutral with dogs on board.

A report to the board now recommends Metrolinx implement the policy permanently.

If the board agrees, Metrolinx would follow in the paw steps of other transit agencies, including the TTC, Brampton Transit and York Regional Transit. They have allowed leashed dogs on board for years without problems.

From July to November, only two incidents were reported on GO trains or buses where dogs left a mess on board. No additional costs were incurred for cleaning.

Fleming thinks the policy is better for the entire transit system because it gets people out of their cars.

“I’m really happy with Metrolinx,” Fleming said. “Metrolinx looked at the issue and didn’t just turn away. They said they would look into it… and they actually did.”

Metrolinx will consider changing its pet policy at its board meeting on December 6th. For a look at the agenda and related reports, click here.

Until then, and possibly after, Tess will count on going fur with Go Transit.

(Story by Amanda Ferguson, Metrolinx senior advisor, media relations and issues.)