Metrolinx makes dogs on GO a permanent feature

Five months after launching a pilot project allowing leashed dogs on GO trains and buses with their human commuters, Metrolinx’s board of directors voted Thursday to make it a permanent part of its pet policy.

Metrolinx is doing something doggone good.

During their Dec. 6 meeting, the Metrolinx board unanimously approved changing its pet policy to allow for a maximum of two leashed dogs on GO trains and buses during off-peak hours.

This comes after a Port Credit woman launched a petition asking the transit agency to review its pet policy. Up until July, all animals travelling on GO Transit had to be in enclosed carriers, including dogs.

Kimberly Fleming said she was inspired to push Metrolinx to learn a new trick after she adopted Tess, a petite, well mannered, miniature Australian Shepherd.

Fleming, a retiree living in Port Credit with her husband, said travelling with Tess 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.

Dogs on trains 2

Tess, who started a doggy revolution on GO. (Amanda Ferguson photo)

“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.

Tess has been riding the rails ever since.

“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.”

Metrolinx says the response to its pilot was positive. About 80 per cent of GO train and UP Express customers said they were satisfied or neutral with dogs on board.

Jessalynn Selby, vice president, customer service delivery at Metrolinx, says it’s all about bringing fur families together.

“As we expand our service, more of our customers are using GO Transit to travel to visit friends and family or for weekend getaways into or out of the city,” Selby said. “The updated policy will allow the whole family to travel together and enjoy the GO Transit experience.”

Metrolinx now follows 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 updated 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.”

Now Tess and Fleming will count on going fur with GO Transit.

Other items discussed at our Dec. 6th board meeting:

  • GO Expansion Full Business Case – the Board examined the GO Expansion Full Business Case which will see 15-minute service or better, plus express service, in both directions, totalling 6,000 trips a week.
  • Transit-Oriented Development – The report outlined the need for investment which will ultimately save time for drivers and transit riders, serving new customers and unmet demand.
  • Woodbine and Walkers Line – analysis performed on two future GO stations makes a strong case for Woodbine station, but an “all-loss” benefit cost ratio for Walkers Line. The construction of Woodbine would replace nearby Etobicoke North station, which must close for Hwy. 401 rail tunnel expansion.

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