Latest updates – How Metrolinx is responding to COVID-19 pandemic

This Metrolinx News post will contain – in one place – the most current information for customers and communities, as the transit agency continues to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Please keep checking back for the latest GO Transit, UP Express and Metrolinx-related COVID-19 news updates.

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September 24, 2020 – Metrolinx has been informed that two employees working in bus operations have tested positive for COVID-19. The staff members have not been at work since August 10 and August 22 and both contracted the virus from outside the work location. There is therefore no risk to other employees or customers.

The employees are now recovering at home and are receiving support from Metrolinx officials and fellow employees.

Throughout the past six months of this pandemic, Metrolinx has been completely and proactively transparent about any positive cases within its workforce to keep customers and staff informed.

As the case numbers increase across the country, it is now more important than ever that we all remain fully committed to our health and safety practices that we’ve been following throughout the pandemic. As weary as we all may be feeling, now is not the time to let down our guard.

Image shows the face coverings.

Here’s an example of a couple of Metrolinx’s new branded face coverings. (Metrolinx photo)

Remember the basics: stay home if you are ill; wear your face covering correctly and faithfully (we’ve got great new branded masks to add to your stash); wash your hands regularly and use hand sanitizer when you can’t; and limit your social interactions.

It is mandatory for all Metrolinx employees and customers to wear face coverings to protect those around them.  This along with 40 other safety actions has helped keep our positive cases very low and a good reminder of the importance of wearing face coverings throughout your entire journey – from station, to platform, to bus and train.  See more about all the safety actions (link) Metrolinx has implemented to help stop the spread.

Out of a workforce of approximately 4,300 staff, 14 Metrolinx employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

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September 14, 2020 – Metrolinx has been informed that an employee working in bus operations has tested positive for COVID-19.

The staff member has not been at work since August 5 as they were on leave and contracted the virus from outside the work location. They are now recovering at home and are receiving support from Metrolinx officials and fellow employees.

As we have throughout the pandemic, we are updating the public to be completely transparent and keep our customers and staff informed.

As a reminder, most staff are health screened before entering the workplace and once at work, all employees wear proper personal protective equipment, such as face coverings and face shields, as well as gloves, keep a safe distance from staff and customers, and maintain proper disinfection procedures.

It is mandatory for all Metrolinx employees and customers to wear face coverings to protect those around them.  This has helped keep our positive cases during the pandemic very low and a good reminder of the importance of wearing face coverings throughout your entire journey – from station, to platform, to bus and train.

Out of a workforce of approximately 4,300 staff, this is the 12th Metrolinx employee who has tested positive for COVID-19. Early on in the pandemic before everyone was being tested, four other staff were considered probable cases

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September 2, 2020 – After nearly two months without a positive test result, Metrolinx has been informed that an employee working out of the East Gwillimbury Garage has unfortunately tested positive for COVID-19. All indications are our employee contracted the virus from outside the work location. They are now recovering at home and are receiving support from Metrolinx officials and fellow employees.

Most staff are health screened before entering the workplace and this employee was screened out and has not been at work since August 29. While at work, all employees wear proper PPE, such as face coverings and face shields, as well as gloves, keep a safe distance from staff and customers, and maintain proper disinfection procedures. Although the risk to customers is extremely low, we are informing the public out of an abundance of caution.

It is mandatory for all Metrolinx employees and customers to wear face coverings to protect those around them.  This has helped keep our positive cases during the pandemic very low and a good reminder of the importance of wearing face coverings throughout your entire journey – from station, to platform, to bus and train.  Out of a workforce of approximately 4,300 staff, this is the 11th Metrolinx employee who has tested positive for COVID-19. Early on in the pandemic before everyone was being tested, four other staff were considered probable cases.

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August 12, 2020 – Metrolinx is teaming up with a Waterloo-based startup to keep staff safe and the environment clean.

The company is supplying the transit agency with what the company calls the world’s first reusable and waterproof non-medical mask to help in its fight against the pandemic.

Read the full story behind this innovative Ontario manufacturer who is helping keep transit staff safe during COVID-19

Image shows masks in platic coverings.

A look at the Sweat Free Apparel non-medical masks Metrolinx has ordered.

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August 4, 2020 – Find out how your habits at home impact others, including on GO Transit and UP Express vehicles. Anne Marie Aikins looks at things we all should be keeping in mind.

You can find that column by clicking here.

Anne Marie in a selfie.

Anne Marie Aikins, Metrolinx senior manager, Media. (Anne Marie Aikins photo)

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July 22, 2020 – As face coverings are now mandatory on all GO Transit and UP Express vehicles, we offer up a helpful guide to all the ways your transit experience is changing this summer.

You can find that story by clicking here.

GO staff wiping down chairs on the GO Train

GO vehicles are thoroughly clean every day, including midday sanitizing while they are parked at stations like Union (Metrolinx photo)

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July 15, 2020 – Earlier today (July 15), a half a dozen GO buses full of migrant farm workers made their way from Windsor-area hotels to farms in Leamington, Ontario.

The workers had been staying in Windsor as part of precautionary 14-day period after a COVID-19 hot spot was discovered in the Leamington area. They were recently cleared by health officials to head to their home bases in Essex County’s agricultural hub.

Metrolinx was asked to help transport the workers and quickly mustered up the resources to make it happen. Metrolinx officials put out the call for volunteers and several drivers offered to help the workers make the trip.

Read the full story here.

The GO convoy of buses and drives pose ready to depart for Windsor from the Mississauga GO bus depot.

The GO convoy ready to depart for Windsor from the Mississauga GO bus depot. (Metrolinx photo)

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July 8, 2020 – Metrolinx has been informed that a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member has been working from home since March, therefore there is no risk to customers. The individual is recovering at home and is receiving support from Metrolinx officials and fellow employees.

All staff that worked with the individual have been informed and we are informing the public out of an abundance of caution.

It became mandatory for all Metrolinx employees and contractors to wear face coverings in May, to protect those around them. It is also essential that our customers do the same to protect their fellow customers and Metrolinx staff.  Staff are also expected to stay home if ill, practice good hand hygiene, and observe physical distancing.

Out of a workforce of approximately 4,300 staff, this is the tenth Metrolinx employee who has tested positive for COVID-19. Early on in the pandemic before everyone was being tested, four other staff were considered probable cases.

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July 7, 2020 – Metrolinx has been informed that a staff member working in station operations has tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member is recovering at home and is receiving support from Metrolinx officials and fellow employees.

The staff member last worked on July 3, was asymptomatic, consistently wore a face covering while working and kept a safe distance from other staff.  In addition, they had no contact with customers. Therefore, public health has not asked to speak with customers. All staff that worked with the individual have been informed.

We are informing the public out of an abundance of caution.

It became mandatory for all Metrolinx employees and contractors to wear face coverings in May, to protect those around them. It is also essential that our customers do the same to protect their fellow customers and Metrolinx staff.  Staff are also expected to stay home if ill, practice good hand hygiene, and observe physical distancing.

All staff have access to a generous supply of hand sanitizer and their worksites and vehicles are frequently disinfected and cleaned—these efforts are effectively limiting the spread of infection and protecting staff and customers. Out of a workforce of approximately 4,300 staff, this is the ninth Metrolinx employee who has tested positive for COVID-19. Early on in the pandemic before everyone was being tested, four other staff were considered probable cases.

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(July 2) Metrolinx is testing out plastic seat dividers on both GO trains and buses.

The innovative pieces will help protect the safety of customers.

We can show you an image below. But for a more detailed look, including on new signs being used to help customers, just click here for the full story.

New plastic dividers being tested out on select GO buses

New plastic dividers are being tested out on select GO buses across the region (Metrolinx photo)

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(June 24) Metrolinx is stepping up in-service cleaning efforts across the GO transit network.

The transit agency is rolling out a newly enhanced midday cleaning program that complements the existing thorough daily disinfecting work.

To find out more about this important work, click here. 

Antonnette Clarke-Thompson wipes off an arm rest as part of her work to disinfect in-service GO trains

Antonnette Clarke-Thompson wipes off an arm rest as part of her work to disinfect in-service GO trains (Mike Winterburn photo)

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(June 18) Metrolinx has informed staff that a bus driver has tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member is recovering at home and they are getting support from Metrolinx officials and fellow employees.

The bus operator last worked on June 11, was asymptomatic, consistently wore a face covering while driving and the bus was fitted with a protective barrier.  Therefore, public health believes it is a low risk situation and has not asked to speak with customers.

We are informing the public out of an abundance of caution. The driver did not work June 8, 9 or 10th and has been in self-isolation after his shift ended June 11 following a family member testing positive after a routine test. The driver subsequently was tested and that test came back positive as well.

The operator drove the early morning routes between Oshawa and Newcastle (Bus 90A) as well as Oshawa and Finch (96 and 96B).

All Metrolinx employees wear face coverings, and bus operators may also wear face shields and gloves. All staff have access to a generous supply of hand sanitizer and their worksites and vehicles are frequently disinfected and cleaned—these efforts are effectively limiting the spread of infection and protecting staff and customers.

Out of a workforce of approximately 4,300 staff, this is the eighth Metrolinx employee who has tested positive for COVID-19, along with four other probable cases.

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(June 5) Metrolinx has informed staff that a colleague in bus operations – not a customer facing position – has tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member is recovering at home and they are getting support from Metrolinx officials and fellow employees.

As part of our safety program to limit the spread of the virus, employees at key locations go through health screening and as a result, this employee was screened out of work on June 2 and subsequently was tested.

Employees also wear face coverings, face shields and gloves, have access to a generous supply of hand sanitizer and their worksites are frequently disinfected and cleaned—these efforts are effectively limiting the spread of infection and protecting staff and customers.

Out of a workforce of approximately 4,300 staff, this is the seventh Metrolinx employee who has tested positive for COVID-19, along with four other probable cases.

Image shows a man waiting at a booth.

A staff member mans a health and safety kiosk at Union Station. The display offers up information on how GO Transit is keeping vehicles and stations clean, as well as offering up a way customers can put their own disinfection measures to the test. (Metrolinx photo)

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(June 3) We know – we already told you about new signs going up around Union Station to help keep travelers safe.

But as many people still aren’t heading back to work just yet, we wanted to show you images taken this week of a new crop of health messages and safety reminders that have just gone up on Toronto’s main transit hub.

Image shows a large floor decal.

A large decal shows physical distancing. (Metrolinx photo)

Image shows the Union Station sign.

The interior entrance to Union Station now carries a reminder to stay safe and healthy by allowing two metres of distance between other travellers. (Metrolinx photo)

Image shows a sign that tells people on the stairs to stay to the right.

A reminder of the best way to use stairs. In this case, while heading down to York Concourse. (Metrolinx photo)

Image shows several signs.

The messages will be hard to ignore – for the protection of everyone. (Metrolinx photo)

For those allowed to get back to journeys, the signs will be hard to miss.

As well, here’s something else worth repeating – while not mandatory, we strongly encourage our customers to follow the guidance of public health officials and use a face covering to help protect everyone using GO Transit, UP Express and Union Station.

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(May 26) Signs of the times.

For Metrolinx, safety never stops. As the transit agency welcome customers back to GO, new signs and decals have been installed throughout the GO York Concourse at Union Station to help guide people in the station.

New signage inside the York Concourse

Metrolinx’s commitment to the health and safety of customers and staff never stops.

Customers making their way through Union Station will start seeing the newly installed floor decals at the service desks, lost and found, elevators and near ticket vending machines. The signage outside and inside elevators will also note the maximum capacity.

New signage outside elevators in the GO York Concourse

New signage outside elevators in the GO York Concourse are to help prevent crowding. (Metrolinx photo)

While following these signs is not mandatory, the advice comes from public health officials and gives customers the best guidance to keep themselves – and their fellow customers – safe.

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(May 20 – 3:45 p.m.) Metrolinx is recommending you protect yourself – and others – by wearing face coverings if physical distancing isn’t possible.

That direction follows advice issued today by Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, that those taking public transit should wear face coverings as the best line of defence against COVID-19.

A woman stands in front of a monitor.

As well as recommending face coverings while on GO and UP Express vehicles, Metrolinx is piloting health and safety kiosks, that provide customers with tools and advice on how to stay safe. Here, a woman has her temperature checked at one of the kiosks. Scroll down for that story. (Merolinx photo)

You can find that full story by clicking here.

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(May 20 – 12:16 p.m.) Since January, Metrolinx has introduced more than 40 different safety measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 for staff and customers.

There’s now something new people in Union Station will see: Metrolinx is piloting health and safety kiosks. These self-serve education tools will provide customers with additional information to help keep them, and the people around them, safe. 

Phil Verster stands in front of a camera that tests his temperature.

Metrolinx president and CEO, Phil Verster, tests out the system at a kiosk. (Metrolinx photo)

The kiosks will give customers information on four things:

  1. Temperature screening: Customers can use a standalone contactless unit to check their own temperature while maintaining physical distancing. You simply walk up to the station and an infrared camera will instantly check the individual’s temperature. In order to respect everyone’ privacy, the device will be positioned so the results of the screening are not visible to other customers.
  2. The effectiveness of cleaning products: Customers can check how clean their own items are with an ATP meter, a device that verifies cleanliness. They can see the effectiveness of the cleaning products  used at GO stations and on the GO and UP Express fleet  by using them on their items and checking it again.
  3. The importance of proper hand-washing: Customers can put their hand washing technique to the test by applying a product called Glow Germ, which will reveal germs when exposed to UV light.
  4. The effectiveness of physical distancing: On a banner that’s to scale, customers can see for themselves how far the droplets that transmit COVID-19 can travel.

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(May 14) We have a few important numbers to share with you, that speak to how Metrolinx staff – many who still serve on the frontlines of essential transit – are doing.

Of approximately 4,300 Metrolinx staff, 406 have successfully moved through the isolation and quarantine process imposed because of travel, awaiting test results or from being near someone suspected of having COVID-19.

Our numbers of impacted workers are steadily declining just as the curve across the province is flattening. Our absence level due to illness has remained very low.

Image shows two staff members with face coverings made out of the same material as their uniforms.

Two GO Transit staff members manage to show some flare, while being safe and protecting the health of those around Here, they’ve used the same pattern as their uniforms to create protective face coverings. (Metrolinx photo)

Our efforts are working to protect both staff and customers, as five staff who have tested positive, and another four who were probably cases; eight have fully recovered and one remains at home on their way to a full recovery.

They say a crisis brings out the best in people and we remain vigilant.

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(May 11) It’s going to be a banner week, Toronto.

We recently brought you the story of Pickering mother, Laurette Sharpe, and her three sons, who wanted to show support for all frontline workers.

We wrote about them below and you can find their full feature here.

Part of that mission was creating a large banner as a public acknowledgement of the heroic essential workers, including first responders, health care experts and transit staff, including those working for GO Transit.

Two staff members display the large 'Thank you front line heroes' banner.

Staff, who are among our frontline heroes, recently put up the banner in Union Station. (Metrolinx photo)

That banner is now up in Toronto’s Union Station, located on the west side of York Concourse, next to GO’s Lost and Found offices.

Those frontline workers will now walk by it daily.

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(May 7) Laurette Sharpe and her family are trying to boost the spirits of frontline workers in need of a reason to smile.

Metrolinx News is featuring the touching story of one Pickering family who have come together to thank Ontario frontline workers toiling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out how their banner work will soon find a home in Toronto’s main transit hub. You can find that full story by clicking here.

Three young boys hold up a banner saying "Thank you front line heroes" on a GO platform with a train in the background

The Sharpe brothers show off a banner their family helped create to remind us all of those fighting COVID-19 on the front lines. (Laurette Sharpe photo)

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(April 30) It’s a ride to mark respect.

Tonight, Metrolinx staff from our frontlines will participate in a parade of transit vehicles along hospital row in downtown Toronto, to thank healthcare workers on their frontlines.

A GO bus features a sign that thanks essential workers.

A GO bus flies a banner, thanking essential workers. (Metrolinx photo)

Organized by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), the parade will include six decorated GO Transit buses and three GO Transit Safety cruisers, along with an operations vehicle travelling around Queens Park Circle to drive past Princess Margaret Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital, The Hospital for Sick Children and Toronto General Hospital.

Much of the signs and posters on both GO and TTC vehicles were done by staff and their families.

The parade is expected to begin at 7:15 p.m. tonight (April 30).

A postcard thanks essential workers.

These dedicated bus and transit safety employees are just some of the 2,000 Metrolinx staff working on the frontlines, making sure people throughout the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region of Ontario can get to their essential jobs during the pandemic. And the more than 2,000 Metrolinx employees who are able to work from home are doing their part by cheering them on from afar.

As a transit agency who helps get essential frontline workers to their jobs every day, the parade is a way to acknowledge the important role those healthcare heroes are playing during the. flight against COVID-19

The TTC Honour Guard will be leading the parade.

Update – 8:46 p.m.: Below is an image from the parade of transit vehicles, including GO Transit staff and vehicles.

A line of emergency vehicles moves through downtown Toronto.

A line of GO Transit and TTC vehicles move through the heart of Toronto on April 30, as a tribute to frontline health workers. (Metrolinx photo)

Union Station – Quiet But Busy

For those who may have missed seeing Union Station for more than a month, we thought you might like a reminder of Toronto’s most important transit hub. Here’s an image of how quiet it is now during mid-day.

A look inside UNion Station, largely vacant.

A quiet Union Station. (Rob Granatstein photo)

But that doesn’t mean work isn’t continuing on upgrades to the building. Check out this picture taken earlier this week along the west side of Union Station, as you go south on the walkway along York St. You can see progress that will greet customers once everyone returns.

Shows the sidewalk with a covering oer it.

Work taking place on the west side of Union Station. (Rob Granatstein photo)

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(April 24) Just a short time ago, who would have thought that ‘hand sanitizer’ would become a common staple in many of our lives?

The squirts of gel – along with physical distancing, wearing a mask when that can’t be done and things like sneezing into the crook of an elbow – are now becoming healthy social norms.

And we’re learning that ease and convenience go a long way to creating those healthy habits, including while using GO Transit.

Those essential workers who count on GO buses likely have already seen handy sanitizer dispensers now built into vehicles, for passengers to use. For those who are at home, and will be using routes once most people can return back to work and outings, we thought we’d share a few photos to show you what they look like.

A dispenser is shown attached to a bus door.

Close to your reach – How the hand sanitizer dispenser looks on a GO bus door. (Metrolinx photo)

Machine is afixed inside a GO bus.

And installed inside a double-decker GO bus. (Metrolinx photo)

Not so different than what we’ve come to expect, but certainly a big part of the new and perhaps unusual normal when out and about.

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(April 22) Like the rest of the world, Metrolinx unfortunately sees cases of COVID-19 among our family of staff.

This is an update on that status.

To date, we have had four Metrolinx employees test positive and another four probable cases of the Coronavirus. Those members include bus operators, senior staff in operations as well as maintenance and administration.

All of our members are recovering or have recovered at home.

Public health officials believe most positive cases have been community acquired as our staff are working from home or otherwise in self-isolation – keeping their distance from fellow employees and customers, whenever possible.

As we’ve previously reported – look below for that complete story – Metrolinx is distributing thousands of care packages that include reusable cloth face masks, face shields, hand-sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to our teams.  We’re working hard to flatten the curve within Metrolinx by limiting the transmission as much as possible.

Another proactive measure — when we are notified of someone with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 – is that out of an abundance of caution, Metrolinx temporarily closes down the associated station or office, or removes the bus or train coach from service. A complete cleaning then takes place.

That was done this week at East Gwillimbury GO Station.

When we become aware of any positive cases of Coronavirus, we communicate to our staff and customers as well. This update – as well as the reporting on this site – is part of that continued commitment.

COVID seclusion for a good cause

Some of us spend our isolation eating chips and watching Tiger King on Netflix.

Hands hold a gaming controller.

A gamer uses a controller in this stock image. While for most people, that means racking up virtual points, Transit Safety officer Walter Ribeiro has been turning his passion into support for a worthy cause. (William Wicksted photo)

But at least one Transit Safety officer, along with his young family, have managed to put online gaming – and even their own hair – to good use for a greater good.

It’s a bit of inspiration during these tough times. We’ve posted that story, and you can find it by clicking here

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(April 20) It was the frontline supporting the life savers.

Last night (April 19), Metrolinx’s Transit Safety officers joined their sisters and brothers as first-responders created a parade of solidarity along Toronto’s hospital row.

Emergency vehicles of every kind – including ambulances, fire trucks and police departments – moved down University Avenue, with lights flashing and the blare of sirens, as a way to salute hospital workers across Toronto, and beyond.

Transit vehicles gather outside a facility.

Transit Safety vehicle gather outside a medical facility. (Metrolinx photo)

Similar parades were held around other hospitals across the city, and about a dozen Metrolinx officers and revenue protection officers took part.

Healthcare workers watched from the windows and doors of clinics and hospitals, as the vehicles moved along during the emotional show of support. Many crews exited their vehicles, to salute medical comrades.

GO vehicles travel down University Avenue.

GO vehicles travel down University Avenue.

Bill Grodzinski, Metrolinx’s director, Security Operations said: “In the most challenging time, the best of the human spirit shows through.

“Our members wanted to demonstrate, on behalf of all of us at Metrolinx, our deepest appreciation for the heroes on the very frontline – the health care workers looking after those in need.”

Many organizations also shared their support on social media, here is a sample of those posts:

Masks on the GO

Transport Canada has issued new regulations and guidance for travellers. So it’s a good time to go over those rules, for those essential workers who are still using GO Transit to get to where they need to be.

The federal transportation department is recommending that if physical distancing is not possible, passengers wear a face covering or mask that covers the mouth and nose when taking transit.

This shouldn’t be an issue for many GO passengers, as ridership is now down by approximately 90 per cent, and bus and train service is working very well without crowding. Riders are able to continue to spread out to have physical distancing.

However, staff has the right to deny boarding to passengers when a vehicle may not permit the recommended physical distancing and the passenger does not have a mask or face covering – though at this point those occasions have been very rare.

Metrolinx has provided reusable fabric face masks and face shields for our frontline staff. You can see that story below.

Wearing the face shield and fabric face covering by our staff is not mandatory at this time, and are not a substitute for physical distancing.

And as always, passengers, like our own staff, are reminded about the big impact of constantly doing seemingly small things, including repeated hand washing, taking time so you don’t have to crowd and using the inside of an elbow to block a sneeze.

As well as having patience during these unusual times.

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(April 17) If necessity is the mother of invention, then COVID-19 precautions are giving birth to a great many babies.

That includes a way to simply be able to walk up and down stairs safely.

Green light – Red light

In many Metrolinx construction sites, such as along the Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit route, there are industrial steps leading into mined work areas – some far below the ground. They are often narrow passages, and don’t allow a lot of room to pass and still adhere to good social distancing.

Image shows a green and red light, with instructions.

Pilot project – These lights give workers signals when it’s safe to move up and down stairs, to avoid close social contact. (Metrolinx photo)

So those on the ground have had to become creative with a quick solution. Right now, it’s a rather cool pilot project.

To help the flow of human traffic, Crosslinx Transit Solutions’ team have installed a traffic light at the top and bottom of the stairs at one of the Crosstown sites to avoid people using the route at the same time in opposing directions.

Once the light turns green on one side and remains red at the other, workers have three minutes to go down or five minutes to go up. This is an innovation that could be adopted at any excavation site that uses stairs for access and egress.

It’s a safe solution born from a healthy need.

New images of care packages

In an update yesterday, we told you about special care packages, containing supplies for frontline Metrolinx staff. More than 3,000 are being handed out.

As those kits don’t magically get put together, we thought you might like to see pictures of the large areas set aside to create the collections. It’s essentially, workers helping their teammates who are out in front during the COVID-19 response.

The team is working hard to get these new health and safety supplies out to our front line as quickly as possible.

Image shows boxes sitting on a large number of tables.

A large area holds the makings of the care packages. (Metrolinx photo)

Two men sort through a pile of boxes.

Staff line up items to be included in the packages. More than 3,000 will be rolled out to frontline staff. (Metrolinx photo)

Men work in a warehouse.

Workers continue to sort through the items used in the kits. (Metrolinx photo)

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(April 16) Veteran GO Transit bus operator Mike Kopac made history this week, by doing something he’s done for decades – driving.

Only this time, he did it from behind a new polycarbonate barrier. His bus, pulling into Union Station after a drive from Streetsville garage, was the first to have the protection installed.

Image shows a bus driver with hands on the wheel, circled by a clear barrier.

GO Transit bus operator Mike Kopac tests out his new barrier. (Keith Sheardown photo)

“This is going to be great for drivers,” he said, checking out the new barrier for the first time. “I feel more comfortable. I really do. I like it.”

As for driver safety and security Kopac, who has been driving for GO Transit for 30 years, had nothing but praise for the shields.

“I love it, it’s beautiful,” he said. “You’re going to get an A-plus from everybody for this.”

Adding the plexiglass shields to GO buses will help drivers stay protected in the enclosed driving space and keep distance from any customers who might be sick.

Care Package Kits

Now that we’re on the subject of protection – for both Metrolinx employees and essential passengers – special ‘care package’ kits are being sent to front-line staff.

An estimated 3,300 individual packs are being delivered.

Image shows visor, mask, gloves and cleaning wipes.

An example of what’s included in the frontline kits. (Metrolinx photo)

The situation with COVID-19 has been rapidly changing and the recommendations from public health experts are evolving as they learn more about the transmission of the virus.

Public health officials now believe a non-medical face covering may reduce the chance of respiratory droplets coming into contact with others or landing on surfaces. Wearing a fabric face covering is an additional measure we can take to protect those around us. To be clear, a fabric face covering is not intended to protect the wearer from respiratory viruses and is not effective for this purpose.

Based on this new public health guidance, Metrolinx has secured and are providing reusable and washable fabric face coverings for our frontline staff along with other items to help maintain their good health.

Wearing the face shield and fabric face covering by our staff is not mandatory at this time, and are not a substitute for physical distancing.

This is what the care packages include:

  • Lightweight reusable face shield
  • Fabric reusable face covering / mask
  • Hand sanitizers
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Sanitizing wipes

Staff members are being reminded, when they get their packs, fabric face coverings are not designed to or meant to replace key hygiene actions such as frequent hand-washing, coughing etiquette, staying at home if sick, and avoiding touching one’s face.

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(April 9) Essential passengers on GO buses will start to see unique protective shields around the driver’s area.

The barriers, including prototypes now on various GO buses, are being put through their paces. There are a lot of factors to consider, including how they perform in the glare of evening and night driving.

In the image below, you can see Joe Lembo, a member of the Joint Health and Safety Committee, who is doing some of that testing.

It’s a massive effort by Metrolinx that would typically be scheduled over an 18 month period, but through some hard work and innovative solutions, officials are compressing the schedule down to less than six weeks.

Here’s how they look.

A GO bus driver is at the wheel, enclosed by a transparent barrier.

Clear view – How the barriers look on a GO bus. (Metrolinx photo)

Digital protection:

Continuing essential construction projects during a pandemic requires implementing innovative procedures to ensure everyone stays healthy.

Crosslinx, the constructor of the Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit (LRT) project has brought in mandatory daily health screening for everyone entering their construction sites.

Rather than only using a paper survey, their teams came up with an electronic solution, that makes use of smartphones to check on a worker’s current health.  This strategy, along with physical distancing, daily cleaning and ensuring adequate hand-washing facilities, will help ensure construction sites limit transmission as much as possible.

Here’s how it looks:

Image is a graphic that shows workers how to fill out a digital questionaire.

Click here for a better look at the graphic

Holiday weekend:

A reminder, as we enter a long weekend, to only travel if you are part of an essential service.

And visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

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(April 8) In today’s update, we wanted to highlight cooperative measures taking place across agencies, including Metrolinx, to keep the supply chain moving. That includes helping truckers, who are vital champions of moving needed supplies and food in Ontario.

Metrolinx is now answering the province’s call to help support truck drivers during the COVID-19 outbreak. These drivers are working long hours, day and night delivering the most essential supplies needed by all Ontario families.

A place to rest:

That’s why starting Thursday, April 9, Metrolinx is joining the Ministry of Transportation by providing commercial vehicle operators with six (6) new rest stops, strategically located along major highways and trucking routes.

  • Hwy 407 & Trafalgar – Park n Ride lot (Trafalgar off Hwy 407)
  • Mayfield and 50 – Park n Ride lot (Hwy 7 of Hwy 427)
  • Hwy 400 & 9 – Park n Ride lot (Hwy 9 off Hwy 400)
  • Hwy 404 & Queensville – Park n Ride lot (Queensville Side Rd off Hwy 404)
  • Pickering GO Station – Sandy Beach lot only (Brock Road off Hwy 401)
  • Newcastle – Park n Ride lot (Hwy 2 off Hwy 115 )

These temporary rest stops will provide commercial drivers with a safe, clean place to pull off the highway, wash their hands and use a washroom.

GO services will continue to operate as scheduled and customers will still be able to access these six designated GO Transit properties.

Here how they will look at the lots:

Image shows the map of the lot.

Image shows a map of the lot from above.

Image shows a map of the lot from above.

Image shows a map of the lot from above.

Image shows a map of the lot from above.

Image shows a map of the lot from above.

These new temporary rest areas for commercial drivers will be signed and clearly defined within specific areas of each lot using traffic cones and GO Transit customers will continue to have access to free parking on a first-come, first-served basis at each of these six locations. As always, customers can park in any space for a maximum of 48 hours.

There will also be additional garbage and recycling receptacles available at each location for commercial drivers to use.

Metrolinx will continue working closely with the Ministry of Transportation to monitor the use of these temporary rest stops and make adjustments if needed.

The COVID pandemic is unprecedented and the situation extremely fluid and Metrolinx truly believes we are all in this together.

Customers or truck drivers looking for additional information can reach out to the GO Transit Contact Centre: 1-888-438-6646

Additionally, our Transit Safety team is available to respond to emergencies 24-hours a day: 1-877-297-0642

Keeping staff safe:

Public health experts continue to learn more and more about the transmission of COVID-19, and every new insight helps Metrolinx keep our staff and customers safe.

This knowledge includes health screening procedures to ensure critical functions, such as bus and rail operations, as well as the NOC (Network Operations Centre), continue to work well.

A nurse sits and waits at a desk.

In this photo, a nurse screens staff before they enter a Metrolinx work area. (Metrolinx photo)

Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

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(April 3) Due to a temporary but significant reduction in the number of GO Transit passengers, at least 90 per cent on all routes due to COVID-19 measures, another reduction in service has now been announced.

These changes will take place on April 8.

The further reduction will ensure GO Transit has a sustainable plan for the duration of this emergency, including enough staff on hand to keep customers moving to the essential places they need to be. Less equipment to clean, fuel and maintain makes it easier for us to offer reliable services over the weeks to come, as well.

We are also monitoring the numbers closely to ensure we can maintain physical distancing on all of our vehicles and routes.

Here are some of the details in the new temporary reductions:

  • GO train lines will operate every 60-90 minutes at times of day they generally have service. Most stations will continue to be served – just less frequently.   ​
    • Staff will monitor all routes closely, and have the ability to add more service if required.
  • Bus service will also be reduced and adjusted to align with train service. We will monitor these changes closely and have the ability to add buses quickly, if required.
  • UP service will continue to operate every 30 minutes. ​
  • As well, look below for some of the other changes we’ve made to keep customers and our staff safe
Crews clean a car train.

Metrolinx has introduced a number of ways to keep customers, heading to essential work, safe and healthy. In this image, crews disinfect a GO train. (Editor’s note – April 20) Metrolinx would like to make it clear that the AegisMicrobe Shield product that is being used on vehicles and stations is not meant to disinfect surfaces or kill viruses. The product provides a barrier that prevents the future growth of bacteria, mould and yeast. It is one of the many additional measures we have taken to help keep our staff and customers safe and healthy. Metrolinx would like to make it clear that the AegisMicrobe Shield product that is being used on vehicles and stations is not meant to disinfect surfaces or kill viruses. The product provides a barrier that prevents the future growth of bacteria, mould and yeast. It is one of the many additional measures we have taken to help keep our staff and customers safe and healthy. (Metrolinx photo)

It’s important to plan ahead and keep checking GO Transit’s schedule page. You can find those at the top of this page.

Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

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(March 31)

(Editor’s note: A graphic was deleted on July 23, 2020, as it was outdated.)

Arriving into Toronto and feeling unwell?

If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 after arriving from travel (international or domestic), you are not permitted on GO Transit or UP Express.

An abundance of visibility

Two Metrolinx employees have tested positive for COVID-19; as a large organization this is not unexpected, but it is still upsetting to hear for our colleagues. Our staff members are recovering at home.

Although we have had contractors test positive, such as a Bombardier train operator and customers on our system also come down with COVID, these are our first Metrolinx staff. This virus’ reach is extremely broad and we are reminded daily of the risks.

Our goal is to limit COVID’s reach into our organization through social distancing (like working from home, quarantining those who have travelled or have been exposed, and protecting frontline staff as much as possible), paying close attention to disinfection and infection control practices, and good hand hygiene.

And like everyone else, staff stay home if they are sick.

Therefore, we have greatly minimized the risk of transmission. A good reminder to all of us – staying at home works to flatten the curve of transmission.

None of these staff work directly with customers or the public. Since the public is not at risk of transmission, why are we telling you?

In all cases to date at Metrolinx, the transmission of the virus was very limited because of social distancing. So if you need any guidance that it works, this is another good reminder to stay home.

It is also about transparency and rumour control.

The Metrolinx crisis communication plan is built on principles that we adhere to as we manage the day to day tasks in the emergency operations centre.

  • Those principles recognize how critically important it is that both staff and customers receive frequent, transparent, factual and accurate information in real time. Every circumstance related to a positive case of COVID involving our customers, staff or contractors is unique. The communication approach for each is also unique and developed in conjunction with public health officials and senior management at Metrolinx that also respect personal privacy.
  • Ultimately, our transparent crisis communication approach builds trust and protects the health and safety of our customers and staff.

Want to read more about our emergency command centre? Just click here for the story.

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(March 26) Our latest update includes innovative ways Metrolinx is protecting our frontline employees – those staff who are the critical hearts and hands who keep our transit system moving so other essential workers can get to their needed jobs.

It also means reaching out – in a safe way – to support the work of local health care workers.

Here’s how those measures are shaping up.

A bus driver wears a face shield.

New face shields will add another level of protection for GO bus drivers. (Metrolinx photo)

Bus driver screens, face shields and masks:

  • We are adding extra layers of protection between our drivers and the public.
  • That includes work to quickly add plexiglass shields to our GO Transit buses. Those new barriers will give our drivers a protected enclosure and distance from any customers who might be sick.
  • We are rolling out face shields for our drivers who would like them. They will protect the eyes as well as mouth and nose, and are quick and easy to put on and take off. As well, they don’t need a fit test, and drivers won’t need to shave their facial hair to get the full protection. Drivers with airport routes and going to health care facilities will be prioritized.
  • These additional measures, along with no longer accepting cash fares, not having drivers handle luggage and blocking the seat behind the driver, are all added layers of protection for our drivers.
Image shows a forklift moving 3M boxes.

In this March 25 photo, GO Transit crews move boxes of medical equipment destined for front line health workers. (Metrolinx photo)

Crews load a truck by hand.

The shipment included 18,000 respirators and filters to be used in Brampton. (Metrolinx photo)

Supporting health care workers:

  • We are also playing a role in assisting health care workers. The masks Metrolinx previously stocked will be used by doctors, nurses and other front line health care workers.
  • We delivered the masks on March 25.
  • The clinical supplies donation included 18,000 respirators and filters.

Shorter trains:

  • Some trains are being shortened in order to make better use of our resources while ridership is low. You may need to adjust where you wait on the platform depending on your station.

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(March 24) Given that public health officials are urging everyone to practice physical distancing whenever possible to minimize the opportunity for transmission of COVID-19, Metrolinx station staff have now removed benches and blocked off seating areas inside Union Station’s York Concourse.

For those who would normally use the facility daily – a hub of human traffic – it’s an unusual sight to see the benches moved aside.

A man puts on blue gloves beside a stack of chairs.

A worker goes about his job at York Concourse on March 24, 2020. Seating has been restricted, to allow for social distancing. (Rob Granatstein photo)

Image shows stacks of chairs.

Customer seating, temporarily stacked up and moved out of the way. (Anne Marie Aikins photo)

Our team also continues to thoroughly clean all of our trains, buses and stations each day (see that story below).

We have also ensured there is now hand-sanitizer in all buses and stations.

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(March 23) Starting tomorrow (March 24), we’re making changes to how we provide some of our services during the COVID-19 outbreak:

We’ll no longer accept cash on buses and at ticket counters

For the health and safety of our staff, we will not accept cash at ticket counters or on our buses.

A young man counts change as a ticket seller looks on.

Historic shift – In this vintage image from a GO station in the 1970s, a young man counts his change. Due to the response over COVID-19, GO Transit will no longer see customers use cash at counters and on buses. (Metrolinx photo)

We ask that you buy your fare or load your PRESTO card using our self-serve options.  You can:

  • Load your PRESTO card instantly with the PRESTO App directly from your phone. More than 90 per cent of GO customers already use PRESTO.
  • Use cash at ticket vending machines at stations to buy tickets, load your PRESTO card and, at some locations, buy a new PRESTO card. We’re taking extra care to regularly clean all of our PRESTO self-service machines.
  • Ticket vending machines at Long Branch, West Harbour, Oshawa Bus Terminal, Mimico, and one machine at Bloor, do not accept cash.
  • Sign up for a My PRESTO Account and use the Auto Load feature which instantly and automatically adds funds to your card when the balance gets below a set amount.
  • Buy an e-ticket

Change for our Lost and Found office

The Lost and Found at Union Station will be closed and services will be available for critical items only until further notice. If you’ve lost an item while traveling on GO, fill out the online Lost and Found form as usual, and if your item has been found, our office will call you to schedule an appointment for pick up.

A ticket agent interacts with a customer from behind glass.

Station staff will work from behind the ticket counter

To protect our station staff and to practice social distancing, our station attendants will assist customers from behind the ticket counters and won’t be roaming around stations. Remember, we won’t accept cash at ticket counters, but you can use cash at the ticket vending machines.

 Stowing luggage on buses

You’ll be responsible for loading and unloading your luggage from buses. Drivers will continue opening and closing the exterior luggage compartment.

 Remember, support persons can travel for free

If you require assistance while using GO, remember that support persons who travel with you can travel for free. Learn more about support person travel here.

Find out how Metrolinx is responding to COVID-19 and visit GOtransit.com/covid19

Sanitizing Measures Taken

As every citizen is being asked to sanitize their hands, cleaning crews have taken on a slightly bigger task.

They’re now finishing thoroughly treating more than 1,000 individual pieces of GO Transit and UP Express train equipment – including every locomotive and coach that essential passengers still count on.

(Editor’s note – April 20) Metrolinx would like to make it clear that the AegisMicrobe Shield product that is being used on vehicles and stations is not meant to disinfect surfaces or kill viruses. The product provides a barrier that prevents the future growth of bacteria, mould and yeast. It is one of the many additional measures we have taken to help keep our staff and customers safe and healthy.

A man wipes down GO bus seats.

A crew member cleans a GO bus. Scores of buses – and trains – are specially cleaned each day. It’s also included use of a special long-acting anti-microbial agent. (Metrolinx photo)

Here’s how it’s looked – by the numbers. There are 73 train sets available daily to support the GO Transit Rail Service. That’s 726 coaches, and 73 locomotives ready every day – in total adding up to more than 1,024 pieces of rail equipment.

(Editor’s note – April 20) Metrolinx would like to make it clear that the AegisMicrobe Shield product that is being used on vehicles and stations is not meant to disinfect surfaces or kill viruses. The product provides a barrier that prevents the future growth of bacteria, mould and yeast. It is one of the many additional measures we have taken to help keep our staff and customers safe and healthy.

Now, along with buses, all trains have been wiped down – that’s meant railings, seats, posts, handles and anything that could be touched – using a special long-acting anti-microbial agent. That work goes back years, to when that cleaning solution was first identified by Rob Fuller, Metrolinx’s director of rail services, as something that could offer an extra layer of protection for customers and staff.

Renewed testing on a train began on Feb. 6, weeks before there were any reports of COVID-19 in Ontario.

The application job, since then, has been mammoth, and involved the cooperation of teams from GO Transit Maintenance, Bombardier and Natsco. Every piece of equipment had to be tracked down – then the team went into action applying the solution to the train set.

In fact, all of Metrolinx’s bus facilities – including office spaces and high touch surfaces – have also been treated with the anti-microbial agent.

The crews who did that work showed up, as most of society have been told to stay home.

“I can’t say enough good things about the commitment of this entire team who spent countless hours planning, organizing and executing – successfully delivering a safer environment for our customers commute or for the staff to work on,” said Fuller.

“They have demonstrated their commitment to our customers and Metrolinx by their flawless execution of the plan.”

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(March 19) We have a good story on how GO Transit has reacted to health care officials, as well as other front line workers, reaching out with a need to access early morning routes impacted by the temporary change to schedules this week.

The quick reaction includes a return of some train services that were impacted. Hear one health care worker’s full story, and GO Transit’s detailed measures in response, by clicking here.

Photo of nurse Annu Anhirode

Toronto nurse, Annu Anhirode (submitted by Annu Anhirode)

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(March 18) Remember, your new temporary GO Transit schedules begin today.

As well, to help further protect Metrolinx front line staff and to encourage social distancing, customers may notice some changes when boarding your GO train, particularly on the accessibility coach:

  • GO Customer Service Ambassadors will be making on-train announcements advising customers that the accessibility coach is intended for people with mobility needs and those that need it most.
  • We encourage customers that don’t require the ramp up to the accessibility coach to use other doors as the ramp will only be deployed for those that require assistance getting on board.
  • For those customers that need the accessibility coach, you will notice Velcro straps are setup to create a safe distance between customers and our staff.
  • Seating on board the accessibility coach will be still be available, but to proceed upstairs you’ll need board the accessibility coach at the door opposite of the Customer Service Ambassador.
Image shows the door leading into an accessibility coach.

GO customers will notice changes to the accessibility coach. (Anne Marie Aikins photo)

Image shows yellow velcro strip seperating staff from passengers.

Velcro straps are setup to create a safe distance between customers and GO train staff. (Anne Marie Aikins photo)

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(March 17, 2020) As Ontario, and the world, manages through COVID-19, Metrolinx continues to focus on the health and safety of our staff and customers as our top priority. Since January, we’ve had an experienced team fully engaged on developing a robust COVID-19 strategy.

This coming Wednesday (March 18), Metrolinx will be temporarily reducing GO and UP Express service in continued support of provincial action in protecting Ontarians from COVID-19.

Reducing our service allows us to rotate our employees on our vehicles and in our stations. We know our transit is a lifeline service for many customers during these difficult times and we want to ensure we have a healthy workforce so there is a reliable and sustainable plan for service during the weeks to come.

Customers walk through Union Station.

Customers and travellers make their way through Union Station, in this file image. (Metrolinx photo)

To further encourage social distancing, we are also now asking our customers to consider some important behavioral changes when using GO Transit or UP Express:

  • Customers with accessibility needs, or individuals with mobility concerns should be the only customers who are regularly using the accessibility coach on GO trains. If you do not need assistance during your trip, we strongly suggest you consider using another coach. This is to ensure there is adequate distance between everyone in the coach,  including staff.
  • GO bus customers are now being asked to please avoid sitting in the row directly behind the driver to ensure there is adequate distance between everyone on the bus, including staff.
  • GO train and UP Express customers are also being encouraged to spread out along the platforms – and not to crowd around one specific door to help keep a safe distance between everyone on board.
  • When on a GO or UP train please practice social distancing and spread yourselves out as much as possible.

We will continue to monitor the ridership levels onboard all our vehicles and will make adjustments as needed to alleviate any potential crowding.

Help protect yourself and others from getting sick. Wash your hands often with soap and water and avoid touching your face. Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. Let’s all do our part to help prevent the spread of germs.

We promise to keep our customers informed and ask everyone to please check the GO Transit’s website and our GO Transit social media accounts for the latest service updates.

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(March 15, 2020) – Metrolinx has updated GO Transit’s temporary service reduction schedule. Those changes begin this coming Wednesday, March 18.

You can find those new temporary train times by clicking here.

To find your GO bus schedule, click here.

Also starting Wednesday, UP Express will temporarily run trains every 30 minutes, starting from Union Station at 4:55 a.m. and from Pearson at 5:27 a.m. The last trains will depart Pearson at 12:57 a.m., and Union at 1:00 a.m.

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(March 13, 2020)Metrolinx announces service change

Changes to take place starting Wednesday, March 18, to align service with demand

Metrolinx is announcing that there will be a selective reduction in GO train and bus and UP Express service in continued support of provincial action and to protect Ontarians from COVID-19. These changes will take effect starting on Wednesday, March 18.  Revised schedules are being finalized and will be available by Sunday March 15th at noon.

“Our key consideration is ensuring our services can continue and our employees and customers are safe,” said Metrolinx President and CEO Phil Verster. “We want to ensure there is a reliable and sustainable plan for service to continue over the weeks to come.”

“GO and UP Express are vital to our region,” Verster said. “Every route we serve, we will continue to serve.”

Image shows a train pulling into the station as customers wait on the platform.

As customers wait on the platform, a GO train pulls into Toronto’s Union Station on the afternoon of March 13. (Thane Burnett photo)

We are reducing services to be in line with the expected reduction in ridership due to March Break, school closures and the significant shift in many organizations’ work-from-home policy.

Our customers will still get the same safe experience, our Transit Safety and customer service teams will continue to be available to help customers get where they need to go. Our teams will also maintain the increased level of cleaning on our vehicles and stations.”

Metrolinx is working with municipal transit authorities across the region to ensure our services remain coordinated to offer the best travel choices for our customers.

We ask our customers to please watch and refer to gotransit.com and upexpress.com for the latest updates, and their line specific Twitter accounts as well.

Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

Thank you for your understanding during this period.