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.

(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. (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) Today’s update starts with a bit of seating guide for customers using GO trains amid the COVID-19 social response.

We’ve created a simple graphic, so if there are a few people on the train with you, you’ll know a good place to sit during your journey.

Seating Plan

FOR A CLEARER VERSION OF THE CHART, CLICK HERE

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.

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.

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.