‘Please wear face coverings’ – Metrolinx CEO, Phil Verster, on how safety is a partnership between GO Transit and riders

In this column, Phil Verster, head of one of Canada’s largest public transit agencies, explains the differences riders will find when they return to GO Transit. And as safety never stops, he’s asking all customers to do their part to share the health by using some simple but effective measures to combat COVID-19.

When our province’s medical officers of health told everyone to stay home in mid-March, for your health and the health of everyone around you, the people of Ontario listened. Your efforts have helped flatten the curve, which is much appreciated.

Phil Verster stands on a platform.

Metrolinx CEO, Phil Verster, on a Union Station platform. He’s asking customers to do their part for safety, while in stations, on platforms and inside GO vehicles. (Steven Hobbs photo)

We at Metrolinx operate GO Transit, UP Express and PRESTO, and we noticed. Our ridership levels fell by 90%. Our buses and trains transformed into a lifeline service to transport frontline healthcare workers, as well as the essential workers who kept our region going.

“When you do return, you’ll find a different transit experience.” – Metrolinx CEO, Phil Verster.

Now, you are starting to return to work. We know as our passengers, you’re likely feeling anxious about returning to public transit – whether that’s on GO, UP, or with our friends at the TTC and local transit agencies across the region.

When you do return, you’ll find a different transit experience. At Metrolinx, we’ve launched more than 40 new health and safety measures to protect you, and our employees.

Our buses now have a new intensified cleaning regimen they go through daily. Many of our team members have been redeployed to keep vehicles and stations clean throughout the day, not just at the end of the day. We’re adding health kiosks in our stations to give you the information you need to travel safely with us.

Image shows Phil Verster sitting on a GO train

Metrolinx president and CEO, Phil Verster, sits among new dividers being installed between seats on GO trains. (Metrolinx photo)

We are adding plexiglass dividers between seats on our GO trains and buses, too

Infection control experts say there is no evidence in Canada that travelling on public transit increases the chances of contracting the coronavirus. Our efforts and investments are working but it is important to not let our guard down now.

We also know many of you are anxious about returning to transit.  So we’re doing whatever we can to keep earning your trust.

“Safety Never Stops” isn’t a slogan for our team. It’s our commitment. Every day. Every train. Every bus. Every trip. Everyone.

But we also know that even though we’re taking many measures, such as installing physical barriers and adding hand sanitizer dispensers on vehicles, we can’t do it alone.

We’re in this together. Your health and safety is a partnership – our shared responsibility.

If you are sick, please stay home. Don’t ride our services.

Follow the advice of public health, that good handwashing and proper hygiene is your best defence against COVID-19.

When you are returning to work, riding with us to see family or explore the world again, please help us keep you safe and healthy.

We strongly encourage you to wear a face covering when you ride with us. We’ve made it mandatory for our staff to wear one on the job. It’s part of our commitment to protect you. We ask you to protect them, and your fellow riders.

When you get to the station spread out along the platform. Don’t linger by PRESTO machines. We’ve put limits on the number of people in elevators, and where you can sit to ensure a safe use of space. But all this requires your cooperation.

We know our riders have travel habits. That you like to sit in the same seat, with the same people you’ve shared your ride with for years. But as we adjust our service levels, please spread out in our vehicles and find a less crowded area – even if it means no longer rushing off to get back to your car.

Work with your employer to be as flexible as possible on your schedule. If it works for you, try travelling during off-peak hours.

The response from our staff and from our customers during this challenging period has been nothing short of fantastic.

Thank you for your continued partnership with us; let’s go into this new future together.

– Phil Verster is President and CEO of Metrolinx