For many customers, getting back on that train or bus means getting used to familiar things all over again. Here’s a helpful guide to returning to your routes, while still staying safe as we travel and work in a world still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Going back to old routines after a long pause can be tough.
Whether it’s the first trip to the gym in a while or setting that early alarm after a two-week vacation – ‘going back’ may seem daunting.
We can’t tie your running shoes or rouse you at dawn, but Metrolinx News is here to help show you the safest way back to transit as the province moves through a phased return to a new normal.
Is transit safe?
Let’s start with that burning question going through so many people’s minds across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area right now. Is it safe to get on a GO or UP Express vehicle?
The answer is an overwhelming yes.
Metrolinx has been working for months to expand safety and cleaning measures for every part of the transit journey (more on that shortly). They now include mandatory face coverings for customers and staff, new dividers between train and bus seats, hand sanitizer dispensers, and a comprehensive vehicle and station cleaning regimen that has staff constantly wiping down touch-points.
Don’t just take our word for it either. We’re going to walk you through it. Call it a cheat-sheet or Coles Notes – this should help your return to transit go as smoothly as the journeys you used to take.
Before you leave the house
The hard part is done already. You dragged yourself out of bed and are ready to set out. But even before leave the house, it’s a good idea to check your schedule, as times may have changed since the last time you took a trip.
- You can find GO and bus train times by click here.
- If you haven’t signed up for On the GO Alerts – to let you know when there’s been a sudden change – it’s a good idea. Here’s the spot to do that.
Your PRESTO card is still the best and safest way to pay.
You can use the newly updated app on Apple and Google devices to instantly add funds, or go online to setup the Autoload function. Either way, you’ll have a touchless experience and avoid standing in lines to use the machines.
To help keep everyone safe, cash is not being accepted at GO ticket windows, UP service counters or on GO buses.
Don’t have a PRESTO card? You can also buy an e-ticket online before you leave the house.
At the station
Your new routine starts before you even step out of your car or as you head toward your GO station or stop. Do you have your face covering? As of July 21, they are mandatory on all GO Transit and UP Express vehicles and inside all stations.
Before you step inside your station, you might notice some new PRESTO payment devices at your GO station as they are being rolled out across the GO system.
Pro tip: make sure you only tap your PRESTO card on the new reader (not your entire wallet or bag).
As you enter your station, take a quick look around. Things might look a little different.
Many stations are now equipped with an interactive health and safety kiosk that you can check out while you wait for your train or bus. At the kiosks you can:
- Check your temperature
- Learn about proper hand hygiene
- Get more information on benefits of wearing a face covering while on transit
It might seem like everything is different, but don’t worry, your friendly neighbourhood station attendant will still be on hand. You may even see them wiping down surfaces, just to help up our safety game. Like everyone else, they’ll be wearing a face covering.
On your way to your train, grab some hand sanitizer from one of the newly installed dispensers.
On your GO Train or UP Express
Once you step on your GO or UP train, many things will look as you left them – though things might sparkle a little more as every train goes through repeated and special cleaning processes.
Keep a watch out for any new signage that may alert you to new systems in place. Things like dedicated entrance and exit doors, as well as new directional signage are being tested out on a number of GO trains.
And you’ll notice the customer service ambassador on GO – they work in the accessibility coach – has a face covering on and a few more safety barriers around them. But they’re still there to help you.
The changes don’t stop there either. While ridership was low, Metrolinx took advantage of this time to innovate and find new ways to make fare inspection on GO and UP vehicles even safer.
- Fare inspectors will look a little different and will be equipped with face coverings, face shields, rubber nitrile gloves and hand sanitizer for everyone’s added safety.
- They’ll also be doing their very best to respect customers’ personal space in an effort to maintain physical distance while checking fares.
- Most customers will be able to hold their PRESTO card closely over the inspection device without actually needing to touch it. Our staff will have hand sanitizer ready for use if needed.
- Activated e-tickets and paper tickets just need to be shown for a visual inspection.
One more thing before you go. We know everyone is excited to get to back work, but try not to crowd the doors when you reach your stop. Wait for the train doors to open before heading towards the exit and try to leave space for everyone to get off the train safely.
On your GO Bus
Your GO bus is still your bus, but with a few noticeable changes.
Like their train counterparts, GO buses regularly go through a thorough multi-step cleaning process – as well as midday wipe downs.
As you step up into your bus, you’ll see hand sanitizer dispensers attached to bus doors. Help yourself.
You can still say hello to the driver – and they’ll greet you right back from behind their face covering and see-through polycarbonate screen. Safety first, right?
Like we mentioned earlier, drivers can’t accept cash. So make sure you have that handy PRESTO card loaded.
You may need to be a little bit more patient as fellow customers get on and off. Things now are deliberately steady and safe.
Seats directly behind the driver are now out of use. Take a look around to see if any other seats are temporarily out of use – the signs are very visible.
Arriving at Union Station
We know most people’s trips start and end at Union Station, so that’s where you’ll see the biggest changes.
On top of staff and customers wearing face coverings, there are a number of new features at Union Station:
- New signage to help make sure everyone knows where to line-up in the station. If you’ve been to the grocery store lately, these signs might look familiar.
- Remember those health and safety kiosks we mentioned earlier? Union Station has one, too.
- Want to use an elevator? Helpful new signs have been added, to help ensure there’s enough room inside.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but don’t forget to tap off once you get off your train or bus.
Safety Never Stops
There’s a new motto for Metrolinx – a mantra the transit agency has kept top of mind long before this pandemic arrived. It’s a reminder that ‘safety never stops.’
From face coverings to enhanced cleaning measures, safety is a partnership. With everyone doing their part and having patience – we can all get to where we’re going – and back again – safely.
Our efforts on safety don’t stop here either, more safety enhancements are coming and we will keep you updated as they are rolled out.
Getting back on the treadmill is always going to be tough, but returning to transit doesn’t have to be.
Story by Scott Money, Metrolinx media relations senior advisor