Spread out for a more comfortable ride – GO Transit launches safety blitz for Lakeshore line customers

GO Transit is closely monitoring ridership and is encouraging customers to spread out on trains to prevent crowding.

On a huge 50-foot wall of TV screens inside the Metrolinx Network Operations Centre, Doug Tuira can see just about every platform, train, and bus on the network.

As a senior manager inside the control room, it’s his job to make sure your train or bus gets to its destination safely and more-or-less on time. But during COVID-19, his team has also been tasked with closely monitoring ridership throughout the network and making adjustments as needed.

“We’ve definitely noticed that customers are slowly coming back,” Tuira said while scanning over the CCTV cameras on the giant video wall. “In particular, we’re noticing that with schools reopening, more people are heading back downtown for work.”

To meet the increased demand, Metrolinx added more than 152 trips in September alone – including the reintroduction of 15 to 30 minute service on Lakeshore East and West during peak periods.

A customer looks at his phone.
A customer stands and looks at his phone as he waits for a GO train at Oakville station in this Sept. 15, 2020 image. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

While on average, those trains are only about 35 per cent full at the moment, Metrolinx is noticing that in some coaches that number is much higher.

“On some of our Lakeshore trains in particular, we’re seeing as many as three-quarters of our customers all try to sit in the same three coaches,” said Anne Marie Aikins, senior manager of media at Metrolinx. “It’s really making our trains seem much more crowded than they actually are.”

Aikins believes one reason why more Lakeshore customers are choosing to sit in the most westerly coaches (furthest from the locomotive), has to do with where the trains are stopping on the platform.

“Given how dramatically ridership dropped during the height of the provincial restrictions, we stopped running huge long trains that were capable of carrying thousands of customers,” she said. “However, unless you’ve been riding with us since March, you likely don’t know the shorter trains now stop further down the platform.”

A GO train sits at the platform
A GO train arrives at Oakville GO Station as the sun rises on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

That’s resulting in some customers needing to hustle down the platform and get on the closest coach before the doors close – creating a more crowded experience compared to the rest of the train.

In an effort to remind customers to spread out onboard the trains and to move down the platforms, Metrolinx is launching a customer service “blitz” at four of its stations starting today (Tuesday, Sept. 15.)

In addition to sending out On-The-GO email alerts, posting social media messages and playing more frequent announcements at stations, Metrolinx will also have numerous staff on platforms, at a physically safe distance of course, to help customers navigate these changes. 

“We are really trying hard to communicate with our customers about all the ways we’re keeping them safe and comfortable during COVID-19,” Aikins said. “We know that our customers have a lot on their minds right now, and we want to everything we can to be the part of their day they don’t have to think about.”

A customer care attendant watches over a platform.
A GO customer care attendant watches over the platform as a train arrives on Sept. 14, 2020. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

The customer service blitz will begin at Burlington and Oakville GO stations for Lakeshore West customers, and Oshawa and Pickering GO stations for Lakeshore East customers.

Story by: Matt Llewellyn, Metrolinx media relations senior advisor