‘Groundhog Hour’ – How GO Transit will repeat time to accommodate switch to standard clock this weekend

Businesses across Canada – from taxi drivers to factory workers to front-line medical staff – have to factor in the twice-a-year changing of seasonal clocks. For a transit company that works on very specific timetables and schedules, it can be a vexing question. Here’s how Metrolinx controls changing times – or at least makes the shift less exhausting for customers – amid a push to make Daylight Saving Time permanent in Ontario.

When the clocks are changed in your home this weekend, you’ll prepare for a few days of getting your body, and internal snooze-button, in synch.

But the remedies and adjustment become a bit more complicated when you run one of the country’s largest transit agencies, as you carefully account for every scheduled minute. It can also be a bit confusing for customers figuring out when their night bus will head out.

A GO bus waits at a platform in the early morning.
A GO bus waits at a platform in this early morning file shot. Making sure customers aren’t confused by transit schedules during the time change is an important part of planning. (Metrolinx photo)

Right now, Ontario is looking at making Daylight Saving Time permanent, and eliminate the need to change back to standard time every winter. That would mean changing the clocks twice a year could one day become a thing of the past – like VCRs, cords on home phones and trying to carefully dial in just the right station on a radio.

We thought you’d be interested in how Metrolinx will deal with the clock change in the early hours of Sunday (Nov. 1) – following an All Hallows’ Eve night shift that could have some transit riders jittery and a bit afraid over what time their late bus departs.

To accommodate customer brains operating in both time zones, GO Transit services operate like Bill Murray’s famous time-repeating movie — they relive their operating schedule after the clock changes at 2 a.m. Sunday, duplicating the last hour of bus service.

“We operate like it’s ‘groundhog hour’ reliving the last hour of service,” explained Anthony Pezzetti, senior manager in bus operations with GO Transit.

“We have learned over years that it helps tremendously to alleviate any possible customer confusion to duplicate the additional hour of service so all of our bus operations staff remain on duty for an extra hour at the end of the day.”

The time change, even though just an hour, can create a temporary brain fog for some that has been well documented over the years.

Because the clock officially changes at 2 a.m. – the following extra trips will operate to ensure whatever time zone customers are operating on, they won’t be caught behind the times.

•   Route 65E (East Gwillimbury) will depart Union Station at 2:12 a.m. (EST) or 3:12 a.m. Daylight Saving Time (DST)

•   Route 21A (Milton) will depart Union Station at 2:20 a.m. (EST) or 3:30 a.m. (DST)

•   Route 90B (Oshawa) will depart Union Station at 2:20 a.m. (EST) or 3:20 a.m. (DST)

•   Route 18C (Hamilton) will depart Union Station at 2:30 a.m. (EST) or 3:30 a.m. (DST)

•   Route 31E (Georgetown) will depart Union Station at 2:31 a.m. (EST) or 3:31 a.m. (DST)

•   Route 71C (Lincolnville) will depart Union Station at 2:43 a.m. (EST) or 3:43 a.m. (DST)

Groundhog Hour is a way to keep customers – and the system itself – moving as if the hands on the clock weren’t adjusted. And especially coming on Halloween weekend, the adjustment is meant to eliminate the ghosts in the machine for nervous riders.

Story by Anne Marie Aikins, Metrolinx senior manager of media.