Tested – Emergency exercise sees new Union Station Bus Station put through paces (see the images)

On Sunday (Nov. 22), Toronto’s new bus hub was the scene of a mock disaster in preparation for opening day (Dec. 5). Inside a totally new environment, with two floors to navigate, Metrolinx teams – operations and control, transit safety and security, customer communications and media staff, along with all the senior management team – tested the organization’s emergency plan and staff’s ability to manage and respond during a critical incident. Here’s how it looked from the inside out.

Toronto’s new state-of-the-art Union Station Bus Terminal (USBT) was the staging ground this past weekend for an emergency exercise, meant to test systems as well as the ability for staff to respond during a terrifying disaster.

Image shows officers standing at opening to the bus terminal.
Emergency officials, including Transit Safety officers, respond to the mock disaster amid a snowy day. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

Producing a dress rehearsal like this takes months of planning, but during a pandemic, there are additional pressures. Officials not only worked to simulate an emergency, but did it within the challenges of an ongoing global crisis.

An officer talks into his radio.
Emergency responders keep track of the mock crisis through communication on their radios. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

Ensuring all participants stayed healthy and followed COVID-19 safety protocols throughout the exercise was a priority – that was checked and double-checked throughout the exercise. These protocols included health screenings, wearing face coverings at all times, washing and sanitizing hands regularly and keeping a safe distance from others whenever possible. For safety, this time the agency did not use actual actors as simulated ‘victims,’ but instead used mannequins.

As simulated smoke fills the bus parking area, a Metrolinx Transit Safety officer runs past a vehicle.
As simulated smoke fills the bus parking area, a Metrolinx Transit Safety officer runs past a vehicle. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

The Nov. 22 emergency exercise is just one of the ways staff are preparing for the first GO bus passengers on Dec. 5. Bus operators are busy training – both virtually and in real-life – to operate double decker and MCI GO buses in the indoor, two-floor station.

The huge new soon-to-be-opened USBT, located just south of the existing bus terminal at the east side of Bay Street and north corner of Lake Shore.  The state-of-the-art bus depot is in the base of the new glass-covered CIBC SQUARE tower.

Image shows people working while sitting on benches.
Officials work inside the new Union Station Bus Terminal during the exercise. Soon, GO bus customers will be filling the new space. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

All GO bus service that is currently in the existing Union Station terminal at 141 Bay Street will operate out of the new facility – a big change for transit customers but a much more comfortable and convenient space with enhanced safety.

The new site will feature a new boarding process – stay tuned for an explainer video to show customers how to get to the station – and a two-floor layout along with many new changes and enhancements to the customer experience.

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