2020 at 1/60th of a second – Metrolinx photo series captures faces of transit workers who’ve kept system moving through tough year

2020 hasn’t been just a year – it’s been a society-changing event. The impacts across the world are immeasurable, as the response to COVID-19 has touched every sector and every person. For this, a first of a two-part photo series, photo-journalism images were captured of just some of the staff – from the boardrooms to the bus garage repair pits – who have doggedly kept GO Transit, UP Express, PRESTO and the many subways and rapid transit projects Metrolinx is involved in, moving forward. Here are the faces of a system that hasn’t stopped, as so much else has.

At its core, Metrolinx is responsible for moving people.

And the beating heart of this operation are the dedicated professionals who show up every day to keep this massive public transit network moving safely, while also ensuring the critical infrastructure projects this region desperately needs continue moving forward.

When COVID-19 struck, hundreds of thousands of people began working from home. Ridership plummeted and parking lots that were once packed at 7a.m., were still empty by noon.

A man uses a grinder on concrete.
Armando Romeo, a concrete finisher working for Structform International, chisels away rough spots along the side of a walkway inside the new Union Station Bus Terminal (USBT). The new terminal is located further south just off Lakeshore and will be connected to Union Station with a pedestrian bridge over Bay Street. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

And while trains and buses were no longer full, GO is a lifeline service; it was, and continues to be there for all those critical, frontline workers who need to get to their jobs to serve us all.

Like them, there are also thousands of Metrolinx employees and contractors who cannot work from home.

Their jobs require them to either directly serve customers – or to support the frontline GO and UP Express employees who do. And their work didn’t slow down one bit as a result of COVID-19.

These are kinds of jobs that often require painstaking precision and detail. More often than not, their work is also invisible to customers: maintaining and safety inspecting vehicles, cleaning out toilet tanks onboard trains and dispatching vehicles and staff to where they’re required.

While you likely won’t know their names, and have likely never had a chance to see what they do day-to-day, it’s safe to say if you’ve ever taken GO Transit or UP Express, you’ve directly benefitted from their skills and hard work.

A worker relaxes on the floor.
A contractor working inside the new Union Station Bus Terminal finds a quiet spot to take their break. Like many aspects of life, COVID-19 and physical distancing rules have changed what these workers do during their down time, which now mostly consists of finding a secluded spot away from others. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

We’ve spent months documenting these workers and contractors to show you, despite COVID-19, how they’re still able to do their work safely and help keep the Greater Golden Horseshoe moving.

This is a chance to take you behind the scenes to give you a glimpse of their world – and also to say, ‘thank you’ to the army of incredibly dedicated men and women maintaining our lifeline services – and pushing our projects forward.

We hope you enjoy this glimpse into these rarely seen places. Please, share these images with your friends, family and colleagues – and the next time you’re travelling with GO or UP Express, feel free to say thanks as well.

A worker takes the temperature of another
Site supervisor Jorge La Torre, from Laycon Construction Services, enters the dedicated health screening area for the new Union Station Bus Terminal. Each worker entering the construction site must answer a series of COVID-19 screening questions and have their temperature checked before they can enter this construction site. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
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Alstom workers Farhan Surati (left), Jay Gandhi (middle) and Marharsi Patel (right) work on the roof of a Citadis Spirit light rail vehicle for the for the Finch West LRT. Alstom says the health and safety of its employees at this Brampton assembly plant is its top priority and they have implemented dozens of new safety protocols. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man sorts through wires.
Alstom worker Jay Gandhi assembles a wiring harness on the roof section of a Citadis Spirit light rail vehicle. These LRV’s will be used for the Finch West LRT and Hurontario LRT projects and are assembled right here in the Greater Golden Horseshoe at the company’s plant in Brampton. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man works under the dash of a vehicle.
Alstom workers Sanchit Nahar (outside left) Jalak Soni (inside middle) and Shivam Prajapati (outside right) work on the cab section of a Citadis Spirit light rail vehicle. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Alstom has implemented several policies and procedures to keep employees safe, such as the use of N95 respirators and face shields for employees who work close together. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man walks across the shop floor.
Alstom worker Jashanpreet Singh walks past a Citadis Spirit light rail vehicle at the Brampton assembly plant. These LRV’s for the Finch West and Hurontario LRT projects will be fully accessible, providing easy entry and room for wheelchairs, strollers and/or bikes. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Two men work by light from a worklight.
Alstom workers Daksh Vijay Madhvani (left) and on the right is Samir Kumar (right) work on an articulated section of Citadis Spirit light rail vehicle for the Finch West LRT project. In addition to PPE requirements, Alstom has also staggered the arrival times of workers to avoid unnecessary physical exchanges to keep their workforce healthy and safe. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man is seen working behind the windshield of a transit vehicle.
Alstom worker Jeeves Perera work inside the cab of the first Metrolinx Citadis Spirit LRV. While a first for the GTA, Alstom has sold more than 2,300 Citadis vehicles to 55 cities around the world. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A crew works inside a vehicle.
Alstom workers Prashant Maurya (left), Charunkumar Patel (centre rear), Prince Rawat (seated right) take a quick break to speak to their supervisor, Liz Spencer (standing right), inside a Citadis Spirit light rail vehicle for the Finch West LRT project. This very first Alstom LRV for Metrolinx is currently undergoing static testing. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Phil Verster and his team is seen in his office.
Metrolinx President and CEO, Phil Verster, prepares for a meeting with Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Gray and Chief of Staff, Lena Azzou. Like the thousands of frontline GO Transit and UP Express staff who help customers move around the region, Verster has also found ways to ensure he can continue safely coming into his Union Station office nearly every day throughout this pandemic. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Phil Verster is seen at his desk.
Metrolinx President and CEO, Phil Verster, speaks to members of his senior management team virtually from inside his office at Union Station. Like many large organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, office staff have needed to adapt, learning how to continue collaborating and pushing their critical projects forward, while doing their best to stop the spread of this virus by working remotely from their homes. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Image shows signs on a door.
Metrolinx has implemented more than 50 safety measures that are specifically designed to keep staff and customers healthy and safe, while working and travelling on GO Transit and UP Express vehicles and stations. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man works on his computers.
Rail controller, Mike Bansavatar is responsible for helping safely keep GO trains around the network running on-time. Bansavatar is among the dozens of employees working inside the Metrolinx Network Operations Centre each day. Given the operationally sensitive duties of each employee inside the Customer Journey Control Centre, everyone is required to wear a face covering at all times and undergo mandatory health screening before each shift. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Two men talk in an office.
Chief Operating Officer, Ian Smith, speaks to Bus Controller Kevin Clarke during a September visit to the Metrolinx Network Operation Centre. Nearly 200 employees work out of this secure facility, dispatching buses, trains, station staff and transit safety officers around the region. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Image is of a train.
GO train locomotive 666 sits idle at the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility. This is one of two such maintenance and storage facilities around the GO network. Even though fewer trains are being dispatched daily as a result of lower ridership due to COVID-19, work behind the scenes at this 24 hour a day operation has continued humming along. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man walks beside trains.
A worker briskly struts through the canopy area at the Willowbrook Storage and Maintenance Facility in south Etobicoke. Around this area of the bustling 130,000 square foot GO rail facility, trains are parked and connected to wayside power. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man poses in front of a train.
Bombardier mechanic, Dante Benidicto, stands in front of GO locomotive 561, one of the oldest in the fleet. Among his duties is moving this EMD F59PH III diesel-electric locomotive around the yard. Four of these engines were rebuilt in 2011 for continued service. Despite their age, the workers here at Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility consider them to be some of the most reliable in the GO train fleet. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Image shows a train.
A yard worker stands and waves to the crew of GO locomotive 666, as it approaches the train wash. Even before the pandemic struck and Metrolinx introduced an enhanced cleaning regime on-board its vehicles and in stations, these trains regularly underwent deep cleaning when out of service – both inside and out. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Workers drag work bags along a platform.
Bombardier Transportation contractors physically distance themselves as they walk through the rail yard at the Willowbrook Storage and Maintenance Facility. On this day, they’ll be taking apart the seats inside the coaches to install the clear plastic dividers that give customers their own space and help stop the spread of germs onboard. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man walks past a train.
Bombardier Rail Equipment Operator, Elijah Thompson moves a GO train into the canopy area of the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility in South Etobicoke. Once inside the boundaries the rail yard, crews hand over their trains to qualified employees like Thompson with specialized training. They’re they only employees allowed to move GO’s 91 locomotives and 979 coaches within the facility. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man works on a train.
Elijah Thompson a Bombardier Rail Equipment Operator, connects a GO train to wayside power at the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility in South Etobicoke. The trains are connected to electricity when they’re not in service to ensure that lighting and other systems are still usable by maintenance workers when the trains are parked. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Image shows cables,
A Bombardier Rail Equipment Operator connects a GO train to wayside power under the canopy at the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility in South Etobicoke. The cables provide more 575 volts of electricity to power the train’s systems when not in service. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Image shows a reflection in a window.
Sitting in the locomotive of GO train, a Bombardier Rail Equipment Operator pulls a consist into a preventative maintenance bay inside the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility in South Etobicoke. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man works on a train.
Bombardier Rail Equipment Operator Elijah Thompson connects a GO train to wayside power in one of the preventative maintenance bays inside the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility. There are three types of locomotive in the GO train fleet, EMD F59 with 3800 horsepower, MP40 locomotives with 4200 horsepower (pictured here), and MP Tier 4 locomotives with more than 5000 horsepower. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Two men stand on a platform.
Two employees at the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility stand outside to get some fresh air and discuss work happening inside one of the preventative maintenance bays. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man works on the front of a train.
A mechanic at one of GO’s preventative maintenance bays inside the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility ensure that cables are correctly connected to the front of locomotive 630. 2020 marks a decade of service for nearly three quarters of GO’s MP40 locomotives. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A crew stands and listens to instructions.
A team of contractors working for Lanka Technologies, the contractor replacing the door systems on GO trains, physically distance themselves during their morning job briefing inside a preventative maintenance bay inside the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Workers punch in at a time clock.
Bombardier workers physically distance themselves as the punch out for their maintenance night shifts. Hundreds of contractors work around the clock inside this massive 130,000 square-foot facility to keep the GO rail network running safely and smoothly, 365 days a year. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A worker sits next to a train to do some work.
A maintenance worker completes a job briefing in a preventative maintenance bay inside the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility. In addition to the usual maintenance and inspections, crews are now equipping all the coaches with GO WiFi technology. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A worker carries cleaning tools next to a train.
A contract worker employed with the specialty cleaning company Hallcon, moves through a preventative maintenance bay with a large industrial steamer that’s used to clean and disinfect the floors inside of GO train coaches. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A worker toils under a train.
Bombardier Transportation mechanic Dante Benidicto performs a brake and disc inspection on a bi-level coach inside a preventative maintenance bay inside the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility. Brakes are checked every two weeks and the wheels on GO trains typically last around 4 years before needing to be replaced. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man poses next to a train.
Fernando Cabrera, a Bombardier train maintenance worker, speaks to one of his colleagues from the trench of a preventative maintenance bay inside the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility. Both Willowbrook and the Whitby RMFs perform all light and heavy maintenance on both rail coaches and locomotives. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man pours water onto a train.
A Bombardier Transportation maintenance employee rinses out a trench inside a preventative maintenance bay after a “dump and charge” of the washroom system. Each train consists is brought into the shop for preventive care every two weeks, performing such tasks as: replacement of HVAC air filters, brake shoe/pad inspection, heavy cleaning and inspection of all safety devices. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man cleans inside a train.
A contract worker employed with the specialty cleaning company Hallcon, moves through GO train coaches cleaning and disinfecting. Metrolinx now uses specialized vacuums (HEPA vacs) that remove tiny particles like the droplets that transmit COVID-19. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
The view from on top of a train.
A Willowbrook Rail Maintenance worker walks towards a GO train parked in a preventative maintenance bay. This facility was built in 1978, at a cost of $17M. At the time, it boasted the largest indoor work-space of any rail depot in North America. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
The view from under a train as a worker walks by.
A flurry of activity continues inside GO’s locomotive shop. The majority of the fleet has two engines; one provides head end power (HEP) which provides electric power to the lights and heating and cooling systems, the other is the 4,000-5,000 horsepower, 16-cylinder diesels that provides power to the wheels. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man kneels down to work on a wheel.
Bombardier Transportation mechanic Ramon Muzones applies lubricant to a bearing inside a train axle. Each GO train locomotive has four axles, each of which has their own electric traction motor that provides the propulsion by spinning the wheels along the rails. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A woman cleans a barrier.
Hallcon contract worker Shelly Miller cleans and disinfects a train while it’s parked at the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility. While Metrolinx has always disinfected its trains and buses daily, it has stepped up its frequency to ensure all high touch surfaces are also cleaned regularly throughout their journeys. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man installs a barrier.
Natsco Transit Solutions partition installer, Florence Benecio prepares to mount the upper section of a seat divider inside a GO train coach. The clear plastic dividers are one of more than 50 measures Metrolinx has taken to ensure the safety of its customers and staff throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Image shows a barrier.
A Natsco Transit Solutions worker assembles part of a seat divider inside a GO train coach. In addition to seat divider, Metrolinx is also installing more than 3,700 hand sanitizer dispensers to each entry zone of the train fleet. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man shovels dirt.
GO track workers David Da Rosa and David Bilan shovel out excess ballast in preparation to make repairs to the rails in the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility. These workers are part of a large crew who help maintain nearly 500 km. of track along all seven rail corridors that GO train operate on. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Three men work beside one another.
GO Track workers Peter Geraldes (left), David Bilan (centre), and Angelo Pedota (right) clear ballast in preparation for some track repairs in the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility. In addition to track patrols, one of the other ways Metrolinx monitors rail conditions around all seven corridors is through the use of special detectors. These high-tech safety devices are strategically placed around the network to provide real-time data. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man walks beside a crossing.
Hung Hin, Signal System Specialist inspects a crossing arm at level crossing along the Kitchener line. Hin and his colleagues are responsible for maintaining more than 315 signal assets throughout the Metrolinx/GO Transit network. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A man looks out from inside a small mechanical shack.
Hung Hin, Signal System Specialist exits a signal bungalow at a level crossing along the Kitchener line. These structures are like the brains of the signal systems and hold the infrastructure required to operate them safely. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
A dog exists the back of a vehicle.
Special Constable Tyler Long and K9 partner, Dougie, patrol the area around Union Station. Each four-legged member of the K9 team is carefully selected based on a combination of genetic and behavioural qualities. In Dougie’s case, it’s his keen nose, unstoppable drive and his tremendous stamina that made him stand out from the pack. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
Two officers sit inside a vehicle.
Special Constable Steve North (left) and Special Constable Jeff Nichols (right) sit in their Transit Safety Vehicle at Hamilton GO Centre. The two officers are part of Transit Safety’s new Special Response Unit. Given that education is a big part of their job, the newly formed unit has been working to address an issue that’s definitely a sign of the times: face-covering compliance. (Matt Llewellyn photo)
An officer poses for the camera.
Special Constable Steve North on patrol at the Hamilton GO Centre bus terminal. One of the changes GO customers will likely notice when returning to the service is the way the staff will look. They’re now all equipped with face coverings, rubber nitrile gloves and hand sanitizer for everyone’s added safety. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

Stay tuned for the second part of this photo feature, coming next week.

Story by Matt Llewellyn, Metrolinx spokesperson and senior adviser, media relations and issues.