Getting on board – Metrolinx launches new signage pilot program to make catching your train even easier

Starting Thursday, March 4, customers at Mimico and Danforth GO stations will notice new colourful platform signs that will make it easier to know where to stand regardless of what length of train rolls in.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Metrolinx has made many adjustments to its GO train services – but one of the most noticeable for customers has been the length of trains.  

While using fewer coaches on low ridership trips has ensured GO is able to safely make the best use of its limited resources, it left some customers wondering, “where do I stand?”  

This is particularly true for the Lakeshore East and West lines, where trains now vary in length from six, eight, 10 and 12 coaches depending on the time of day.  

Based on feedback from customers, Metrolinx has decided to test a potential solution that should take the guess work out of wondering where to wait – while at the same time, making it easier to spread out on the platform. 

New colour-coded signs have been installed at two GO stations, Mimico and Danforth, along with new maps to show customers the general layout of these different boarding areas. 

A sign is shown on a platform.
Sign of the times – A boarding reminder is shown at Danforth GO Station. (Rob Granatstein photo)

Orange indicates you are standing in the six-coach waiting area. The pink signs let you know you’re standing in the eight-coach waiting area, and the green signs tell you are standing in the 10 and 12 coach waiting areas.  

“The easiest way to think about it: if you’re standing in the six-coach area of the platform marked with an orange sign – no matter the size of the train that rolls in, you’re going to get on easily without any guess work,” said Jessalynn Selby, Director of Customer Care at Metrolinx. 

By showing riders where the shortest six coach trains will stop on the platform, Selby hopes customers will spread out – creating a more comfortable experience for everyone on board. 

photo of the new boarding sign in the tunnel below the platform
Artist’s rendering of what the new signs will look like at Mimico GO Station. (Metrolinx photo)

“Our customers are habitual,” she said. “Despite the changes to the number of coaches, many of our customers are still waiting in their usual spots – even though our trains are no longer stopping in those areas.”  

Selby notes this creates a problem, because even though ridership is down by as much as 90 per cent, the end coaches can create a perception some GO trains are busier than they are.  

“What we’re seeing is that when a shorter six coach train rolls into a station, people still seem to be surprised and scurry down the platform to hop on the closest coach.”  

Selby explains this scenario has created instances when more than half of customers onboard a particular trip, have all been sitting together in just a single end coach.  

photo of the new boarding sign on the GO platform
Customers at Danforth and Mimico GO will see these new maps on the train platforms. (Metrolinx photo)

She also notes GO does closely monitor ridership daily and even the busiest trips in recent months have rarely exceeded 35 per cent of the train’s capacity.

“There are plenty of open seats further down the train,” she said. “We hope this pilot will give people the confidence of knowing they can spread out and still get on the train comfortably.”  

Mimico and Danforth GO stations were chosen for this pilot project because of the varying sizes of the trains that use them, as well as the volume of customers and the configuration of the platforms. 

Looking up – Boarding signs at Danforth GO Station. (Rob Granatstein photo)

In addition to making it easier to spread out, these new colourful markers on the platforms will also make it clearer for people to know where the accessibility coach will stop. 

The pilot will run until April 30. After that, the results (which will include customer feedback) will be evaluated and a decision will be made about whether this system should be rolled out across the rest of the network.  

Like the zone boarding systems used by rail operators in other parts of the world, work is also underway to determine if it’s possible to use the screens and digital boards hanging over the platforms to let customers know the length of their train before it arrives in the station. However, that work is still in the initial stages.  

Story by: Matt Llewellyn, Metrolinx spokesperson and senior advisor. With files from Scott Money.