While COVID kept most transit riders at home much changed on GO Transit

As the pandemic restrictions slowly and cautiously get lifted and new routines created, transit riders are gradually – sometimes timidly – returning to GO Transit and UP Express. Even long-time customers are discovering they might need a refresher as much changed in so many ways while they were away. Here, Anne Marie Aikins, head of Metrolinx media and public relations, looks at what is the same – and what is so different as more and more customers get ready to ride.

The GO Transit buses and trains are still green.

The websites are still in the same place. Ditto for the phone numbers. And your stations haven’t shifted  – though, come to think of it, we did move the Union Station Bus Terminal while you were gone and opened a new station, Bloomington GO on the Richmond Hill line.

A lot of other things transformed too – like now there’s free WIFI on GO – which we regularly report on Metrolinx News to keep customers updated.

Hold tight for the ride as we pull all the changes together.

A dog rides a train.
A small dog rides a GO Transit in this recent image. (Metrolinx photo)

In response to COVID-19, Metrolinx implemented dozens of safety measures to ensure everyone stayed healthy throughout the pandemic. For over a year, face coverings have been mandatory while in stations or on trains and buses (both for staff and customers).  If you forget your mask, no worries – we installed PPE dispensers at stations.

Although so many of you have already been fully vaccinated (thank you for helping us get out of this awful pandemic), masks will continue to be mandatory for the time being until new direction comes from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Other measures include, hand sanitizer dispensers on all vehicles and in stations, additional cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched areas throughout the day, and improved air circulation so there is a steady flow of fresh air while on transit. Metrolinx also invested in protective barriers between seats on trains and buses and other strategic places.

To ensure staff remained safe while working on the frontlines, there have been a number of measures implemented such as health and temperature checks, support during quarantine and self-isolation, education and other supportive measures. Staff were also provided paid time off to get vaccinated as well as highly successful worksite vaccination clinics. The strategy is working – there have been no new cases of infection for weeks.

Staff were busy improving customer fare options. We launched an open-payment pilot on UP Express. We’ve made lots of improvements with your PRESTO card like removing the $10 minimum loads and enhancing the app for both IOS and Android users, and more. Before you head out for your first post-pandemic trip, dust off your card and if you have any trouble signing in, call the customer service line at 1-877-378-6123 and they’ll help you reset.

Customers exit a train.
Customers leave a GO Train, along with their bikes, on a recent trip. (Metrolinx photo)

We also launched new weekend fares – $10 for one day or $15 for the whole weekend – as we know you are eager to see family and friends and explore the region. That was clear when Niagara weekend bike coaches were brought back and when we launched a pilot on Barrie line. This past Saturday alone, nearly 1,000 customers enjoyed the reintroduction of the weekend service on Barrie line and adding the bonus of pedal power. 

The same day we launched our first ever ‘zoomobile’ – a GO bus to the Toronto Zoo. That was an immediate hit with customers eager to visit the lions, monkeys and giraffes.

GO Bear stands by a bus.
GO Bear welcomes customers onto a GO bus. (Metrolinx photo)

While 90 per cent of our transit customers worked from home, we reduced services to concentrate on transporting essential workers. Now, as the province begins to open, we’re gradually returning services. Stay tuned to Metrolinx News (you can subscribe so you never miss an update) for more news coming about services.

Story by Anne Marie Aikins, head of Metrolinx Media and Public Relations