As Omicron spreads into communities, Metrolinx mitigates temporary labour shortages with a reduced schedule. Here’s the latest impact.
Metrolinx, like many other businesses, is experiencing rising levels of staff absenteeism due to the Omicron variant.
Absenteeism levels vary by department and by the day, but frontline teams for the transit agency are now averaging 20 to 30 per cent fewer staff each day. This means there are fewer employees available to operate trains, to drive buses, to maintain and clean the vehicles, or to ensure adequate customer protection services are available when needed.
This is similar to what transit agencies – as well as many other services – are facing across the globe.
Given the rapid transmission of this variant, the absenteeism level at Metrolinx is expected to increase over the next few weeks, so proactive mitigation measures are necessary to protect critical transit services.
To make the best use of resources and provide a consistent level of service customers can depend on, Metrolinx is adjusting GO schedules and reducing rail service.
Metrolinx will be decreasing service across the network by approximately 15 per cent. Whenever possible, hourly frequency or better service will be maintained.
Metrolinx staff are being very strategic to spread out the cancellations across the system and will do their best to protect new services and maintain GO bus routes as much as possible. There are no changes to 30-minute UP Express service.
However, cancelled trains will not always be able to be replaced by buses as every part of the business is affected by high absenteeism.
New schedules are available at gotransit.com/fullschedules. Customers can stay in the know about schedule changes, cancellations and trip adjustments by signing up for On The GO Alerts or checking their bus or train line’s Twitter handle. Customers should check ahead before leaving home.
Public health officials expect this wave of the pandemic to last through the next few weeks or months.
Ridership during this period is expected to remain low as students attend virtual school and people work from home. Metrolinx will continue to monitor ridership, staff availability and public health advice and make adjustments as required.
Metrolinx is also increasing efforts to ensure staff remain safe by providing N95 masks and rapid test kits for the frontlines. Office staff are also continuing to work from home.
Along with all of the dozens of safety actions in place since March 2020, vaccination remains a key part of protecting staff and customers. Booster clinics for Metrolinx staff and contractors are also scheduled this month.
Metrolinx continues to help people get vaccinated through its three GO-VAXX buses – the mobile clinics provide thousands of first, second and booster shots as well as shots for children age five to11. In partnership with the province, the buses travel to malls, workplaces, community centres and other hubs making it accessible and easy to get protected.
Ensuring Metrolinx staff remain healthy and available to continue to provide excellent customer service is critically important. For essential workers and others who must travel during this challenging time, stay protected and wear a well-fitted mask while on transit.
Story by Anne Marie Aikins, head of media and public relations.
Find her on Twitter @MetrolinxSpox