Between the Lines podcast – first #AMAwithAMA episode hits the airwaves

Metrolinx chief spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins takes people’s questions on Metrolinx’s Between the Lines podcast. This week, the big snowstorm & expanding GO service to Niagara Region.

The first Metrolinx podcast episode of Ask Me Anything with Anne Marie Aikins is out.

We like to call it an AMA with AMA.

On Tuesdays, Metrolinx’s Between the Lines podcast will feature Metrolinx Chief Spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins answering people’s questions about Metrolinx, GO Transit, UP Express, PRESTO and anything else transit-related.

This week, Anne Marie talks about Metrolinx’s response to last week’s snowstorm as well as answers a question from a listener who wanted to know about the expansion of GO Transit service to the Niagara Region.

Episode 17 – Fifty Years in Rail: Talking GO Transit's past & future with Rob Fuller Between The Lines: A Metrolinx Podcast

On this week's episode: we talk with Metrolinx's Director of Rail Operations, Rob Fuller. He takes us into the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility and talks about the changes he's seen in the rail industry in the last 50 years and where GO Transit service is heading in the future. Watch: Rob Fuller takes us through the Willowbrook Rail Maintenance Facility Host: Matt Llewellyn (@mattrolinx) Guest: Rob Fuller, director of rail operations Producer/Social: James Wattie (@jameswattie) Learn more at blog.metrolinx.com Credits: Czar Donic / Red Red Shoes / courtesy of http://www.epidemicsound.com Dusty Decks / Golden Crates / courtesy of http://www.epidemicsound.com Nylonia / Last Question / courtesy of http://www.epidemicsound.com — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/metrolinx/message
  1. Episode 17 – Fifty Years in Rail: Talking GO Transit's past & future with Rob Fuller
  2. Episode 16 – #AMAwithAMA – Who is Train Guy, can TBMs be reused and more!
  3. Episode 15 – Tunnel Boring Machines
  4. Episode 14 – #AMAwithAMA – Your Light Rail Transit (LRT) questions answered
  5. Episode 13 – Navigating market volatility in transit

You can send questions to podcast@metrolinx.com or tweet them to @MetrolinxSpox using the hashtag #AMAwithAMA.

Story by James Wattie, Metrolinx media relations senior advisor and Between the Lines podcast producer

Want to follow along while you listen? Here’s a full transcript for this episode of Between the Lines:

Between the Lines – episode #2 transcript

Matt Llewellyn

You’ve got questions, she’s got answers, I’m Matt Llewellyn, it’s time for Ask Me Anything with Metrolinx chief spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins. Anne-Marie, Safe to say last week was a busy one.

Anne Marie Aikins

It was exceptionally busy. It started out with a pretty big snowstorm that we knew was coming. But, you know, I don’t think anyone predicted it ahead of time that it was going to be quite as big as it was.

And we haven’t had those kinds of snowstorms in a really long time, let alone during the pandemic.

Matt Llewellyn

So, so take us through. I mean, there were lots of pictures and videos we saw on social media, a lot of people asking about bus trips and train trips. So what did happen?

Anne Marie Aikins

Well, first we started to plan ahead of time. Our first meeting about it as a team at Metrolinx and I mean… communications is just one piece of the team. Rail and bus and our control center and stations and transit safety, all of those people come together and we’re part of that to help support the work that they’re doing on the ground.

So we started on Friday and then Monday rolled around. And when busses start going out at four or 5:00 in the morning, there was very little snow on the ground.

It started to build fairly quickly. And you know, within the next few hours, it was, you know, it was upgraded to a blizzard. It was particularly challenging for everyone to handle, especially municipalities that have to clear that snow.

But for our transit agencies and Metrolinx was experiencing those challenges, whether it was bus or rail or stations, everyone was experiencing challenges.

Matt Llewellyn

It was certainly a very tough day on Monday in the snow. What are some of the takeaways? What are some of the conversations that are happening in the background?

00;02;02;17 – 00;02;20;09

Anne Marie Aikins

Well, it’s interesting. Both you and I have been part of the debrief, which happens after every major incident. And this, of course, was a major incident. We debrief, you know what we did, what perhaps lessons were learned in it and what we could do differently next time, and what we did really well.

That was really fascinating. I always find those very helpful because we learn a lot and you most importantly, learn what it’s like to be on the ground during major incidents like that. And boy, it wasn’t easy for a lot of people.

But we have a lot of takeaways, but some good takeaways were that, you know, we’ve invested in new infrastructure lately in the last few years, and we really haven’t had a chance to test it in the real world.

For example, we put in a new innovative feature into our train doors that will keep them from freezing when the winds are whipping up and there’s snow and snow pellets would get stuck indoors. So they invested in that and we haven’t had a storm like this for a few years to really test it.

It turns out it’s very effective and that’s one thing that didn’t go wrong. We didn’t have doors freeze on us. So that was really good news and good to hear that some investment really did pay off.

We heard about some of the things that our staff did. For example, one staff member I heard worked all night doing customer communications and support in the control center and then went home on Monday, promptly got stuck somewhere and was stuck for about seven hours and finally got home, where he just had to turn right around and go back to work.

He made it to work for his second shift that day on time and stayed for a full shift. So the kind of really heroics, I see that as heroics, that our staff did and how they would have to pivot during the storm when municipal roads weren’t done yet and they couldn’t get access to the station. Where they’d find a different place to drop off customers. And then take them across into a safe area. We heard from elderly people that were trying to get around in that kind of storm in a walker and how our staff would help them.

So we heard about a lot of those situations, and it was it was really quite impressive and inspiring for for me personally.

00;04;45;13 – 00;04;55;22

Matt Llewellyn

I have to say, I’m a little bit disappointed to hear about the doors. I’m a Lakeshore West rider and there’s been more than a few times where a door being stuck on a platform has actually saved me from catching a train.

So now that they seem to be working flawlessly, I might have to actually leave home a little bit sooner.

Anne Marie Aikins

Another interesting thing that we heard happen… trains can get through a lot of snow. I’m sure we’ve all seen the videos where they plow through lots of piles of snow. They handle the snow much better than busses that have to operate on streets that get packed with snow.

But what they found was the snow is accumulating so quickly, cars and plows were getting stuck on tracks, which can be, you know, it can be a tragic situation when that happens. And that was happening literally all day. It was continuing to happen the next day, which of course, delays trains.

But you know what our main goal is when you operate during a critical incident and a major weather system like that, the main goal is always to get everyone home safely and to ensure both our staff and our customers are safe throughout it.

And so we 100% met that goal.

00;05;56;25 – 00;06;00;08

Matt Llewellyn

Good news, for sure.

I want to switch gears, we did get our first listener email. It was from Paul wanting to know about future service in the Niagara Region. Specifically, if you could speak to things about the timing of potentially expansion at Centennial Go Station in Hamilton, Grimsby, Beamsville. Do you have an update on that Anne Marie?

Anne Marie Aikins

Well, the update is … as I said, we’re operating in a pandemic and right now, ridership is extremely low and for good reason. People are working from home again.

They’re staying home because cases are high again right now. And so we’ve reduced our services, including some to Niagara. We reduce our services to meet the demand and there is no point sending out trains and busses when they’re going to be empty, essentially;

So that’s one thing we’re doing. But what we have learned throughout this pandemic is that ridership comes back. When the cases of COVID go down and things start to open up, people come back. And Niagara ridership, during the summer, was more than healthy and people really did come back to that, to the Niagara service.

So we know it’s still needed and we continue to do our GO Expansion work all throughout the last two years. So that hasn’t been slowed down by the pandemic. And we’ve always promised that we would incrementally increase services to Niagara, and we’re still committed to that.

But at the same time, we’ve got to do the infrastructure and all of the necessary work to make GO Expansion fully implemented on Niagara. And that’s continued. Our commitment has not waned at all for Niagara services and you know, when we come out of this pandemic, we’ll be back to expansion once again. I’m completely confident about that.

Matt Llewellyn

Good to hear. Thank you so much, Anne Marie.

Anne Marie Aikins

You’re welcome. It’s great talking to you.

Matt Llewellyn

Anne Marie will be back next Tuesday for another AMA with AMA. You have a question? Email us: podcast@metrolinx.com. You can also tweet at Anne Marie. She’s @metrolinxspox with the hashtag #AMAwithAMA. And remember, tune in this Thursday for another episode of Between the Lines: A Metrolinx Podcast.

I’m Matt Llewellyn.