Between the Lines podcast – Black History Month kicks off and a heartwarming customer story

Metrolinx chief spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins takes people’s questions on her Between the Lines’ weekly #AMAwithAMA podcast segment. This week, Aikins talks about Black History Month commemorations at Metrolinx, how the transit agency planned for weekend protests, and more. Listen to the full episode below.

You’d be surprised how many topics she can cover in about ten minutes.

It’s a rapid-fire edition of Ask me Anything with Anne Marie Aikins.

Every Tuesday, Metrolinx’s Chief Spokesperson answers your questions about Metrolinx, GO Transit, UP Express, PRESTO, and anything else you want to know about when it comes to transit.

This week, Aikins talks about the importance of Black History Month, the preparations for last weekend’s protests in downtown Toronto, and a heartwarming story about GO Transit staff going above and beyond to help a customer get home safe.

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 your own questions to podcast@metrolinx.com or tweet them to @MetrolinxSpox using the hashtag #AMAwithAMA.

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

Between the Lines podcast – Episode 6 transcript

Matt Llewellyn

You’ve got questions, she’s got answers. I’m Matt Llewellyn and it’s time for Ask Me Anything with Metrolinx chief spokesperson Anne Marie Aikens. Let’s get right into to Black History Month. Earlier in the month, right at the first, we heard that Metrolinx unveiled a new bus wrap for a GO bus that honors Canada’s First Lady of the Blues. Tell us a little bit about that.

Anne Marie Aikins

Well, it was really exciting for us because it was the first time we’ve wrapped a bus for Black History Month, and we also have a mural that’s now in Bay Concourse you can come to see. So that is beautiful, and it was just really cool. But at the event launching the bus and the wrap up event with the planning group, I learned all these kind of new cool things and what a difference the whole campaign had with our own staff internally.

Matt Llewellyn

Mm-Hmm. Tell us a little bit about that.

Anne Marie Aikins

Well, one of the things I learned is Trevor Anderson is the lead for a Union Station, huge project. He’s had a wonderful transit career in a so far young life. And he’s been very instrumental in our Black employees group organizing all of this work for Black History Month. And he told us that he had started his career, his transit career, as a bus driver. I didn’t know that. And he went on about the bus, said it was magical and it had a soul. And that was that was really very touching what the event meant to our Black employees. So that was one cool thing that I learned. I also learned that Salome [Bey]’s daughters that you’re going to see [them] in a video later this week… Both of them participated in our unveiling of the bus and they were there and touching the bus and what it meant to them, that was pretty cool. But how they ended up on this really cool and really touching appearance on CBC on Metro Morning; that happened just accidentally. They ran into a friend who happened to work at CBC, and they had just left this event and started to tell her spontaneously just how much this event meant to them and ended up on Metro Morning. And the last thing that I can tell you that I learned was I heard from a teacher at an alternative school in Toronto that primarily hosts new Canadians and what the bus meant to them, and they asked us if the bus could go and visit them. We’re going to actually take that bus on the road and go and visit the school.

Matt Llewellyn

I heard this morning from one of our colleagues who was there the first morning that it rolled out saying that he saw a woman on a platform getting very emotional. Just looking at it. It’s very powerful. The good news the bus will be on the road for a number of months in case anyone doesn’t see it. Typically, how long do the busses actually stay on the road wrapped like this for?

Anne Marie Aikins

Well, it is a Black History Month wrap, but we keep them wrapped for at least six months, and we can’t keep them forever because they don’t last forever. Just like any other poster-y kind of thing, they’re subject to the weather and the elements and so forth. And so they start getting kind of ratty after at least six months. So it’ll be out there for some time and you’re going to see it all over the place. And the mural. when they unveiled it, I was there and I watched people going by and stopping and looking at it, and could see them reflecting on what it meant to them. And that’s pretty touching.

Matt Llewellyn

Let’s get to some of the questions that we got this week – one of them from a transit enthusiast and a friend and a fan, let’s call him that, Chris Drew. Wanting to know a little bit more about electrification.

Anne Marie Aikins

Yeah, Chris is a good friend of ours, and he thought that people would really benefit from really understanding what electrification is actually going to mean to their experience, how quiet and faster, and how they can start and stop much more quickly and what it will mean to their actual transit experience. And I thought better than me talking about it. That should be a really good future episode of the podcast. We’ll get you talking to some of our experts here at Metrolinx to describe how transformative it will be to transit.

00;04;24;21 – 00;04;42;16

Matt Llewellyn

Absolutely. So stay tuned for that one. And if you have your own question that you want answered, especially by Anne Marie: podcast at Metrolinx dot com.

Let’s talk about busses, you know, back to busses. Bit of a challenging weekend from a logistics perspective: getting busses into the downtown core. Talk to us a little bit about that.

Anne Marie Aikins

You and I and James, our producer, was on call, so we were all involved in the planning for this truck convoy coming to Toronto and we’ve all seen what’s happened in Ottawa. And the impact on our system, we really had to assess. So we had one: our priority always is safety, making sure we can get our customers and staff safely to their destination. That’s our always our first priority. So it took a lot of planning and figuring out, you know, where is the protest, you know, and where is it going to happen and what impact it would have, if any, on our services. So our customer protective services works very closely with Toronto police and with TTC and other service providers in order to assess the risks out there, we put a plan in place that what if we were had trouble getting into the downtown core because our busses are regional busses and they use the main highways. And what if they got blocked or they just got too slow and they put a plan in place that if that happened this is how we would get people to Union Station by our busses. Our trains weren’t expected to be impacted. So our plan was to get people to other stations and then train them in. So we had that plan in place. It did cause some delays for our customers and our trains and busses were busy, but it was all managed very efficiently and most of our customers did not complain. They realized that safety was their first priority and they got to where they needed to go just with a bit of a delay. And communication was part of that effort as well. So it just takes a lot of work. And because everybody in the city worked together, we have not had the experience that others have had and it was fortunately over and done with pretty much in one day.

Matt Llewellyn

Well, let’s go from planning or an enormous amount of planning to something that sort of happens spur of the moment. I mean, this is part of working in a 24 hour transit operation. You get these situations, which you can’t really predict. But there was a really interesting one that happened Friday night with a young woman and it had a really great ending. Some staff going above and beyond. Tell us a little bit about that one. It’s a feel good story for sure.

Anne Marie Aikins

Scary during the moments, I’m sure, especially as a parent. But again, James was on call and sometimes as a media spokesperson, you do other stuff, sometimes not part of the job description. And James took a call from a just panic-stricken mum, and he’s a young father as well. So I’m sure he was feeling for this mom that was just panic stricken because she has an 18 year old daughter with a cognitive disability. She was traveling on her own, but Friday night she got on the wrong train and she got off at a station that was not familiar to her, that no longer had service. It was a little later in the evening, and it didn’t have any more service for the evening. So she was pretty much stranded there and she didn’t know what to do. The mum didn’t know what to do, so James worked with customer service and our customer protection and our control center. They located her there. They have ways to do that with cameras and so forth to determine where she was and that she was safe. And staff got her transported to Union Station, where then we arranged to get her home from there. So mum, James said, was beyond thrilled and relieved and grateful as any parent would be that this had did have a happy ending. We just are reminded of that sometimes we go, we do things that are beyond talking to reporters and we do things that really make a difference in people’s lives and that was, you know, that was a really wonderful story to tell, and we’re really grateful that our staff are all just they are so determined and focused on customer service that they, you know, they would go above and beyond to ensure this young woman got home safely.

Matt Llewellyn

Yeah, really great story there. Thanks so much Anne Marie, we really appreciate your time this week.

Anne Marie Aikins

Thanks. Nice talking to you, as usual, Matt.

Matt Llewellyn

Anne Marie will be back next week for another AMA with AMA. Do you have a question? Email us Podcast at Metrolinx dot com and remember to tune in this Thursday for another episode of Between the Lines: A Metrolinx podcast. I’m Matt Llewellyn.