Getting back to GO Transit and UP Express? Here’s what you need to know about COVID safety measures

Many people who were regular GO riders before the pandemic may soon be making their first trip on public transit in two years. Over that time, GO continued to operate, moving residents across the region with more than 50 safety actions. In fact, no outbreaks occurred on GO Transit or UP Express. For those considering a first ride of 2022 – whether it`s to see a game at Scotiabank Arena, return to the office, or anything else – Metrolinx News has the information to ride with confidence.

With so many things changing on COVID rules, here’s a timely look at what’s changed on GO Transit and UP Express to give customers even more confidence.

First, an important fact. Over the course of the pandemic, there has not been a single outbreak identified on a GO Transit bus or train or UP Express.

Want to check the schedules before heading to GO? Go here.

Using UP Express? Check here before you head out.

A fare inspector checking a customer's PRESTO card
Fare inspectors look a little different as a result of COVID-19, equipped with face coverings, goggles, rubber nitrile gloves and hand sanitizer for everyone’s added safety. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

That’s the result of a lot of hard work, expert decisions and investment from Metrolinx throughout the pandemic. From the start, Metrolinx has had strict health and safety protocols in place to protect staff and customers.

Safety Actions

The transit agency took more than 50 actions to improve safety over the course of the pandemic. Those changes evolved as the world learned more about how to fight COVID.

They continue to be updated and revised.

Key improvements have included broad availability of hand sanitizer, health kiosks, protective screens and barriers between seats on trains and buses, wayfinding in stations, employee health checks, staff and customers wearing face coverings and more.

For the time being, masks will continue to be mandatory for staff and passengers on GO Transit and UP Express vehicles, platforms and stations.

Image shows Anne Marie and GO Bear
Metrolinx’s head of Media and Public Relations, Anne Marie Aikins, along with GO Bear, at an event during nicer weather. (Anne Marie Aikins photo)

“Any mask is better than no mask, but we know N95 and medical masks are most effective to protect from the Omicron variant,” said Anne Marie Aikins, head of Media and Public Relations for Metrolinx.

Last year, Metrolinx implemented a mandatory vaccination policy for all employees – including those who are employed by Alstom to work on trains – and it remains  in effect.

Good ventilation throughout the system has also contributed to COVID safety.

“About four years ago, we upgraded ventilation on our trains and that proved to be very effective during the pandemic,” Aikins said.

Constant opening and closing of doors on both trains and buses also contributes to effective air circulation.

A GO customer service person helping a customer from behind the ticket wicket
Metrolinx has implemented dozens of safety changes to cope with the new COVID-19 reality, including a policy mandating customers and staff wear face coverings at all times. (Matt Llewellyn photo)

Independent air quality tests have also been conducted on GO trains and stations and experts have found no evidence of the coronavirus. In the early days of the pandemic GO ridership fell to about 10 per cent of previous levels, allowing for social distancing on board. While the numbers have slowly risen, they are now at only 24 per cent of the earlier figures.

“There is still lots of room on our trains and buses,” Aikins said.

Passengers should normally be able to maintain spacing on trains. If that does not look possible at first glance, more room may be available on a different coach.

Other Safety Measures

Other safety tips for passengers include the following:

  • Stay home and off transit if ill or potentially exposed to COVID;
  • Wear a face covering – preferably N95 or medical grade – and ensure both the nose and mouth are covered; at all times (masks can even be found in Metrolinx PPE dispensers);
  • Wash hands regularly and use hand sanitizer found on buses, trains and in stations; and
  • Download the COVID Alert App.

When you are ready to travel on public transit, GO and UP Express will get customers to their destination safely.

And always check GO schedules in advance. You can find them here.

Story by Mike Winterburn, senior writer, Metrolinx News