Metrolinx chief spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins takes people’s questions on her Between the Lines’ weekly #AMAwithAMA podcast segment. This week, Aikins talks about a harrowing but life-saving experience by one Metrolinx employee, and much more. Listen to the full episode below.
Every Tuesday, Metrolinx’s Chief Spokesperson, Anne Marie Aikins, answers questions about Metrolinx, GO Transit, UP Express, PRESTO, and anything else people want to know about when it comes to transit.
This week, Aikins also talks about how provincial COVID-19 rule changes affect Metrolinx service and answer questions about Niagara and Barrie GO Train service.
Episode 17 – Fifty Years in Rail: Talking GO Transit's past & future with Rob Fuller – Between The Lines: A Metrolinx Podcast
- Episode 17 – Fifty Years in Rail: Talking GO Transit's past & future with Rob Fuller
- Episode 16 – #AMAwithAMA – Who is Train Guy, can TBMs be reused and more!
- Episode 15 – Tunnel Boring Machines
- Episode 14 – #AMAwithAMA – Your Light Rail Transit (LRT) questions answered
- Episode 13 – Navigating market volatility in transit
Readers can send questions to email@example.com or tweet them to @MetrolinxSpox using the hashtag #AMAwithAMA.
Want to read along? Here’s the transcript of this podcast.
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, interesting board meeting last week with the board of directors. We heard about, I guess you would call it an unusual, life saving effort by one of our colleagues, Mini Gupta,
who’s a director of systems for Crosstown at Metrolinx, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this before.
She’s been credited with saving a person’s life virtually.
Anne Marie Aikins
I knew it was the most incredible story, gave me chills when I heard it. So Mini Gupta, she’s been with us for quite some time.
We all have first aid training at Metrolinx, as part of our training, because of safety. But, you know, when you think of life saving, it’s in person.
You’re giving people CPR, you’re giving Band-Aids.
You know what to do if somebody is in medical distress. But you know, now that our world is kind of this hybrid, half-virtual world, would you know how to translate those skills virtually?
So Mini had this experience she was meeting virtually with a contractor.
So somebody outside of the Metrolinx family, a contractor. They were just meeting the two of them.
Fortunately, they both had their cameras on and everything was fine with the man and she didn’t know of any health problems.
But she found all of a sudden, she started to notice that he was behaving strangely, and then he started to have trouble speaking.
She kept asking him if he was OK. She knows from her first aid training the signs of a stroke.
She also knows how important it is to get medical attention if somebody is having a stroke, how important it is to get it quickly.
So she realized that this person really needed help. But then she realized it’s a contractor.
It’s not somebody in the Metrolinx family. She couldn’t type in his name, and up comes all of our phone numbers and our contact information.
It’s outside of that. So she in the meantime, called 911. She had 911 on the phone, and they’re asking her where he is, where he’s located, and she really didn’t know. He could have been anywhere.
But the 911 person talked her through it. And finally, through a colleague, she found out where he lived, got the address to 911, stayed on the phone with 911, so he eventually got help.
She heard from him the next week to say because he got treatment early, he’s expected to eventually have a full recovery and just how grateful he was.
So when we heard about that story, of course, she was getting a safety award.
But from an emergency preparedness perspective on the incident command team, we reviewed that story and realized we really have to adapt our emergency procedures to a virtual world.
Because we’re probably always going to have going forward, even after we’re finished with this pandemic, probably have adapted somewhat to a virtual world.
Do you know how to contact people? Do you know what to do if you’re meeting with somebody virtually and how would you get help?
So it’s helped us from a planning perspective. We’re going to look at all of those things. So it was it was just chilling, and I just can’t imagine being in this situation she was in.
It raises a couple of questions, as you said, the contact information, having it updated, you know.
Should you announce the guests at the beginning of a call where you are just in case something like that happens?
But I guess the other thing was critically in this one: cameras were on.
I know that there’s a real reluctance a lot of times for people in a virtual world to turn their camera on.
But in this case, it actually might have saved this guy’s life.
Anne Marie Aikins
It may have with the camera on. So remember that you know that it could have very well saved his life.
If he wasn’t on camera, she may have thought, I probably would have thought, I’ve just lost the connection and hang up and perhaps try again.
You know, she might have eventually thought something’s wrong. He was with me, you know, and now he’s not answering his phone, but because it was on camera, that was obviously chilling for her.
But it probably helped save his life, and it was just an incredible experience, and we’re going to learn from that experience as well.
I want to talk about a question that we’ve been seeing a lot this week, not just at Metrolinx, but I think around the province as well.
There were some recent changes to vaccine passport rules. They’re coming on March 1st.
A lot of our customers want to know what does this mean in terms of Metrolinx’s mandatory vaccine mandate for staff and also seen some questions about masks for customers as well.
Take us through that. What is what’s going on there?
Anne Marie Aikins
Now that we’re kind of coming out of it, they are beginning to change the rules again.
And so every time the rules are changed from an incident command perspective, we look at those and an organizational perspective.
We look at the changing rules and see how we have to adapt as well as a company.
So the rules are changing as of March first for the vaccine passport, we looked at our own policy, which is very separate and apart from the province’s mandate.
But we do have a mandatory vaccine policy at Metrolinx, and for the time being, that is remaining so there’s nothing changing in respect to that.
Our staff are still required to be double vaccinated and we’re encouraging many of our staff and they already have gotten their their booster shot.
But the policy is two, that’s for us as well as for our contractors. So that’s not changing.
But we’ve also seen questions about masks and are they changing?
But at this point in time, the province has not signaled a change to masks for when you’re at work or when you’re on transit.
And that’s not changing for us, either.
We know that masks along with vaccination are a key way of keeping you safe on transit.
And now that people are starting to come back, you’re going to see more people on the trains and busses.
So it’s important to wear a mask.
Any mask is better than no mask. Medical mask is next best. N95 is even better, and we’ve made those kinds of masks available to our staff.
And when I travel on transit, I feel safer if I have an N95 on.
And so, you know, you’re encouraged to wear a mask.
That’s something that it’s really important to do. It’ll protect you.
You’re talking about customers coming back. We’ve had a lot of questions related to that. Different types of services, obviously, they were reduced during the pandemic for numerous reasons.
One of the questions about Niagara weekend service, in particular train service, when will that be coming back?
And I also understand about 80 of your family members, and that’s probably only about 4% of them have actually reached out to you about weekend Barrie service.
So is it true that you had a role in stopping that? No more spontaneous visits?
Anne Marie Aikins
That’s what they think, but that there is no truth to that rumor.
We reduced our services, of course, across our system when ridership is significantly reduced.
So we reduced it because ridership was about 10% across the board, even less for some trips.
There’s no point running empty trains and busses, so we reduced it.
Still, lots of room for people, but two of the services that are much beloved is the Niagara and Barrie weekend train service.
So we still have busses, but people think about trains and they want to be able to take a train.
And my family, especially from Barrie, wants to be able to take a train down to the city.
And I’d like to be able to take a train up to Barrie and people are really anxious to have that back.
But ridership is very slowly starting to come back and especially during the week.
It’s busier on the weekends, so we will bring it back.
I can’t announce the date, but we’re going to bring back the weekend trains, but I want people not to discount the busses.
We have the best, most comfortable busses. They’re really wonderful way to travel.
You can still sleep just like you do on a train, and those are still operating on the weekends in Barrie and Niagara.
So don’t discount those, but we’ll bring back those trains because we know people love them.
I know that there are our colleagues over in rail operations consider me one of their, you know, a staunch ally.
So I’m going to say something that’s really unpopular here. I love our busses. Like I truly do.
I find they’ve got great leg room, arguably more than the trains. They’re quiet.
You get that nice kind of, you know, the bus kind of going. It’s almost like, you know, you take your baby to go for a drive to go to sleep.
That’s kind of like me. I’m like a giant baby sleeping on the top deck of the bus. I love them.
Anne Marie Aikins
They are great. So try the busses.
I think busses have a bad rep for some reason, but they’re a great way to travel and they’re a good option and we use them frequently around our system.
So never discount the bus.
For sure, and sometimes they’re even faster. We won’t get into that, but in particular they can be a little bit faster at times too. Well, thanks so much, Anne Marie. Really appreciate your time.
Anne Marie Aikins
Great talking to you, Matt.
Anne Marie will be back next Tuesday for another AMA with AMA. Do you have questions? We love answering them.
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.