With ridership down by as much as 90 per cent as a result of COVID-19, Metrolinx is finding ways to use this situation to the advantage of its customers and communities, by speeding up critical construction projects along the Barrie line.
A few weeks ago, overnight work began in the Davenport Diamond area building a diversion track on the east side of the corridor. It’s an important step that will eventually allow construction teams access to the main line and begin making critical upgrades that will make train service more reliable, safer and allow for greater expansion in the years to come.
Although this overnight work had been scheduled for months, and was communicated with community members, Metrolinx understands the added stress of the COVID-19 situation and the importance of being a good neighbour during these challenging times.
That’s why Metrolinx worked hard with its contractor to create a solution: temporarily replacing trains with buses on the Barrie line during the day on weekdays, and on weekends, so crews can safely expedite that corridor work as much as possible, rather than doing overnight construction.
“Listening to concerns raised by residents and finding mitigating solutions with our project teams is our number one priority in Community Relations,” said Kelly Hagan, Metrolinx vice president, community relations communications. “We value our relationships with the community and will continue to work together as we deliver this important project.”
During morning and evening rush hours, regular GO train service will still be available between Allandale GO and Union Station.
While ridership is relatively low at the moment, Metrolinx has ensured that train service along the Barrie corridor can be reinstated quickly to provide more flexibility and additional capacity if it’s needed.
“Your safety is our top priority,” said Doug Tuira, Senior Manager of GO Transit’s Network Operations Centre. “We will closely monitor capacity on our GO buses and will make adjustments as needed.”
Metrolinx has also been working since January to implement more than 40 strategies that are helping ensure everyone stays healthy and safe on our system, such as:
- Increased deep cleaning at all stations, trains and on buses.
- New hand sanitizer dispensers on buses and in stations.
- Application of a long acting antimicrobial germ protecting barrier on trains, buses and stations.
- The seats behind and in close proximity to our staff on vehicles have been blocked to help with physical distancing.
- Specialist vacuums (HEPA vacs) that remove tiny particles like the droplets that transmit COVID-19 are now part of the new cleaning protocols.
- Polycarbonate screens to protect bus drivers as well as in stations to provide some protection for staff and customers
- Frontline staff now have re-usable cloth face coverings, face shields, gloves and hand sanitizer.
- Education for both customers and staff has been key and has helped change behaviours such as regular hand-washing, staying home if sick, cough/sneeze etiquette, as well as physical distancing.
- Giving bus drivers the option to exit the bus before passengers load and unload.
- Bus drivers no longer accept cash to reduce physical interactions.
There are few other important changes customers using the Barrie line need to know: replacement buses will not be stopping at Downsview Park (TTC can be used an alternate) and the departure times for the replacement buses will be slightly different than regular train trips. Updated schedules can be found by clicking here.
Also, customers using stations at the north end of the line (Allandale/Barrie South/Bradford/Newmarket/East Gwillimbury) will be required to make a bus transfer. For the first few days, additional staff will be available at Aurora GO to assist customers with this particular change.
PRESTO customers are also being told to keep in mind, they need to tap on the device when boarding and exiting the GO bus – Not on the machines at the station.
Customers can stay in the know by signing up for On the GO email or text alerts – and by following the Barrie line on Twitter @GOtransitBr.
Regularly scheduled midday and weekend train service is expected to resume at the end of June.
Story by: Matt Llewellyn, Metrolinx spokesperson and media relations senior advisor