Inaccessible GO Stations make for challenging commute

On the eve of the first of several public meetings Metrolinx is holding about accessibility, CBC News spoke to Melissa Graham, whose travel time to get to work in downtown Toronto would be cut in half if she were able to use the GO train.

Metrolinx holding first of several meetings about inaccessibility in Toronto Thursday evening

Melissa Graham wants to use the GO Train but neither of the two stations close to her have wheelchair access. (Ousama Farag/CBC)

Melissa Graham's travel time to get to her work in downtown Toronto would be cut in half if she were able to use the GO train.

"It's frustrating, I've got two go stations right near me and I can't access either of them," Graham said.

Graham uses a wheelchair to get around and both the Mimico and Long Branch GO Stations on the Lakeshore West line aren't wheelchair accessible.

She spoke to CBC News as Metrolinx launches a series of public meetings on accessibility. The first of those meetings is being held Thursday night at Metro Hall near King Street West and John Street at 6:30 p.m.

"Now I have to get to Kipling and Lakeshore which takes about 10 or 15 minutes, Graham told CBC News.

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"Then I have to take a bus from there to Kipling Subway Station which takes about 20 minutes. Then I get off [the subway] at Yonge and Bloor Station, and that's not even the closest station to my work. The closest is Sherbourne Station but that's not yet accessible," she said.

If she were able to use Mimico GO Station to get to Union Station, she says she would save about an hour each day.

"Unfortunately, I've gotten used to this over the years," Graham said. "But it would be nice to have the same level of accessibility as everyone else. I pay for it."

There are 64 GO Train Stations and Mimico and Long Branch are two of six that don't have ramps and/or elevators to make them universally accessible.

Metrolinx planned to have all of the train stations upgraded by 2016, but that was put on hold when the Regional Express Rail project was announced last year.

'Accessibility is a crucial piece'

"We would have to do construction to do construction again," said Vanessa Barrasa, spokesperson for Metrolinx. "Our mandatory legislated date [for accessibility] is 2025. We're hoping to do that before then."

The 10-year RER initiative with the Ontario government aims to give people throughout the GTA and the Hamilton area faster travel options, including trains every 15 minutes on electrified core sections of the GO Transit train system.

Over the month of November, Metrolinx will holding public accessibility meetings in Hamilton and Whitby, as well as Toronto.

One of the recommendations Graham has for some of the existing GO Stations is more signs indicating where the wheelchair ramp is on the platform.

"We're having these meetings to get feedback from our communities across the network as we increase service," said Barrassa. "In all the planning that we do, accessibility is a crucial piece to that."