Metrolinx reducing service on GO trains, buses and UP Express starting Wednesday
Amid COVID-19 outbreak, agency has seen steady decline in ridership, CEO Phil Verster says
Metrolinx is reducing service on GO trains, buses and the UP Express starting this week as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, CEO Phil Verster said on Sunday.
Verster said Metrolinx — Ontario's transit agency — has seen a steady decline in ridership since January.
"From Wednesday March 18, we are reducing our train services by about 28 per cent in order to ensure that we keep on running services in the weeks to come," Verster told CBC Toronto.
He said bus services will be reduced by one bus in three on every route.
Late last week Toronto's medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa recommended a shutdown of some city services, but transit was not included in the recommendation.
However, Verster said the decline in ridership started long before the shutdown was announced.
"Over the last week we've seen a steady decline in ridership and by Friday we saw about 45, even 50 per cent decline in ridership on some routes," Verster said.
"With our declining ridership it doesn't make sense to keep on running as many trains. At the same time we have seen many businesses advise their people to work from home, we've seen March break, we've seen schools closing . This is strategically the right thing to do to enable us to run the service in the many weeks to come."
The Metrolinx CEO said the agency is ready to respond on short notice if there's a requirement to increase services again.
"This is a very uncertain time but we are ready for what it brings," he said.
Via Rail announces reduction of some services
Via Rail also announced a reduction of some of its services on Sunday.
The company said this is to support the ongoing efforts deployed by the public health authorities across the country to limit the spread of COVID-19.
"As a result of significant reductions in passenger volumes experienced in the last week, combined with the need to deploy our resources to more effectively deal with the pandemic, as of Tuesday, March 17, services will be reduced by 50 per cent in the Québec City-Windsor corridor," Via Rail spokesperson Marie-Anna Murat wrote in an email.
"Regional services [Sudbury-White River, Winnipeg-Churchill, Senneterre-Jonquière] will continue to operate according to their respective schedules with no change."
In addition to the schedule changes, Via Rail said it will introduce a modified meal service aboard its trains.
"In line with the health authorities social distancing guidelines, we will limit the amount of staff and passenger interaction to a minimum, including our meal service," Murat said.
With files from Desmond Brown and Kirthana Sasitharan