Metrolinx adjusts GO Transit schedules to combat COVID-19 impact
Metrolinx will attempt to mitigate temporary labour shortages due to rising levels of staff absenteeism as a result of the new COVID-19 variant with reduced schedules and a ‘work from home’ mandate for its office staff.
Metrolinx, like many other businesses, has been experiencing rising levels of staff absenteeism due to the latest COVID-19 Omicron variant. As a result, in order to make the best use of resources and provide a consistent level of service, Metrolinx has announced that it is reducing rail service and adjusting GO Transit schedules.
Although absenteeism levels vary by department and by the day, frontline teams for the transit agency are now averaging 20 to 30 per cent fewer staff each day. This means that there are fewer employees available to operate trains, drive buses, maintain and clean vehicles or to ensure that adequate customer protection services are available when needed.
The absenteeism level at Metrolinx is expected to significantly increase, given the rapid transmission of the new variant, so proactive mitigation measures are necessary to protect critical transit services. In order to combat this, Metrolinx will be decreasing service across the network by approximately 15 per cent. Whenever possible, hourly frequency or better service will be maintained. As every part of the business is affected by high absenteeism, cancelled trains will not always be able to be replaced by buses.
Furthermore, Metrolinx staff are being strategic to spread out the cancellations across the system and are doing their best to protect new services and maintain GO bus routes as much as possible. But there are no changes to the 30-minute UP Express service.
As public health officials expect this wave of the pandemic to last through the next few weeks or months, ridership during this period is expected to remain low. In addition to adjusting GO schedules, Metrolinx has increased efforts to ensure that staff remain safe by providing N95 masks and rapid test kits for the frontlines. Office staff are also continuing to work from home.
Metrolinx continues to protect staff by helping people to get vaccinated through its three GO-VAXX buses. These mobile clinics provide thousands of first, second and booster shots, as well as shots for children aged five to 11. In partnership with the province, the buses travel to shopping centres, workplaces, community centres and other hubs, making it accessible and easy to get vaccinated.