Removing redundant poles from the doors on GO trains may seem like a simple gesture to make more room and make it easier to get on board. It’s actually a major move toward a better transit system overall.
Customers travelling with children in strollers or with luggage have one less barrier to get on the train. Everyone ends up boarding quicker and is more likely to enjoy the experience, while service remains unaffected.
While removing poles is a simple example, initiatives like removing barriers for people who use wheelchairs and mobility devices is part of our commitment at Metrolinx to make sure we are accessible to everyone.
This begins with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) which aims to identify, remove, and prevent barriers for people with disabilities. That’s just the first step. Our goal is to go above and beyond.
“The design of our vehicles, stations and services all play a vital role in the accessibility of the customer experience,” said Antonia Hammer, a senior advisor for regional accessibility at Metrolinx. “The Universal Design Team is working hard with our partners to improve the accessibility of our infrastructure and offer new ways to communicate with our customers.”
The Universal Design Team has been put together with the sole purpose of paying attention to the details – small and large – and improving the travelling experience for everyone. Helping someone with a cane navigate their way across open spaces in our stations or through a construction detour is one example. Responding when a person using a wheelchair gets off the train and finds the platform elevator doesn’t work is another.
Our Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) looks at everything from harmonized wayfinding to GO rail car design. We do extensive testing to ensure the user experience on our websites, in addition to new PRESTO devices, meets the needs of all of our customers.
The AAC also consults regularly with many groups, such as the Canadian Hearing Society (CHS), to provide input on initiatives like new customer programs and communications. A recent addition is using technology to bring our announcements right into the hearing aids of our customers.
“CHS is very proud to have partnered with Metrolinx to install counter loop technology at customer service counters in a number of high volume Metrolinx stations,” said CHS program director, Jo-Ann Bentley. “Customer service counters are one of the areas where consumers have the most difficulty communicating, due to background noise, glass barriers and a general lack of technology.”
Metrolinx is also working together with municipal partners across the GTHA to improve cross-boundary travel for our customers with disabilities, focusing on items such as easy and convenient transfers between services and consistent regional customer communication.
Divisions are being brought together internally to coordinate progress on accessibility activities, share knowledge and problem-solve. Our goal is to promote the consistency of standards and approach across the organization.
Recent successes for Metrolinx have included accessibility enhancements to Bloor and Weston GO Stations, with a temporary ramp to the Rail Path and new power door operators.
Automated audible announcements on all GO railcars can now be heard. Mobile PRESTO devices available with some specialized transit agencies include audio mode on request, and the PRESTO website offers text chat with agents.
Some accessibility initiatives currently underway include adding more low-floor double-decker GO buses to fleet, along with enhancements to automated stop announcements.
New accessible GO railcars will have more single flip-down seats with more usable space for customers and larger exterior accessibility symbols. Planning to make 5 remaining stations accessible is also taking place.
Transit projects, such as the Eglinton Crosstown, are currently being built with accessible station design. Accessible stops and supporting infrastructure are being planned for the Finch West, Hamilton and Hurontario LRT projects as well.
At Metrolinx, our commitment is to exceed current standards, enhance customer experience, and promote inclusion and safety for all. Right down to the very last pole.