Wednesday, September 28, 2016

4:25 pm to 8:38 pm will go down in history for me

That's the longest stretch of time I've ever spent, trapped on a GO train.

It's not a feat I hope to repeat.

In case you have not heard, yesterday's 4:30 pm Union to Oshawa train suffered a heart attack and died 150 metres or so east of the Ajax GO Station.

I was trapped on this train with hundreds of others, who after 40 minutes, soon realized we were in for a clusterbomb of a night when we lost all power. Forty minutes stretched into an hour and I listened as frantic parents made phone calls to relatives and neighbours to arrange for childcare and daycare pickup.  One passenger had to go all the way down the list of his daycare backups to the 4th person to rescue his daughter, so a stranger basically -- these were the passengers I felt the most sympathy for.

I had a 5:45 pm dentist appointment that I was able to move to 7:40. In an effort to save myself from the $75 no show fee, I dispatched my husband to take our daughter in my place. She was due soon anyway.

As the delay approached the two hour mark, I realized that any chance I had of being able to cook and prepare for the company potluck the next day was going to be lost, eaten up by time being wasted while waiting for GO Transit to decide what to do about us.

Three hours after we had left Union, we were informed we were going to be pulled into Whitby. We watched as a crew member moved from coach to coach releasing the brakes for each one so we could be towed.

Another half hour passed and with no air circulation for the last 90 minutes, people were growing less patient.... and hot. I kept reminding myself there are worse things in an effort to quell my own growing frustration. I cracked jokes with those around me but not everyone was in a humorous mood. One woman complained loudly, and constantly, about her displeasure.

We watched as rush hour train after rush hour train passed us by. I spent my time engaging others on Twitter and soon learned that a clusterbomb was also unfolding on the Barrie line with all trains holding due to a gas leak.

Through Twitter,  I learned that a passenger aboard the 6:00 pm train, fed up that his train hadn't moved for more than 30 minutes, exited that train and prompted a safety investigation. I'm not entirely sure but the result of that stupid move supposedly cancelled that train, and those passengers were forced off and had to squeeze onto another train. Hey, at least they had that option.

I'm at a loss for why it took 3.5 hours to make a decision to push us back into Ajax. First it was a tow. Then it was a push. GO Transit isn't transparent about its policy and procedures for epic meltdowns such as last night. This results in passengers demanding answers only to be met with excuses that the Barrie line required all of GO Transit's resources, and all our crew could do was continue to follow procedure.

I'm sure it was equally frustrating for them.

I don't think we'll get an answer why it took as long as it did to decide we'd be pushed back into Ajax. And that's not acceptable any more. Telling us a full investigation will happen is just more lip service that's become all too common these days.

We deserve better.


C.J. Smith said...

And to add to my post:

Wanna know what I find really puzzling?
we sat, at ajax, with all doors open, for almost 10 minutes waiting  "for a signal to proceed".
you have to wonder, if at that time, it was apparent there was an issue but the engineers took a gamble
... and lost

I met up with a passenger who was in the last coach at the rear of the train. he said that coach was so close to Ajax, he could read the no trespassing sign.

I agree with what others wrote in email and twitter, there is no plan, only a sheeple approach to crisis management.
in the dead of summer, I can tell you that I'd be the first one prying doors open

there is zero accountability
no one learned from the Richmond hill flooding apparently.

Skin Man said...

Truely shocking they did just let everyone out to walk back, and find alternative transport....oh no "safety" I'm sure this could have accomplished easily.

Skin Man said...


Anonymous said...

A full investigation. Just like the one about the summer schedule changes right? Never to be heard about again.

Nora1968 said...

Holy smokes - so sorry to hear this (and glad you managed to figure out a way to avoid a big cancellation fee for that appointment - one of the many other unfair results (daycare/childcare being the obvious #1) of these situations.

I should have been on that train last night but had arranged to leave early - thank God! What really stings is the fact that, of course, this happened on September 27, when most of the affected riders will get a grand total of $1.65 (or possibly NOTHING) as compensation for 3.5 hours of their time - because "that's all they paid for the trip". Disgusting. Back in the day, when you got a single, adult fare voucher(regardless of how you had paid for the doomed trip) was at least a bit more fair.

By comparison: I was at the Cineplex at Grandview/Taunton last night. Thanks to a broken camera bulb, our movie was delayed. Not one but two managers came out a regular intervals to keep us updated. They sped through the ads so our movie would actually start a bit sooner, albeit late. No problem. And then, at the end, every single patron got a voucher for the equivalent of the type of seat they had purchased for this movie, for future use. And we were all of about 15 minutes later than originally scheduled.

G said...

Exactly right, Skin Man. I've heard of the TTC evacuating subways when they break down. They just escort all the passengers in an orderly manner to the nearest platform. Surely walking through the dark subway tunnels is more dangerous than walking on the train tracks (who hasn't done that as a kid!?) Especially when it was literally a 100-150m walk as CJ noted. Hell, make us all sign liability waivers if it makes you feel better. I'd take on that "risk" to save three hours.

G said...

Nora1968, The difference is that the movie theatre actually wants customers to return, whereas GO Transit doesn't give a crap. Everyone involved makes the same money whether the trains are empty or full, and if more people decide to start driving instead of taking the train (and I'm convinced that last night's debacle pushed several people in that direction), they'll just cheerfully increase the fares on the rest of us to make up the difference.

Unknown said...

One word sums up the trip home last night....unacceptable. I've been on trains in the past that have had pedestrians hit and we sit there for 4 hours. I can deal with that, its understandable. A nightmare, but understandable.
Last night was a broken down train, it shouldn't take almost 4 hours to figure out that they have to push us back to Ajax. I was in the last car as well and you could see the station! It makes you wonder whether they didn't want further delays with the other trains, so just leave us there for the rush hour and deal with it after??
I spent a total of 7.5 hours commuting yesterday.....7.5 hours!
What's really frustrating is that the media will chat about it this morning and then all will be forgotten. We may see a refund....maybe. That's it.

C.J. Smith said...

I felt the same. Get rush hour over with and then deal with us.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Has there been any word from GO today on this?

Bicky said...

This is so unacceptable. I heard the spokeswoman on CP24 this morning saying "they'll be discussing an appropriate response this morning." Whatever that means...

This from the 680 News website:

From the article: "GO Transit said it is going to compensate all Lakeshore East passengers who were stuck. The company is still determining the dollar amount but say it will be equivalent to more than one trip."

I should hope people will be compensated more than what they paid! It was unacceptable.

Eric said...

Hi everyone, I'm a reporter at Global News... Just wondering if anyone has pics/vids of the delay? Working on a story about it tonight.

G said...

Hi Eric, good to hear that you're working on a story but I doubt you'll find many pictures. All I could see around me were a bunch of miserable-looking people on the train... so not that different from a normal commute! Except everyone was looking a little more miserable than usual, I guess.

Warren Downe said...

I have yet to read about or hear of anyone on yesterday evening's LSE train who telephoned their MPP to (i) give their elected official an earful for Metrolinx's spiraling level of service, and (ii) demand a complete report from them detailing the root cause of this debacle and what's being done to prevent a similar incident in the future.

Anonymous said...

That is absolutely disgusting! All GO cares about is bringing in the fares and could care less about the service. Why is it that these delays are always at month end so even if they pay out on the service guarantee it's never full rate anyway. The monthly commute bill is my second biggest household expense which is totally crazy! Sorry to hear about the misadventure everyone suffered on that train last night. I wish there was a reasonable alternative to get to work it's either this crap service or spending hours in the car and paying an arm and leg for parking but at this point the second option looks pretty appealing!

Squiggles said...

Lip service. That is all they are doing. There will be no investigation. There will be no report. There is no accountability whatsoever. They know they have a monopoly so who cares if a few people are held hostage for an unacceptable amount of time?

We all know this from the Gongshow that was July. Has anyone heard anything? The delays and upsets are still happening. It is so frequent that I have started turning to my coworker at 7:30-8am saying they are right on time for the text messages.

And without a doubt every time my parents stop for dinner the train is late. It has almost become a running joke - the text messages saying to go ahead and eat I have no idea when I am getting home.

Thankfully I just missed that train as I still feel a scooch guilty about leaving early. But it has been so bad and is still bad that no one can schedule anything for the evening! We'll just miss it anyways.

But as for last night? Complete gong show. And you all deserve so much more than what they will even contemplate giving you. Nothing will make up for the lost time. Lost faith is a given.

Alrighty. Rant over.

Anonymous said...

Hi C.J. It's a shame that all of you had to 'GO' through that. I have to ask though - having never been trapped on a train for four hours - were any of you inclined after an hour or so to open the doors and walk back to Ajax station? (Much like the man on the Barrie line)

G said...


Yes, the urge was there. There was a pregnant woman in my coach who was clearly uncomfortable. A lot of people were walking around, going between cars, looking desperate to find an exit. Some people stood by the doors (like CJ's "door donkeys"), as if staring at them would somehow will them open. I certainly fantasized about grabbing the tools they keep near the doors to pry one open, but of course that probably comes with a thousand dollar fine or something (funny that there's no fine for holding everyone against our will for 3 hours!)

C.J. Smith said...
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C.J. Smith said...

My concern was the drop from the train door to the tracks below as my current knee condition prevents me from not sustaining any injury if I jumped. If at any point my life was in danger, then yes, I'd be the first one out. And I'd crawl to get where I needed to go. it was uncomfortable. it was hot. but my life wasn't in danger. I will say that I am surprised no one did exit the train on their own accord. The business class crowd proved to be a very patient 600 people.