Columns » Opinion

POLITICS AS USUAL: Dangerous Crossings

November 29, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Alison Collins-Mrakas

Speaking as a regular transit user I can say that the future plans for GO in Aurora are great for getting around the GTA.
I am excited about the new TTC stations at York and Vaughan, the two way service on the Barrie GO line and the cessation of the two zone transfer system on YRT/VIVA .
Obviously it’s not all sunshine and roses.
There are complex planning matters that still need to be addressed, but looking at the transit side of the news story, it all sounds pretty good.
However, lost in the discussion of transit planning and GO expansion and all the shiny stuff that goes along with it, is what to do about the current state of affairs at our various stations. And I am speaking in particular about safety at level crossings.
Aurora has two level crossings at the station (in addition to a few further down from the station). You can’t get to the west side of tracks – right now- without crossing the tracks directly. The pedestrian tunnel has been built but it isn’t open yet so in the interim, folks have to navigate the level crossing every day when trying to catch the train or when trying to get home.
And it has led to some dangerous situations.
Every day people – myself included on occasion – play Russian roulette with the train. When the train is in the station, the big safety arms come down, the lights start flashing and the siren blares. So, it’s pretty obvious that one should not cross the tracks.
However, the train has to unload at the station. Hundreds of people have to get off the train before it closes its doors and then takes off. During that time, the train is just sitting there on the tracks. It can be as long as five minutes.
And that’s where the dangerous behaviour kicks in.
When the train is on the tracks but not moving – arms down, lights and sirens blaring – commuters cross the tracks to get to the other side. Some commuters even run down the platform to beat the train. Running across the tracks as the train starts to move. They do this every day. And it seems like more and more people do it every day.
Full disclosure, I have done it myself a few times. The train is just sitting there. I know I can make it across in the few minutes it takes to cross it. How dangerous is that?
Extremely dangerous.
I needed to get to a meeting after work and wanted to get on my way so I followed the rest of the commuters – like lemmings it seems – across the tracks while the arms were down. Insanity!
So, to recap, I risked my life, did something incredibly dangerous, to buy myself what? Four minutes? Just colossally stupid.
The dangerous situation at Aurora GO has obviously caught the attention of GO Transit as they now have enormous signs at the station warning people that crossing the tracks while the arms are down is very, very dangerous. That’s noble of them, but largely ineffectual.
What they need to do is start enforcing it, like they do at Union station. If you cross the tracks when the arms are down you should get a fine. Period.



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