GO Special Constables just watched as the traffic piled up

Written by Norris McDonald

Here is one of my now-and-then columns on why I don’t like using public transit. I use public transit on occasion, but as infrequently as possible for any number of reasons. Here is my latest.

Friday afternoon, GO Transit had to cancel a number of trains on the Milton line. The reasons don’t matter.

They finally announced that a train would leave at 4:50 p.m., which was further delayed until 4:55. By the time it pulled out, it was jam-packed. In fact, about three trains-full of people were squeezed onto that one train.

But that was okay. These things happen. At least we were moving.

I got off at Erindale station, along with about half the people on that train. Erindale station is a commuter parking lot. Some people can walk to their homes but the vast majority drive. There is a huge parking garage there that can hold about a thousand cars. There is also an overflow lot.

This is where things got interesting. Instead of being packed aboard a GO train, we were all now stuck in a humongous traffic jam. I have been stuck in jams before at Erindale station but what happened Friday night – at about 5:45 p.m., by the way – was something else.

I know it would take awhile to get out of that lot. I still had two sections of Friday’s Toronto Star that I hadn’t read so I didn’t even try to get lined up for at least 20 minutes because I could read the paper. When I finished with it, I pulled out of my parking spot and I pulled in behind another car.

Just as I did this, another GO train pulled into Erindale station and within five minutes we had another train full of commuting motorists jumping into their cars and butting into the lines of cars waiting to get out of that (by now) $%@#&^ parking lot.

As I sat there, trying to remain calm, I thought I would send out a Tweet. The Tweet would say something along the lines of, “There is a transit emergency at Erindale station and if GO was on the ball they would be calling in employees to get over there and direct this totally snarled-up traffic.”

But I didn’t send out a Tweet. And the reason I didn’t was because there were, in fact, GO employees already in that parking lot. They were Special Constables and do you know what they were doing? No, they were NOT directing traffic, which is what I would have expected them to do, considering the circumstances. What they were doing instead was writing out tickets to people.

While I continued to wait, I looked up the duties of a Special Constable and although it doesn’t explicitly say they should direct traffic in an emergency – which was the case Friday night at Erindale station – it does say they are responsible for crowd control. To my mind, that fit.

There were three of those Special Constables there and two of them had pulled motorists over. One was writing out a ticket. I didn’t see what the second was doing,. The third one was sitting in his car.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that the person getting the ticket didn’t deserve it, but the situation could have been handled much better if at least two of those GO employees had then started directing traffic.

This sort of thing doesn’t happen all that often. But this was an extreme situation and how those situations are handled is a reflection of an organization. GO Transit sure didn’t meet the test Friday at Erindale station.