TORONTO -- Commuters using the Lakeshore East GO Line may experience more frequent service as of Monday, but it will be paired with a reduction of coaches on the trains, a decision that left some riders frustrated over the lack of physical distancing available.

When Janet Stevenson went to get on the Lakeshore East Line at 6:57 a.m. in Pickering Monday morning, she said she was surprised to hear an announcement being broadcast saying that the 12-coach train she usually rides on had been reduced to six coaches, including one accessibility coach with a reserved lower level.

“It was already evident it was going to be a much fuller train and it would be far more difficult to physically distance,” the community health-care worker told CTV News Toronto. “Now all trains are full stops. There are no express trains. More people just continued to get on.”

“Generally everyone on the GO train is essential. We have been dealing with it the whole time. Less frequency can have an impact on your schedule and you have to adjust accordingly, but being able to physically distance wasn’t a problem until today.”

Stevenson said that she takes the train to and from work every day, but feels as if it may now be unsafe to do so.

“It just seems like it was a complete flip from wanting to ensure safety to now it not being a priority. And all the while we are all paying full fare. I’m paying full fare for decreased service in frequency, as well as not being able to take care of my own health and wellbeing while on the train,” she said.

“If this continues to be how service is delivered I’m going to have to look for an alternative solution.”

Metrolinx has previously reduced GO Transit service because less people were taking public transportation to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday, the transit agency increased the frequency of their trains, reinstating 30-minute service on the Lakeshore East line between 5:10 a.m. and 7:40 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.

There will be full-size trains running during rush hour both in the morning and afternoon but otherwise most trains will be limited to six coaches.

A spokesperson said the decision was made to run six-coach trains in order to provide more frequent service as the province starts to reopen. It was also the result of low ridership.

“These changes give our Lakeshore East customers more options, and we expect once customers get accustom to the new schedule will provide more convenience, and help spread our ridership across more trips and reduce any potential concerns about crowding,” Scott Money said in a statement.

“As the province reopens and we welcome more people back to GO, we have ensured we have the ability to add coaches and modify trips quickly to offer more space for our customers on board our vehicles and to keep physical distancing in place.”

Money added that the shorter trains were meant to optimize their service at a time when ridership is low.

“With a reduction of ridership in the range of 90% due to COVID-19, most of our trains outside of our peak service are running with very few customers on board.”

Another GO Transit rider said that a lot of people on her train could not physically distance themselves, and many were not wearing proper face coverings.

“I felt very uncomfortable with the number of people sitting on the train with and without masks,” Brenda Lawson said.

Lawson takes the GO train twice a day and caught the 5:47 a.m. train in Whitby into Union Station on Monday. She said that it may help if some of the shorter trains were express.

“I noticed last week it was getting busier with people on the train. Sure, they are having trains

Other commuters took to social media to express their frustration with the service change.

Money said the transit agency was aware of some concerns on the 5:40 a.m. eastbound trip for customers boarding at Ajax GO station.

“This was the result of platform construction restricting the number of train doors that could open. We are reviewing this situation carefully and we are working on making improvements.”

These are some of the changes Metrolinx has made to Go Transit Service:

  • Some weekday afternoon rush hour trains will depart from different platforms at Union Station. Metrolinx said that some customers travelling past Union Station may need to change trains.
  • There will be new trips and adjusted schedules on the Lakeshore East line.
  • All GO Train lines are operating with reduced frequency
  • No train service to West Harbour GO. A few Route 18 trips serve West Harbour GO.
  • There will be no train service to St. Catharines of Niagara Falls. Customers can take GO Bus Route 12 to both location and to connect to GO Train Service in Burlington.
  • Some weekday afternoon rush hour trains will depart from different platforms at Union Station.

The Lakeshore East Line was subject to the most changes as of May 25. There will be new weekday morning westbound trips that will depart Oshawa GO at 6:10 a.m. and 7:10 a.m., arriving at Union Station an hour later. New eastbound trips will depart Union Station at 3:43 p.m., 4:43 p.m., and 5:43 p.m. from platforms 25 and 26. Metrolinx said that schedules are subject to change and that departures for eastbound trips may be up to 15 minutes earlier and westbound trips up to five minutes later.

Most trains will be reduced to six coaches, except for the westbound 6:10 a.m. and 7:10 a.m. trips from Oshawa GO and the eastbound 4:42 p.m. and 5:43 p.m. trips from Union Station. All trains heading to and from Hamilton will also have 12 coaches due to higher ridership.

The transit agency said there are no plans to reduce the number of coaches on other train lines.

For the full list of service changes, customers can visit the GO Transit website.