A three-month pilot program to add specially designated silent areas to some GO trains could soon be expanded system-wide, said a spokesperson for the regional transit service this week.
Mary Proc said she’s confident passengers will quickly take to the new Quiet Zones which will go into effect on the upper level of most train cars running along the Barrie rail corridor on a trial basis beginning Mon. Feb. 11.
In the specifically-marked areas, all riders will be required to refrain from noisy conversations and to mute electronic devices.
Although individuals will be asked to police their fellow riders’ behaviour - without the assistance of GO employees - Proc said similar initiatives in American transit systems have enjoyed success when passengers themselves enforced the rules.
“I don’t think this is going to lead to any kind of confrontation,” said Proc, vice-president of customer service for GO. “We want to be reasonable and over time expectations will take care of themselves.”
She compared the quiet zone experience to that of a library where patrons understand noise should be at minimal levels at all times. “Once there are expectations about libraries being a quiet place people don’t tend to open their cellphones and have a 30 minute conversation,” said Proc.
She said the decision to add the zones - which will be designated with specially-marked decals and posters - came from overwhelming customer feedback via a survey of GO riders. 74 per cent of the respondents listed noise as a chief complaint.
GO will listen to customer feedback in determining whether it expands a pilot program adding silent areas to its train service and a decision to expand them system wide could be made as early as this spring, said Proc.
While she welcomed GO’s intention to improve its quality of service, frequent commuter Cindy Smith isn’t so sure the Quite Zones will turn out a success.
Smith, who chronicles in comedic fashion rude and insensitive behaviour of GO customers on her popular blog Ride This Crazy Train (www.thiscrazytrain.com) said the unique nature of most GO train trips - which with the exception of the Lakeshore East and West lines take place during the morning and afternoon rush hour periods - mean not many people will risk a confrontation another passenger whom they’re likely to share the same train ride with in the future.
“You’re seeing the same people over and over again,” said Smith, who takes the Lakeshore East line between Union Station and Oshawa on a daily basis. ”People are not comfortable in the spotlight and they don’t try to make a scene.”
Smith recalled once after she asked a man to turn down his clicking Blackberry he passed her a tersely written note saying she was the rudest person he had met in 12 years of taking the train.
“No one wants to be criticized,” she said.
Rather than tackling the issue of noisy trains Smith felt there were more pressing examples of passenger rudeness that could be dealt with, from “donkeys” who place their shoes or bags on seats to “barrelers” who charge down the narrow aisles and knock over people their haste to exit the train.
She also wondered whether the zones could work on “boring snoozefest” lines like Barrie compared to the “party drunk” atmosphere of Lakeshore East and West which offer more frequent service.
Still, Smith was happy GO was at last heeding the concerns of its customers. “Baby steps, I guess,” she said.
For more information about the GO Quiet Zones vist www.gotransit.ca