With four collisions in the final couple of weeks before Friday’s ION launch, clearly residents of the region are having issues adjusting to the trains being on the tracks.
The region began installing roundabouts 20 years ago, and we still have the occasional collision as some people struggle to adjust, but Brendan Simon, a senior project manager with the Region of Waterloo, offered his insights on safety.
“I think the intent is follow the rules of the road and we can minimize those incidents the best we can,” he told Global News.
“Three things to remember, the first one is that the rules of the road haven’t changed but there are new signs and signals that motorists, (pedestrians and cyclists) need to be aware of,” Simon explained.
For example, travellers may have seen the blackout boxes that the region has installed at some intersections. These are designed to light up with instructions such as ‘don’t turn right’ or ‘don’t turn left.’ If a train is approaching, they will read ‘train.’
“It is important to follow those signs and not make a turn until the train has cleared through the intersection.”
The ION trains are powered by electricity, meaning they are quieter than most vehicles on the road.
They do feature a gong and a horn which the operator can sound if they need to issue an alert, but Simon warns that pedestrians still need to pay close attention.
“It is important to keep clear of the tracks because if you do hear that horn, you are in immediate danger,” Simon said.
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For cyclists, there’s a separate set of concerns to be aware of as the trains get up and running.
Simon says cyclists need to cross at a perpendicular or 90-degree angle to the tracks to avoid getting stuck in the tracks. Much like cars and trucks, they also need to stick with the roads.
The region’s biggest concern with pedestrians is an issue that is common within most corners of society these days: cellphones and headphones.
“You have a big headphone on and you can’t hear anything around you,” Simon points out. “You’re a bit distracted and you might be looking down at your device and you might step out onto the tracks.”
He says that people need to be aware of what is going on around them and to cross only at designated areas.
There are also some safety concerns as well as some common courtesy issues that Ion passengers will need to keep in mind before they board the trains.
“Stay behind the yellow line,” Simon warns. “Along the platform areas, you will see the yellow tactile line — it’s kind of a bumpy surface — so stay behind there when the train arrives.”
Beyond that, passengers also need to use common courtesy and let people off the train before boarding and to also give up the priority seats for those in need when the time comes.
ION travelers also need to be aware of a couple of other major difference between riding a Grand River Transit bus and an ION train.
Simon says there are fare vending machines and validators on the platforms which will allow people to pay for their ride before they climb aboard.
“The one other unique thing of the train system versus buses is the train operator is located in a separate cabin so they are not accessible to passengers for questions or customer service,” Simon said.
Grand River Transit has posted a phone number for its customer information line on the platforms and on the back of the driver’s cab.