A transit seat above – when GO Trains became bi-levels
HistoricGO - a look at the first double decker GO Trains.
Jan 30, 2020
Few GO Transit customers need directions in how to use the top level of their train.
No maps are plastered on walls, and other than announcements reminding customers of the ‘Quiet Zone’ in that top tier, many passengers take the higher road in stride.
But there were days – not so long ago – when that upper section was new enough to need special directions for travellers.
We were recently reminded of the introduction of the bi-level trains when we came across a box of aging promotional material and manuals, dating back to a time things were again looking up for GO customers.
A recent tweet by the Toronto Rail Museum also jogged our memory.
The year 1978 was a big year for GO Transit. You might say it started the modern era for transit in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region. Smoking had just been outlawed on all GO vehicles and as the air cleared, GO customers moved into that new age of double-decker travel on the rails from Oakville to Oshawa.
The GO bi-level coaches were born from a need to address growing passenger volumes. System constraints made it difficult to increase train lengths or frequencies at that time. The bi-levels increased passenger capacity by 70 per cent when compared with the single level cars initially used when GO first started in 1967.
A how-to manual for customers boasted that the bi-levels were big, roomy and had the most modern design in rail commuter equipment anywhere. Washrooms and water fountains debuted on GO trains with the bi-levels, which also included carpeting and coat hooks at every seat.
Again, here’s a special shout out to the Toronto Railway Museum for sharing some stats about the testing of bi-levels, as a reminder that in colour and style, they were kind of, well, ugly.
Among their design flaws were single central doors on each car, which created crowding issues for passengers getting on and off.
According to the Toronto Railway Museum, GO borrowed Montreal’s bi-levels for testing before designing their own coaches.
They’re now part of everyday life on rail lines.
GO currently has 924 bi-level coaches in its fleet, with over 50 more on the way.
Trains have been operating in Ontario for more than 150 years. In 1976, it was high time customers were able to get a transit seat above it all.
by Suniya Kukaswadia Metrolinx media relations senior advisor, Scott Money Metrolinx editorial content manager