City Council votes for low fares

Bruce McCuaig, the CEO of Metrolinx, wrote on Wednesday that we should expect unaffordable fares for the UP Express.

The UP Express was modelled after London’s Heathrow Express, Tokyo’s Narita Express and the Arlanda Express in Stockholm — all dedicated air links and offered at prices ranging from $26-$41 (all figures Canadian).


McCuaig is cherry-picking expensive (and far-flung) airport links for comparison. (Also, Narita’s airport link is actually $15 leaving the airport and an hour-long trip, far longer than the UP Express trip.)

By way of comparison:

  • Vancouver’s line is $9.
  • New York’s is $8.
  • Sydney’s, $8.
  • Calgary’s, $8.50.
  • Paris, $14.
  • Berlin is $5.

You get the idea. High fares (and, to be fair, super-deluxe service) are the exceptions, not the norm.

Yesterday, Toronto City Council voted symbolically in favour of motions by Frances Nunziata and Josh Mattlow for affordable fares.

Rob Ford, Shelley Carroll, Josh Colle, Mike Del Grande, John Parker, Gord Perks, and David Shiner voted against the motion.

McCuaig said it wasn’t going to happen:

UP Express is a dedicated airport express train, and not a commuter service…. [His emphasis] [u]nlike mass transit services that happen to include an airport stop.


Albanese calls for “fare” pricing

In a remarkable open letter to the Minister of Transportation, Laura Albanese calls for a “fare policy” for the UP Express. She says

I would ask that our government revisit the perspective that the UP Express is somehow only a special or premium service, primarily serving airport customers.

Albanese notes that the mandate of the train has changed since its conception. She says it “has evolved to be much more” than a “rail to connect Toronto’s Union Station to the Pearson Airport”.

The line will serve commuters and “taxpayers would be penalized by paying a high fare, including local residents”. These fares should not have to cover the costs of the train, since neither the TTC nor GO have to cover their costs with ticket sales.

Albanese says that the fare policy should consider

  1. Different fare schedules for seniors and students, typical of fare policies relating to other public transit services.
  2. Pro-rated fares for commuters accessing the services at stops, including Weston and Bloor West.
  3. Considerable public input as to whether the fare should be set to re-coup the cost of construction (as opposed to operating costs) and if so within what timeframe. In addition, any consideration to re-coup construction costs must, at the same time, clarify whether fare rates will drop once costs are recovered.
  4. The 2010 decisions of Metrolinx to compensate the airport for lost parking should undergo a review.



Sullivan blue-skies a plan for hospital site

Mike Sullivan released his ideas for the Humber River Hospital Church Street campus on Friday. He says that the building should become a seniors’ long-term residence.

As the hospital moves to its new location, they had planned to sell the building and land to to the highest bidder. That plan hit a small bump when it was discovered that part of the site had been deeded by an old Weston family for hospital use only. While likely not a deal-breaker, the parcel of land is, reportedly, in the middle of the hospital, and undoing the deed will take time.

Using the land as a long-term care facility would, Sullivan says, “fit with the original intent of these lands, [and be] consistent with its original purpose”.

His press release also says that hospital to long-term care conversions have been done before in other cities.


High praise for Nunziata

Frances Nunziata got some high praise from the retiring Auditor General of Toronto, Jeff Griffiths.

When I asked him who on council most supported him over the years, he named Doug Holyday, Mike Del Grande, Frances Nunziata, Brian Ashton, Jane Pitfield, Michael Walker and most recently, Josh Matlow. He couldn’t name any others, which in itself is very telling.

“I’m so angry that he’s leaving,” says Nunziata. “He’s one of the best employees we have at the city … We do owe him a lot.”

Griffiths worked for 16 years as Auditor General and was responsible for finding fraud and waste in municipal government. This year, among other areas, AG department has overseen the Pan Am Games (doing fine), Toronto Community Housing (not so much), and telephone equipment at City Hall (a total mess).

In the interview with Levy, is quite spare with his praise for City Hall politicians.

I Can Too Research.

Last week, an anonymous commenter responded to an article on the coming Liberal revival with the following comment:

Roy may not know this — research doesn’t seem his strong suit — but there was a fourth candidate contesting the Liberal nomination: A young, gay, Aboriginal man who actually lives in YSW. He had a very vigorous campaign going and was signing up plenty of members. But he was instructed by Trudeau’s minions to drop out. So much for a new, inclusive Liberal party. No thanks . . .

The blatantly truthful bit about my research skills (we have thick skins here at WestonWeb) was overshadowed by the possibility that this commenter, while lacking the integrity to come forward with his or her real name and email address, may actually be on to something. OMG, an actual scoop. With this in mind, I put on my ace cub reporter’s hat and contacted Riding Association President Ryan Ward for a comment. He quickly referred me to Liberal Party spokesperson Kunal Parmar who again quickly responded that for confidentiality reasons he was unable to reveal why the candidate had withdrawn. He stated that, “Anything to do with this individual is up to them. He will not be commenting further.”

Repeated attempts to contact the candidate by phone and email failed – even though as of July 15, a website still proclaims his candidacy. Obviously if he feels aggrieved, he’s not saying so.

So there we have it – pretty much a non-story but I promised a follow-up and here it is.

Albanese gets another promotion

Big Red Wave’s a coming.

Can you hear it? The faint but steadily increasing roar of a second big red Liberal wave about to crash on the shores of York South-Weston. After the excitement and dramatic results of the recent provincial election, all eyes will soon turn to the Federal Liberal York South-Weston nomination process. According to riding association president Ryan Ward, the Liberals are looking for a high profile candidate to unseat incumbent NDP MP Mike Sullivan. To date, three candidates have come forward; Anthony Cesario, Monique Rudder and Bill Saundercook. The nomination meeting will be held later this year.

In the interest of brevity, WestonWeb asked the candidates three questions:

1. What relevant life experience have you had that would serve you well as an MP for York South-Weston?

2. What do you see as the main issues in the riding?

3. Do you live in the riding?

Weston Web will publish the answers once they come in.