UPX fore-lash

The UP Express backlash backlash has started. Several supporters in the downtown media have come out in favour of the $27 fares, which were announced last week.

Marcus Gee, of the Globe and Mail, says,

This line was never supposed to be part of the city’s ordinary public transit network, to be used for local trips. It was designed to be like Tokyo’s Narita Express or London’s Heathrow Express, high-end rapid services with fares to match.

But to say it is only for the rich and so deserves no public funding takes things too far. The standard fare for a one-way UP ride was announced this week: $27.50. That is hardly outrageous for a traveller who may have spent hundreds of dollars on a flight and $25 or more just for checked baggage.

The National Post convened a panel of yay-sayers, who, by in large, said something along these lines:

[After the fare announcement] the bitchfest began anew: Too expensive, not a commuter service, too many stops, inappropriate use of public money, ugly diesel trains, yadda yadda yadda. Personally, I’m willing to set aside my limited objections and call the long-awaited airport link a huge win

 

Website commenters have been less kind, almost uniformly rejecting the fares—and, interestingly, the criticism comes from readers of all political inclinations. A Yahoo reader pointed out that VIA is offering a trip to Montreal for $44 dollars. A Sun reader said, “Well, more and more folks will be taking flights from Buffalo, that’s for sure.” A CBC reader wrote “This is infuriating. Public money being spent to give corporate travelers a luxury ride. Unbelievable. This is a disgrace.”

In response to the fares, the TTC rebranded its 192 Airport Express bus with a new theme (and at no taxpayer expense). The bus says “Your journey starts here”

From The Star

 

No tunnel noise walls

Weston is about to get much noisier. Metrolinx is abandoning its plans to build some of the noise walls that would have dampened noise from the new airport trains.

Manuel Pedrosa, a spokesperson for Metrolinx, says that “planned noise walls were not technically and economically feasible to be built on the Weston Tunnel Walls. The noise walls, as designed, are too heavy to be attached to the Weston Tunnel wall”. (Emphasis mine.)

Pedrosa says there will be no noise walls on the “strutted area” of the tunnel. This includes the areas between, roughly, John and Queenslea (in purple).

  weston_rendering1-1000x750 (1)Westontunnel

It is not yet clear whether there will be noise walls in the other areas of the Weston tunnel (in red). Pedrosa said “We are currently reviewing the constructability [sic] of the other planned noise walls in the area”; I have asked him for clarification. I have also asked him to clarify the effects on nearby properties and the farmers’ market.

In the Junction, they do not want walls, but they’re getting them. In Weston, we want them but we are told we can’t have them.

UP Express fare structure announced.

The long awaited and speculated  pricing structure for the Union Pearson Express has been released to the public and as predicted, the price for a ride from Union Station to Terminal 1 is close to the $30 mark. Those of us travelling from Weston will be able to get there for $16.50 and even cheaper when using a Presto card.

From Metrolinx site.

From Metrolinx site.

The complete pricing grid look like this:

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 12.58.16 PM

Travelling in the other direction, an adult fare from Weston to downtown and back (2 stops) with Presto would be $30.40 or $44 without. This is cheaper than a taxi and way more comfortable than TTC but at quite a premium.

Airport employees will be able to access a one-way fare of $10 or buy a monthly pass for $300. Read more fine print here.

This of course is all subject to the big rubber stamp to be administered at tomorrow’s Metrolinx Board of Directors’ meeting.

This afternoon, York South-Weston MP Mike Sullivan released the following statement:

 

OTTAWA – “First, I am disappointed that the Ontario Minister of Transportation pre-empted tomorrow’s Metrolinx board meeting with this announcement. This turns tomorrow’s meeting into a rubber-stamping exercise which is most unfortunate.  It makes it abundantly clear though that the decision is not a Metrolinx decision, but a provincial government one, as has been the case at every step of this project.

 

With regards to the fare structure, it makes riding the Union Pearson Express beyond the means of many airport travelers. Fares should be comparable to existing GO Transit and TTC fares from downtown to the airport. The UP Express fares are not.  The project has cost nearly $1.5-billion public dollars.  It should be  transportation for the 99 per cent, not just the 1 per cent.

 

As an example, a family of four in Weston — two adults with two school-aged children — even with a Presto card, would pay more to ride the UP Express than they would by taking an airport limo service. (Note: UP Express $42.20; Airflight Services Limo $32 to $36 http://www.airflightservices.com/doc/toronto_markham_richmond_hill_vaughan.pdf.)

 

While I hope I’m wrong, I see a service that is being deliberately overpriced to keep ordinary working folk from using this form of public transit. Consultants told us that their costs to run the service with the trains one-fifth full will be $4.93 per passenger. Charging reasonable fares will fill the trains and still cover operating costs.  At the end of the day, taxpayers built the UP Express and should be able to use it affordably to take advantage of the $1.5-billion that has already been spent on this project.”

 

Airport workers to get a break on UP Express

The Toronto Star says that a new agreement between the Greater Toronto Airports Authority and Metrolinx will allow for an (as yet undisclosed) discount for airport workers using the new train to get to and from work. The GTAA was previously attempting to charge Metrolinx $1.85 for every passenger delivered to the airport in lieu of lost parking revenue. Now it’s beginning to look like a bargaining ploy because the $1.85 is off the table in exchange it seems for the worker discounts.

Incidentally, it’s nice to see MPP Laura Albanese fighting for lower fares for the rest of us. Her timely letter adds to the pressure on Metrolinx to re-think the whole endeavour. It’s hard to imagine the traveller on a business account wandering through Union Station, schlepping their own luggage in and out of a train while they could get door-to-door service with a limo or taxi. Free Wi-Fi means nothing to people with unlimited data accounts.

As pointed out previously in WestonWeb, the capacity of the train is quite limited and while Metrolinx is under increasing pressure to make the fares affordable, they know that if fares are too low, with limited rolling stock, the train will be unable to meet demand.

Albanese asks for “Fair Fare” (again)

Laura Albanese took the gloves off yesterday and released a letter asking for a “fair fare” for the UP Express. While she had asked for smart pricing of the train in August, this letter comes before the December 11 meeting of Metrolinx, where the fares are likely to be announced.

The letter is pretty scathing. She says “Metrolinx has not engaged in any meaningful and transparent consultation with the public” and that it should consult on “something so important as a fare that affects hundreds of thousands of transit users”. The train, she says, was once designed “exclusively for airport customers with no apparent concern for the communities surrounding it.”

Albanese is in favour of using the UP Express as public transit. She notes that the CEO of Metrolinx has said that there will now be six stops on the line: Union, Bloor, Eglinton, Weston, Woodbine, and Pearson. $30 fares would take the public out of the transit.

The fares should be priced differently for students, seniors, and those not travelling the full distance, she says, and,

To reiterate, the fare should reflect the fact that the UP Express is a publicly owned service, built and paid for with public tax dollars.

 

She closes with “Now is the time to seize the potential of the UP Express to serve multiple transit demands and the greater good.”

The letter is worth reading in its entirety if you have the time.

Mount Dennis a major issue in campaigns

Weston–Mount Dennis is becoming a turning point in the mayoral campaign.

Olivia Chow has been  hammering John Tory’s SmartTrack plan for the bungled Mount Dennis section. She’s been saying his plan was drawn on the back of a napkin and has egregious errors—which, indeed, it seems to.

Yesterday, Chow poked fun at Tory’s plan for Mount Dennis in a mayoral debate on the arts.

Roy’s been over the plan already once before, here’s the gist of the problems:

  • The land along Eglinton that Tory needs has already been sold and has houses on it
  • Tory says he has a plan to pay for the train, but it’s not much of a plan at all.
  • The train ends near the airport but not at the airport
  • And there’s already a train going that way. It’s going to cost $25 each way, though.

Mike Mattos from the MDCA told the Sun:

“We finally got the LRT to a stage where the community is pretty happy as far as station placement goes. It has been a lot of work over 10 years and his plan comes along and throws a monkey wrench into the transit hub and the LRT station,” he said. “This is a poorly-thought out plan.”

 

 

John Tory’s SmartTrack flaw gains attention.

As reported here in WestonWeb several days ago, John Tory’s campaign team may be suffering from a bit of an embarrassment with regard to his promise of 10 km of rail line along Eglinton for an above ground subway. The problem is that the corridor Mr. Tory thinks is reserved for transportation no longer exists.

Read about it here.