UP Express fares continue to draw fire

While the downtown media is hammering on the as-yet-undisclosed UP Express fares, they continue to miss a larger issue.

A union representative for airport workers told The Star that the airport train “isn’t public transit, this is transit for the 1 per cent”. The editorial board wrote “Fares should be priced to encourage people to leave their cars at home and take the train, not discourage them from using something they’ve already paid almost half a billion dollars to build.” An online survey they conducted found that about 75% of respondents thought that fares should be less than $20; half thought $10 was reasonable.

We should be glad that The Star, Spacing, and other media continue to push for more information. It is long overdue. The real news, though, is this: Metrolinx will be running an unaffordable and unprofitable service. Even though we’ve already spend $500 million and fares will be unaffordable, you and I will pay for Metrolinx to shuttle the elite around.

This is madness.

The Liberal government hid Metrolinx’s ‘business case’ from critics before the provincial election. Critics like Rosario Marchese called on them to release the details, but the Liberals filibustered in committee to hide the bad news.

They had good reason to bury the body: the Auditor General of Ontario had already said that there is no business case. “If the goal was for the ARL to break even in its first year… Metrolinx would have to charge about $28″ for each trip, according to the AG. But 75% of Torontonians said they wouldn’t take it if it cost more than $22.50. Nor would 60% of visitors.

In other words, it looks like Metrolinx needs to charge more than the market will bear to pay for the service.

The Star has noticed that the UP Express is going to cost riders. They should now notice the cost to taxpayers.

First look at UP Express trains

Amidst the flurry of excited announcements regarding the almost completed Pearson terminus, BlogTO has an article about a sighting of the actual trains that will be used for the Union Pearson Express. The sighting in Brantford by photographer James Gardiner shows a two-car train painted in subdued colours.

The trains will complete the journey from Terminal 1 at Pearson to Union Station in 25 minutes for an as yet undisclosed (but anxiously anticipated) cost. The trains will operate every 15 minutes for most of the day.

Also of interest to Westonians (since Weston is one of only two stops along the way) will be the cost of tickets from here to either end of the line. Many people have speculated that if demand for the service is underwhelming, the line could be converted to an above-ground subway serving additional stations along the length of the line.

Trains will be running in time for the July 10 2015 opening of the Pan-Am Games in Toronto.

Construction updates

Train construction will likely been even worse than usual starting soon. For 8 days starting Monday, August 11, lanes on Weston Road will be closed every night for 8 hours between Oak Street and St. Phillips Road. The closures will start at 9 pm and go until 5 am. This is to install bridge spans.

Water mains will be pulled through the pit around Church Street for two days, staring August 21. You won’t be able to access Cross from Church, and residents will be diverted. Parking will be a mess, too.  Trucks will be backing up and there will be a tower light shining on the work site.

King Street will be closed from today to Monday at the bridge for road work and other construction. There will be noise from “excavators, dump and concrete trucks.” There will also be a tower light.

 

Hark!–A transit plan that benefits WMD

The front-runner in the Toronto Mayoral race has a transit plan that would make Mount Dennis (and, to a lesser degree, Weston) a transit-rich part of the city. John Tory’s transit plan includes an electrified Georgetown track for LRTs that would connect with the Eglinton LRT.

Tory leads in the polls, though the election is months away, and his transit plan is a centrepiece of his campaign. As far as YHC can see, it is, as yet, unmatched by Olivia Chow (or, needless to say, Rob Ford).

map (1)

Tory’s campaign calls for a line that runs from the northeast of the city, through Union Station, back up to the airport area. It would run on the existing GO lines, except for the section after Mount Dennis, and it would be “express service”—with far fewer stops and trains than a subway. It would, however, run all-day and on 15-minute intervals, unlike today’s GO trains.

John Tory’s campaign says, cleverly, that Toronto has a hidden and underused resource—surface rail corridors. Currently, these are used by diesel trains, but he is calling for “EMUs”—trains that look like subway cars.

EMU copy

The exciting part for us, though, is that the train would run all day, from Mount Dennis, and join with the Eglinton LRT. Local commuters could choose to either go downtown via Union, or crosstown on Eglinton. Either path would connect with the subway.  The Weston—Mount Dennis area would have a GO train, the Eglinton LRT, and the Tory Train.

Tory says that the line could open in 7 years and be paid for by the increased taxes in the communities it benefits.¹

Your correspondent can’t find any answers to some natural questions:

  • Why not build to the airport instead of the industrial areas around it?
  • Why not use this to replace the UP Express?
  • Why not use the UP Express infrastructure for this?
  • Why does the east end get 13 stops while the west end gets only 8?
  • How, precisely, does it relate to the planned electrification of the GO corridors?

The plan has been generally well-received. Royson James says it is a “transformational” and “exhilarating” idea. Steve Munro, however, says that it is an idea that leaves downtowners out.

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¹ Yeah, I know.

Laura Albanese gets a promotion

Laura Albanese, our recently-reëlected MPP, has been given a promotion. She will now be Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance.

In other political news, Glen Murray, who promised to electrify the UP Express by 2017, was shuffled out of his position as Minister of Transportation. This comes with speculation that the reëlected Liberals may be short-circuiting expectations about electrification. He will now be Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

 

John Street closed permanently

John Street will be permanently closed to all traffic today, May 1. A pedestrian bridge will be built in fall.

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The pedestrian bridge

The work is being done to “complete the Weston Tunnel through this area and to re-route and upgrade the water main currently crossing the rail corridor”, according to a spokesperson for Metrolinx. The bridge cannot be built until the tunnel is finished.

The 59 Maple Leaf bus, already re-routed, will be re-re-routed up King, which will be reopened.

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The new way

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The old way

Rail safety improvements on track

The Feds have promised that the dangerous rail cars that caused the Lac Mégantic disaster—and which run through Weston—will be phased out or fixed up.

DOT-111 railcars carry petroleum and other dangerous goods, and are an old technology. They are easily punctured and allow dangerous pressure to build up. The United States is also drafting regulations to reduce their use.

The Transportation Safety Board made recommendations after the Lac Mégantic disaster, and, according to the Globe, the new requirements are based on them.

Trains carrying dangerous goods won’t be rerouted around cities, according to CBC Radio. They will have a speed limit of 80 km/h—although the train in Lac Mégantic was going much slower than that: around 20 km.h.

Mike Sullivan is hosting a meeting on rail safety tonight at 7 at the York Civic Centre. Officials from Transport Canada will be on hand.

DOT-111 car

DOT-111 car