$3 fares on UPX and GO–if Liberals are elected

The provincial Liberals are promising a huge drop in UPX and GO Train fares for Westonians if they are reëlected this summer. Fares on all commuter trains will drop to $3, with the subsidy coming from carbon cap-and-trade revenues. PRESTO card users may also be able to keep the TTC discount, dropping a mixed-mode UPX-and-subway trip to downtown to about $5.¹

This would make Weston an even more enormously attractive place to live: we would have the nicest, fastest, and cheapest train service to downtown. UPX fares would match subway fares, but the plebes from Bloor West will have to make do with armpit views and sticky NOWs, while we read in-ride magazines on executive-class loungers.

The proposed provincial budget also promises, again, “electrified service on core segments, including the Union Pearson (UP) Express”.

Of course, there’s a catch: this is an election-year budget, and won’t be passed until after the polls in June, and only if the Liberals win.

¹ This is hellaciously complicated. To get the discount, you need to tap on the right machine. “When you are taking UP Express between Union Station and Bloor or Weston stations, you need to tap on and off the green PRESTO devices to get the discount. When you are taking UP Express to or from Union Station and Pearson Airport, you need to tap on and off the silver PRESTO devices to get the discount.”²

² The silver machines are not silver. They are silver and green. The green machines are not green. They are green and silver. This is the stupidest shit I’ve ever seen. Why are there two kinds? If there is a good reason, why do they look the same? Christ almighty. Am I the only person who thinks this is insane?


Author: Adam Norman

I am raising my two children in Weston.

8 thoughts on “$3 fares on UPX and GO–if Liberals are elected”

  1. No, you’re not insane!

    Here’s the really insane part about these machines: if you tap on the green machine at Dundas or Union on your way to the airport, there are no green machines at the airport to tap off on. So you get charged the fare all the way to Georgetown!! Now that’s a quick way to grab $29 dollars from someone in a big rush!

    Worse yet, if you “tap-off” at the airport on the silver machine (you’re really tapping on again), you also get charged a full UP express fare to Union station!

    You’re basically going to Georgetown in one incarnation, and Union in another! Apparently the real you in just trying to get through check-in while Metrolinx takes your wallet!

  2. It is, indeed insane. My presto card is set as a default trip between Weston and Union. If, however I want to go to Bloor, I have to push the little silver override button (the one on the right, not the identical one on the left) on the green and silver machine, and then remember to tap off (on a green and silver machine) at Bloor. Similarly if I get on at Bloor, I don’t push the override button but have to remember to tap off (on a green and silver machine) at Weston. If I want to go to Weston from the airport, I have to tap on a silver and green machine (there are no green and silver machines) and remember to tap off on a silver and green machine at Weston.
    Another quirk is that if you get on at Weston and get off at Union, and then attempt to get back on at Union within 3 hours to come home, the green and silver machine will not allow you to tap. It will beep and complain. Apparently, you must either push the override button, then tap a green and silver machine, and remember to tap off on a green and silver machine at weston. Or, use a silver and green machine, and tap off on only a silver and green machine at Weston. Or, expect to pay on the train itself and the fare will not be part of your presto record.
    If, as I have done early in my Presto long long training program, you accidentally tap on the wrong machine and phone presto for a refund, they direct you to the agency (GO or UP) for the refund, so you have to wait on hold again. They do not refund money to your presto card (as GO/UP does not have direct access to your card) but instead send you a paper chit in the mail which you must then take to the station when it is open (it is no longer open during the day) to have the amount loaded onto your presto card.
    The three hour limit I referred to is apparently either – to allow people who are meeting and greeting at the airport to be only charged one fare, or to prevent people from accidentally tapping twice on a GO system machine. Presto has said it will take them 10 months to create the 2 hour transfer system for the TTC. Yet it seems the 3 hour system already exists for GO. What a crock.
    As for electrification, all the environmental approvals were done for UP electrification over two years ago. My understanding is that the trains are not, in fact, convertible to electric (Metrolinx lied) and as they cannot be used anywhere else on the GO system (they have high platform doors) that Metrolinx intends to continue to use them until they are worn out before they have to buy new rolling stock. Hence the imaginary quest for hydrogen, as another stall.

  3. Two other things. If you tap on a silver and green machine at Union, your presto card must have enough money on it to go all the way to Pearson or it will refuse the tap. (beep and complain).

    If you wish to set up a presto card to automatically load, you can do it online using their website only if you have a credit card. If you want to use a bank account, you must send in a paper form and wait. And the presto system demands that any time you make a change (like autoloading) you must use the card or tap at a balance check machine after 24-48 hours have elapsed and before 30 days have elapsed. If you miss that deadline, Presto has to manually reset the card and you have to wait another 24-48 hours and tap before 30 days have elapsed. For infrequent users like some members of my family, this is a real nuisance.

    Also, tokens for the TTC are to be phased out at the end of this year. Presto has yet to roll out the single-use paper presto cards for social service agencies and others to hand out transit fares to those who need them. It is also unclear who will pay for the creation of this paper media, whether TTC will have to eat another Presto expense, or Presto will provide them to TTC as part of the TTC contract with Presto.

    Finally, a little noticed item in the Liberal plan is the intention to take over the Subway from the TTC. Metrolinx has been studying ‘fare integration’ for several years, and is musing about charging extra for faster transit (a surcharge or a higher fare for subway trips vs bus/streetcar trips). Provincial takeover of the subway would facilitate higher fares for the subway. They have deliberately left any announcement as to their final decision until after the election. Don’t want any more bad news for the current ruling party. Charging extra for speed will penalize the poor, yet again, as they will be forced to take slower trips on buses rather than pay the extra they can’t afford for the subway.

  4. I am so glad I am not the only one who has found these machines (and colours of the machines) to be unnecessarily confusing. I had plenty of experience in the past with riding the GO train (amongst other trains within Europe) and although the UP train existed, I continued using the GO train due to the drastic difference in cost at first. For about the first 5 months of using the UP train and these machines, I was constantly having to call their customer service in order for them to refund me money for trips I did not take due to not tapping off using the right machine. And I’d like to think I’m a fairly intelligent human being and was trying to be mindful about what machines I was using by asking questions first. From what I can recall, at the very beginning there were strict rules on which machines you could use. I can’t remember if it was just a difference in costs/ your default settings/ discounts *Although at the time there was no such thing as the TTC combo discount. And then I believe something changed and then I was told I could use either machine anytime, as long as I tapped off using the same type of machine. I believe the way they explained it was something along the lines that tapping on and off using the angled/ silver Pearson machines was fine, except the green machines were beneficial. I was told so many different things at different times that I couldn’t keep track. Everything noted above is correct and for about a month, even though I thought I finally had it figured out with using the correctly coloured machines, I kept making the same mistake because of that exact fact that the Pearson “only” machine also has green. And when you are running for a train and depending on the locations of these machines, it can be so easy, even for the frequent travel to make the mistake. So I believe my final decision on which machine to use are the “flat faced” ones and not the “angled ones”. Anyways… I am so glad to hear everyone else’s comments on this as I felt like an idiot every time I had to call their customer service. And yet they’ve always provided the appropriate refunds and explained I was definitely not the only one making such mistakes. Who on bloody earth thought these up?. Did anyone look at any existing efficient models elsewhere in the world or did they simply overthink the whole system?. And although it would be expensive to remove some/ modify them… I bet it would be more cost effective and save everyone’s time and sanity than by keeping the system as is, as having customer service constantly responding to calls in order to provide refunds to those that tapped this and and didn’t tap that just seems like a ridiculous waste of everyone’s time and money. So glad I’m not alone with this.

    1. I too had the misfortune of finding out the hard way when I took the train from Weston station to Union and back. It ended up costing me something like $40 because I tapped the wrong coloured machines. In the end I got refunded whatever extra I paid but I had to physically go back to Weston station to tap my card again for the refund to begin to take effect. I also like to think that I am not dumb but it sure is a convoluted design they decided on. I regularly take transit and live here and still have to be very careful not to mess it up; I can’t imagine out-of-towners using the system.

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