Influential Toronto transit blogger Steve Munro is reporting a significant development in construction of the Eglinton Crosstown Line. Metrolinx has consistently stated that the line will not open until all stations are ready. Now it seems that thanks to various factors, Eglinton Station (at Yonge) might not be ready until May 2022 and a direct connection to the subway will be delayed until fall of that year.
Why the change in plans? Steve points out that, “The expected June 2022 provincial election will bring considerable pressure to provide a ribbon cutting for Premier Ford at whatever cost is necessary.”.
The discount program that knocks $1.50 off fares for commuters transferring from the GO or UPX to the TTC with a Presto card will end on March 31. The provincial government has ended funding for the program, which went over budget.
The program was started by the Liberal government in 2017. Its cancellation may hurt Weston more than most, because our best connection to downtown is on the UPX or GO trains.
The province paid $18.5 million a year to offset the cost of the discount for both transit agencies, but the current Progressive Conservatives say the funding was designed to be temporary. A three-year agreement on the subsidy is set to expire in March 2020.
Back in 2011, Weston Web reported that the old Weston Station on John Street used to see about 450 trips daily (weekdays only). That would translate into about 225 people using the station.
Metrolinx published Weston’s passenger numbers for UP Ex and GO last April and they were up sharply thanks to a $1.50 subsidy for people making one journey using both the GO and TTC (courtesy of the Kathleen Wynne government). This was possible only for passengers using the much loved Presto Card.
The latest figures from April show that between April 2018 and January 2019, GO passenger numbers increased by 21% while UP Ex numbers were up 15.8%. Weston station sees about 1100 GO trips daily while UP Ex has about 940. That’s about 1000 people daily going through Weston Station which is a huge increase from the 225 in 2011.
With the recent announcement that the Ford government will drop the subsidy, there is concern that people will get back in their cars and drive.
Metrolinx claims it is willing to throw in 75¢ of the rebate if the city of Toronto will throw in the other half of the rebate but as usual, Toronto, in its 227th year of austerity, is pleading poverty.
Presto – Because of the ‘exclusive’ deal signed with Galen Weston’s Loblaw Inc., Metrolinx will be firing the three dozen small retailers who currently sell TTC tokens and passes in our neighbourhood. Only the two Shoppers Drug Marts will sell TTC fares (Presto tickets and cards). It’s a huge reduction in accessibility for our part of the city. There’s lots else wrong with Presto, and TTC is not happy about it.
UP Express and GO fares – The previous government promised to lower GO fares to $3 within the city. The new government told Metrolinx to lower them to $3.70. Metrolinx left UP express fares at the old higher level, and removed the $1.60 discount for transferring to TTC, for those using UP from Weston (or Bloor). The province gave Metrolinx money to provide the discount for both UP and GO. I wondered if Metrolinx had returned any of the money, but the folks at the Ministry of Transportation could not answer that question. I’ve asked Metrolinx but I’m not holding my breath.
Tier 4 Trains – The Minister ordered GO to use Tier 4 diesel trains on our line (now called Kitchener line) once they had bought some. Tier 4 are about 8 times cleaner than the locomotives now in use. They now have 8 locomotives. But they initially advised they would not be using them on Kitchener. When challenged, they said they’d check again. Still waiting.
Noise Walls – The original Environmental Assessment demanded walls along the curve at the end of Holley where it meets Parke. None were installed. Metrolinx claimed it was too difficult given the size of retaining wall they built. But their own consultant on the EA warned them to make sure they built walls strong enough to hold the noise walls. If they didn’t that’s on them, and we deserve something. In addition, the EA demanded a wall between the tracks and Rosemount south of John. Nothing installed there. No excuse given. And they promised walls behind Brownville and Arthur streets. Still nothing, though they claim it is due to property negotiations with landowners on those streets.
Government Regulators – It took some doing but I found persons at both the Provincial and Federal Ministries of the Environment who could speak about the now ten year old Environmental Assessment. Provincially they didn’t think there was anything they could do to force Metrolinx to live up to the promises in the EA. Federally they were quite shocked, as Metrolinx had recently sworn out a ‘solemn declaration’ claiming they had lived up to all the EA commitments, in order to get the final payments from the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
In addition, the Province relieved Metrolinx of its responsibility to monitor air quality. Metrolinx claimed that the implementation of the UP Express had not seriously degraded air quality. Trouble is, it is GO Transit operations if not Tier 4 (see above) that will adversely affect our air quality.
The federal folks are questioning Metrolinx about the noise walls. We shall see what happens next.
About a year ago, Metrolinx gave a break to people transferring between the UP Express and the TTC. If you used a Presto card, they’d knock $1.50 off the combined fare.
Starting April 20, people transferring between the UP Express and the TTC will pay full fare on both.
Metrolinx says, “this change reflects the different purpose of the UPX service, which is about getting customers to and from the airport as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Travellers who take the GO train will still receive a discounted TTC fare.
Also, it seems the tapping process will change. Riders riding the UPX will have to tap on the UP machines. Those getting on the GO will have to tap on GO machines. At present, riders are supposed to tap based on their destinations, not their trains.
God willing, Metrolinx will change the colour of one of machines—and move the GO off the UPX platforms—because I’ve been taking the damned things for years, I still can’t figure out which one is green and grey and which grey and green. Just today I screwed it up again.
The Kitchener GO line will soon have a new stop at the Woodbine racetrack. The stop will be paid for by the owners of Woodbine, and it will replace the Etobicoke North station.
Metrolinx has said that the UP Express eventually may stop at Woodbine station, though no plans were announced this week. This would be great for Weston; the more that commuters use the line, the less likely we are to lose our stop–and that’s a concern because the train will stop at the new Mount Dennis transit hub.
In November, Metrolinx published its plans for improving rail service in the GTA. If they were to go ahead, they would revolutionize train travel in the GTA and greatly change commutes in Weston.
By 2031, if the plans are implemented (that’s a big ‘if’) GO service in Weston will be:
Every 10 minutes
Faster, with a 13-minute trip between Weston and Union
Less expensive, because it will use electric trains much of the time
More accessible, with station improvements.
The plan would also improve Union Station, allowing the UP Express to run four-car trains, and GO to double train capacity.
The GO Expansion Business Case does not say what will happen to the UP Express in Weston. It seems likely, however, that it would be axed. The UPX will also be stopping in Mount Dennis and Bloor, slowing the train en route to the airport.
But improved GO service, would, in some ways, make the GO train even better than the UP Express. It would be as fast, but more frequent in the rush hour. The trains would be larger, and riders may have a better chance of getting a seat. The locomotives would also be electric, instead of diesel, allaying concerns about pollution and noise.
On the downside, it is not clear how long the trains would run every day. I love that the UPX runs late and early. Nor are GO trains as fancy as the UPX, and we’d have to bring your own in-ride magazines. (Has anybody seen an On The UP lately?)
Metrolinx forecasts that GO ridership in Weston would nearly double, as it would system-wide. Perhaps optimistically, they also say that the increased ridership would pay for the system expansion. Your correspondent has his doubts.
These are the same people who built the UP Express, which was supposed to be a premium-fare, deluxo trip to the airport for the world-weary traveller willing to pay $29 one-way. It got rolling at exactly the same time as Uber, and ridership was dismal until the province forced Metrolinx to slash fares and let the proles ride. The UPX still loses about $20 million (by my conservative calculation) every year—about $6 for every rider.