David Collenette, the ‘brains’ behind the UPX, is hard at work again, this time as a $500-a-day consultant for a high-speed rail project outlined in yesterday’s provincial budget.
He’ll be working on a ‘SuperCorridor’, “bringing high-speed rail to [southern Ontario] as part of the Province’s Moving Ontario Forward plan.”
I can’t wait.
Not content with one half-billion screw up, Collenette is, the province says, “working with Metrolinx and freight partners to explore potential improvements to GO rail services along the Toronto–Kitchener corridor.”
You could be forgiven for thinking we’d been through that already.
Finally the barrage of criticism surrounding the Union Pearson Express has had a positive effect. As noted here earlier in WestonWeb, the Premier has ordered a review of the cost of a ticket for the much abused train. Based on the overwhelming response when the fare is zero, we shouldn’t assume that commuters will be tempted by a cost that strays too far beyond GO Train fares. As many have pointed out, if the price is too low, the trains will be overcrowded. However, with limited stops, the demand for a free return trip to the airport shouldn’t be confused with the needs of the relatively rare number of commuters who live close to the four stations along the line.
In addition to this important factor, many of the pundits’ armchair calculations of the revised price are based on cost recovery. This is completely inappropriate. Transportation systems are expensive, never recover their costs and just like roads, must be heavily subsidized by the taxpayer. Cost recovery can therefore never be achieved and is a false flag to go chasing after.
When money is invested in transportation infrastructure, the price may be high but the benefits are many. People spend less time commuting and are likely to be healthier both mentally and physically. Pollution is reduced and health care costs are lowered. Can you put a price on a healthier and happier population? Apparently some people can.
For better or worse, the investment in UPX is gone and will never be seen again. Luckily, the money was converted into some mighty fine infrastructure which should be adapted to serve ordinary folks.
For now, what should the price be? Looking at the abominably unintuitive GO Train fare calculator, the cost of a trip from Union to Malton Station (the same approximate distance as Union to Terminal 1), the full fare cost is $7.70. Given that the UPX train’s schedule is more frequent, a 15% surcharge is probably appropriate. Likewise with fares from Weston and Bloor, the same principle should operate. The only proviso should be that as in the recent free weekend, airline passengers showing a valid ticket should have priority.
(GO Train track is in green and UP Express in grey). Malton to Union Station is about the same distance as Terminal 1 to Union.
With those provisos, here is your new unofficial fare structure, labelled using the SmartTrack logo since eventually this line should be incorporated into Mayor Tory’s scheme.
For some reason, GO does not give students a discount. For that reason I have followed their lead. Along the same line of thinking, UP Express gives families a discount. I have removed these as revised costs would not be as prohibitive.
There’s a lot going on in Toronto transit-wise and especially in our neck of the woods. Six meetings are being held across the city to discuss transit – the closest will be at Richview Collegiate this Saturday.
Come and hear the latest transit ideas, updates on transit planning and construction going on throughout the city and contribute opinions on the direction the city, Metrolinx and the TTC should be taking. No doubt there will be considerable interest in the new UP Express fares as well as electrification of GO Trains.
Date: Saturday February 20
Place: Richview Collegiate, 1739 Islington Avenue
Time: 9:30 am to 11:30 am
Frances Nunziata says “My office has organized one to be held at the York Civic Centre on Feb. 29th at 7 pm.”
With Premier Wynne putting the pain on Metrolinx, your correspondent feels like we have reached a tipping point. The UPX is bleeding money. It is far from reaching its ridership targets, and miles from paying for itself. Something must be done. But what?
Scratch public transit as usually defined; the trains cannot be used elsewhere in the city, and will (for now at least) have only four stops. A train to the airport should be defended, too; it is a fine idea even in the Über age.
It also only makes sense to now maintain the premium service. With cash haemorrhaging, Ontarians need to get as many moneyed “elite business travellers” on board as we can. We need at the same time, though, to get the rabble on, and to get them paying the bills.
How can this be done?
Metrolinx knows the answer: price discrimination. Charge the rich more, the poor less, and fill those trains up!
There are many ways to do it. Trips to Pearson could cost much more than trips between Union, Bloor, Weston, and the projected Mount Dennis station. A trip from Weston to downtown should cost about $10; this is more than the GO ($6), but much less than $22 charged now. Going to Pearson? Tough noogies: $25.
Is this unfair? No more unfair than airport improvement fees, fuel surcharges, or the jerk who stuffs a suitcase into carry-on. Travel is full of indignities; one more won’t hurt much.
This might seem to discourage local travellers from taking the train to Pearson, but savvy ones could manage. Advance or Presto purchases could be discounted (more than they currently are, however), or tickets could be sold in a discounted bundle of 5. Locals would catch wind and plan trips out.
Would it bother the haughty to rub with the hoi polloi? Then don’t let them! Borrow an idea from the golden age of rail (but lose the stupid uniforms from the same era): travel classes. Put Pearson travellers in one train car (where all 14 of them¹ would fit with room to spare). Put local travellers in the other car. We won’t let them know that we’re having more fun in the back.
This plan could even save face for Metrolinx. They could maintain that they’ve met their objective: a pampering service for that elusive elite business traveller². Now, though, as a gesture of good will, they are opening access to all Torontonians. They could brand it as ‘ride sharing’, because, you know, the sharing economy thing is cool. Like MSN.
But instead of doing the smart thing, or the right thing, Metrolinx is the same, dumb thing: giving free rides for a little while, under the mistaken belief that if people just tried it, they would like the UP Express.
Metrolinx: people won’t. Nobody wants to spend their weekend riding your train just to see what it’s like. They want to spend it with their families or sweethearts. And dear, dear Metrolinx, a word? Use economics instead of branding. If your model was ever good,³ the market changed while you were building. Über increased the supply of transit; that lowered prices. Time marched on.
This could be a time for change: the UPX—which caused so much disruption, pollution, expense, and waste in Weston—could, at long last, be put to good use.
If only we could get Metrolinx to listen.
¹ Yes, that’s how many people take the train.
² The elite business traveller without an Über app on her smartphone.
VIA Rail trains pass (without stopping) through Weston twice a day in each direction on their way from London to Toronto’s Union Station. Some passengers from London, Kitchener, Guelph, Stratford and other stations along the route are headed to Pearson and it seemed like a no-brainer for those passengers to simply exit at Weston and hop aboard the airport train thus saving themselves time and money. Another plus, Westonians would have another way to travel westwards along that route and even catch a ride to Union in the other direction twice daily.
Enter Metrolinx. Metrolinx has said no. Apparently the arrangement is too hard to accomplish because of tight scheduling, passengers would only have 60 seconds to get off the train. Compared to regular UPX stops of 30 seconds, this seems like quite a generous allocation; especially since few will likely be getting off.
Why the foot dragging from Metrolinx? Well for starters, that’s a precious revenue loss if passengers can get a cheaper fare to the airport from Weston. Second, it’s an inconvenience to have a tight schedule to worry about. Third, why bother; it’s only Weston.
Bottom line: Laura Albanese, Ahmed Hussen and Frances Nunziata should be screaming from the rooftops for Metrolinx to add this (however small) amenity to Weston. Larger scheduling problems have been solved in the past. According to an article in the Star, this decision is not carved in stone. Let’s hope that our representatives can bring some pressure to bear; soon.
Now that the dust has settled after October’s Federal Election, I was curious as to how former York South-Weston Member of Parliament, Mike Sullivan was adjusting to the new reality of being a regular citizen once more. He agreed to an in-depth interview and we sat down last Friday over coffees in a busy Perfect Blend Bakery. We touched on four main topics that we will roll out over the next four days;
The third issue that we discussed was Metrolinx and transit implications for Weston.
Prior to winning a seat in the House of Commons in 2011, Sullivan was co-chair of the Clean Train Coalition, a grass roots community group dedicated to electrification of the rail lines that run through what used to be known as the Georgetown Corridor. He was a vocal critic of the Airport Rail Link before it became known as the UP Express. For a flashback to the past, this interview with Sullivan is a good refresher on the issues back in 2010.
Sullivan is still keenly interested in transit as it pertains to Weston. We started with the new GO Station parking lot and and its role as host to the Weston Farmers Market for the foreseeable future.
Metrolinx is giving the farmers market (the GO Station Parking lot) for free for the next couple of years because there are no GO Trains on Saturdays and because you’re not allowed to park overnight on that (GO Train) lot. No one will use that lot to take the Airport connection. When Metrolinx was first talking about the quantities of parking that they were going to need, I got the impression that because they were going to market the link as an alternative to parking at the airport so you would pay $16 each way for the ride and park for free. And so that’s why they’re building that massive lot at the south end for the GO patrons and the North end will be potentially long term although Metrolinx told me that they have no intention of doing that they’re so desperate for ridership and ours is the only station where there is any possibility of parking.
Between Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack and the new LRT line, many have been wondering what will happen to Weston’s GO and UP Express stations once the LRT is complete. A new Mount Dennis station will be located uncomfortably close to Weston.
Watch this dream-like video. Notice the connections to GO and UP Express marked on the station entrance. Read more about the station here.
Sullivan spoke briefly about the way the New Eglinton LRT line will disrupt everything.
When the Eglinton LRT is opened, the UP Express and GO train will stop at Eglinton. That’s not good if you live in Weston.
The implication being that having two stations so close together will be mean that one will have to go. In other words, the least useful will become redundant and that could be Weston because it’s not a major transfer point as a triple rail intersection would be. The Mount Dennis Station will allow a transfer between GO, the UP Express, the Eglinton LRT not to mention the hastily planned election promise that was SmartTrack.
Weston may have another fight on its hands if it is to keep its two stations.
Sullivan moved on to the expensive and barely used UP Express and is sceptical about the latest Metrolinx UP Express ridership numbers.
UP Express claimed October ridership was higher in October but they didn’t take into account the fact that October has an extra day.
When asked to comment on the ticket prices charged by UP Express, Sullivan claims that the cost of running UPX is about $5 per fare. If this is the case, Metrolinx has lots of room to manoeuvre. Rumblings have already started about a really competitive fare that would boost ridership numbers. No doubt the New Year will bring a sober second look at prices.
Tomorrow: The Church Street, former Humber River Regional Hospital Site.
The Etobicoke-York Community Council brought the Weston Hub and 30-storey tower one step closer to construction. The council ordered a community consultation at an as-yet unspecified location and time. At this meeting, residents will be asked for a reaction to the proposed:
30-31 storey, 370-unit rental apartment building
12,000 square-feet of community open space for the Farmers’ Market
8000 square-foot Creative Cultural Hub and 26 affordable artist units
40,000 square-feet (not a typo) of self-storage space in the ground floor of 33 King Street
The meeting, hosted by Councillor Frances Nunziata will be held on Wednesday, October 7 at Weston Collegiate Institute (100 Pine Street) beginning at 7:00 pm.*
Artscape will also be hosting a meeting to “discuss and develop ideas for the potential role of Weston’s new Community Cultural Hub”. That meeting will be October 15.
*Article amended to insert the date, time and location of the October 7 meeting.