The UPX is losing about $11 per rider, according to Metrolinx. This is a great improvement, though obviously far from ideal.¹ The ill-designed train used to lose $52 per passenger.
An $11 subsidy is large compared to the TTC ($1) and GO ($1.50). In total, the province lost about $30 million running the UPX last year.
The numbers revealed by the Metrolinx board imply that the shrinking deficit is caused primarily by ridership growth, not cutting costs. Two million more people take the train now annually than at its launch.
In 2015–16, the train cost about $63 million to run. The sum of subsidies and fares this year equals $58 million—close enough when considering that Metrolinx has private sponsorships to bring revenues up.
There are, surely, ways to trim expenses on the service, which was bizarrely designed as (and still offers) a premium, business-class experience with in-ride wifi, a magazine (in the age of smartphones), and even a lounge with cheese pairings and live music. In case one needs to unwind after a 25-minute ride, I presume.
Metrolinx recently announced a 3% fare increase for GO and UP Express fares. Happily for Weston, fares for other than the full Union to Pearson trip will remain unchanged after the anticipated increase in September. Only fares higher than $5.65 will be increased.
All forms of transportation are subsidized in Ontario, including our roads. Each TTC fare is subsidized by the city to the tune of around 89¢. GO Train passengers are also subsidized by about the same amount. In contrast, on the Sheppard Subway (Line 4) property tax payers fork over about $10 for each passenger’s ride. The one-stop Scarborough Subway with its $3.5 Billion capital cost will need big subsidies to support the paltry 2300 riders a day expected to use the boondoggle service (compared to over 7000 a day currently on UPX).
One can argue that the extra burden of maintenance, traffic control, police supervision, accidents, deaths, sprawl and pollution make roads a poor bargain.
Adam is correct that our accidental commuter train to the Airport or downtown is heavily subsidized. For the moment, Metrolinx is being coy about UP Express subsidies, probably because they are so high. Let’s remember that UPX was designed as a premier experience and not expected to break even for several years. The model was flawed, based more on wishful thinking than actual need. People stayed away in droves thanks to high fares. The (not so) mysterious absence of the executive types who could afford the service meant that trains ran empty all day long. Thanks to high staff levels, capital and running costs, estimates placed the subsidy at around $50 per trip. Now that fares have come down and ridership has tripled, the subsidy may have eased somewhat. The cost of running UPX was $63.2 million last year. Now that prices are affordable, the boutique service levels and running costs could probably be lowered. No doubt with increased ridership, subsidy levels could approach those of the TTC.
The bottom line is that the UPX isn’t going away anytime soon and it provides a huge benefit to our community. Lord knows City council seems to begrudge any money spent on Weston. It’s nice to enjoy this large, if accidental, benefit from the province. Long may it last.
Extra credit: read this 5 year-old article on the UPX from our archives for some interesting viewpoints and statements from that time.
The Eglinton Crosstown line will not open for another four years but they keep updating their website to give tantalizing looks at the future along with progress to date. Below is a view of Eglinton Avenue showing where the new Mount Dennis Station will be placed.
Incidentally, the anticipated speed of the Crosstown is illustrated in a graphic on the site.
I was on the UP Express a couple of days ago and according to my phone’s GPS feature, we were exceeding 125 km/h at times between Bloor and Weston. Of course that’s not the average speed (probably just over 60 km/h) but pretty impressive when comparing commuter rail track speeds in Canada. For example, the GO train trundles along at an average pace of about 50 km/h between Kitchener and Toronto.
The Crosstown site has also posted a recent ‘Flyover’ video (May 2) of stations along the line in an aerial viewpoint showing how work is progressing at each location.
Watch the video in fullscreen mode for a more detailed view.
It’s not a huge announcement (on Twitter) from local MPP, and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Laura Albanese but it’s one that makes sense for Weston. Many transit organizations including the TTC, GO and UP Express are moving to join the rest of the world in using electronic fare payments. This is done through an electronic card that can be loaded online, by phone or at a retail location. The card adopted for use in the GTA is the Presto Card and while it’s had some teething troubles, it’s supposed to be more convenient for customers and less subject to fraud than paper transfers or easily counterfeited tokens.
Minister Albanese announced today that our local Shoppers Drug Mart will be one of only 10 Toronto outlets selected to sell and service Presto Cards.
Weston has several modes of transit in one location and this is the reason no doubt that our branch of Shoppers will be one of the first locations in the city to roll out the service.
The Kodak recreation building, (officially known as Kodak Building 9) was moved from its foundations last summer. The idea was to create new foundations that the building will return to and become part of the new Mount Dennis Station.
It was recently photographed and the worker inside illustrates the awesome size of the building while graffiti still festoons the interior walls.