That’s the news Metrolinx delivered this week, when they released “long-delayed” reports that said riders would be so frustrated by Tory’s SmartTrack stops that they would get back in their cars. It’s a conclusion that threatens the Weston GO station, too.
Weston has been quite lucky to have both a GO and a UPX stop, but when the Mount Dennis station is finished in 2022, our luck may run out. Like the Weston station, the Mount Dennis station will connect with the GO and the UPX—but in addition, it will have a link with the Eglinton LRT and busses. Will Metrolinx have three GO and UPX stops within 10 km: Weston, Mount Dennis and St. Clair?
This week’s report suggests they might not. Every stop slows down riders and drives them away from the service.
Obviously, there are four options:
Closing both the GO and UPX stations
Closing the UPX
Closing the GO
Your correspondent bets that Metrolinx will close the GO station—and would close both if they could. The reasons are clear:
GO Trains accelerate and decelerate slowly, so an additional stop causes more inconvenience.
Ridership must be down a great deal now that the UPX is cheap
Very few people get on the GO in Weston going to Kitchener, and fewer still who would not take the UPX one stop in the wrong direction to Mount Dennis to get on the GO heading out of town.
Two solutions would be an integrated fare or fare by distance, so Westonians could get on the UPX and not be penalized for jumping on another mode of transit at Mount Dennis. Your correspondent doubts very much that Metrolinx will miss a chance to burn Westonians, however.
The province is celebrating the one-year anniversary of reasonable fares on the UPX.
Transportation Minister Stephen Del Duca was asked how much money the UPX is losing. He said—unbelievably—that he didn’t know.
9000 riders take the train daily, and growth is slowing. At an average fare of $9 (less for short trips, more for those without a Presto card), that raises $81,000 a day. The train, however, costs about $160,000 a day to run, leaving a shortfall of about $80,000 daily.
Annually, that’s about $29 million.
While I’m very grateful for the UPX, it’s worth remembering that Metrolinx was told by their private partner—which withdrew—and the Auditor General that this would happen. They insisted on building a boutique train in the face of all evidence.
Pearson Airport is not only Canada’s biggest airport, it’s also an employer of 40,000 49,000 people who travel from all over the GTA along with many more who work in the surrounding region. In 2015 it was North America’s 14th busiest airport with over 41 million passenger trips.
Yesterday, new plans were unveiled proposing to make Pearson a transit hub for modes as well as flight. The idea is to eventually connect with the Eglinton Crosstown Line as well as bus routes from Toronto / Mississauga / Brampton and a possible high speed rail line along the Kitchener Line. Planners hope to be able to cut down on the 65,000 vehicles entering the airport daily.
This is good news because as traffic volumes continue to grow, new links to the hub will provide other ways (in addition to our fast UP Express link) for workers to quickly access the airport using Weston / Mount Dennis as their home. The airport will relocate parking garages to create the hub which will have an entrance on Airport Road. In addition, having a transit hub closer than Union Station will be a good thing for our area.
At the moment, the idea is in an exploratory mode and if approved, would not be in service until 2027 at the earliest.
An interesting article in railwayage.com summarizes the progress expected this year on the Eglinton Crosstown line. Apparently the first track to be installed will go on the Kodak lands later this year as part of the rail yard that will be built there. The line is scheduled to be in service by 2021.
The total cost of the 19 km, 25 station partially (10 km) underground line is estimated to be $6.6B and is a relative steal compared to the $3.2B estimated cost of the one-station Scarborough Subway extension.
Laura Albanese’s office has scheduled a meeting with Metrolinx for February 9 to update the community on the long-promised electrification of the Kitchener rail corridor.
In addition to the intriguing promise of electrification and a connection in Mount Dennis, there will be discussion of another major construction project: a fourth rail line. This, your correspondent believes, may be controversial, raising as it does the possibility of track widening (and expropriations), missed opportunities, and further long periods of disruption in the community.
By nixing road tolls around Toronto, Kathleen Wynne failed to cauterize the arterial bleeding of a corpse-white SmartTrack plan that would have benefitted Weston and Mount Dennis. Wynne killed the tolls because she faces a tough reëlection fight next year.
The bill for the western part of SmartTrack was to have been roughly $2 billion. The province has promised to give Toronto $170 million a year in gas-tax money, short of the roughly already-inadequate $250 million tolls would have raised. The gas money will go to all transit in Toronto, not only SmartTrack.
Tory’s revised SmartTrack plan would have built an extension of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT out toward the airport from the Mount Dennis station, connecting the west end to Etobicoke, Mississauga, and Pearson.