Metrolinx has released a business case study into four options for completing the link from Mount Dennis to Pearson and has outlined them in this report. The gist seems to be that there’s a weak case in terms of return on investment but that some options are better than others. Incidentally all options seem to be better than the business case for the Scarborough Subway!
Steve Munro is a Toronto blogger who knows more about transit than just about anyone in the city. He has examined the Metrolinx report and has commented on each of the options. Read that here.
Whatever happens, it will probably be another 10 years (and a couple of changes of government) before this project gets under way.
Pearson Airport is the second largest employment zone in the GTA and working there is a natural fit for Weston and Mount Dennis residents since it’s a short hop away via the UP Express..
Air Canada is advertising full-time jobs for people who can lift repetitively, are able to work nights and who also possess a G or G2 driver’s licence. The starting pay is minimum wage but they pay benefits, pay for training and provide employees with career development plans.
Interviews will be held on Thursday, September 5 beginning at 10:00 am at 2150 Islington Avenue. Apparently it’s first come, first served.
Marion from the BIA sent along a bit of news I hadn’t heard: the Greater Toronto Airports Authority is working on a plan to make the Pearson airport area “Union Station West”—a second major hub for jobs and transit.
According to the GTAA, the airport alone employs 49,000 people, and the number is growing very fast. A further 250,000 people work in the area, making it the second-largest employment zone in Canada.¹ Yet almost 95% of the workers get there by car—and it’s a death zone for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users.
The GTAA is looking to fix that by building Toronto’s second major transit hub, just outside Terminals 1 and 3. This should improve commutes, draw employers, and smooth transit through the region.
What business is this of WestonWeb? Have a look at the map.
One of the seven transit routes planned to link up at Union Station West² currently makes it there: the UPX. We have a monopoly on commuter rail. Better, though: Three of the seven planned lines will stop in Weston or Mount Dennis.
Sure, it’s a dream right now, but as Union Station West grows, Weston and Mount Dennis are perfectly placed to be bedroom communities. A quick hop on a comfy, uncongested train could take you to your job uptown.
It’s an interesting tale of two cities, almost identical in size on opposite sides of the Canada / U.S. border. Chicago, which already has a commuter rail link between its O’Hare Airport and downtown wants to build an express rail service that would be built by the private sector with tickets cheaper than an equivalent Uber fare. Sound familiar?
In the article, Chicago TV Station WTTW reveals the cautionary tale of Toronto’s UP Express, getting most of the facts correct. Read the article and watch the video here.
As an aside, Metrolinx wants to investigate building a passenger rail connection to Pearson Airport by way of the Kitchener line (which runs through Weston) or the Crosstown that will run along Eglinton. In response to Adam’s article on speedy VIA trains, Mike Sullivan pointed out that Metrolinx refuses to allow VIA Rail trains to stop at Weston.
Via desperately wants to stop in Weston. Their trains come from Sarnia, London and Kitchener, and patrons who want to go to the airport have to go all the way to Union and double back, adding about an hour to their trip.
Metrolinx refuses to let them. There are 4 trains per day (two in each direction) and Metrolinx says their dwell time (the time it takes to unload and load passengers) is too long and would interfere with the UP express schedule. They did suggest that when the 4th track is in place maybe things would change.
It may also have to do with the Kitchener part of the trips. Metrolinx wants to be the train of record from Kitchener, and VIA is in competition.
If you aren’t depressed enough, read this Star article about GTA transit planning.
The UP Express is Weston’s rapid portal to the Airport (11 minutes) or downtown (14 minutes). Metrolinx has announced that beginning in April the service will begin earlier by adding two trains to the beginning of the current schedule. The first train to the airport will leave 35 minutes earlier at 5:09 instead of 5:44.
Likewise, trains to Union Station should begin earlier with the first leaving Weston for downtown at around 5:03.
The service has become wildly popular with an average of 300,000 trips per month thanks to a dramatic fare reduction in March 2016 and a subsequent $1.50 fare subsidy announced last October for transfers to or from transit agencies such as GO or TTC.
Incidentally, in a 2013 report produced for Metrolinx, passenger numbers were never anticipated to reach their current levels. The report predicted it would take until 2031 before numbers would rise to 245,000 monthly trips.
I am going to take the opposite viewpoint to my esteemed colleague Adam on this topic. Here’s the ‘good cop’ version.
David Collenette was the man behind the UP Express, having first proposed it 20 years ago. His original vision was for a direct train that would offer a 22-minute ride from Pearson to Union that would cost $20. Without going into the details of what happened between concept and reality (read our back issues), the end result was that Weston in effect ended up with an all-day commuter rail service into Toronto for about the same price as a GO Train ticket.
Collenette has re-emerged as a ‘Special Advisor’ in a report outlining a vision of a high speed rail line joining Toronto and Windsor.
Lord knows how hard it is to get anything built in this neck of the woods. Collenette’s vision of the Air Rail Link (as it was then known), ended up as a huge gift for Weston’s commuters. Now on the wildly popular UP Express (since lowering prices), in rush hours, it’s standing room only.
What about the Toronto to Windsor HSR Line? It’s certainly needed. In fact, decent rail links all over Canada are needed. Part-way to Windsor lies Canada’s Silicon Valley in the Kitchener / Waterloo area. It’s too close to fly there (only 100 km) yet GO Trains take at best 2 hours. An HSR train would use much of the same corridor and cut travel time between the two city centres dramatically. Stops at Malton (Pearson), Guelph, Kitchener and London are proposed for the first phase.
What’s in it for Weston?
In 2021, the UP Express will add one more station at Mount Dennis and connect to the new Crosstown Line. Will this new station make the UP Express unacceptably slow? There is a rumoured possibility that Weston’s station will be too close to Mount Dennis and may be closed as a result.
The report itself recommends that existing services be ‘optimized’:
The Province should align provincial mandates to optimize rail services by directing Metrolinx and MTO to collaborate on the development of an Integrated Rail Strategy for the Toronto-Kitchener corridor, which would
•Clarify the mandates of GO RER, UP Express and HSR on the corridor.
•Assess ridership and service frequencies.
•Recommend how the Province might optimize GO RER, UP Express and HSR ridership to maximize the benefit to Ontarians.
One way around the two station dilemma might be to convert the existing UP Express into a commuter line and open new stations along the way. This could be a way of easing the burden on the subway system while preserving Weston’s regular and rapid link to downtown.
What will the cost be? Anyone who has done home renovations will know that estimated costs before a project begins are likely to end up higher in reality. What studies do show is that public transit adds value to a community if done well. No doubt changes and variations are up for grabs as they were with the original idea for the Airport Rail Link.
What about a high speed train running through our community? The train won’t likely be that fast in the city. Currently the UP Express hits speeds of up to 130 km/h between Bloor and Weston for an average of around 77 km/h. The report projects a somewhat faster average speed (just under 100 km/h from Union to Malton).
The next steps will be more studies and consultations. This is just the beginning of what will be a long and ambitious project. While there may be pitfalls along the way, there will be opportunities and this proposed infrastructure holds huge promise and potential for Weston.
We do however need to be on top of this as a community and make sure that the people of Weston / Mount Dennis are heard loud and clear.
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.