How much does the UPX cost us?

Neither the new Conservative government nor Metrolinx will say how much it costs to run the UPX, according to The Star.

Metrolinx has long dissembled about the chronically mismanaged line. Now

a spokesperson for the agency [told The Star] it couldn’t release figures showing how much it costs to operate the UP Express, or how much each ride is subsidized by taxpayers, because “Metrolinx considers all of its rail operations — GO and UP — to be part of one network.”

As if.

Since Metrolinx won’t do the math, I will.

The UP Express in Weston Station (file).

The line costs about $65 million a year to run. About 3.5 million people ride it annually, for an average cost per rider of about $18.50. The average fare is a bit of a mystery, but Metrolinx says that about 75% of the riders are going between the airport and downtown–with the remainder paying lower fares. I’ll assume, then, that the average fare per rider is about $9.25—the Presto fare (which is slightly lower than the infrequent traveller fare and higher than the commuter fare).

By happy coincidence, the per-rider subsidy is also about $9.25, for an annual total cost of $32.5 million.

Mount Dennis Station latest videos

Metrolinx has released two videos, one with some lovely drone footage of the old Kodak building which is being incorporated into the new Mount Dennis Station. The second video is a walk through of the actual station.

Eglinton Crosstown latest video

Here’s the latest video from Metrolinx about the new Yonge and Eglinton platforms being built under the existing Line 1 (Yonge University Line). The line is expected to be operational in 2021 and will run underground from Mount Dennis (incorporating the renovated Kodak building) to Laird.

Riding the 89 – The Old Man in the Trench Coat

Anyone who has lived in Weston has (at least once) had to ride the 89 Weston bus.

The ride is often not a very pleasant one.  Hot and smelly in the summer, crowded in the winter, each passenger jostling for a small piece of personal space.

There are so many stories that can be written about the things that happen on this bus, but today, I am going to tell you a story about the old man in the trench coat.

It was a cold, blustery winter day when I was standing on the bus platform at Keele Station waiting for the 89 Weston bus. The platform, as is typically the case during rush hour was packed. We were all standing so close to one another that you could almost feel the other person breathing, all of us, that is, except for one.

At the corner of the platform stood an old man in a brown trench coat. His back was hunched and his face hidden as he tried to shield himself from the snow that danced around us. When the bus finally arrived he got on and sat down on a seat close to the window, one of those single seats.

The bus began to move and I drifted between thoughts of what I was going to have for dinner and for lunch the next day at work. I was half gazing out the window and listening to my music when the old man once again caught my eye. This time he pulled something out of his coat.  The young women who stood close to him looked shocked and horrified. I noticed them quickly move away from him, trying to find a spot, any spot in the crowd that was away from him.

After they had moved, I was able to see what the old man in the brown trench coat had pulled out; he had pulled out a rat.

The rat was big and brown. Its long thick beige tail hung like a rope.

The old man in the brown trench coat was talking to it and hugging it. It was clearly his companion.  No one dared say a word, they simply looked on in disbelief.

Once my own feelings of shock subsided, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of empathy wash over me. It is so hard in this lifetime to find someone we can love, someone we can trust and if this rat provided that comfort in this mans life, who was I to judge.

It also reminded me once more, that you never know that you will see when you take a ride on the 89 Weston bus. I would love to hear about your adventures on this bus. Please share your experiences in the comments below.

Metrolinx Update

Here’s a couple of new videos from Metrolinx regarding the Crosstown Line that will speed up public transit along Eglinton and connect to GO and the UP Express lines at Mount Dennis. The first shows some nice drone footage of the new maintenance buildings as well as the Kodak #9 building that will serve as the station entrance.


The second video shows a station mock-up that apparently is a full-size example of a typical station on the Crosstown Line. I asked Metrolinx’s community relations people about the station, if visits could be arranged, where it is and so on. I began my inquiries last Friday but as yet, have yet to get an answer. I had to send their CR people a link to the video as they hadn’t heard of the station’s existence.

Look for an update once details are provided.

Update, Monday June 25: I received an answer from Suniya Kukaswadia, Metrolinx’s Senior Advisor, Media Relations & Issues Management answering my questions:

1)     Where is the replica?

The purpose of the mock up station is to test materials and building methods prior to the actual build of the stations. The mock up is located at the Crosslinx warehouse and staging facility at Caledonia and Lawrence.

2)     Will you we be offering media tours of it?

Currently the mock up build is still a work in progress, and is not available for media visits. We would like to start media visits in the near future when the mock up is complete.

3)     Will members of the public be able to see it?
We are not currently in a position to provide public access but hope to be in the coming months.

Some thoughts on transit.

Railway tracks are not a modern invention. They were used in mines in the Middle Ages and almost 200 years ago, the first public railway line carried people in steam powered trains. The whole point of railway and tram lines was to create a level surface so that heavy vehicles didn’t get bogged down in the frequently muddy and rough roads of the time. Rails provide an ultra smooth surface and can accommodate vehicles carrying  large loads at high speed.

In Toronto, street railways arrived in the form of horse drawn street cars in the 1860s. They were able to conquer the terrible road conditions common before modern day road paving. Street cars as we know them today began in Richmond Virginia in the 1880s using an electric motor fed by a single overhead power line (the internal combustion engine was not as reliable as electric motors at that time). Toronto began using electric streetcars in 1892 and has done so ever since. In 1966, plans were made to eliminate the fleet by 1980 but a strong opposition played up the fact that Toronto was one of  the few remaining cities to use the (by then considered old fashioned) vehicles. They were kept thanks to effective and vigorous campaigning, possibly because they’re quaint, for their tourist appeal and just maybe because Toronto is notoriously slow to change. Incidentally, many readers will know there was a line that extended to Weston until 1948 when the streetcars were replaced by trolley buses.

Toronto Suburban Railway Car #12 going through the village of Weston in 1908. I love the jaunty angle of the utility poles. Toronto Public Library.

Trolleys were used until 1993 in Toronto when the fleet became too decrepit to continue. Trolley buses are electrically powered but run on rubber tires and require two overhead wires instead of one.

The great thing about street cars and trolley buses is that they run on relatively clean energy (only about 10% of electricity generated in Ontario comes from carbon based sources). They don’t pollute the air with toxic and dangerous gases and particles. Their motors are quiet.

Over the last few years, there has been a streetcar boom (often called light rail) in cities throughout Canada and the U.S. and they are seen as the latest thing in transit. They also benefit from novelty and nostalgia and some equate them with theme parks. The downside of streetcars and trolleys is that they need to be attached to overhead wiring and streetcar tracks are very expensive to build and maintain, especially in our climate with its potential for frost and salt damage. Another negative is that tracks usually run down the middle of a street with the potential of being blocked by cars and forcing boarding and alighting passengers to cross at least one lane of traffic.

Where am I going with this?

Asphalt roads became common about 100 years ago and helped make car travel possible. They form a resilient, level surface that can also accommodate vehicles carrying heavy loads at high speed. Public transit no longer needs rails to provide a smooth ride. On the other hand, modern day buses are loud and polluting – even diesel-electric ones.

In Mount Dennis, instead of the originally proposed gas-fired generating station, a large bank of batteries is set to power the entire Crosstown LRT for up to four hours.

Battery power has come a long way recently and is also about to revolutionize transit. The TTC has promised that it will be 100% emissions free by 2040. Unlike Metrolinx and its bizarre hydrogen fuel cell boondoggle the TTC has seen the future and decided that it’s battery powered. Thirty battery-powered buses have been purchased with the help of the federal government and will join the TTC fleet beginning in the fall. These are from three competing companies, Xcelsior, BYD and Proterra. The buses will be put through trials to see if they can manage in our winter conditions, have a range of around 250km and will be charged overnight using cheaper power. There is a proposal to increase the number to sixty buses.

Three demo buses have just arrived in the city to allow staff to familiarize themselves with the technology.

What are the implications?

  • If the trials are successful, replacing 2000+ conventional buses will be expensive and will need to happen over several years.
  • Fuel and maintenance costs will decrease.
  • Carbon tax will be lowered as more vehicles are bought.
  • In time, battery capacity will improve, buses will have a longer range and cost less.
  • Streetcars could be converted to battery power eliminating expensive, overhead wires.
  • We may not need streetcars and their tracks anymore. Instead, we could dedicate lanes to electric buses.
  • Street noise levels will decrease.
  • Carbon monoxide and dioxide levels will decrease.
  • Dangerous particulate matter from diesel fumes will decrease.
  • People will be healthier.

What do readers think? Is the TTC on the right track?

Update: This historic footage from New York City at the beginning of the motor car era in 1911 is fascinating. Note the street cars have no overhead wires and are cable cars like the ones in San Francisco. They are pulled along by an underground cable.

VIA does 121 through Weston Station

A reader alerted me to a danger at the Weston Station: twice daily, the VIA train goes through without slowing down—and boy, is it going fast. According to a  spokesperson, the VIA train is going 121 km/h (75 mph)–a speed that was “determined by the railway owner”.

At this speed, the train generates a lot of slipstream, and it is passing close to passengers. Our reader said it leaves “a huge swirl of dust, newspapers, and plastic bags. A child, or pet [could] be hurled against the platform columns or on to another platform”.

The spokesperson said that VIA has not received any complaints about the trains’ speed, but concerned residents can leave a comment and contact VIA Rail’s customer relations department at customer_relations@viarail.ca.

From Wikimedia