GO Schedules reduced.

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According to Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins, temporary labour shortages are coming to GO Transit. She describes the cause as ‘absenteeism’ which I always thought meant deliberately staying away from work. Perhaps that is what she means.

Anyway, I digress. GO service is being reduced by about 15% so it might be wise to look at the schedule or sign up for alerts before leaving. UP Express service is unaffected.

Metrolinx news

Weston Go Station:

Work at Weston GO station continues in order to complete the link to a fourth passenger rail line and create a fourth platform. This will allow the UP Express to use separate platforms at the station and enable all-day GO service in the future. The track was already in place but was missing the section at the station. The new platform will be fully accessible, heated during cold weather and have a warm waiting area. It should be ready next year.

Perhaps Metrolinx will re-visit the idea of VIA trains stopping in Weston to allow passengers from south-west Ontario the option of hopping onto the UP Express to the Airport. To quote Mike Sullivan,

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.

Mike Sullivan speaking to Weston Web in 2018.

Eventually the Kitchener line will either be electrified or hydrogenated. For some reason, after studying electrification for more than a decade, both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have wanted to throw some money at investigating whether or not converting the Kitchener line to run on hydrogen would be a good idea. Weston Web had the answer four years ago in 2017. It still stands.

Looking north at the new platform under construction. Metrolinx image. Click to enlarge.

Read the station upgrade details from Metrolinx here.

Eglinton Crosstown Line westward extension:

Further south, the Ford government seems committed to an extension of the Crosstown line to Renforth and eventually, Pearson Airport. The line will follow Eglinton, mostly underground apart from a stretch over the Humber which will be on an elevated section away from traffic. Metrolinx is asking interested parties to make themselves known. Actual approval and construction is many years away but the Ontario Government seems eager to show local voters that it still taking steps to support the project. Those who think that the Scarborough Subway is a good idea will agree that this extension is pure genius and well worth the billions to be spent on it.

The proposed Eglinton Crosstown westward extension showing the elevated section of the new line in blue. From Metrolinx. Click to enlarge.
Artist concept of the elevated section with the existing Eglinton bridge behind. Those look like catenary wires to me. From Metrolinx. Click to enlarge.

Read more details from Metrolinx here.

You can use credit cards on the UPX

Ever-so-slowly, the UPX fare boxes are improving. You can now use your credit card to tap on and off.

I’m sure these things are massively complicated, but it seems a bit bonkers that a train designed for airport passengers didn’t have this in the first place. Nobody wants to struggle with tickets in a foreign language while juggling luggage and fighting jetlag. Add it to the list.

While you’re considering UPX fares, be sure avoid a scam. Your correspondent saw $120 “unlimited” Presto cards advertised on a social network. They are allegedly good for three years.

It sounds too good to be true—and it is.

More Crosstown Delays

Influential Toronto transit blogger Steve Munro is reporting a significant development in construction of the Eglinton Crosstown Line. Metrolinx has consistently stated that the line will not open until all stations are ready. Now it seems that thanks to various factors, Eglinton Station (at Yonge) might not be ready until May 2022 and a direct connection to the subway will be delayed until fall of that year.

Why the change in plans? Steve points out that, “The expected June 2022 provincial election will bring considerable pressure to provide a ribbon cutting for Premier Ford at whatever cost is necessary.”.

Read his blog post here.

View an interesting take on the line from Reece Martin below:

Update: Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster has called talk of a partial opening as a ‘distraction’. Verster seems unhappy with builders of the line, Crosslink Transit Solutions.

Read more here.

Provinces kills UPX-to-TTC fare discount

The discount program that knocks $1.50 off fares for commuters transferring from the GO or UPX to the TTC with a Presto card will end on March 31. The provincial government has ended funding for the program, which went over budget.

The program was started by the Liberal government in 2017. Its cancellation may hurt Weston more than most, because our best connection to downtown is on the UPX or GO trains.

Global says:

The province paid $18.5 million a year to offset the cost of the discount for both transit agencies, but the current Progressive Conservatives say the funding was designed to be temporary. A three-year agreement on the subsidy is set to expire in March 2020.

Weston GO and UP Express numbers may drop

The UP Express at Weston Station. (file)

Back in 2011, Weston Web reported that the old Weston Station on John Street used to see about 450 trips daily (weekdays only). That would translate into about 225 people using the station.

Metrolinx published Weston’s passenger numbers for UP Ex and GO last April and they were up sharply thanks to a $1.50 subsidy for people making one journey using both the GO and TTC (courtesy of the Kathleen Wynne government). This was possible only for passengers using the much loved Presto Card.

The latest figures from April show that between April 2018 and January 2019, GO passenger numbers increased by 21% while UP Ex numbers were up 15.8%. Weston station sees about 1100 GO trips daily while UP Ex has about 940. That’s about 1000 people daily going through Weston Station which is a huge increase from the 225 in 2011.

With the recent announcement that the Ford government will drop the subsidy, there is concern that people will get back in their cars and drive.

Metrolinx claims it is willing to throw in 75¢ of the rebate if the city of Toronto will throw in the other half of the rebate but as usual, Toronto, in its 227th year of austerity, is pleading poverty.

Over to you Councillors Nunziata and Holyday.

 

Metrolinx Woes

Where to start?

Presto – Because of the ‘exclusive’ deal signed with Galen Weston’s Loblaw Inc., Metrolinx will be firing the three dozen small retailers who currently sell TTC tokens and passes in our neighbourhood.  Only the two Shoppers Drug Marts will sell TTC fares (Presto tickets and cards).  It’s a huge reduction in accessibility for our part of the city.  There’s lots else wrong with Presto, and TTC is not happy about it.

UP Express and GO fares – The previous government promised to lower GO fares to $3 within the city.  The new government told Metrolinx to lower them to $3.70.  Metrolinx left UP express fares at the old higher level, and removed the $1.60 discount for transferring to TTC, for those using UP from Weston (or Bloor).  The province gave Metrolinx money to provide the discount for both UP and GO.  I wondered if Metrolinx had returned any of the money, but the folks at the Ministry of Transportation could not answer that question.  I’ve asked Metrolinx but I’m not holding my breath.

Tier 4 Trains – The Minister ordered GO to use Tier 4 diesel trains on our line (now called Kitchener line) once they had bought some.  Tier 4 are about 8 times cleaner than the locomotives now in use.  They now have 8 locomotives.  But they initially advised they would not be using them on Kitchener.  When challenged, they said they’d check again.  Still waiting.

Noise Walls – The original Environmental Assessment demanded walls along the curve at the end of Holley where it meets Parke.  None were installed.  Metrolinx claimed it was too difficult given the size of retaining wall they built.  But their own consultant on the EA warned them to make sure they built walls strong enough to hold the noise walls.  If they didn’t that’s on them, and we deserve something.  In addition, the EA demanded a wall between the tracks and Rosemount south of John.  Nothing installed there.  No excuse given.  And they promised walls behind Brownville and Arthur streets.  Still nothing, though they claim it is due to property negotiations with landowners on those streets.

Government Regulators – It took some doing but I found persons at both the Provincial and Federal Ministries of the Environment who could speak about the now ten year old Environmental Assessment.  Provincially they didn’t think there was anything they could do to force Metrolinx to live up to the promises in the EA.  Federally they were quite shocked, as Metrolinx had recently sworn out a ‘solemn declaration’ claiming they had lived up to all the EA commitments, in order to get the final payments from the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

In addition, the Province relieved Metrolinx of its responsibility to monitor air quality.  Metrolinx claimed that the implementation of the UP Express had not seriously degraded air quality.  Trouble is, it is GO Transit operations if not Tier 4 (see above) that will adversely affect our air quality.

The federal folks are questioning Metrolinx about the noise walls.  We shall see what happens next.