What’s up with the UP Express schedule?

Paul Ferreira raised an important question on Twitter this week: When will the UP Express get back to its regular schedule?

Metrolinx reduced service during the worst days of the pandemic as ridership across the system dropped by as much as 90%. It cut the hours the UPX ran and also the frequency of service.

While the hours have since been increased—though not quite to the pre-pandemic 19.5 hours a day—the trains only travel every 30 minutes. That’s the same frequency as in March, 2020.

On Twitter, a spokesperson told Ferreira that they are “constantly keeping an eye on ridership and our trips to ensure we’re accommodating the current and expected demand. As soon as a change happens as far as more service being implemented, we will provide updates in a timely manner.”

VIA Rail stop in Weston?

For years we’ve heard that VIA Rail would love to stop their four daily trains in Weston but that they’re being thwarted by Metrolinx who say that there wouldn’t be enough time for VIA trains to transfer passengers on and off without disrupting UP Express and GO Train schedules. The stop would be an incredible convenience for Weston Residents, would slow the train down as it roars through Weston and would allow eastbound VIA passengers destined for Pearson Airport a short cut instead of having to schlep all the way downtown.

If you go to the VIA Rail site however, they’re still posting Weston’s station address as 39 John Street so maybe an awareness of the new location would indicate a more sincere wish for a Weston stop. Either way, it’s beginning to look highly unlikely that a the devolved passenger arm of a corporate Father of Confederation™ and the mighty execs of Metrolinx will get together to make life easier for actual passengers.

Source: https://www.viarail.ca/en/explore-our-destinations/stations/weston Click to enlarge

Maybe this is a problem that an election promise could solve.

Candidates, what say you?

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.

GO and UPX services cut

UPX and GO service will be temporarily reduced as a result of the pandemic. Trains will run twice-hourly at peak periods and hourly in off-peak periods.


The last train to Weston will also leave downtown earlier—at 10 pm. The cuts begin today.

GO Train service to Weston will also be cut. There will be no weekday evening service. The last train will leave downtown at 6:34 pm.

GO ridership is less than 10% of what it was before the pandemic.

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.

Metrolinx considered upping fares

Metrolinx considered raising fares on the UP Express because it is too successful as a commuter line, according to the Toronto Star.

If you’re new here, a brief recap: the UP Express was designed to be an executive-class ride from the airport to downtown. There were jazz bands, an in-ride magazine, cheese and wine pairings, and a fashion show. I’m not making this up.

It should have been a scandal up there with e-Health and the gas plant bribes.

Everyone said it would lose money, including the private partner and the Auditor General. It went on to lost not just money, but gob-smacking amounts of money—more than $50 per rider.

But, before the line completely bled out, the Liberals dropped fares, making it a swish ride downtown for the proles like you and me. We get first-class service on a cattle-class budget. Unfortunately, the first-class airport passengers get cattle-class service because we get our sweaty pits right in there.

The good news: the UP Express now loses about $6 per rider, instead of $52. That may be because they cut the in-ride magazine, but it’s more likely to be because there are more riders, so the same subsidy is spread out over more people.

Now, according to The Star, Metrolinx was considering raising fares to $20 chase that business-class traveller again (never mind the fact that she is taking an Uber to her hotel). The plan was not—ugh—”actioned” according to the spokesperson The Star spoke to.

 

But don’t worry. You can’t be fined  if you don’t pay your fares.