Catch the fast train

Bruce McCuaig, the CEO of Metrolinx for the past seven years, has taken a new job at the federal government. Among other things, McCuaig oversaw the disastrous rollout of the UP Express.

The UPX had tanking ridership, spiking fares, and millions upon millions of dollars wasted in pursuit of the elusive executive traveller desiring public transit. To stop the bleeding, it was converted, at the province’s insistence, into an affordable ride for the proles. McCuaig made $361,114 a year for his services.

Kathy Haley, the president of only the UPX was ‘reorganized‘ out of work in 2016.

 

Weston station faces threats

If you build it, they will go away.

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
  • Closing neither

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.

 

One year anniversary of low UPX fares

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.

I 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.

 

New transit hub proposed for Pearson Airport.

The UP Express in Weston Station (file).

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.

UrbanToronto has an article on the proposal here.

Body blow to SmartTrack

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.

Tory did bring much of this pain on himself, promising a magical line that could leap deep valleys, tunnel far underground, and be built by 2021 without raising taxes. He complained to the press about being treated like a boy in short pants by Wynne—but boys do dream about trains.

 

 

Why you won’t get SmartTrack

The Economist explained this week why you won’t be getting SmartTrack. It’s a sobering read.

In short, Toronto’s transit, as you know, sucks. Making it better requires bold action—and money. John Tory’s proposal, road tolls, would pay for part of the construction, but tolls are unpopular among backwards-thinking people and suburbanites¹, and Kathleen Wynne needs to win both groups over in the 2018 election. Tolls would need her assent.

Tory himself faces reëlection in 2018—it’s been more than two-and-a-half years since his back-of-the envelope plan (which forgot about Mount Dennis) was announced.


¹ And backwards-thinking suburbanites.

Weston “on the rise”

BlogTO says that Weston is one of five Toronto neighbourhoods on the rise. We have a lot going for us, they say:

The area has always had a village-like vibe thanks to the retail strip along Weston, but with work set to commence on an Artscape hub and a new pedestrian bridge linking the residential portion of the neighbourhood with transit and retail, watch for more changes here.