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.

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.

Options For Homes update.


Options For Homes is a non-profit condo developer with a building called ‘The Humber‘ under construction at 10 Wilby Crescent in Weston. To say that they are bullish on Weston is a bit of an understatement but they have a history of choosing and building in ‘up and coming’ neighbourhoods, calling themselves urban pioneers. Here is their take on the Weston neighbourhood.

Read this April 2019 article about why OFH thinks we are in that category. They also have a YouTube channel dedicated to Weston.

The building is expected to open in late 2021. According to OFH, over 120 people have purchased an apartment in the Wilby condo and the building is 50% sold. Options says it’s a good time to buy.

Read more here.

 

GO expansion could lead to huge changes

In November, Metrolinx published its plans for improving rail service in the GTA. If they were to go ahead, they would revolutionize train travel in the GTA and greatly change commutes in Weston.

By 2031, if the plans are implemented (that’s a big ‘if’) GO service in Weston will be:

  • Electrified
  • Every 10 minutes
  • Faster, with a 13-minute trip between Weston and Union
  • Less expensive, because it will use electric trains much of the time
  • More accessible, with station improvements.

The plan would also improve Union Station, allowing the UP Express to run four-car trains, and GO to double train capacity.

The GO Expansion Business Case does not say what will happen to the UP Express in Weston. It seems likely, however, that it would be axed. The UPX will also be stopping in Mount Dennis and Bloor, slowing the train en route to the airport.

But improved GO service, would, in some ways, make the GO train even better than the UP Express. It would be as fast, but more frequent in the rush hour. The trains would be larger, and riders may have a better chance of getting a seat. The locomotives would also be electric, instead of diesel, allaying concerns about pollution and noise.

On the downside, it is not clear how long the trains would run every day. I love that the UPX runs late and early. Nor are GO trains as fancy as the UPX, and we’d have to bring your own in-ride magazines. (Has anybody seen an On The UP lately?)

Service would be improved between Union and Bramalea on the Kitchener Line

Metrolinx forecasts that GO ridership in Weston would nearly double, as it would system-wide. Perhaps optimistically, they also say that the increased ridership would pay for the system expansion. Your correspondent has his doubts.

These are the same people who built the UP Express, which was supposed to be a  premium-fare, deluxo trip to the airport for the world-weary traveller willing to pay $29 one-way. It got rolling at exactly the same time as Uber, and ridership was dismal until the province forced Metrolinx to slash fares and let the proles ride. The UPX still loses about $20 million (by my conservative calculation) every year—about $6 for every rider.

 

Just another reason for optimism

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.


¹ I have my doubts about that last bit.

² They’re going to need another name.

Letter of the week: Bus stop at the UP Express Station

From stevemunro.ca

Anne T commented on the news that Uber and Metrolinx have come to an arrangement. She quite sensibly wonders why Metrolinx and the TTC haven’t entered into a similar arrangement.

What would make even MORE SENSE is to have a TTC bus stop right at the front doors of the UP Weston station where presently many passengers are either picked up or dropped off.  I’m a frequent UP user who takes the Weston 89 bus to the station and have to walk through the parking lot.  DEFINITELY a TTC  bus stop makes more sense!

Why should UBER have their own taxi stand?  Why the special privilege for just UBER and not other taxi companies? Is Metrolinx making money on this UBER/Metrolinx deal?   And why should we sell the parking lot to private developers?  It’s bad enough that we sold the 407 to Spain.  When will we finally put an end to this insanity?

If Metrolinx is trying to encourage people to leave their cars at home, a convenient stop at the station entrance would be welcomed bu UP and GO riders. A very frosty person at Metrolinx’s phone reception said that it would be up to the TTC to get the ball rolling on this. I’ve left a message with the TTC at their suggestions page.

Readers who like this idea may wish to contact the TTC and Metrolinx to lend your support.

TTC suggestion page here

TTC phone line – 7:00 am – 10:00 pm: 416.393.3030

Metrolinx suggestion page here.

Metrolinx phone line: 416.874.5900

Uber teams with UP Express

Uber and UP Express have worked a mutual deal so that Uber will have a designated pick-up spot at Weston Station. Logically, it makes sense for Metrolinx to provide alternatives to parking at the much used station. The plan all along has been for Metrolinx to eventually sell much of the current parking space to developers.

Read more here.