Metrolinx: Merge UPX into GO.

The UP Express in Weston Station (file).

A Toronto Star article published today sheds light on a leaked internal Metrolinx document from February of this year that proposes huge changes to the UP Express. The document proposes that when the Kitchener line is electrified in 2025, the airport train would become part of the GO system and use the same new rolling stock. The current UPX stop at Union Station will also be relocated because of increased numbers – at the cost of at least $77.4 million and some inconvenience to passengers – according to the planning document.

The plan leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Where will airport travellers store their luggage on commuter trains built to maximize numbers of people? What will happen to the separate UPX and GO platforms at Weston Station? What will become of the existing UPX trains which were designed to be converted to electrical power? Will the UPX airport platform need revamping to accommodate the new and larger trains? When will the changes take place?

It’s clear that the change won’t happen for at least five years. On the bright side; there’ll likely be two changes of the provincial government between now and then so anything can happen. My bet is that Doug Ford’s austerity regime will modify it severely or put it (and electrification) firmly on the back burner for a future government to tackle.

Read more here.

Update: According to CP24, Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Akins has stated that the $77.4 million needed to enable relocation of the Union Station platform is no longer ‘necessary’. The money would have been spent on a pedestrian bridge initially proposed thanks to the platform’s southerly relocation.

The austerity prediction didn’t take long to be borne out. Read more here.

Update #2: The UPX platform specifically designed for UP Express trains will become redundant once the move is made to electrified GO trains. According to the Globe and Mail,

“…the Union Pearson Express will load in a different part of the station – leaving the soaring Zeidler-designed wood space where the train now stops to find a new use – and its unique rolling stock will be replaced gradually by regular GO trains.”

It’s hard to imagine what that new use would be – unless it’s re-purposed as a museum dedicated to the follies of GTA transit decisions. There could be sections devoted to David Collennette, Mike Harris, Mel Lastman, Rob Ford, Frances Nunziata and Glenn De Baeremaeker to name but a few.

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.

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.

Fuel Cell Technology Turn Around?

Readers may remember a couple of  WestonWeb articles here and here  skewering the fuel-cell technology proposal championed by former Minister of Transportation, Steven Del Duca. Mr. Del Duca for some reason had fallen in love with fuel cell technology and wanted to see if it could be used instead of catenary (overhead) power lines when diesel trains such a GO and UP Express are replaced. A trial budget to check feasibility was originally set at $200,000, now it’s expanded to $3 million.

Now that the Liberal government has been given its marching orders, (precisely for stupidity like this) it will be interesting to see the reaction of Doug Ford to  spending millions on this complete waste of money. Already, one Metrolinx Board member and CEO Phil Verster are publicly distancing themselves from the boondoggle. Look for more people at Metrolinx to claim they always thought it was a very bad idea.

Here’s a flow chart comparison of the two technologies. (Click to enlarge)

It would be far better for Metrolinx to investigate battery technology for powering trains as Bombardier is doing in the U.K.. The cost savings could be considerable in the long run. It would also eliminate the need to build an extensive catenary wiring network which is expensive to build and maintain.

Weston Farmers Market nearly didn’t happen this year.

The Weston Farmers Market was promised that its brand new location in the Weston Community Hub would be ready for the 2018 season. Unfortunately, owing to construction delays, the site is not ready.

As a result, Weston Village BIA Chair, Masum Hossain requested the use of the UP Express parking lot for one more year. Metrolinx gave a firm no, stating that lower fares, have boosted passenger numbers and greatly increased the demand for parking. Compounding the problem, the Weston Park Baptist Church which leases its parking lot to Metrolinx on weekdays, closes its own lot to the general public on weekends.

Until three weeks ago, there was a standoff. Masum then asked local MPP Laura Albanese to see what she could do. Ms Albanese was somehow able to appeal to the better nature of Metrolinx and as a result, the market will occupy the UP Express lot for one more year. Without this intervention, Masum assures me that the Weston Farmers Market could not have operated in 2018.

The BIA has hired a new market manager. She is experienced and dynamic corporate event manager, Jennifer Forde who also happens to perform the same duties for Nathan Phillips Square Farmers Market. Jennifer is hoping to expand the customer and vendor base of our market so keep coming back to check out the new stalls in the weeks to come.

Brand new market manager Jennifer Forde with BIA chair Masum Hossain at the first Weston Farmers Market of 2018.

One familiar face was missing this week, that of Joe Gaeta of Gaeta Farms. Joe comes up from Beamsville every week but mechanical issues caused him to miss opening day.

Market stalwart, Joe Gaeta stands beside his favourite bougainvillea. (file)

Correction: In the article, I spelled Masum Hossain’s name incorrectly. This has been corrected and apologies to Mr. Hossain for the error.

UP Express to start earlier from April

The UP Express at Weston Station. (file)

The UP Express is Weston’s rapid portal to the Airport (11 minutes) or downtown (14 minutes). Metrolinx has announced that beginning in April the service will begin earlier by adding two trains to the beginning of the current schedule. The first train to the airport will leave 35 minutes earlier at 5:09 instead of 5:44.

Likewise, trains to Union Station should begin earlier with the first leaving Weston for downtown at around 5:03.

The service has become wildly popular with an average of 300,000 trips per month thanks to a dramatic fare reduction in March 2016 and a subsequent $1.50 fare subsidy announced last October for transfers to or from transit agencies such as GO or TTC.

Incidentally, in a 2013 report produced for Metrolinx, passenger numbers were never anticipated to reach their current levels. The report predicted it would take until 2031 before numbers would rise to 245,000 monthly trips.