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.
The UP Express begins its service on June 6. Metrolinx has decided to celebrate the opening the following week by offering a barbecue and free rides at the Weston and Bloor Stations between 11:00 a.m and 3:00 p.m.
Metrolinx says that this is their way of saying ‘thank-you’ to the communities that have had to put up with the ‘dust, noise and inconveniences’ during construction over the past few years.
The Toronto Star says that a new agreement between the Greater Toronto Airports Authority and Metrolinx will allow for an (as yet undisclosed) discount for airport workers using the new train to get to and from work. The GTAA was previously attempting to charge Metrolinx $1.85 for every passenger delivered to the airport in lieu of lost parking revenue. Now it’s beginning to look like a bargaining ploy because the $1.85 is off the table in exchange it seems for the worker discounts.
Incidentally, it’s nice to see MPP Laura Albanese fighting for lower fares for the rest of us. Her timely letter adds to the pressure on Metrolinx to re-think the whole endeavour. It’s hard to imagine the traveller on a business account wandering through Union Station, schlepping their own luggage in and out of a train while they could get door-to-door service with a limo or taxi. Free Wi-Fi means nothing to people with unlimited data accounts.
As pointed out previously in WestonWeb, the capacity of the train is quite limited and while Metrolinx is under increasing pressure to make the fares affordable, they know that if fares are too low, with limited rolling stock, the train will be unable to meet demand.
Those of us hoping for an affordable fare on the UP Express are in for a big disappointment and the reason is to be found in simple arithmetic.
Anyone checking the arrivals and departures at Pearson Airport (or living in Weston) knows that a lot of flights come and go daily. Last year Pearson handled 36,000,000 passengers. Let’s generously assume that half of them are in transit. That leaves about 9 million arrivals and 9 million departures. That’s an average of 25,000 daily. In addition, 41,000 employees need to come and go for a total of about 66,000 people daily in each direction.
What is the capacity of the UP Express to move people? Well, it’s nothing like that of a GO Train. UP Express trains will either have two or three cars, each car holding 60 passengers. If all trains could be the maximum 3-car format (they can’t) the hourly one-way passenger potential is 4 x 180 or 720. Again assuming an 18-hour operating schedule and an even flow of people, the maximum number that the train could move (assuming nobody used the Bloor or Weston stations along the way) is just under 13,000. Given the availability of trains with a third car and the other limitations mentioned, that number will be considerably lower.
The danger of pricing fares at an affordable level is that the trains would be wildly popular leading to overcrowding.
Metrolinx will therefore err on the side of high fares and carefully watch passenger numbers with a view to adjusting them later if necessary.
One more thing: many people have already figured out that the extortionate money grab by GTAA of $2.00 from each passenger in lieu of lost parking revenue is bogus. The vast majority of people arriving at the airport do so in taxis, buses and limousines. They would not be contributing to parking revenues anyway.
The trains will complete the journey from Terminal 1 at Pearson to Union Station in 25 minutes for an as yet undisclosed (but anxiously anticipated) cost. The trains will operate every 15 minutes for most of the day.
Also of interest to Westonians (since Weston is one of only two stops along the way) will be the cost of tickets from here to either end of the line. Many people have speculated that if demand for the service is underwhelming, the line could be converted to an above-ground subway serving additional stations along the length of the line.
On the agenda at next week’s Toronto City Council meeting is an interesting motion from Councillor Nunziata, seconded by Councillor Mike Layton. It concerns the Airport Rail Link; Ms Nunziata is hoping that Council will request the Premier to add:
…a minimum of eight additional stops to the two planned at Weston and Bloor, with one of the added stops to be at Eglinton Avenue West to integrate with the Eglinton LRT. That other stops considered include Liberty Village, the Junction, Carleton Village, Jane Street, Etobicoke North, Woodbine and Humber.
The eighth stop will perhaps be named later (what about Mount Dennis?). The motion goes on to recommend electrification. This seems to reflect a growing consensus that we have the potential of a commuter line serving communities along the way as proposed by (amongst others) MP Mike Sullivan and MPP Jonah Schein.
The original name of the ARL was Blue 22, meaning that the Pearson to Union trip would take only 22 minutes. Originally the link was to be run and built at no cost to taxpayers by a consortium of private interests. As we all know, the deal fell through and the Province was left to pick up the pieces. The addition of the extra stop in Weston was calculated to have added 3 minutes to the predicted journey. If we extrapolate and say that each additional stop adds 3 minutes, then eight more stops will stretch the entire journey out to 25 + 24 or 49 minutes which might be a tedious journey for an airport rail link.
There is one thing that could shorten these times and that is electrification. Electric trains can accelerate much faster, reaching higher speeds between stops and therefore times would be shorter possibly up to 15%. If the Premier acts on the entire motion, the Airport Rail Link will be another creature altogether. The creature would be an above-ground subway line.
Now that we’re all excited about an electrified line that will connect several communities, what are the chances that the Premier will act on the motion?
Answer: zero. The projected costs of electrification and building additional stations would give Dalton McGuinty and Dwight Duncan heart palpitations and potentially add billions to the Ontario deficit. In a period of austerity, this is a non-starter.
Next question; why would Councillor Nunziata align herself with a left wing councillor and propose a motion that may pass Council but hasn’t a snowball’s chance with the Province?
Answer: It’s a futile but symbolic gesture; our councillor may have decided that it’s time to start the move away from Team Ford, and get better positioned for election day, October 27, 2014.