The long awaited and speculated pricing structure for the Union Pearson Express has been released to the public and as predicted, the price for a ride from Union Station to Terminal 1 is close to the $30 mark. Those of us travelling from Weston will be able to get there for $16.50 and even cheaper when using a Presto card.
The complete pricing grid look like this:
Travelling in the other direction, an adult fare from Weston to downtown and back (2 stops) with Presto would be $30.40 or $44 without. This is cheaper than a taxi and way more comfortable than TTC but at quite a premium.
Airport employees will be able to access a one-way fare of $10 or buy a monthly pass for $300. Read more fine print here.
This of course is all subject to the big rubber stamp to be administered at tomorrow’s Metrolinx Board of Directors’ meeting.
This afternoon, York South-Weston MP Mike Sullivan released the following statement:
OTTAWA – “First, I am disappointed that the Ontario Minister of Transportation pre-empted tomorrow’s Metrolinx board meeting with this announcement. This turns tomorrow’s meeting into a rubber-stamping exercise which is most unfortunate. It makes it abundantly clear though that the decision is not a Metrolinx decision, but a provincial government one, as has been the case at every step of this project.
With regards to the fare structure, it makes riding the Union Pearson Express beyond the means of many airport travelers. Fares should be comparable to existing GO Transit and TTC fares from downtown to the airport. The UP Express fares are not. The project has cost nearly $1.5-billion public dollars. It should be transportation for the 99 per cent, not just the 1 per cent.
While I hope I’m wrong, I see a service that is being deliberately overpriced to keep ordinary working folk from using this form of public transit. Consultants told us that their costs to run the service with the trains one-fifth full will be $4.93 per passenger. Charging reasonable fares will fill the trains and still cover operating costs. At the end of the day, taxpayers built the UP Express and should be able to use it affordably to take advantage of the $1.5-billion that has already been spent on this project.”
TTCRiders, a transit advocacy group, is reigniting the smouldering anger about the proposed UP Express fares. They have started an online petition and a website to ask the government to:
charge affordable TTC-level fares and accept fare transfers
run frequent service, and include more stops
run clean electric trains asap, not cancerous diesel trains
talk to residents before deciding the fare price
keep the service public
While other groups have pushed for similar goals in the past, TTCRiders is a city-wide organization, not based only in the west end. It is also backed by airport unions (whose members may take the train).
The group says that Metrolinx will be setting the fare for the UP Express (likely to be between $20 and $30) at its December 11 meeting.
Bruce McCuaig, the CEO of Metrolinx, wrote on Wednesday that we should expect unaffordable fares for the UP Express.
The UP Express was modelled after London’s Heathrow Express, Tokyo’s Narita Express and the Arlanda Express in Stockholm — all dedicated air links and offered at prices ranging from $26-$41 (all figures Canadian).
McCuaig is cherry-picking expensive (and far-flung) airport links for comparison. (Also, Narita’s airport link is actually $15 leaving the airport and an hour-long trip, far longer than the UP Express trip.)
By way of comparison:
Vancouver’s line is $9.
New York’s is $8.
Berlin is $5.
You get the idea. High fares (and, to be fair, super-deluxe service) are the exceptions, not the norm.
Yesterday, Toronto City Council voted symbolically in favour of motions by Frances Nunziata and Josh Mattlow for affordable fares.
Rob Ford, Shelley Carroll, Josh Colle, Mike Del Grande, John Parker, Gord Perks, and David Shiner voted against the motion.
While the downtown media is hammering on the as-yet-undisclosed UP Express fares, they continue to miss a larger issue.
A union representative for airport workers toldThe Star that the airport train “isn’t public transit, this is transit for the 1 per cent”. The editorial board wrote “Fares should be priced to encourage people to leave their cars at home and take the train, not discourage them from using something they’ve already paid almost half a billion dollars to build.” An online survey they conducted found that about 75% of respondents thought that fares should be less than $20; half thought $10 was reasonable.
We should be glad that The Star, Spacing, and other media continue to push for more information. It is long overdue. The real news, though, is this: Metrolinx will be running an unaffordable and unprofitable service. Even though we’ve already spend $500 million and fares will be unaffordable, you and I will pay for Metrolinx to shuttle the elite around.
This is madness.
The Liberal government hid Metrolinx’s ‘business case’ from critics before the provincial election. Critics like Rosario Marchese called on them to release the details, but the Liberals filibustered in committee to hide the bad news.
They had good reason to bury the body: the Auditor General of Ontario had already said that there is no business case. “If the goal was for the ARL to break even in its first year… Metrolinx would have to charge about $28” for each trip, according to the AG. But 75% of Torontonians said they wouldn’t take it if it cost more than $22.50. Nor would 60% of visitors.
In other words, it looks like Metrolinx needs to charge more than the market will bear to pay for the service.
The Star has noticed that the UP Express is going to cost riders. They should now notice the cost to taxpayers.
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.