What’s up with the UP Express schedule?

Paul Ferreira raised an important question on Twitter this week: When will the UP Express get back to its regular schedule?

Metrolinx reduced service during the worst days of the pandemic as ridership across the system dropped by as much as 90%. It cut the hours the UPX ran and also the frequency of service.

While the hours have since been increased—though not quite to the pre-pandemic 19.5 hours a day—the trains only travel every 30 minutes. That’s the same frequency as in March, 2020.

On Twitter, a spokesperson told Ferreira that they are “constantly keeping an eye on ridership and our trips to ensure we’re accommodating the current and expected demand. As soon as a change happens as far as more service being implemented, we will provide updates in a timely manner.”

You can use credit cards on the UPX

Ever-so-slowly, the UPX fare boxes are improving. You can now use your credit card to tap on and off.

I’m sure these things are massively complicated, but it seems a bit bonkers that a train designed for airport passengers didn’t have this in the first place. Nobody wants to struggle with tickets in a foreign language while juggling luggage and fighting jetlag. Add it to the list.

While you’re considering UPX fares, be sure avoid a scam. Your correspondent saw $120 “unlimited” Presto cards advertised on a social network. They are allegedly good for three years.

It sounds too good to be true—and it is.

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: 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.

GO expanding to Woodbine racetrack

The Kitchener GO line will soon have a new stop at the Woodbine racetrack. The stop will be paid for by the owners of Woodbine, and it will replace the Etobicoke North station.

Metrolinx has said that the UP Express eventually may stop at Woodbine station, though no plans were announced this week. This would be great for Weston; the more that commuters use the line, the less likely we are to lose our stop–and that’s a concern because the train will stop at the new Mount Dennis transit hub.