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.
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.
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.”
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.
David Collenette, the ‘brains’ behind the under-used, over-priced, executive-class UP Express service, has announced another of his plans: a $19 billion, twice-hourly, high-speed train between Toronto and Windsor. The provincial government mademuch of it today.
Collenette has two proposals, the cheaper (and slower) of which would put a 250 km/h train on the corridor that runs through Weston. It would run from Union to Pearson, then on to Kitchener, Guelph, London and Windsor. Collenette says the train would be profitable and could be built speedily.
He’s said that before. He was so utterly wrong that he should never be allowed near a cocktail napkin again.
The UPX was supposed to be $200 million. It cost three times that.
It was supposed to be running by 2008. It took until 2015.
It was supposed to be profitable. It has never been profitable.
Moreover, there is already train service to every destination the government has in mind. GO Trains run to Kitchener and Guelph. VIA trains go to London and Windsor. The competition is brutal, too: flights to Windsor are about $150 and take an hour, and the Ontario government has also already announced all-day service to Kitchener and other improvements to regional rail service.
In the unlikely event that this high-speed line ever gets built, it will require undoing much of the work already done on the corridor: “a number of infrastructure upgrades”, in Collenette’s words.
Metrolinx confirmed that they will be building a UPX stop at the Mount Dennis LRT station. This can’t be good for Weston; our stop is only 2.5 km away. It will make little sense—if the UPX is still primarily an airport train—to keep it open.
There may be a solution at hand: a provincial committee has asked Metrolinx to look into handing the UPX over to the TTC. MP Cheri Di Novo has requested the same, and has asked for more stops.
According to the Sun, Josh Colle, the TTC Chairman, said he was amenable; Steven DelDuca, the Transportation Minister, said he was not.
Manuel Pedrosa, Manager of Community Relations at Metrolinx, did not return my email asking about the future of the Weston stop.
David Collenette, the ‘brains’ behind the UPX, is hard at work again, this time as a $500-a-day consultant for a high-speed rail project outlined in yesterday’s provincial budget.
He’ll be working on a ‘SuperCorridor’, “bringing high-speed rail to [southern Ontario] as part of the Province’s Moving Ontario Forward plan.”
I can’t wait.
Not content with one half-billion screw up, Collenette is, the province says, “working with Metrolinx and freight partners to explore potential improvements to GO rail services along the Toronto–Kitchener corridor.”
You could be forgiven for thinking we’d been through that already.
You’ll soon have all-day, 15-minute service downtown for $6, if the Globe and Mail is to be believed. Metrolinx is slashing fares on the UPX .
Sources say that people would be able to ride the train from Union station to Bloor west or Weston for the equivalent of GO rail fares, which would mean the price dropping to under $6 from around $11 to $15.
My heart is racing. Really. My mind is spinning.
If this is true—a big if—nothing could be better for this corner of the city. We will soon have affordable, express transit downtown and midtown, and a connection with the subway. This could be the beginning of something great in Weston. We could be a commuter centre, with affordable housing and easy connections to the highway and downtown.