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Ontario’s Auditor General Thinks the Union-Pearson Rail Link May Be a Money Loser

The forthcoming Union Pearson Express might need to charge almost $30 per ticket, just to cover its costs.

Rendering of a UP Express train. Image courtesy of Metrolinx.

A planned railway between Union Station and Pearson airport has little hope of breaking even on its expenses unless it charges almost $30 per one-way ride. This according to a section of an annual report from the office of the auditor general of Ontario, which was released earlier today.

(The report also covers a number of other provincial projects and agencies. You can read it in full here.)

The Union Pearson Express—until recently known as the Union-Pearson Air-Rail Link—is a project that’s being spearheaded by Metrolinx. A slick new promotional website for the forthcoming rail line promises all sorts of tantalizing conveniences: trains every 15 minutes! A 25-minute ride!

If this sounds a whole lot better than the typical hour-long TTC ride to Pearson from downtown, well, it certainly should be. Metrolinx is aiming to have the whole thing open in spring 2015, in time for Toronto’s Pan American games.

But it won’t be as cheap as that TTC ride. The UP Express was always conceived of as a premium service. Over the years, transportation officials have hinted that tickets would be in the $20 range. But this latest auditor general’s report raises the possibility that even a relatively hefty fee like that may not be enough to prevent the line from losing money. Metrolinx has yet to finalize the line’s ticket prices.

The report points out that Metrolinx is expecting to hit three million riders after three years of operation. Based on those numbers, the auditor general thinks the agency would have to charge $28 for a one-way ticket, just to break even in the first year.

Suddenly, paying the cost of a token for an hour-long TTC ride to Pearson doesn’t seem like such a bad deal, does it? Unless the UP Express can somehow manage to be 10 times as good as public transit, its whole value proposition becomes questionable.

And it gets even more worrisome. The auditor general also points out that Metrolinx’s ridership numbers could be overly optimistic. That’s because there’s reason to expect that Torontonians might be turned off by the line’s high ticket prices.

In fact, according to the report, a market assessment conducted by Metrolinx in 2011 supports this notion. Seventy-five per cent of GTA residents who participated in the assessment said they wouldn’t be willing to pay more than $22.50 to ride the train. Fewer riders could mean higher ticket prices, assuming Metrolinx were determined to break even.

Granted, the trains are expected to be cushy, with executive perks like Wi-Fi. But we already have privately run shuttle buses that offer that type of service for less than $40, round-trip.

Torontonians have wanted a faster, more reliable link to Pearson for decades, but a break-even rail line with an exorbitant admission price probably isn’t exactly what most had in mind.

The auditor general’s report notes that Metrolinx hasn’t said, outright, that cost-recovery is its goal. The agency could decide to lower the ticket prices and operate the UP Express at a loss. It seems worth pointing out that the entire TTC operates at a loss, and we consider that to be normal—the cost of civilization, so to speak. Maybe some of that kind of thinking could be useful here.

Comments

  • The Nexus

    Great. . . at $60 round trip I may as well just hire an airport limo and leave the bag schlepping to them.

    • vinnie

      Limo round trip is $90 from the core. $45 each way. And then you’re expected to tip. So that’s a lot of schlepping for $40.

      • Anonymous

        What limos are you riding? I live downtown and it’s more like 110 round trip for me.

        • Anonymous

          [deleted]

  • Canadianskeezix

    I don’t actually think $28 is that terrible. Yes, it’s pricey. But I live at Danforth and Carlaw, and work downtown, and cab fare to the airport one way is $50+. Not to mention the cabs and airport shuttles are unreliable from a time-perpective – presumably the train frees me from worrying about rush hour(s), accidents on the 427, road construction, etc. The Airport Express shuttle bus is $26.50 one way (leaving from the Royal York) – an extra $1.50 doesn’t seem that much for a shorter, (presumably) more reliable trip.

    This isn’t London, but the Heathrow Express is 18 pounds one-way (economy), which ironically is $28.61 CAD (according to today’s exchange rate, as per Google).

    I’d like it if it were less than $28, and I think they should work hard to make it less than $28. But the $28 price tag should hardly be surprising. There is a lot of stuff for Torontoist to be aghast about/shocked by — this probably isn’t one of them.

    • wed

      this still doesn’t address the fact that you can get there on the TTC for 3 dollars

      • guest99

        You can get a lot of places on the TTC for $3. That doesn’t mean that the experience is ever enjoyable and the service reliable. I would pay more for a direct service rather than worry about the TTC running late, being overcrowded when I have lot’s of luggage or the difficulty of getting seats for children. I think I’d much rather get there in 25 minutes with a guaranteed comfy, clean chair, wifi and a place to stow my luggage safely.

      • Anonymous

        You could get there by walking. What’s your point?

        • Sam

          well said.

        • Lee Zamparo

          @Sam No, it’s not well said. Access to the airport is hardly pedestrian friendly, as you have to haul your luggage in on foot via Derry, Dixie, Britannia, Airport Rd, or Courtnay Park. How are the sidewalks on these roads near the airport? Good luck with that.

          @tyrannosaurus_rek:disqus the point is to question and assess how much more value the airport rail link will offer. After you factor in travel to Union, Dundas West or Weston Station, is it worth your 28 bucks?

          • Canadianskeezix

            Lee, you completely missed Rek’s point. Wed was comparing apples to oranges, so Rek figured he might as well start comparing apples to watermelons. Nobody was actually suggesting walking to the airport from downtown.

        • Anonymous

          Unfortunately I am not aware of any legal way to walk or ride a bicycle to Pearson airport or any attempt to accommodate walking through airport property beyond accessing certain parking garages. This would be beneficial especially considering the limited transit access and schedules (mostly express), and the fact that taxis have to charge passengers extra for that last kilometre for the right to pick up or drop off on airport property.

          Heathrow airport (London) is served by an expensive express line, a cheaper 5 stop semi-express train and the regularly priced Picadilly tube line.

          • http://twitter.com/CaraSloat Cara Sloat

            You have to enter from Terminal 3 at the north-west end from the intersection of Silver Dart Dr. and Airport Rd / Dixon Rd. I think there’s even a REALLY terrible bike rack there. Dixon Road has nice wide grassy spaces on the sides and inconsistent sidewalks; it moves slower than the highways and you can legally ride your bike there. Your point, however, is taken.

      • vampchick21

        Ummm….maybe I just didn’t do my research before I went to the airport, but exactly how does one get to the airport via the TTC and does it drop one off right at the departures gate? Besides that, Pearson is techinically in Mississauga, and last time I transfered from TTC to Mississauga Transit I had to pay the Mississauga Transit fare, an additional $3.35 on top of my $3 TTC fare…unless I bought a GTA Weekly pass, useless cause I live and work in Toronto.

        • Anonymous

          The 192 express bus goes from Kipling to Terminals 1 and 2, no extra fare.

          • Sarah_Arr

            The 192 wasn’t running the last two times I went to the airport – not sure why. I took the Dufferin bus north to Eglinton and transferred to the 307 Eglinton west bus. It goes directly into Terminal 3. It wasn’t too bad. Having a subway AND a rail link that stops in more places in the west end than Bloor Street and Weston would be better.

          • vampchick21

            My last flight out was an 8 am flight. I had to be at the airport from downtown by 7 am since it was a domestic flight (would have been 6am if it had been an international). Meaning as it was I had to leave my house in the cab at 6:15 am. So if I were to take transit, given the amount of time it takes, I would have had to catch transit before transit started running. Sometimes the TTC isn’t the best bet when getting to the airport.

          • Anonymous

            I’ve stopped flying early in the morning for this reason. The last time I took the Blue Line, the driver let me off and told me the airport bus would be along shortly. Nope! His bus ended up being the last one before the subway lines opened, so that bus to the airport was no longer bypassing the station and I was left high and dry. (The cab ride was still over $30.)

          • vampchick21

            I didn’t have much of a choice though, it was a business trip and I needed to be in Montreal at a certain time. Ah well, they reimbursed me for my cab rides! Won’t have that niceity when I travel for pleasure though. But still, I factor cab cost into my trip, so I can easily factor in UP link cost into my trip instead.

          • Anonymous

            The 58 Malton will also get you to the airport from Lawrence West, but it takes a while. I’ve heard there is a GO bus to the airport from Yorkdale, but never tried it.

          • Anonymous

            I didn’t realize that was their schedule. Montreal runs a 24-hr bus between Dorval and downtown every day of the year, but I guess the TTC can’t manage that.

          • Anonymous

            Transit never stops running, and the overnight Bloor-Danforth bus stops at both airport terminals.

      • John Duncan

        Or more relevantly, that you can get from Union Station to Malton on the GO (in 25 minutes) for $5.90.

        This UPE thing makes no sense. Just build a regular GO spurline to the airport from Malton or Etobicoke Stations, capture riders from more of the GO network instead of just people at Union, and charge an extra $2 for it. That would serve more people and do a lot more good.

        A premium express service can come later.

  • Rob R.

    Still cheaper than cabs & airport limos.. but still doesn’t even compete with the very economical Toronto Airport Express shuttle busses.

    • Ali

      I agree, although I would rather take a train on a dedicated line over fight with traffic….

    • Sarah_Arr

      Only economic for solo travellers. For groups you might as well take a cab at that price.

  • Anonymous

    Ben saying this for years. An electric system would make even as more people would be able to use it. Once again the public is correct, MX was wrong.

    • Raffi

      It would also probably peg the fare at $35-40 instead, just to cover the costs of the R&D of an electrical line.

      • Anonymous

        Not really. The electric EA is already underway, the technology is well understood, the diesel lines have been built with electric conversion in the future, and an electric system would save operational costs in the future. MXZ’s own studies show an electric system would allow more stations, more riders, more revenue. Taxpayers and commuters have to wonder why MX did not go electric from day one. Sad really.

    • Anonymous

      The only way being electric would attract more users if it made the service quicker. (It probably would, because of faster acceleration, but not by much)

  • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

    If your airport limo, cab, or private shuttle runs on roads and fuel that everyone else has helped paid for, then of course your ticket price will be lower.

    For some reason that’s seen as a normal state of affairs, and some are already working up the case to take another half-billion from the public purse to repair the Gardiner without asking its users to directly shoulder any of the cost.

    On the other hand, rail travel is a labelled “money loser” if it takes even a cent in public funds. Why the double standard?

    • Roger B

      100% correct, however, the government originally justified the chosen express route & premium fare model, claiming it was a private sector project that wouldn’t cost taxpayers a penny.

      After slating over a billion in government investment into the Weston corridor, SNC decided to bail because it couldn’t get guarantees from the Province to buy out its ARL assets if it wasn’t able to make the line profitable.

      We’re now stuck with airport trackage and high floor rolling stock that requires separate loading, that is incompatible with GO, and is being run as a separate agency. A future government may yet sell off the ARL but first they would need to find a way to make it marketable.

      Interestingly Metrolinx’s Eglinton Crosstown airport connection has recently been grounded indefinitely. Wonder what effect a cheap and rapid Crosstown connection would have on ARL ridership?

  • wed

    that’s absolutely ridiculous! I can get from Union to Kitchener and back on the go train for 30$!! How is this even possible and why on earth did they build it if it was going to be this expensive?!

    • Thomas

      Because your GO fare is subsidized, and there are two trains a day in each direction. The UP Express fare will not be subsidized, and there are trains in both directions every 15 minutes, all day long.

      • Sarah_Arr

        The UP express IS subsidized. Our tax dollars paid to build it. Plus, the way things are looking now (see the article we are talking about) we may end up subsidizing lower fares as well. For all that money why wasn’t it made to be an LRT line that alternates between express and local stops. We’s have to spend more to get some additional stops, but at least it would justify the use of taxpayer money. Fighting gridlock and helping all of us get between the airport and downtown easier makes more sense.

        • Anonymous

          Investment != subsidy

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

      People are brainwashed to vote for neocon dummies that green-light projects like these, that’s why.

  • Raffi

    Yeah, see, the problem is that this should have existed years ago.

    Now there’s a GO bus called the Pearson Airport Express that goes to Richmond Hill Centre at Yonge and Hwy 7 for just over $5 and it takes the 407 to get there so it literally takes 20 minutes flat. For residents north of the core, going from Union doesn’t make sense anymore.

    • Sarah_Arr

      They didn’t build it for residents. They built it for business travellers and tourists. What a waste. If they’d built it thinking of residents as well – with more local stops and with a commitment to subsidize lower fares – i.e. TTC-like fares – we could really serve residents as well as the others. Plus, we wouldn’t have diesel trains spewing carcinogenic toxins into the air.

      • Anonymous

        Airport grounds are controlled by airport authorities which make a lot of money from pricey parking lots. They also charge taxi fees ($650 a month) and bus fees ($93 per trip) along with hefty fees to onsite rent-a-cars.

        No surprise then that airport rail connections usually come with a rider surcharge. The airports negotiate with transit agencies on the terms of linking to terminals or people movers.

        Vancouver’s Canada line for example has a $5 surcharge on the last 3 airport stations, which is designed to target “air travellers: airport greeters, well-wishers, day-trippers, sightseers” and specifically exempts airport workers and island residents who wouldn’t use the paid parking, rentals etc..

        In NYC (Kennedy) the airport authority agreed to drop its lawsuit against contributing to the Air Train after earning unnamed concessions. When AirRail opened its connection from the last parking garage to Howard Beach subway station (0.25 kilometre) the MTA dropped its free shuttle. For transit riders, a free two minute bus shuttle turned into a $5 two minute AirRail trip, although its free if one pays for parking.

  • Surster

    The Weston Community Coalition figured this out back in 2005 and in 2006, 2007, and onward. SNC Lavalin figured it out in 2010 and backed off from being the operator. Electrify the line, stop in more locations and use it as a DRL and then charge a reasonable rate. You can even charge a premium for an express once or twice per hour. It’s a no-brainer. But Metrolinx refuses to use the technology their own reports tell them to claiming it too expensive for right now and that the diesel technology they are opting for is clean and more affordable. Also that they cannot build it right the first time in time for the Pan Am Games. What’s wrong with that picture? We, the taxpayers, get to foot the bill but have to breath in toxic carcinogens from 140 diesel trains per day. We don’t get to use the new infrastructure to its best advantage unless we live at Union Station, Bloor & Dundas, Weston or the Airport. And those people coming in for the Games? The price is high, it’s cheaper to take a limo if you have more that 1 person in your party! Build it right the first time and people will definitely use it. Build it wrong and it will be the next white elephant that gets sold off at the taxpayer’s expense.

    • Anonymous

      I’d rather have 140 diesel trains per day outside by front door that the several thousand cars/day I have at present.

    • Anonymous

      You are letting your hard-on for electric colour your thinking. Diesel vs electric has nothing to do with the fare, and there are plenty of new diesel airport commuter rail links that are very affordable (Denver, Miami, Dallas, Providence….) If anything, diesel keeps costs down.

      What is needed is both commuter rail AND light rail the airport, each serving its own market. This is what many cities have and it works well. We need to focus on extending Eglinton LRT, not continuing to drive costs up by delaying the project with endless electric whining.

      • Sarah_Arr

        Yes we need both commuter rail and light rail to the airport. Commuter rail should come from more than one direction since we are a big city. A commuter link from the Finch west LRT, plus Eglinton, plus downtown (that also stops at Bloor and points in between) is needed. Funnily enough that dreaded Miller era Transit City plan, or Karen Stintz’s One City plan included these options (I’m not pulling them out of the air). Also current Metrolinx plans and the TTC are calling for a downtown relief line that will in the short term stop at Bloor West near Dundas as well as several points between there and downtown. Planners ideally want a western leg of a DRL to link to Eglinton and the airport and several stops in between, following the ARL route. With a few changes and more cash, we could have an express ARL and downtown relief. But diesel trains don’t allow this – they can’t stop and start on a short radius so they aren’t appropriate to use for both functions. Also, the planned ARL price tag is too high for commuting.

        • Anonymous

          “Commuter rail should come from more than one direction since we are a big city.” I’ve never understood this. Why create a mini Union Station at Pearson when we can just put in an express train to the real Union Station?

          • John Duncan

            Because almost 100% of the Region’s population lives north of Union Station?

            Because people coming from K-W, Guelph, Georgetown, Milton, Bolton, Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan, Markham, Richmond Hill, Aurora, Newmarket and Bradford, or anywhere in Toronto north of Bloor would be poorly served to have to detour down to Union Station to get to the airport?

          • Anonymous

            People from K-W Guelph, Georgetown, and Brampton can take the Kitchener line in and connect at Weston. No detour to Union required.

            (If GO ever gets round to having Milton line trains stop at Bloor, then people from Milton and Mississauga can connect there).

      • Anonymous

        Diesel does not keep costs down. If you read the 2011 Electrification Study by Mx it states that electric systems have lower maintenance costs in the long term and that the price of fuel is a risk factor.

        • Anonymous

          Sure but you have to factor in the carrying cost of all that upfront expense to build the electric infrastructure. It is a fact that very, very few commuter rail lines are electric in North America. Most of them, new and old, are diesel. I just can’t ignore the off-the-shelf nature of a diesel system for getting a new link up and running. It’s common, it works and it makes sense.

          Details: The only electric commuter rail services in the US and Canada are the ones serving New York (about half of their lines), Philly (entire system), Montreal (one line), Chicago (one line), and Baltimore (one line). Most of those were electrified due to long tunnels. The rest of the commuter systems, all 20+ of them, use diesel. People keep ignoring that fact. Diesel is the standard for North American commuter rail. It’s not some weird curse visited on Toronto by evildoers or nasty trick being done to residents. It’s the standard, and because it is the standard it is cost-effective — heck, most commuter systems at some point have used ex-GO equipment because many have been modeled on it.

          Yes, in a perfect world Toronto would be like New York and have 26 subway lines and a dozen more GO lines and everything would be electric and cheap, but we don’t live in that world. We live in a world that elected fucking Rob Ford, a world that has absolutely terrible transit funding for Canadian cities, a world where transit jurisdictions are messed up and fractured. Arguing over this has already cost time. Get it done using the best-practice standards and then dream your technicolor dreams afterwards.

      • Anonymous

        Denver’s system is not yet running and for the record it is an electric system not diesel. In fact they are undergoing a massive electric expansion. Light electric rail appears to be the preferred choice and in 2011 Chicago hosted a conference for existing diesel operators to talk about switching to electric. Even the fright industry is moving toward electric.

        • Anonymous

          I apologize, my information on Denver was out of date. While Denver has a number of LRT and diesel commuter rail lines in the works I did not realize that the East Rail Line was changed to electric in 2007. The line will open in 2015 and serve the Denver airport and downtown and commuters inbetween. I agree it is a relevant model for Toronto, though again, plenty of diesel models also exist.

        • nevilleross

          If what you say is true, then that means that the USA can also invest in HSR everywhere, since most of the lines will be electrified. Of course, they’ll also have to build a ton of power plants to supply the energy for these electric trains, and that power’s going to be nuclear, most likely.

    • Anonymous

      It’s the Ontario taxpayer footing the bill. There are literally millions of Ontarians outside the 416 who could take GO or Via to Union, then UP to the airport.

    • stopitman

      So your solution is delay it, try to force the government to pay more money to electrify it, make the government pay more legal fees with an appeal, and make the government pay for judge’s time in an overextended justice system so that a bunch of yuppies who moved to a rough neighbourhood (it’s been rough for a 100 years for a reason) can have a less trains in one of the most congested rail corridors in Canada.

      You’re right, I’m angry about the waste of taxpayer’s dollars. :)

      (btw, my window looks down on the Union train shed and I moved there knowing full well that there would be hundreds of large diesel trains daily, so I’m in a bit of a position to criticise).

    • Anonymous

      A lot of people figured it out. If you look back on comments made a few years ago by MX on electrification you will note that they have all been proven incorrect. The additional cost to electrify Georgetown was touted at 1.7 billion dollars and now sits (using MX’s own numbers) at 440 million for example.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Harald-Koch/779955318 Harald Koch

    This entire article is filled with stupid. There’s no information on *how* the Auditor General came to their numbers, either on the cost side or the ridership side; numbers without context are actively misleading (bad journalist – bad!)

    The Metrolinx market survey is provably wrong, since people are already paying $27 (one way) for the bus, and $35-$60 for cabs and limos. People will always lie if you *ask* them how much they’ll pay…

    • Anonymous

      “Lie” is a bit strong – people are bad at making abstract decisions about financial matters.

    • Anonymous

      You could click on the link provided and read the actual report.

  • Ryan

    It’s ridiculous when compared with the $50 cab / limo ride. Good luck attracting business travelers.

    • Anonymous

      Business travellers write off the expense, so the price is not a selling point or barrier.

  • SumTorontoGuy

    The last paragraph is the most important. Of course it should be subsidized – it takes cars and buses off the road, improves quality of life and will be a boon to tourism and business travel. We’re trying to be a world-class city folks!

    • Anonymous

      Where do think the electricity comes from? Um, coal and gas plants. Or nukes.

      • Anonymous

        ORRRRRRRR (wait for it)… HYDROPOWER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Reality

          Hydro is 20% of power supply and shrinking. Got any other great ideas?

          • Anonymous

            And nukes will provide more power for electric trains than wind and solar ever could.

  • confused commuter

    I don’t understand why the “train” has to be a train, why not a cheap streetcar? the same goes for GO trains.

    • Sarah_Arr

      I actually don’t understand why the express airport train cannot be a train – LRT – that alternates between express and local trips, which would mean the taxpayers that are paying for it will get more for their money. Also they would be getting something they desperately need – more public transit in between an underserved area, north-west Toronto, and the rest of the city – downtown plus the rest of town once the Eglinton line is up and running.

      • Anonymous

        Railroad legislation is complicated, coloured by a century of industrial accidents. The airport spur connects to or has to run next to mainline rail, which means you can’t use a lightweight LRT or streetcar.

        Eglinton LRT is the best option for light rail, using the Richview lands.

        • Sarah_Arr

          We need more than one commuter-airport link. Eglinton alone isn’t enough but of course should happen – why do we need to look at everything as a zero sum either/or game? Also, it is in fact possible to have commuter rail along the route being used for the ARL. That’s why this route has been a part of several transit plans over the past few decades.

    • stopitman

      Generally intercity suburban services in the past 80 years (once the radial lines were ended) have been full trains. Paris, London, Tokyo, etc. all run heavy trains to and from the city into its outer reaches. If we were to electrify all of the rail lines to Union (including freight) and switch over to the European signalling system, they could theoretically run suburban train service at 5 minute intervals like you see with Paris’ RER. The cost would be in the billions of dollars and North American governments always fudge public transit projects, so it would probably double in cost. :P

      • Anonymous

        An important factor is frequency. The busier the rail line the more likely it is to be electrified because the cost savings of electrifying rise in tandem with frequency. Toronto will have to electrify eventually if it plans to continue increasing service and the busier the service the more expensive and disruptive the change. That’s one of the reasons the best time to electrify is when building a new service (ex. ARL with 15 minutes frequencies) or before ramping up the Georgetown.

        Governments understandably prefer to commission studies (which keep recommending action), and will grab at any lame excuse (Pan Am Games) to kick the increasingly pricey costs down the road to the next government. If the Province actually went ahead with all proposed expansions Toronto would end up with the busiest diesel corridor on the planet.

      • Anonymous

        The signalling system used on GO’s services can support five-minute headways. No new system required.

    • Anonymous

      Commuter trains that share a corridor with freight trains have to meet crash standards otherwise they could be subway trains like in Chicago.

    • nevilleross

      Me too. In fact, it should be the Eglington LRT line that goes into the airport, not a stupid diesel choo-choo that will cost a ton of money and pollute the air. But, that’s what we’re getting (just like we got City Center Airport on the islands), because we have to please the business class that works on Bay Street.

  • h

    aannnnd apropos of nothing, cue the nimby diesel train whiners and their pseudoscience

    • Anonymous

      No kidding. It’s like the twelve other diesel-commuter rail airport links in North America don’t even exist.

      • Anonymous

        From the sounds of it, all 12 will be running through their neighbourhood.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

        Except, that they shouldn’t be existing, and GO could, and should, be building electric rail (the only problem I have with electric rail for GO Transit is how to power the thing; I don’t think that wind will cut it, or solar, so a nuclear power plant will have to be built just to offset all of the power draining on the grid that would result if a electric train is built.)

        Other than that detail, we should be having EMU’s in Toronto.

    • Anonymous

      If you read Mertrolinx’s own Electrification Study you would know that an electric system is better on every single level. You will note too that nobody is building new diesel commuter lines and there must be a reason for that and the ones that do exist are planning to convert. It is easy to call people whiners and nimby when you dont know the facts.

      • Nosparkplug

        Denver, Miami, Dallas, Seattle, Minneapolis – all fantasy places. None of them exist, certainly not with shiny new diesel commuter rail systems.

        Come on, get your facts straight. There are dozens of new diesel systems in big cities across North America, most on the model pioneered by GO and several with airport connections.

        • Anonymous

          Dozens of NEW systems being built in 2012?

  • http://www.leschinskidesign.com/contact/addme picard102

    I just wish they had just built Ellington LRT to the airport.

    • Sarah_Arr

      They will eventually. But we’ll all be dead by the time that happens.

    • spoobnooble

      “I just wish they had just built Eglinton LRT to the airport.”

      This times 100. That was the original plan for the Eglinton West subway before Mike Harris 86′ed the project back in 1995. Funny how we keep having the same discussion every 10-15 years…

      • Sarah_Arr

        And don’t forget that TIM HUDAK was a part of the Harris government that nixed the Eglinton SUBWAY to the airport back in 95. So when he goes on an on about subways, subways, subways and how much he cares about regional transportation gridlock (which his decisions helped create) I feel my head exploding.

  • Sarah_Arr

    Looks like Ontario taxpayers will end up footing the bill and subsidizing express rides to the city for wealthy residents, business people and tourists. For that price, why didn’t electrify the link so we could alternate express trains with diesel (they can’t stop and start as easily), and then spend a bit more to build more stops/stations for a much needed downtown relief transit line that would also get people to the airport cheaply. This would be more practical – killing two birds with one stone with taxpayer dollars – instead of spending our dollars on things most of us won’t use.

    • Sarah_Arr

      Also with electric trains we won’t have cancer-causing diesel fumes pouring into our air. Win-win-win!

      • stopitman

        You’re right, you’ll have the Portlands natural gas generating station and the Halton Hills natural gas generating station “spewing” exhaust instead of the diesel trains. Add on the fact that Nanticoke (3.5% of Canada’s total emissions) and other coal plants are still running,the heavier loads on the nuclear plants, the increased heat pollution in Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron and you’ll see that it doesn’t really stop much “spewing”.

        I’m not against electrification of our rail lines, but the electrification for the purpose of no/less pollution is faulty, as is the assumption that massively expensive projects should be made even more expensive with zero proven ridership.

      • stopitman

        You’re right, you’ll have the Portlands natural gas generating station and the Halton Hills natural gas generating station “spewing” exhaust instead of the diesel trains. Add on the fact that Nanticoke (3.5% of Canada’s total emissions) and other coal plants are still running,the heavier loads on the nuclear plants, the increased heat pollution in Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron and you’ll see that it doesn’t really stop much “spewing”.

        I’m not against electrification of our rail lines, but the electrification for the purpose of no/less pollution is faulty, as is the assumption that massively expensive projects should be made even more expensive with zero proven ridership.

        • Anonymous

          You are incorrect. Using electricity as a fuel allows the transit to become greener as the grid becomes greener. Diesel will never become greener. As an electric system would save money–as stated in MX’s own studies–an electric system would allow monies to be put towards the greening of the grid.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

            In order to make this a truly ‘green’ enterprise, we’ll have to shut down the coal and gas-firing plants and build nuclear ones-but too many people (yourself included) see nuclear power as the spawn of Satan.

          • Anonymous

            I dont have any issues with nuclear power but I think conservation and other sources are the way of the future.

          • Anonymous

            I’m sorry, but no-if you want to have a highly power draining enterprise like EMU rail lines set up, you need a high-energy power source to keep said EMU rail line going. For practical purposes in this part of the world, wind and solar aren’t it. Time for people to start facing reality and deal with this-the people of France have, and they’re not suffering any.

    • vampchick21

      What makes you think only wealthy people (who are, well, wealthy, and therefore have drivers who will drive them), business people (who by and large use airport limo service) and tourists are the only people who would use the UP link? Why wouldn’t someone like me factor in the cost of the ticket the wya I currently factor in the cost of my taxi?

      • Sarah_Arr

        If you look at the plans and feasibility studies for the ARL you know they aren’t aiming it at a primarily local audience, though locals living relatively close to the 2 or 3 planned stops are factored in and will use it, especially solo travelers for whom the price and $25-30 cost is reasonable. Business travelers use the airport far more than any other group and are the most important. Again, look at the actual studies around the ARL. I have. I didn’t pull this out of my ass. Tourists who want to get downtown quickly are another big group demographically.

        I don’t think *only* wealthy people, business people and tourists will use an ARL as currently planned. I do think it is for them *primarily* however. Again, this is based on the existing studies.

        It is probably going to be economically viable for solo travellers living relatively close to one of the downtownish ARL stops (Bloor or Union) to take the train at the costs cited. But if you have 2 or 3 passengers, it doesn’t look like such a good deal. I can get a taxi from College & Dovercourt for about $35-40 plus tip outside of rush hour. ARL doesn’t look so good to me if I am traveling with another person or two. Solo leisure travellers from Toronto who live relatively close to an ARL stop aren’t a big demographic group.

        • Anonymous

          “$35-40 plus tip outside of rush hour.” That strikes me as low — it used to cost me $40 from Runnymede and Dundas, when I lived there years ago. I checked a couple of online fare estimators, which came in at around $53 for your trip. Factoring in tip and rush hour traffic, a fare of 2x$28 might even save you a buck or two.

          • Sarah_Arr

            It seems you are accusing me of lying. That is what I paid in June the last time I took a cab to the airport. I hailed it on College St about a block east of Dufferin. It was early summer and the middle of the afternoon and traffic was smooth all the way – we took the Gardiner to the 427. It could and would cost more at busier times. It always costs more coming from the airport because they have a flat fare.

          • Sarah_Arr

            And fare estimators are reliably conservative. They want to put you near the higher end of the scale so you don’t complain if that what it comes in at. I wouldn’t be surprise to have the fare be $50 at a time when the traffic gods are not onside.

          • Anonymous

            I just tried it with my house as a starting point, and it got the usual no-traffic fare within 50 cents.

          • Anonymous

            Lying? Taxi Me estimates it at $53.43 (before tip) from Dufferin/College to YYZ Terminal 1. Check it yourself and then dial back your sensitivity.

          • Anonymous

            I don’t think you’re lying (and I didn’t say you were), but I do think you got lucky. As a guy who takes business trips about once a month I find under $40 hard to believe.

  • http://gniw.ca Ambrose Li

    It’s misleading to say “unless the UP Express can somehow manage to be 10 times as good as public transit.” Expensive as it will be, the UP will still be public transit. It will just be an expensive form of it.

    But I am indeed turned off, not so much by the high ticket price per se but their mentality that trains are a “premium” service. When it’s about the airport the only things we really care about is speed and reliability. Why bother with “premium” features when the speed will just blow the competition away? Why bother with wifi (as nice as it is) when the trip is going to be just 25 minutes? I don’t get it.

  • Anonymous

    Every other passenger rail service in Ontario requires subsidy – why should this one be any different?

  • Anonymous

    BlogTO did a study on this a year ago, UP Express will clearly be the most expensive air-rail link in North America, hands down.

    And yes, Eglinton LRT needs to be extended to Pearson, but no one is talking about this. Instead they will bury it in a grave at Weston Rd, never to be cheaply extended on the surface using the Richview expressway lands. Idiots.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dwigget Dwight J. Seufert

      …and this could NEVER be motivated at all by keeping the Eglinton LRT from reaching the airport to try to prop up the UPex, riiiiiiiight?????

  • Joe McBlow

    I see. We’re demanding that everything is running at an operating surplus. When are we closing down the TTC, introducing zone fares or jacking up everyone’s fare to 5 or 6 dollars – or whatever it takes – a trip?

    Oh, I see, like virtually everything public, we don’t want to pay for it directly but expect it to operate in the black so we, ironically, don’t have to pay for it indirectly.

  • hamish w

    Thank goodness for the Auditor! Metrolinx, and its “business case” has always been on the opaque side – so it’s good that we’re finally more officially being told this line is a $tinker. But it’s not just a less-good use of money, it’s a big waste of a very rare transit corridor as there is the great need for a sub-regional rapid transit corridor in this area, and yes, use it as part of a DRL, though I still maintain it should be along the Front St. corridor east of Bathurst.

    Not that anyone is home at the province anyways, but how can we deflect this waste towards effective transit in this greenhouse century, as – if we care about climate – we can’t fly around as much, and Pearson is another smog-brown elephant.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

      “Pearson is another smog-brown elephant”.

      .

      Plane tech has advanced somewhat with the invention of a jet engine powered by algae but none of the big aerospace companies has bothered to build a plane that would run this engine yet.

  • Anonymous

    “Ministry of Transportation documentation indicated that a private-sector group that previously was the successful proponent for designing, building and operating the ARL was unable to secure financing for the venture because prospective lenders felt that despite all reasonable efforts to attract riders, the service might not generate enough revenues to be a viable business. A market assess-
    ment conducted by Metrolinx also suggests that ARL ridership may not meet the initial assumptions about ridership growth.” When SNC Lavalin walked away from running the link as a monopoly a few years ago one would think that the “transit experts” who often post here would have wondered why.

  • Anonymous

    Why are we even talking about a transit line making money? Government is not suppose to worry about profit and by extension Metrolinx should not either, especially Metrolinx. Transit infrastructure costs lots of money to develop and we worried about quick turn around for infrastructure investments then we would never get any of it built to serve the people.

    Where is our infrastructure money going?

    Where is the government support for the transit in the largest city in Canada?

    Why is this Union-Pearson Rail Link even run on Diesel when the price of oil is increasing? Would an electric train not lower the maintenance costs?

    • Anonymous

      “Why are we even talking about a transit line making money?”

      American neoconservative influence in government over the last 20+ years.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

        Plus the same influence in the electorate as well; that’s why we keep getting people like Dalton McGuinty (Neocon Lite) Mike Harris, and Tim Hudak (Full Neocon at Queen’s Park every four years. A lot of people are just completely brainwashed by the National Post, the Toronto Sun, local neocon talk radio, Sun News Channel, and Faux Noise (Fox News); as long as that continues, things like this will keep happening, and being built.

        • Anonymous

          Pretty much. It’s been a slow but steady erosion of what’s-good-for-all-is-good-for-me to what’s-good-for-me-is-all-that-matters. For whatever reason, the Left just isn’t good at this game in North America. Even the Star, arguably the most left-leaning major paper in the country, calls the tar sands “oil sands” now.

      • Anonymous

        “We have to run it like a business” — ughhhhhhhhh

  • Juan

    So it’s cheaper to take a cab if you’re traveling with even one other person… and you get to your house, not union station.

  • DRLMan

    The only reasonable solution is to scrap this whole idea and build the Downtown Relief Line in its place. Make it a subway that goes right through Weston right out to the airport. In one fell swoop, you provide rapid transit to hundreds of thousands of people, relieve congestion on the existing system, and create a rapid fixed link to the airport.

    The benefits to people north of Bloor in Toronto’s west end would be fantastic. Imagine shortening the commutes of hundreds of thousands of people. Imagine eliminating hundreds of buses from our congested streets! Imagine a fixed link to the airport that could actually fund itself because it served the communities it passed through rather than passing them by?

    When I suggested this at a Metrolinx meeting, I was met with incredulity. “A subway to the airport? Nobody wants that!” Right… not like in New York City, London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Beijing etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

    While opponents of the fixed link (and there are many) are concerned about fumes and noise in their neighbourhoods, and therefore oppose a luxury-liner type of commuter train that will not serve them, they would welcome genuine rapid transit that served their community.

    C’mon, Metrolinx, do this right. Make it a subway, make it part of the TTC! This has only been on the table since 1985, after all!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Neville-Ross/100002343524258 Neville Ross

      I love the idea, but the problem is, would people like to be bringing the luggage onto a subway train? Also, would this work for travelers who need to get to the airport early in the morningreally fast and can’t stand being delayed by whatever problems might happen early in the morning on the TTC (this would also be an issue with the Eglington LRT if it were expanded to the airport.)

  • Anonymous

    From the many interesting findings by the auditor:

    Although the projected capture rate of 10.3% is comparable to that of other North American airport rail services, these services differ signifi- cantly from the premium downtown-to-airport rail service that Metrolinx anticipates offering.
    Their one-way ticket prices range from only $1.60 to $13.00, compared to a ticket price for the ARL that may well cost $20 to $30. We believe that the ARL’s high fare will negatively affect the projected ridership capture rate.
    • The results of a market assessment of GTHA residents conducted in November 2011 by Metrolinx revealed the following:
    • More than 90% of GTHA residents leave from and return to their home when travel- ling, so the added cost and inconvenience of getting to and from one of the three ARL stations with their luggage would prob- ably discourage some residents from using the ARL.
    • The ARL’s likely price point may also be a concern. Although nearly 70% of potential riders currently using Union Station as an airport access or egress point indicated that they would probably use the ARL, nearly 75% of those respondents who were GTHA residents also indicated that they would not be willing to take the ARL at a cost of $22.50 or more. As well, 60% of visitors and 90% of airport employees would not use the ARL at a cost of $22.50 or more. As would be expected, the percentages who would not use the ARL increased as the proposed price increased.

  • Anonymous

    Transit lines lose money. However, people on here seem to be adopting the opposite viewpoint from penny-pinchers that since pretty much all transit loses money, and this looks like it’s going to lose money, then there’s nothing wrong with this line. There’s losing money, and then there’s losing a huge amount of money on a line that was ill-conceived at best. This government’s grasp of keeping tabs on the money (or on anything, really) ran out the barn door after E-Health and ORNGE. I don’t really put much stock in a government like that.

    Those pooh-poohing organizations like the CTC and people who support them should be careful not to run into accusations of snobbishness themselves. I’ve met many people around Weston during my volunteer time on campaigns for the NDP. Many of them think the ARL/UPE/Blue22/Whatever-we’re-calling-it-this-month is a bad idea, and I wouldn’t call very many of them yuppies.

    • Anonymous

      Public transit deserves subsidies, but this service performs very poorly when looked at as public transit.
      It will cost about 10x as much and is not integrated with other transit fares. Its 3 stations largely ignore serving the dense, underserved transit friendly communities along the rails. The low capacity high floor diesel vehicles led to new trackage & station areas that are incompatible with existing GO & TTC vehicles.
      The service required constructing two new tracks used exclusively by the ARL which are expected to serve less riders than neighbouring GO tracks. The diesel noise requires high walls built along the line. Frequent diesel lines cost more to operate than electric and so when a government eventually gets around to electrifying, the up & running line, we will end up paying much more.
      If the ARL tab had truly been paid off 100% by the private sector, as was originally promised, one would at least have an excuse for the lack of public benefits.

  • Elisa Jed

    Bummer. You would think that they would have planned ahead with this. After using all the space and getting rid of some of the real estate in Kitchener, Ontario, they then tell us it wasn’t worth it? lame.

  • Yup

    Roads definitely operate at a loss. I think I’d pay 6 bucks… or just go to the Island Airport where they treat me like a human and not a wallet.