Toronto Transit Urban Planning

Ridership has tripled on UP Express, but we can do even better


When UP Express — Toronto’s rail link to Toronto Pearson International Airport – -launched on June 6, 2015, the one-way fare between Union Station and Pearson Airport was set at $27.50, or $19.00 with a Presto card. At the time, Metrolinx, the provincial agency charged with planning and integrating transportation services in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and the parent agency of GO Transit, expected that ridership would hit 5,000 passengers a day in a year. But after its launch, ridership sunk instead. 

By January 2016, only an average of 1,967 passengers a day rode UP Express, so Metrolinx cleaned house and lowered the fares. The one-way cash fare was reduced from $27.50 to $12, and from $19 to $9 with a Presto card, and fares between Union and Bloor and Weston stations were reduced to match the GO Transit fares for the same trips. Since the new fare structure was introduced, UP Express ridership has more than tripled. By June 2016, the daily average ridership increased to 7,657.

Despite the ridership growth, and the utility of the rail service for local residents near Bloor and Weston Stations, there’s still more that can be done to make the most of the $456 million spent to build the line.

The airport region is a major employment centre, yet is difficult to serve by public transit. Fare integration between UP Express, GO Transit, MiWay and Brampton Transit could be an important a first step in creating a full regional rail network, a concept that Mayor John Tory pitched as “SmartTrack.”

Airport LinksTransit connections at Pearson Airport. UP Express, if it offered fare integration with the TTC, MiWay and Brampton Transit, would be an invaluable part of the Toronto area’s transit network

UP Express’s ridership increase is a good news story. But there’s so much more utility that can be leveraged.

I discuss the UP Express ridership trends further in Torontoist

One reply on “Ridership has tripled on UP Express, but we can do even better”

What adds insult to injury as per the Weston Corridor is the lack of any concrete sign of electrification. Without that, there is an option that could be done, a makeshift solution that Metrolinx could hedge their bets with, and that’s to utilize the present (or imminently) surplus F59PH locos and coaches sidelined for refurbishment to form three three-coach consists that could do all-day service *now* from Bramalea south to Union, or perhaps the east side of Union so as not to block limited platform access when reversing the run. Would these be ‘shiny and new’? Hardly, albeit the locos were rebuilt just five years ago. They’re not Tier IV, but close, and being used on that run right now to Mt Pleasant. So the shorter ones could supplement that service three times an hour to Bramalea to make it a (just barely) “frequent service” . Peak times may require cessation or short-turning at Bloor due to the already dire lack of pathings into Union at peak.

This early start of RER would do more than just satisfy the need for that corridor to being used, it would establish bus connections at Bramalea and other stations such that when RER proper does start, many of the kinks will have already been worked out for onward interconnectivity.

Needless to say, with almost all the infrastructure in place save for ‘SmartTrack’ stations yet to be built and some very limited missing track, this could be instituted on a shoe-string capital budget, and operating budget would also be remarkably low.

But it’s far too obvious…

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