Trams to the Airport

Today, spacing’s Montreal site includes a report that a tram-train has been proposed as a link to Trudeau International Airport.

Meanwhile in Toronto, the “official” scheme for airport access is still the free-standing “Blue 22” proposal that is mired in Environmental Assessment problems, not to mention its dubious attractiveness to private sector proponents.

The Transit City scheme holds hopes for an LRT access to Toronto Airport, and this could include a connection directly into Terminal One.  This has major implications for airport access from various origins:

  • The Eglinton West LRT connection to the Spadina and Yonge subways, and beyond
  • An Eglinton service extending into Mississauga
  • A connection with the Jane LRT which could also be routed down the Weston corridor to Union Station
  • A connection with the Finch West LRT

This would make Toronto’s airport both a major hub for transit services and provide huge improvements in access to the site from many parts of the GTA, a far superior arrangement to the downtown-oriented Blue 22 scheme.

We are starting to see the benefits of a technology, LRT, that is comparatively easy to implement and doesn’t cost the earth just to go a few kilometres.  How we think about planning transit and how prospective customers view transit services can be transformed over the next decade.

37 thoughts on “Trams to the Airport

  1. I have never thought that the proposed Blue 22 would be terribly useful. It was not well integrated into the urban or regional transit system, the fare was supposed to be in the region of $20 (doubtless more today) and it was clearly aimed at business travellers coming or going from the downtown financial core. It was not aimed at the vast majority of people who would have to go far to get to Union Station before catching it nor those who work at or near the airport and go there every day. (It was also going to stop at the GO Station in Dundas West where one could, if a proper connection were made, connect to the TTC.)

    Though it is far from ideal, the TTC’s Airport Rocket 192 is fairly reliable and fast, is linked to the subway and is cheap. Steve, as you say, the EA for the Blue 22 service seems to be totally jammed and I suspect that if private investors now really wanted to build it this would soon be sorted out. Maybe it’s time to say “stop!” According to the Weston Community Coalition the delays caused by Blue 22 are slowing down necessary improvements to GO Service. (See Transit Toronto at

    On December 7, 2007 the Star reported that federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon said “It’s an embarrassment that Canada’s busiest airport still isn’t linked to Toronto’s downtown core by public transit, and getting it done should be a priority.” I suggest that MetroLinx needs to get involved, involve the GTAA – who run the Airport – (see, it was a good idea to rename the GTTA to MetroLinx :-> ) and if they can come up with a plan which would serve both travellers and commuters, get Mr Cannon to put his money where is mouth is. The Feds may not be keen to support all of Transit City but they might support specific projects, such a removing Mr Cannon’s embarrassment and create a fast, reliable and cheap link to Pearson which will be properly linked to the urban and regional transit networks and will serve both travellers and workers.


  2. Not only Montreal is considering an LRT-type service….Vancouver’s “Canada Line” project currently underway will connect Vancouver’s Airport with Richmond, Downtown Vancouver and the existing “Skytrain” lines. More information can be viewed at the Canada Line web site.

    Steve: Note that the Canada Line is a fully grade separated line and is not in the same territory as LRT except in the size of the trains and projected peak demands. What is interesting about it, however, is that it will serve far more riders in the Richmond to Vancouver corridor than those who are travelling to the airport. In the same vein, the possibilities with Transit City for Pearson Airport serve it as a major destination, but not the only one.

    There is a proposed “Evergreen” line in Vancouver that is truly LRT, but its current status is uncertain thanks to the usual problems of footdragging on funding by various governments. The Canada Line benefitted from the Olympics as a spur for Ottawa to kick in funding, but the Evergreen line has no such carrot dangling in front of politicians.


  3. If the Eglinton West LRT does connect with Pearson Airport, would the last stop before going to the airport on Eglinton be Renforth? But then does it serve any stops bordering 427 or Airport Road, or does it serve only the airport terminal, and does it do so by going into a tunnel or not?

    Those are all questions that should be answered as well.

    Steve: I think it’s a bit early to be going into detailed design here and will leave such discussion until something concrete is published by the TTC.


  4. Tram trains would be fine for new or reconstructed alignments but would hit the same certification impediments as the O-Train where existing services are running.

    The nice thing about tram-trains is that they are often both diesel and overhead capable so can run off electrified streets right onto unelectrified rail alignments – the problem will be with any routes which involve restricting heavy rail access times, or reducing the number of tracks available at all times. They might also be a way of reversing the civic trend of “if it can’t support CN/CP/GO that alignment better be a bikepath”.

    For me, the answer to the Weston-Woodbine alignment vs Eglinton LRT into the airport is a simple one – both.

    A heavy rail stop leverages traffic from the west 905/east 519 in addition to downtown.

    An LRT opens up connections via Jane, Eglinton and St. Clair (if extended to Jane), including leaving the door open for

    1. Connection to 427LRT
    2. Cargotrams if they are a success in Amsterdam
    3. A shared terminus with streetcars coming down Airport Road past Malton GO from Brampton.

    A service from St. Clair via Jane, Eglinton, Dixon, Airport should be in my opinion be proceeded with immediately as phase 1 of both Eglinton LRT and Jane LRT, with the service partially or fully changing to Eglinton on completion of the tunnel.


  5. McGunity and Charest have agreed into a study for high-speed rail on the Windsor-Quebec corridor. It’s possible that the line can be routed via Kitchener (the largest city between Toronto and London, and with LRT to Cambridge) and thus via the Weston Sub. If that’s the case, there could be an Airport Station next to the Woodbine horserace track, where high speed trains, GO trains, and maybe regular Via trains can stop. Once the Highway 427 Transitway is built, there could be a busway from the highway to connect with the station, so GO buses and long-distance Greyhound buses can use the facility. The cable car can be extended to meet up to that station, to connect with the airport terminals.

    This would create a massive one-stop intermodal terminal.

    Back at Terminal 1, there could be a loop for TTC, Mississauga, and Brampton buses, as well as potential light-rail connections. This would create another intermodal terminal, with a focus on the immediate surrounding area.

    I think my plan will create a huge improvement to ground transport not only for Toronto, but for all of Southern Ontario. It isn’t as sexy as Blue 22, but it’s cheaper and serves more people.


  6. Steve, how do you see a connection to Union working via Jane and the Weston corridor? Would it make more sense to go straight down the Weston corridor from Eglinton?

    It seems, and you’ll correct me, that if we go down Jane the most viable options would be either meeting up with the rail corridor at Jane/St. Clair/Dundas before meeting with the Weston corridor, or turning east on St. Clair from Jane for a couple kilometres before meeting the Weston line. Would appreciate your thoughts on how that might work.

    On another note, I think connecting Finch to the Airport will be just as important as Eglinton in getting (especially) workers to and from the airport, as well as being a potential boon to the Woodbine Live development. I thought this connection was a significant oversight in the original Transit City plan.

    Steve: I agree that the logical connection to the Weston corridor is at Eglinton so that a Union Station link is not dependent on the Jane line’s construction. The Finch/Woodbine connection is an obvious add-on to Transit City.

    People should not write as if Transit City is cast in stone and every design decision has already happened. The important thing about an LRT network is that we have so much more flexibility in what we do with it, and we don’t have to nail down the one-and-only corridor as early in the planning as we would with a conventional subway line.


  7. I’ve always wondered why the scheme to get rail service into Pearson involved constructing a brand new transfer station at Woodbine and then having to transfer to a people-mover/tram/LRT the remainder of the trip into the terminals. The infrastructure at Malton station already exists, it’s just a matter of connecting it with the terminals at Pearson. The amount of track required would be the same from both locations, but since you’ve already got existing infrastructure for the rail component that cost is eliminated.

    Turning Malton into a regional hub of sorts with connections from GO, TTC, Missisauga and Brampton Transit, plus VIA which currently bypasses the station would make it easily accessible from across the entire GTA. Should high-speed trains make their way to this station all the better. There is also the possibility of servicing the station from a future extension of the Finch West (down Hwy. 27 and then west on Rexdale/Derry) and Eglinton Transit City lines. Mississauga is also safeguarding a potential route for “higher-order” transit, up Renforth from Eglinton and then along Silver Dart into the terminals. Perhaps the Eglinton Line could piggy-back on this corridor. Once the current road restructuring at Pearson is completed we can figure out where to thread the route.

    Steve: Pearson has reserved a corridor from the south into the airport for years, and this would be used both by the Mississauga and Toronto “Eglinton” lines. Coming in from the north only makes sense if you are wedded to a branch off of the CN as a railway rather than transit operation. Alas, getting people t think about LRT options has been quite difficult in these parts until recently.


  8. Blue 22 is not a bad thing. Nearly all major cities in Europe have airport-downtown rail links; in many cases trains serve other destinations as well. The main problem with the scheme is that it will be run by a private operator, rather than GO, resulting in exorbitant prices (and thus an unattractive service). If Weston residents would stop complaining and allow the level crossing removals (which are needed anyway), there would be more than enough capacity for all the trains we want to run.

    Using a light-rail only scheme is insufficient. Light rail is good for serving certain routes, most notably Eglinton, and also Finch and routes to Mississauga. It is very poor for serving downtown Toronto, Oshawa, Brampton, Oakville or more distant cities due to the LRT-subway transfer needed to get to Union. Heavy rail (no matter what the operator) is best for this. It is also useless for intercity traffic, which could become important if the Toronto-Montreal high speed rail is built (some trains could stop at Pearson). Putting a train station at the racetrack and building an LRT connection is pointless, since requiring an extra transfer would reduce ridership; also, heavy rail isn’t that much more expensive than LRT (compared to subway, for example). Public transit service must enter Terminal 1 to be at all competitive.

    What we need is both an LRT service and a heavy rail service. The LRT service would serve north Toronto and Mississauga, primarily via the Eglinton line; the heavy rail service would serve downtown, Brampton and (directly or with a transfer at Union) all other destinations served by GO and VIA. The services are complementary, not mutually exclusive.

    Steve: I agree that LRT is not the mode for service to locations such as Burlington and Oshawa, but I disagree about the link to downtown. It doesn’t matter where you go, there will be a need for some sort of transfer between routes. The question is whether an airport to downtown via Weston corridor is a justified part of the LRT network for local demand, never mind airport traffic which is never going to be the primary origin/destination on any network.


  9. When I visit cities with public rapid transit to their airport I try to ride it. One thing that I have noticed is that, except in Hong Kong, most of the riders are airport workers, not airline passengers. I think it would help if the dreamers took a look at reality. If you build a high speed line from Pearson to Union it will not carry many people. What is needed is one that is integrated with the existing transit system and reasonably fast, Hong Kong has a high speed link that is part of the mainline rail system and a metro line to their airport


  10. David C, your observation on the Federal Minister of Transport’s sudden interest in the Pearson Airport-Toronto Downtown link is valid, even more so given that this year may be an election year. Metrolinx does have this project on its “to do list”, but should be vigilant and fully engaged to ensure that the final result is compatible with its proposed Regional Transportation Plan. Note that Cannon said “public transit”, not “rail” or LRT, so its entirely possible that the Harper Govt. may try to do an end run around the existing process and together with its own partners, announce an alternative plan, substantially funded by the Harper Govt., that may or may not even involve rail service (perhaps a BRT), and then dare the Ontario Govt. to turn it down.


  11. Expanding a little on Dean’s comment.

    The GTAA’s master plan shows an extension of LINK to Renforth Rd and Eglinton. What I have wondered since TC was first released by the TTC is, does the TTC know anything about the GTAA’s planned LINK extension?

    This leaves open a less-concentrated approach to servicing the airport, which does have its advantages for the operators since airport grounds are difficult to service being deliberately located out of the way of everything else (they have to be to land planes).

    The heavy rail connection can offer the superior connection if they do it right (it’d be closer to the terminals proper). It is possible to do a very gentle “U” from just east of the 427 to just west of the Malton GO Station (however, this does mean that trains servicing the airport would be forced to skip the Malton GO station, so not every train would service it), stopping at the LINK station at Viscount. The Eglinton LRT could then service the LINK extension at Renforth while connecting with the heavy rail line at Mount Dennis. This allows the LRT to avoid the issue of branch service, which I argue is better off avoided if the option is available.

    I am outright against a “Woodbine GO Station”, I find the idea absurd and totally driven by private interest that goes totally against good public transit planning practices.

    The one remaining issue of LINK that remains though, is how it would be extended to Renforth. LINK has a shockingly poor selection of line management if they were planning to extend the line to Renforth in the future like their master plan says they are considering, because the line can only run two trainsets at a time, as the two tracks never connect and both are bi-direction, one track dedicated entirely to each of the two trains. An extension from Terminal One to Renforth would probably see unacceptable frequencies given the length of the line if extended, unless the system is changed to one that can run more than two trains and the tracks be switched to monodirectional operation.

    Steve: I understand that the GTAA has realized that LINK does not have the capacity to handle the demand that would originate from a major transit feeder like the Eglinton LRT, and moreover would add a transfer move compared with taking the LRT directly to a major terminal.


  12. We shouldn’t write off heavy rail to the airport. It is true that a transfer will be needed at Union for most people continuing on GO or VIA trains to other destinations under the Blue 22 scheme. (Although direct trains would be possible to Brampton and the Lakeshore East line, as well as destinations east of Toronto served by VIA). However, if we build only an LRT to the airport, people going downtown or transferring to GO trains will need two transfers: one transfer from the Eglinton LRT to the Yonge subway, and then one transfer from the subway to the GO train. Plus, neither LRT or subway are very good for carrying baggage; Blue 22 will presumably have luggage racks of some sort, and it is easier to carry luggage on a GO train than a subway. LRT does a good job serving certain destinations, but is less than ideal for others, and is not very attractive for airport passengers with baggage. A heavy rail link to the airport, and the Eglinton LRT, should be built with a station in Terminal 1 (not the Vicount parking lot, or the Woodbine racetrack).


  13. The imperatives of climate change may make air travel less and less of an option – record ice melt of Greenland ice cap last year btw. So we should be thinking less about the airport than about in between, and using the rail corridor for transit/LRT is far more sensible, and likely c. 30 years old or more, and I favour LRT vs. subway, though maybe a larger 3-car makes good sense.

    But we’re about to really restrict our options – starting with the Front St. Extension folly/road tunnel at the critical juncture just past Bathurst St. I’ve presumed that the north side of the railtracks is the best side for any transit, and I think we should think of expanding the corridor onto TTC-controlled land via expropriation if necessary, at least south of Queen so we don’t have as many issues with rail companies etc. I believe a lot of the land is already in public hands.

    The other major hotspot is likely within the West Queen West condos where we may have buildings too near the line. Oops, not that we look at sustainable transit/mobility planning ahead of devilopment or the OMB does – but as Mr. Giambrone has this segment in his ward, he’s got to own this failure (somewhat), and on his (non)watch – as he seems to have been keen on the Pantalone Parkway vs. transit options and avoiding transit harms to GO and the TTC from it. (There’s also steadfast resistance to thinking about expediting some of the King and Queen St. streetcars down to Front St. via these railtracks)

    This gets back to Front St. in that there’s a unique and simple way of getting extra width to the street for in/eastbound trams – a remnant strip of the Lands and Gardens Trust rising from railyard level at Bathurst St. to the streetgrade level at Spadina and Front – so we could ease in these trams into the core/Union Stn via Front St. and avoid all the tracks/signals train traffic from Bathurst to the core. What happens after that is up for grabs/discussion, but there’s a great! opportunity here, if we think of doing transit as a true priority.

    At least there’s some movement to explore transit more fully with the WWLRT EA having a new EA between Strachan/Union that includes Front St., but we still need to be thinking transit transit along this Weston corridor, and these EAs haven’t yet covered it, though maybe the Blue 22 EA might, though it’s seeming stalled.

    Another problem area is the at-grade crossing at Strachan – I don’t trust Joe to really look at it thoroughly as he has some preferences, or has been unable to change his mind/position on it from two decades of having this area as his turf, aka Pantalonia. But this issue truly lurks and while there may be a bit of motion on it, it could be quite significant.


  14. Light or heavy, there should be a DIRECT connection from Pearson to Union using the existing rail ROW. This is how it’s done in Chicago (light {subway}) and Paris (heavy{passenger train}) and various other cities around the world.

    By all means, integrate it at crossings with current and future transit wherever it makes sense. But shunting it on to and predicating it on TransitCity would necessitate tranfers thus semi-defeating the purpose. And who knows if or when TC will ever get built.

    There seems to be something of an anti-downtown sentiment at times. A direct downtown connection is not to the detriment of other areas, just the opposite. It’s about connecting all areas for the greater good.


  15. 2 Andrew MacKinnon:

    Heavy rail to the airport is definitely a good idea. Not only it is more convenient to board with luggage, but also it could be constructed faster, perhaps within 2-3 years after the decision is made, as it can utilize the existing rail line. LRT connections from both Eglinton and Finch will be useful as well, but realistically, neither of them is likely to be in operation before 2015.

    However, that heavy rail link does not have to be Blue-22. The Blue-22 price exceeding 20 dollars apiece will cut off virtually all commuters, so the only customers will be air travelers who fly infrequently, and business travelers who can expense the trip. In contrast, a GO service with regular GO pricing, stopping at Dundas W, Weston, Etobicoke North, and perhaps a new station at Eglinton, can attract much more riders. That can be used by commuters employed in the airport area (actually one of the largest employment centers in GTA), commuters from north-west / North Etobicoke heading toward downtown, and still be good for air travelers. The prospects of such GO service will get even better when the TTC / GO fare integration occurs.


  16. I do find the segue from an Airport Tram to the Front Street Extension a bit of a stretch. I admire Hamish’s passion about it, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him post here (or Spacing) without somehow including a comment about the FSE…

    While the Montreal article doesn’t mention anything about a spur being built to under the airport terminal, I believe I have seen that it is the plans of Aeroports de Montreal to do so. Additionally it would combine road access improvements with plans to move the VIA Rail stop from the existing Dorval station beside Highway 20 and under the airport.

    Montreal would join Newark in North America as cities having Intercity rail service connected to a major airport (and I’ve used and enjoyed Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Stanstead’s rail connections – Stanstead being less connected to the national intercity network than the others). I’d love to see a Pearson line serving both VIA and GO, but how effective it would be is debatable. The Karlsruhe/Kassel Train-Tram model could prove to be an effective and intriguing one.

    A similar case to a Blue22 and commuter rail can be found in Vienna, Austria (Mozart not Kangaroos) with the City Airport Train (or CAT) for short. The S-Bahn (commuter) line 7 also runs to the airport making a few more stops is € 4.50 one way (with the option to use a frequent rider card and get it for only € 1.80). The CAT is 10 minutes faster costs € 8.00 for a one way and you can’t use the railway’s frequent rider card so there’s no discount possible – but it is non-stop and offers a check in the city centre for some flights. From what I saw when I lived there, and the comments of people I know who live there, the CAT has terrible passenger numbers.

    And in London (UK), most people landing at Heathrow see ads about the Heathrow Express leaving every 15 minutes and taking 15 minutes to reach Paddington for £14.50. Meanwhile Heathrow Connect leaves every half hour, takes only 22 minutes and costs £7.60 less at £6.90 (and only £2.90 more than a comparable one-way tube ticket).


  17. Wouldn’t an elevated tram that goes north from Eglinton to all the terminals at the airport serve the airport adequately. Have the future Eglinton Crosstown LRT have a station that directly links the TTC’s network with this special train or tram that would serve the airport workers and passengers adequately. There is already a tram there that could be extended and used in this context.

    Steve: The problem is that the existing shuttle does not have the capacity. The real design challenge will be to determine where the regional terminal for services at the airport should be to provide convenient interchange between them while also making trips to and from the airport easy both for employees and travellers.


  18. Hamish Wilson said, “The imperatives of climate change may make air travel less and less of an option.”

    Quite the opposite is true, in many cases. That statement may become true if those imperatives push the development of good, viable alternatives to internal combustion engine driven vehicles, which is reasonably likely to occur. It would also become true if the economics of running an airline were to permit flying half-full craft on a regular basis, but this is not likely to occur.

    As much greenhouse gasses are released by a typical flight, many flights over a couple of hundred kilometres are less harmful on the environment than other alternatives. On a flight last year between Minneapolis and Chicago (570 km), the pilot actually told us the details of the fuel that would be consumed and what that translated to per passenger: just under 3 US gallons. I do know, from recent experience, that a 480 km drive in a Toyota Yarris will consume about 11 US gallons, so you could more or less break even if you crammed four people in a Yarris.

    There are a lot of variables in this equation, but I wouldn’t write off air travel so quickly. At least not yet, so let’s focus on what the best way to get people to and from the airport is.


  19. It’s frankly frustrating that opponents of Blue 22 fail to see the bigger picture than merely transit. The same arguments used in favour of high speed rail to the airport are also used to justify the continued operation of the island airport. Surely you would agree that the expense of Blue 22 would be justified by the death of the island airport, even if it makes no sense from a transit perspective (though I would dispute that as well).

    Steve: I won’t speak for others, but my objection to Blue 22 is that this is a line that should be part of the local transit system, not a privately developed, premium fare service that serves a minority of potential demand in this corridor.


  20. Look for GO Transit to expand bus service to PIA in the near future — perhaps dramatically.

    As for future planning, has there ever been a well-advertised public meeting to discuss transit in and around Pearson? The area is a major draw not only for travellers but workers in the terminals and at many commercial and industrial firms within several kilometers.

    I recall a GTAA official recently spoke to a City of Toronto committee, lamenting the dearth of transit service to PIA — especially considering they had built a whole level at Terminal 1 for buses. Go a step further, GTAA, and set up a major forum on transport for interested parties.

    Speaking of the former GTTA, note that Metrolinx is already coordinating improved limited-stop bus service from central Hamilton to the Hamilton airport. Metrolinx (and therefore MTO?) is also investigating high speed intra-city rail — i.e. getting around the GTA rapidly by transit. Airports would have be major hubs, no? Coupled with the recent announcement of another Ontario-Quebec high-speed rail study, we have a lot to consider…


  21. While there’s some truth to longer haul flights being somewhat more fuel efficient, to make claims about flying being more efficient that other modes is kinda delusional, though on this flying/jet travel point, most of us are, and air travel emissions just aren’t counted – who gets to take them? Well nobody wants them to drag emissions levels up, and Canada sure has some issues already…

    But jet travels’ ghg emissions and impacts go well beyond merely fuel burnt – check out Monbiot’s book Heat or his website, which unfortunately didn’t survive my effort on getting this following link for folks on general climate change info.

    The federal Liberals were atrocious on the expansion of Pearson, and how much of our local smog comes from there?


  22. BWI is one airport that offers both light-rail to the downtown core (Baltimore) direct from the terminal (for the low, low price of $1.60) – I took advantage of this back in October, and the LRV runs into the core, within the downtown along a street, otherwise in old railway and interurban alignments. It stopped only two blocks from my hotel. On the way back, I came from Washington and took the free shuttle bus from the Amtrak/MARC BWI station right to the terminal. Baltimore’s LRT runs along an old railway alignment most of the way, so it isn’t like the Transit City plans. If a LRT ran along the Weston Sub, it would be roughly equivalent, making stops where useful, like at Weston, Mount Dennis, Bloor, Parkdale, etc. A station at Woodbine would offer the GO/VIA connections similar to those stations on the Amtrak NEC at Newark and BWI, and the current bus shuttle from the Dorval VIA station.

    That said, the logical terminus for the Eglinton-Crosstown line is at the airport, running north from the Eglinton/Renforth intersection. The 58 Malton bus is often full of airport employees and travellers with bags, proving that the market for airport transit isn’t just to the subway and downtown, and is largely airport employees and flight crews, markets that the flawed Blue 22 completely ignores. But the E-C Transit City line should not be the only rail link. An off-street LRT to downtown is an ideal solution, if CN and GO could ever agree to it, along with that Woodbine station, with transfers to the LRT into the airport itself for travellers to Brampton, Guelph, Kitchener, etc.

    Some of the flaws of Blue 22 were crazy – my favourite was the one where SNC Lavalin was not only the proponent, planning to operate the service on usable, but ancient refurbished Rail Diesel Coaches, it was also the consultant in charge of the initial EA (can anyone say conflict of interest?). Along with not properly evaluating alternatives, and not even promising the all-day hourly service on the Georgetown line (presumably one of the goals of the EA), there were many other issues. As a result, it ranks as one of the most flawed EAs in Toronto transit history.


  23. When I read about the Tram-Train concept in a T&UT magazine a while ago, I was reminded again why LRT is such a successful, and popular transit mode for cities. You can do so much with LRT, it is a no-brainer.

    I wonder why the City, and the Airport have not looked at running streetcars on the Georgetown GO line, and have a spur running into the airport? How much can it cost to improve the signalling, and string up wires?

    Steve: Although there are differences in safety requirements for joint tram-train usage of trackage, I think that the single biggest problem has been that “Blue 22” has been on the books for so long (it was a pet project of a Chretien-era minister) that nobody has been able to start a discussion of alternatives.


  24. There was a snippet in the yesterday (mon) star A15 indicating in 2003, 24,700,000 passengers and in 2006 31,000,000. We’re fried, or the world is, and it’s rather selfish to do this huh? There likely should be a $50+ surcharge on all flights payable to the UN or something for CDM transfers – but to simply ignore/not count these emissions is a travesty.


  25. The GTAA Master Plan projects 49.7 million by 2020 (avg 136,000/day), with ultimate capacity of 55 million when T1 and T3 are fully built out. Given the lagging of actual demand compared to Master Plan projections it’s more likely to be later than that by the time these figures are hit.

    The thing about an airport link (as B22 and the Munich and Shanghai maglevs have proven) is that an airport somehow attracts service commitments that otherwise wouldn’t be given, thus building an airport LRT becomes more important in terms of political sign-on than the ridership it would attract otherwise, and since such a link has to connect somewhere it gets other less politically visible links built too.

    The thing to remember is that of the extra 25 million passengers, most of the extra will come from 905 since 416 growth is likely to lag the 905. Blue22, AirGO or TTC LRT won’t stop the 401 from grinding to a halt – the airport needs a massive uplift in transit in all directions.


  26. “The thing to remember is that of the extra 25 million passengers, most of the extra will come from 905 since 416 growth is likely to lag the 905.”

    Begging to differ a bit here; business and tourist travellers are generally 416-bound. That is, they stay downtown for the most part. And the business travellers make multiple trips in a year. Therefore, Pearson to Union is the most important link to make.


  27. Daemon, “Begging to differ a bit here; business and tourist travellers are generally 416-bound.”

    While this is generally true, I suspect that ignoring 905 destinations for airport arrivals will be problematic. When I started working in the 404/407 area in 2000, there were two hotels and one motel in the area. Now, there are at least five others in the immediate area (off the top of my head, so I may be missing one or two) with another large one under construction. Aside from the business travellers using these hotels for nearby business destinations, these hotels tend to be fully booked for such “416” events such as Caribana and the film festival.

    This is but one of many areas that would be well served by some form of airport transportation improvement.


  28. “business and tourist travellers are generally 416-bound. That is, they stay downtown for the most part.”

    That is, indeed, the case now. My point was that as a proportion of trips, the increasing commercialisation of the 905 will cause an uplift in their total percentage of origin/destination trips (some of the 55 million will be transferring rather than leaving the airport) and therefore the numbers accessing the airport from 905 by 2020 will approach the levels from 416 now. We are woefully provided from both area codes in terms of modal share and the time to start planning and agitating for better airport transit from all directions is now.

    None of this, of course, gets around the urgent need for an increase in regional and interregional rail to reduce the modal share that air travel has in Ontario.


  29. At the TRB conference in Washington DC this week, I attended a session put on by the people in charge of producing a report on the viability of express train service from downtown Chicago to both O’Hare and Midway, very similar to Blue 22. Note that they of course already have rapid transit service to both, but apparently it’s not classy enough to attract and impress the wealthy tourists and businesspeople.

    Anyway, this express train from downtown Chicago to the airports was forecast to carry 17% of the traffic bound from downtown to Midway, and 14% of the traffic bound from downtown to O’Hare. They didn’t talk about what fare structure they were going to use. Steve, do you know if they’ve come up with a similar modal estimate for the potential train in Toronto?

    Steve: I will have to root around to see if anything has been published. One thing we do know is that less than 20% of the total traffic to Pearson comes from downtown, and we need to get a large chunk of that to make much of a dent in the overall traffic going to and from the airport. That’s the advantage of a network of lines serving the region — there is a much larger pool of travellers and employees who can use the transit service.


  30. “My point was that as a proportion of trips, the increasing commercialisation of the 905 will cause an uplift in their total percentage”

    The percentage may shift somewhat but the bulk of business and tourist travellers will continue to go to the heart of the city and the financial centre. And they make up the bulk of overall air travel due to frequency of trips. Pearson to Union direct is essential. Plenty of downtown workers could use it for commuting too.

    Oh and, “less than 20% of the total traffic to Pearson comes from downtown” has to be by far the largest single chunk and quite a significant number.


  31. At London Heathrow both a stopping and express service are provided on the same alignment.

    Connect (22mins to T1/2/3) is about $26 return
    Express (15mins to T1/2/3) is $56 return – and $100 in First Class!

    For comparison, Union to Etobicoke North is $7.40 return (timetabled at 22 minutes), Malton $9.80 (28 minutes). A stopping service into the airport grounds would presumably do it in about 26-28 minutes assuming no speed increases were possible on the existing alignment.


  32. I noticed that this week’s The Agenda for Prosperity report contains this recommendation:

    “Provide rail link from the downtown core to Toronto Pearson International Airport that will also improve regional transit service.”

    Interesting — it’s vague enough to fit a number of possibilities, but it sounds like something more direct in addition to what the Eglinton West LRT would provide.

    Steve: For political reasons, it is pointless to trash any specific proposal although we can all think of variations that provide different types of services. The important thing is to support one or more lines that do more than just shuttle from Union to Pearson serving no other demands.

    Also, it is important that all services be in the public sector. The last thing we need is a private sector “Blue 22” complaining that they are being undercut by a public sector TTC LRT line or GO Transit.


  33. Steve, You should check out a blog that is in Google as “” which is also an old plan for the waterfront and overall city which is a radical change to what is planned now. It has a transit plan also. In that plan they envision an extension of Black creek to the Gardiner via the rail corridor.

    I think an Express LRT from Union to the airport would fit in there much more easily. Refurbish 36 CLRV’s and run them in train sets of three build one track with sidings. Provide free luggage check in, provide an on board certified special constable who can also provide safety and ticket checking of all passengers. Work out an arrangement with the GTAA and I’m sure they will accommodate. Refurbish the Cars with quality seating on board TVs etc.. rebuild them from the ground up and run them like they were originally built for.

    This method would surely change Torontonian minds as to streetcar’s slow operation. Have a dedicated last car rear seating strictly for the elderly and enabled using a lift and this can solve an accessibility issue. Build five stops along the way one at Parkdale, Bloor, Eglinton, Weston, Woodbine, Airport. I think it would be an easy sell to Weston residents and cheap to build if we use heavy rail trucks on the rebuilds then we can have connecting tracks with the railways for sharing for emergency maneuvers if feasible. This is just an idea.

    Steve: I have very little use for the proposals on the “Get Toronto Moving” site. They are a hodge-podge of poorly thought out schemes masquerading as the platform for a fringe “political party” that may be little more than a chattering club for its members.


  34. I went on the gettorontomoving website last night and wanted to gag at all the expressway proposals they have there. I thought any type of expressway expansion was pretty much a dead issue in Toronto.

    As for a rail link to Pearson, whatever ultimately gets built should have stops at the B-D subway as well as other key transit lines so it can also serve a rapid transit function. A good connection with at least the B-D and the coming Eglinton LRT certainly should make it more useful. I sure hope that the Eglinton LRT either gets a branch into the airport or a connection to the airport monorail.

    Steve: The GTAA wants the Eglinton LRT to come into Terminal 1. They recognize the limits in capacity of their people mover, whereas an LRT link could be used both by a Toronto and a Mississauga LRT line.


  35. With Blue 22 apparently dead, is there any prospect for any type of Union Station-Airport link? Perhaps not everyone reading my above post will find it apparent that I was referring to that as well as the Eglinton LRT. I do feel that a Union Station-Pearson link is an excellent idea. GO should be a good source of connecting riders with the YUS helping supply it with riders. Stops connecting with the BD subway and the Eglinton LRT not to mention key bus lines would also supply not only more airport bound passengers but also passengers headed to Union Station and other attractions in it’s vicinity. And let’s not forget VIA Rail passengers and those riding present and future LRT in the Union Station area.


  36. One might wish that Blue 22 were dead, as David Aldinger mistakenly suggests. In that case planning for public transit could begin. Blue 22 aims to be a gamblers’ express between Union Station and the Woodbine Racetrack (scheduled for some 350mil expansion). The link to Pearson Airport may be a clever camouflage aimed to transform a public transit disaster into a motherhood issue; it is not sound planning. For the transit starved northwest quadrant of the city, the Georgetown corridor is crucial to economic and social revitalizaton. What is needed is public transit to renew the communities along the route, not a privately run express that will be their coup de grace.


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