Today, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) issued a press release saluting Metrolinx’ inclusion of the Air Rail Link in the Regional Transportation Plan. This really isn’t a surprise to anyone. Metrolinx had little choice given the political situation with a nonsensical premium fare, privately operated route left over from an ancien regime in Ottawa.
The GTAA is thrilled to tell us that
significant environmental benefits will be realized with the implementation of the air rail link. In the first year of operation, it is projected that this will eliminate about 6.6 tonnes of CO2 emissions and see approximately 1.35 million cars from the roads.
Do tell! That’s 6.6 tonnes, not six thousand tonnes, SIX! Only when we compare this with the savings that will accrue to other RTP lines do we see the miniscule effect of this route. Each of the planned GO rail express services will reduce CO2 by over 100K tonnes, and many other RTP projects are well above 10K.
And all those cars! 1.35 million cars must really be trips, not vehicles. This means we are looking at about 4,500 cars/trips per day (assuming the equivalent of 300 weekdays per year with weekends counting for half). That’s about 250 per hour for an 18-hour day. This has to be some new record for low patronage on a line that many would have us believe will change life as we know it in the GTA. Ridership would be better if we assumed a higher than 1:1 ratio of passengers to auto trips, but the market for the Air Rail Link isn’t the car pooling crowd.
To put this in context, daily ridership on selected bus routes: Warden South (4,200), Sherbourne (4,600), Prince Edward (4,200). Yes, people don’t travel as far on them as Union to the Airport, but these will almost certainly be part of longer trips with transfers to other routes.
Can we please put this line out of its misery? Metrolinx may be doing an EA for it in the spring of 2009, but what I really want to see is the Benefits Case Analysis. If this were all to be done with private money, I would say let the project sponsor go broke paying for it, but that’s not the way we do “partnerships”. How much public money will be wasted on a premium fare design when we could be building facilities and capacity to attract a broader demand at a regular fare?
This study will be a real test for Metrolinx. Can they face up to the deep flaws in the Air Rail Link proposal, expose them to view, and propose an alternative that actually fits into their Regional Plan?