Metrolinx Takes Over Airport Link Project

On July 30, Metrolinx announced that it will take over the Air Rail Link project — a premium fare service between Union Station and Pearson Airport — from SNC-Lavalin.

Metrolinx will build, own and operate the service through its GO Transit division.

While the province and the Union Pearson Air-Link Group (UPAG), a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin, were able to make significant progress negotiating, financial market conditions prevented acceptable terms. The government will continue to work with UPAG to build on the design and development work that has been completed to date.

This long-overdue change in the ARL scheme should bring the project into public view where all aspects of its design, financing and operation will be subject to the same scrutiny and openness as other Metrolinx projects.  Issues such as service levels, equipment provisioning and, most importantly, electrification will no longer hide behind the veil of “commercial confidentiality”.

Fares will be part of the overall Metrolinx/GO network scheme, and the amount of any “premium” surcharge over comparable GO fares will be a matter of public record.  The current one-way GO fare to the airport from downtown is $5.55, far below the $22 figure touted as a possible charge for the SNC-Lavalin operation.  As a matter of public policy, Metrolinx should decide whether the ARL should operate on a full cost recovery basis, or like other transit services, be subsidized for the larger benefits of moving travellers without autos.

This change will affect the design of infrastructure and operational planning.  If the ARL is priced and operates more like a GO service, it will attract riders such as commuting airport workers, and integration with through Kitchener-Waterloo line will be much simpler.  However, the size of facilities now proposed for the ARL may be inadequate to a role as a major airport link.  There may even be an option to rethink the technology choice for this corridor and the details of its connection at Union Station.

Today all we have is a press release, but Metrolinx must truly integrate the ARL planning into The Big Move.  The ARL will not be a separate, privately-owned service whose business might cloud planning and implementation of “competing” routes.  There should be one plan for the airport with regional bus and LRT services including the Eglinton, Finch West and Hurontario/Brampton lines.

The airport is a vital regional hub in The Big Move, and transit service to it must be more than a few lines sketched on a map.  Metrolinx should launch planning — including public participation — for its airport services immediately.

48 thoughts on “Metrolinx Takes Over Airport Link Project

  1. “If this exists, it may only be suitable for LRT operations, and does not address how service will be implemented for T3.”

    In fairness, if I recall correctly T3 is ignored by all the solutions to date, despite the fact that at full build-out it will be one of the biggest terminals in Canada in its own right. A light rail shuttle solution operating similarly to JFK Airtrain could possibly share part of the spur while splitting to serve T3 rather than obligating passengers to use the cable car to transfer either at T1 or at a transfer platform at Viscount (which on the outbound at peak could mean encountering full cars ex T1). 750V might also be more convenient to bring into the airport than 25kV.


  2. Although I don’t particularly like the idea of extending the existing cable hauled peoplemover system to the GO line, if we are really looking at cost saving above all else it should be workable. An extension to a station at the 427 would almost exactly double the lines length (I get this by including the second T1 station is part of the existing line). That would put base service at 8 minutes with both vehicles, but the system DOES have a capability for a passing siding (used on a couple of systems I know of) that would expand the system to four trains running at 4 minutes, and over 2000 PPHPD. This does seem within reason. All that said, my preference is for a good two terminal version of the Eglinton connection, extended up Airport road to Malton GO, a Finch connection to the north end of this and free service within the airport (ideally we would take Finch south of Pearson to the Bloor line). This would also avoid the operational problems GO is going to have with station density in the airport area if they get a third station as would be necessary with the current systems need for short extensions (although GO has at times talked of closing Etobicoke North I don’t see this as particularly realistic).


  3. “The current one-way GO fare to the airport from downtown is $5.55” <where did this figure come from?

    Every transit user knows that there are no bus or rail services from union to pia with GO therefore justifying the arl.

    Steve: This number comes from GO’s fare calculator which offers Union bus terminal and Pearson Airport as a valid O/D pair. In practice, the Brampton local service runs from York Mills, not Union.


  4. Steve: This number comes from GO’s fare calculator which offers Union bus terminal and Pearson Airport as a valid O/D pair. In practice, the Brampton local service runs from York Mills, not Union.

    Then why would you say Union to Pearson if it isn’t physically possible? What about from Richmond Hill Centre?

    You’re not a transit guru. You’re a TTC guru, and when I say TTC guru I mean everything south of Bloor Street and in Toronto.

    Steve: Try reading the comment to which I replied. I had cited a fare of $5.55 for Union to Pearson even though GO does not actually operate such a service. Try using their own fare calculator, and that’s what it gives you.

    Whether it exists or not, the fact is that they are advertising a fare roughly 1/4 of the proposed fare for the ARL. My point was to compare “normal” GO fares with those for the premium service to show how ridiculous the latter would be. I didn’t count services elsewhere because the point of reference was the ARL, and it will go nowhere near York Mills or Richmond Hill.

    As for what part of the world I may or may not be a guru of, you can go to other blogs that hate me if you like. I never claimed to be omniscient, and the “guru” label was given to me by others. Those who don’t like me can bugger off as insults will, at best, get you one free post.


  5. What you said makes sense, but then we also have to throw the $25 airport express coach from downtown Toronto. Now the fare for the link competes with an existing form of “successful” transportation.

    It will be more of a premium service than it would be a commuter train (as they were hoping) unless they bring the costs down, but I highly doubt it given that they would have to build a whole new track to connect with the existing line.


  6. Steve: “I had cited a fare of $5.55 for Union to Pearson even though GO does not actually operate such a service”

    Union-Brampton GO station by train or trainbus, then GO bus #34 from Brampton to Pearson. Takes about an hour (quicker but more expensive than TTC). GO’s fare calculator will give you fares between any two points they serve, because they are all possible journeys, direct service or not.

    Steve: Ah yes, I had not thought of doubling back from Brampton.


  7. Charging anything over $3 is a scam, a rip-off, a fraud. SLC’s $22 for a ride from the airport? No wonder they walked. NOBODY will ride that train. And “news flash”, at any one time, on any one trip, the bus is “packed” with about 20-30 people, so good luck paying back the 100’s of millions “invested” in building the tracks and buying all those trains. What I can get for $3 now, you’ll soon charge $15 for. Brilliant. The TTC and the express bus leaves the Kipling station every 15 minutes. Takes about 20 minutes and stops at both terminals.

    Who in their right mind would take the “Go Train”? Do they enjoy wasting money?


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