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.
Now maybe we can start getting integrated transit so ARL can actually serve as a downtown west relief line with a number of stops along the line rather than a business class express.
There is still time to design and build this as electric for Pan Am.
One the best descisioms Metrolinx has made to date 🙂
Premium fares and use by airport workers aren’t incompatible – you could have a cheap monthly pass available to workers. (Either through a paper ticket or Presto.)
With premium fares, every[one] points to London Heathrow as an example — but the airport owner is a private company, who paid for the link construction (including a long tunnel under most of the airport) and pay for the operating costs of the service. Are there any examples of publicly built and run airport links that charge a premium fare?
Steve: This is an important moment for the airport when it has a chance to completely rethink how transit access will be provided.
Vancouver’s airport is served by the Canada Line which is operated as part of the local transit system, but which charges a $5 premium for rides originating at the airport. This only applies to single fare tickets, and those holding passes (including Day Passes which can be purchased at the airport) are exempt from the surcharge. Note that this is charged inbound only on the presumption that people make round trips, one way or another, but it simplifies the billing to make the charge only where trips originate in the airport fare zone.
The issue of a premium fare will depend more on the role of an airport link in the wider transit system, and the policies applied to that link.
Quite bluntly, I think that by 2015, it will be unconscionable for Metrolinx to charge a huge premium fare for airport access by comparison with other Canadian transit systems. Transit is transit, regardless of where it goes, and the airport should not be viewed as a cash cow where we can fleece riders.
Yes this is a victory for common sense and another example of where citizens and transit advocates were way ahead of the government but I still wonder what deal was made: no company is going to walk away with nothing. What did the cancellation of this patronage deal cost?
Citizens, advocates, and Metrolinx/GO engineers are for going electric. Will the government catch up on that?
Steve: The announcement states that Metrolinx will take over planning work already done, and I presume that they will pay SNC-Lavalin something on that account. Whether there are any “future profits” to be foregone is another matter, and SNC-Lavalin may have realized that they were not in a position to make money on the line anyhow. I doubt we will ever know given the usual fog around any “commercial” transactions.
2 other thoughts…
1. “financial market conditions prevented acceptable terms,” between SNC and the Government….what exactly does that mean? That only with a subsidy can the line operate?
2. Up to a week or so ago everybody at MX was talking about how an SNC deal was about to be announced. Is this another example where you wonder MX seems to not know what it is doing? Am I supposed to believe that it was only last week that somebody said hey this is unworkable? The issue I think is that MX has to spew the government line even when they were lobbying to take over the ARL themselves and this creates mixed messages between the technical and political.
Steve: Metrolinx may well have known this was in the works, but they could not pre-announce it and would still have to talk of the line as a sure thing. One way or another there will be an airport service in time for the Pan Am Games, and that is the common message regardless of who builds it.
I just hope we have enough time to modify the physical design and service plan to properly integrate with GO Transit, TTC and other regional services.
This is huge news, and extremely welcome. As you say, it gives Metrolinx an opportunity to truly integrate the planning into The Big Move v 2. It wasn’t even included in the demand forecast modeling in TBM v 1, presumably due to its high fares that would not attract any users beyond air travellers to/from Pearson. As with any new line in a network, there are tough questions, but this is a wonderful first step.
This is good news for two reasons. The first is now that it’s no longer under private control, the airport link doesn’t necessarily have to use refurbished antique DMU cars; hopefully, an announcement that the line will be electrified will come soon. Secondly, it removes the whole competition argument against bringing the Eglinton and Finch LRT lines out to the airport because they’d compete for passengers against SNC-Lavalin’s expensive, privately operated Union-Pearson link since SNC won’t be operating it now.
I am willing to take bets that this is the end of the airport link, Pan Am Games notwithstanding. Metrolinx has too many other projects on the go to make this any kind of a priority.
Steve: Anything in southern Ontario with the words “Pan Am Games” on it is a priority. This will probably also guarantee the construction of the “Morningside Hook” to UTSC from the Sheppard East LRT.
There is a break fee contained in the MOU between Infrastructure Ontario and SNC. The amount, of course, is top secret even though we’ll be paying it.
Good. Now, the transit corridor space, a sparse resource, can be used more effectively.
Does anyone know whether the break fee would be FOIable?
Steve: Almost certainly this would be exempt under the protection of commercial information.
This is fantastic news.
However, I notice you said “Quite bluntly, I think that by 2015, it will be unconscionable for Metrolinx to charge a huge premium fare for airport access by comparison with other Canadian transit systems. Transit is transit, regardless of where it goes, and the airport should not be viewed as a cash cow where we can fleece riders.”
I disagree. If the service offered is one that warrants a premium fare, it should certainly be operated in such a manner, such as London’s Heathrow Express in-town check-in, and Hong Kong’s Airport Express, which has the addition of being able to check in luggage in-town in central Hong Kong. I would gladly pay a premium for these services.
We need to consider the nature of the service that should be provided and go from there. I have written a post in my blog that I hope is informative.
Steve: The operative words in your comment are “warrants a premium fare”. The problem with the ARL is that the service would likely not be perceived much differently from other transit lines, and the premium would be hard to swallow. Moreover, services such as checked luggage would likely only be available from terminal stations (Union and Pearson), not at intermediate stops such as the connection to the Bloor subway at Dundas West. A related question is the role of other lines such as the Eglinton LRT and whether the ARL will ever have a customer base outside of the premium fare air travellers and include regular airport workers. Metrolinx talks about getting cars off of the road, but concentrates on tourists rather than regular commuters to the airport.
Thanks for your reply, and you raise a good point. The ARL operated in the manner I’m championing would require separate branding, such as the MTR has done with the Airport Express, where it is clearly designated as a distinct, premium service.
Furthermore, provisions for additional baggage check-in stations can be included in the design, as this is performed at both the Hong Kong and Kowloon stations, with a third location at Tsing Yi providing basic check-in. I found the service indispensable during the two years I spent there.
A bigger station would be required where it intersects with the Bloor-Danfroth line, but I have always thought Metrolinx should become more active in mixed-use property development anyhow (a separate can of worms to be absolutely sure).
Certainly the role of the Eglinton LRT as a link to the airport needs to be considered, and hopefully will be revised or clarified as part of the overall network design in the Big Move 2.0.
Can’t we just have the GTAA extend their existing monorail to Malton Station, and be done with it?
Of course it involves increasing GO service to 30 minutes on that line, too, but that has to happen eventually, anyways.
This is something that should have happened a long time ago. I hope this move leads to a stop on the BD, the Eglinton LRT, and perhaps another stop or two. As far as equipment goes, if diesel ends up being the way they go then I think I know the perfect car. That car is a DMU being put into production by US Railcar using the dies from the old Colorado Railcar. As far as what type should be offered. They should at the absolute least look at possibly two types of service somewhat like the way it’s done between Heathrow and Paddington in London. There you have not just the premium Heathrow Express but also the less expensive Heathrow Connect.
Regarding fares, what about the STM’s policy of only selling 1-day, 3-day or weekly passes to use its 747 airport bus, or a standard monthly pass? No single tickets accepted. It extracts a little more money from the flying public but doesn’t charge anything extra to regular transit users, including airport workers.
Now the way they sell the passes (long lines at the airport and coins only on the bus) is horrible, but it doesn’t need to be replicated.
Steve: There are many ways that attractive fares can be provided for regular riders, and since Presto will be used on the ARL, it can simply be a programmed offering within that system. No over-the-counter purchases needed.
I wonder what implications this has for the space in the west wing of Union Station intended for the “Blue 22 Lounge.” Unless Metrolinx really intends to run this as a premium service separate from the rest of the regional transit network, having a dedicated lounge at either end of the airport rail link no longer seems to make much sense.
Chris> Interesting blog but you are living in a dream world. People don’t want premium service, they want affordable reliable service that doesn’t pollute. Most business people like me are flying Porter anyway.
Good news indeed.
The ‘Airport Express’ concept of an exclusive train running from downtown to the airport is long out of date, having given way to integrated services at newer airports such as Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt. That Pearson was so recently rebuilt without any provision what so ever for both regional and long distance rail services is an epic blunder, one which one way or another has to be corrected eventually. The proposed ARL, a two or three car non integrated service with no provision for future expansion and new routes is not a sensible direction to take.
One solution likely to cross the minds of the planners, especially given the 2015 deadline, is to extend the existing people mover to a new GO station at Woodbine. The elevated people mover can be converted to electric traction, one or two more trains added, and extended to run what is about twice the existing Terminal 1 to Parking Lot distance, to the new GO station. At this station, which was envisioned anyway in the Georgetown study, a cross platform transfer in an enclosed heated environment, with a concession stand and some seats, could make quite a convenient connection to say a 15 or 20 minute frequency Go Train. And by that time GO Transit should have bought equipment suitable for lower volume daytime services.
Consider too the array of possible service options such as hourly airport trains from Oshawa, Markham and Richmond Hill, and cross platform transfer at Union from Hamilton. And why cannot air travellers use GO parking lots all over the GTA.
This then is a quick and easy stop gap; the real solution is through Intercity and Regional rail service at the airport. How about a 2025 timeline for this.
Steve: My only concern with your proposal is the assumption that the airport people mover can be upgraded to provide the connecting service you describe. We really need to look at more than patchwork solutions at the airport, and attempting to recycle a mistake may limit our options needlessly. Even the folks at the airport acknowledge that the people mover was a bad choice.
We also have to recognize that the ARL will not be the only way people will get to the airport as most folks working and flying from there are not destined to downtown. If we are seriously going to reduce the amount of car traffic (and associated side effects) at the airport, we must address the 80% of users who come from everywhere else in the GTA.
This is bad news for rational people.
The ‘Blue 22’ proposal was always ridiculous as a financially self-financing proposal. This moves it into the fantasy world where a service that costs $30 to provide is provided at a cost to the user for $5.50.
As the four Yorkshireman would say – “sheer madness”.
Steve: The Blue 22 proposal presumed that its operators would recover both their capital and operating costs, plus a profit, out of the line’s operation. That $5.50 fare to Malton probably covers about 75% of GO’s direct operating costs and none of its capital. As a matter of public policy, much infrastructure and many services are provided at well below cost because there are paybacks that do not show up in a strict profit and loss statement for line’s operation.
The best example is the subway system without which Toronto would not have developed as we know it. The capital cost of those lines and all of the refurbishment/replacement costs for infrastructure and rolling stock are provided at no charge to the riders. The payback is that we can carry hundreds of thousands of people to jobs around the city without the overhead of road space and vehicles.
A truly integrated solution would likely see Eglinton and Finch TC cars serve a shared corridor through the airport, either underground or somehow using the people mover infrastructure if possible; Eglinton cars could run through to Malton or another terminal on the GO corridor, while Finch cars could eventually run south to Bloor. Thus, by boarding a frequent streetcar service, airport customers could connect to a downtown link or a host of other destinations.
I always thought the SNC-Lavalin idea was, well, dumb, the planning and design work already done, needs to be dumped into the nearest dust bin.
My thinking is we need to look at the existing GO service, into the area, then how can that be extended to cover the airport. For example the Malton Station on the Georgetown line, is fairly close to the airport, practically on the border of the airport. So you add a spur to the existing rail line that runs from just south of Malton Station, into the airport. I wonder why they don’t just run shuttle buses from Malton Station into the airport, add all day service on the Georgetown line and call it done. The problem with running a train into the airport is, which terminal(s) do you service? Can you service them all or just certain ones. At times of day when there isn’t a lot of service needed, you run a single bus that visits all of the terminals, when it’s busy you run a bus to each terminal. You charge say 75 cents more for the airport then for Malton station.
Vancouver’s Canada Line has turned out to be wildly successful for airport access and offers several constructive themes for Toronto’s discussions.
1. The system is completely integrated with the overall transit system. This was always forecasted as important to attract regular airport workers. But it has also turned out to be much more popular with passengers than expected.
It turns out that a large proportion of passengers don’t choose “deluxe” but instead choose convenient and cost-effective. The trains provide space for luggage, but again, not “deluxe”. Those requiring “deluxe” or destination convenience still have the limos and taxis that they always had.
2. There was a precursor to the Canada Line, the 98-B express bus that mimicked the performance of a rail-line. The express buses were packed morning, noon, and night but did accustom people to reasonable if not-very-pretty airport access.
Perhaps B-line express buses could be used from Eglinton West Station to the airport and from Finch West Station to the airport to anticipate whatever is eventually going to be built. These buses could serve both airport terminals as well as the Malton GO Station as an embryonic contribution to a real metropolitan transportation system.
3. The Canada Line has stations at major arterials. The Cambie bus remains to provide local service.
Something that has really bothered me about Eglinton planning is the conflict between regional and local service, with planned compromises that degrade both levels of service. My personal bias is to spend the big money on regional “fast” service and continue to provide good local service with the existing buses.
4. By providing high-capacity express and local bus service on Broadway for more than 10 years (approaching 100,000 passengers daily), decisions on what to provide as next steps will be much better informed.
I think that this kind of experience could be equally useful for Eglinton and Finch treated as parts of a future regional system.
I still don’t understand why electrification isn’t in their immediate plans. How many studies do they need?
Steve: After saying over and over it’s too expensive, you don’t expect them to change their public position overnight, do you? Big enough for the so-called “private partnership to disintegrate because the private sector wanted a subsidy (horrors!) on top of their premium fare. Poor darlings! Better we found this out now than after they start operating.
The Globe and Mail seems to think this is still going to be a premium service with its own brand name and fares, even though under public ownership.
Personally, I think imitating the Heathrow model — where the trains charge more per mile than the Concorde did, and don’t provide good service to anywhere other than central London — is a mistake. Gatwick is a better example: ordinary main-line trains stop there in addition to the premium express, and there’s even a cross-country connection to the Great Western main line. Best of all is Copenhagen Kastrup, which has direct trains to most of Denmark and much of Sweden, as well as local metro trains, all of which fall into the same integrated fare scheme as the rest of the city and region.
If it’s still going to be diesel-burning trains, I will boycott even though my home isn’t close to the line.
Good news. I count myself as future user of rail service to the airport so this will get me off the road. This also means diesel will ultimately drop out of the picture.
My $0.02: I think a 2 platform station box would be ideal under the apron between T1 and T3. This serves both terminals and only light aircraft taxi above so the roof doesn’t need to be super strong. The people mover is a non-starter. Passengers (and workers) want to get off a train and walk to where they need to go.
This airport link is next to worthless for anyone but business people and even they will likely hire limos than take a train to Union Station. Most non-business travellers come in groups of two or more. To take this train for two to Union Station will be at least $40 and then with a taxi you’ll add another $10-20 to your cost if your destination is within a few kilometres of Union Station.
I live about a kilometre south of the proposed Bloor stop and the price is the same … $40 for my wife and me and then the taxi fare. I recently was driven to the airport by a limo for $44+tip, and back for $50+tip. Door to door service and the driver helped with the luggage for the same price as the UPRL+cab.
If you live more than a few kilometres from the link or Union Station then this service is entirely useless, unless you’re going to haul your luggage on to a streetcar or down the stairs into the subway. And since most travellers don’t drive to the airport and leave their cars there while they travel, this link won’t be taking more than a few cabs and limos off the road, so the argument that car congestion will be relieved is also a joke. And the train trip downtown will be no quicker than a limo … 20-25 minutes.
The only way this link could work is if it cost $5-10 and was more accessible to Torontonians. As it’s proposed now, it’s for business people travelling to Bay Street, the few people who live near Union Station who can walk home with their luggage, and probably first-time travellers to the city who will be advised by ads paid for by the public that the train is the best way to get to their hotel and then realize they’ve been ripped off.
In this light it doesn’t matter who runs the link.
Why can’t they just build a spur off Malton GO which is the nearest station to the airport, it’s across the street.
If it’s too close then from Etobicoke North GO?
Why not just make a GO station at the airport part of the Goergetown line?
Union. Bloor. Weston. Etobicoke North. Pearson. Malton. Bramalea. Brampton. Mount Pleasant. Georgetown
it could also be: Union. Bloor. Weston. Etobicoke North. Malton. Pearson. Bramalea. Brampton. Mount Pleasant. Georgetown
Blue22 will pass through Mississauga municipal lands. What does McCallion get out of Blue 22? NOTHING.
People do go west of the airport when they arrive as well.
I wonder if there are any stats on directions of travel after landing on Pearson.
Ideally there should be 3 lines: North Toronto (Etobicoke-Finch West), Mid Town Toronto (Eglinton LRT) and Downtown Toronto (Blue22).
Blue22 shouldn’t be a premium fare system.
Both London and Vienna are part of their regular rail systems.
The news reports’ quotes at least acknowledge that a yard won’t be needed in the airport lands, and they make references to improved “integration,” but at the same time contradict that statement by saying it will still be a completely separate service model from GO Georgetown service(s), which leaves one wondering what they actually intend to do.
I am not against a premium fare being charged at the airport station itself up to about double the GO fare ($12?), although I would strongly urge a program be put in place to allow airport staff to ride for half the cost.
I am against inefficient use of existing infrastructure (expanded or not, including Union Station) and poor design of new infrastructure. Having different stops served between the two doesn’t benefit anybody by a meaningful margin, and integrated service options offer a lot of flexibility and wiggle room (which may take some time to settle on an ideal option), especially if this becomes integrated with future Express Rail plans, based on past publications.
With the yard out of the picture along the airport spur, I would place a high level of importance on taking the spur over Network Road instead of under, as this would allow enough vertical clearance for short consists of bi-level EMUs (which, in peak periods in particular, could couple/decouple from an electrified mainline GO train) to enter the airport.
David Arthur wrote, “I think imitating the Heathrow model … is a mistake.”
I partly disagree, however the ARL is only imitating HALF of the Heathrow model. Heathrow is served by the ARL-like express train AND by the Underground, giving people the choice between a lower cost, part of the public transit network choice, and a higher cost more comfortable seats with WiFi choice. Here’s the kicker: when the Underground is closed for maintenance, one’s regular transit fare gets them on the express train from Paddington station to get to the airport. Pearson needs to have the mix of rapid regular transit as well as an express train. I would change one thing about the ARL separate from other transit options to Pearson: pattern it after Oslo’s Gardermoen. There you can choose between the express train (Flytoget) and regular NSB commuter trains. Also, every other Flytoget runs about 50 km beyond the city centre to Drammen (think Oshawa from Pearson!).
One other note about Heathrow: having once used the express train (because the Underground was closed that day) to get to Heathrow, I strongly suspect that the platform-to-gate walking distance (or in my case, running distance!) would actually be shorter if we used the Malton GO station and built a pedestrian tunnel to T3! 😉
Steve: Yes, one important issue nobody has talked about is circulation within the airport after you arrive on the ARL. People who are driven tend to get dropped off close to their destination within the site. Transit riders do serious schlepping.
Calvin: Yes, I think I have read that Malton station is closer than at least some of the Heathrow stations. Heathrow is, of course, also a bit ridiculous in that you sometimes need to change trains just to get around the airport.
Stockholm Arlanda works on a similar principle to Gardermoen, and has three distinct stations – the premium-fare express stops under each of the two terminal areas, while all other trains stop at the centre of the airport. This isn’t much of a hardship, because the terminals are close together and have an indoor link area (which also provides most of the airport’s shopping zone).
Both this and Gardermoen are quite elegant; I still think Kastrup is the best I’ve seen, but I must admit a good bit of that comes from its geography (on the south end of Copenhagen, and right on the line between Denmark and Sweden, with only a couple of minor stations between it and either central Copenhagen or central Malmö). The really key thing about it is that it’s treated identically to anywhere else in Copenhagen for the purposes of fares; in fact, if you’re travelling between Sweden and south-east Copenhagen, Kastrup is where you change from the train to the metro, so it’s used by people who aren’t even planning to fly at all.
Probably the ideal model would be to declare Malton station to be ‘Malton for Pearson Airport’, and then extend the Eglinton Avenue tramway there, with stops at (or, as in Arlanda, under) each terminal. The proof-of-payment system could easily accommodate free travel along the airport stretch (the newish Minneapolis tramway does exactly this), and replace the existing people-mover into the bargain.
Steve, you are correct in that I cannot be sure the people mover would work, but the existing one appears to be fairly reliable lately. From the manufacturer’s web site there appear to be about ten installations operating or under construction, and none have been converted to electric traction. But in the Toronto situation simply extending the two train service to a Wooodbine GO station (running beside the 409 and 427 highways) would be an end to end distance of about 5 km, (longer than any other installation I acknowledge) and timing end to end of about 8 minutes, and at 150 passengers maximum per train and say 7 trains per hour is 1050 passengers per hour each way. That exceeds what a two car RDC every 15 minutes could handle, (in fact it would fill every seat in two GO bilevel cars) so I would suggest there is some life in the idea. Even the 8 minutes might be mitigated by the slow running through the tortuous curves an airport train would have to negotiate just to get to where a Woodbine station might be located. The thing has several other advantages: almost any breakdown affects only half of it so the other half can continue to operate; it serves terminal 3; trains can be extended by one car and perhaps more; the extension can be built quickly and with minimal disruption to the existing portion; and passengers can also go north to Brampton and beyond.
Finally, the very substantial savings might well be applied to getting the Eglinton LRT to the airport also.
Steve wrote, “Transit riders do serious schlepping.”
Often yes, but Gardermoen is a good example contrary to this. I can’t say for sure, but I believe the walking distance may actually be shorter to the trains than to taxis, or at least comparable.
When it comes to the Eglinton and Finch West LRT lines reaching the airport, a serious look at both St. Louis and Minneapolis should be done. Both have the LRT reasonably located and both use the LRT for terminal-to-terminal movements, fare free. Minneapolis does it in a tunnel, and St. Louis does it elevated.
Is it possible to have the ARL as an express option in conjunction with the western portion of the DRL that would also offer local service? – Perhaps similar to the ability to get on local or express trains in NYC.
Steve: The real problem is the number of available tracks. The corridor is crowded as it is. As I have said before, we have to avoid trying to make one line do everything, and the ARL/DRL may not be the appropriate marriage. I would also argue that the concept of “express” needs to be refined so that we don’t build a lot of separate infrastructure to save a comparatively small amount on the journey.
Calvin: Gardermoen has the advantage of having been planned with a rail connection in mind, just as the main terminal at Gatwick was built on top of a railway station that already existed. If you want to add a station right inside the terminal of an airport that already exists, it’ll likely require some expensive tunnelling, like at Arlanda, which I doubt Toronto can afford.
Actually, if you use the Heathrow Connect service to the airport, it costs just the same as the Heathrow Express service. The aim of Heathrow Connect was to extend the local service along the line between Paddington and Airport Junction into the airport, primarily to benefit airport workers – but the cost is the same.
So clearly the ARL is something that must be done and by all accounts this will use the railway ROW.
Is it better to expand the railway corridor so that there is sufficient space that it can also be used by the DRL or will this need to use another alignment altogether?
Steve: The rail corridor is already tight because of the extra tracks for the ARL. There isn’t enough room for a DRL in addition.
There are a number of issues at play here:
1. The airport needs to be accessible. If we had an option of taking a Finch LRT north, Eglinton LRT midtown or an option of taking a DRL or express downtown this would serve the entire city. A connection with Go Transit close to the airport would allow those going west of the city a viable option.
2. The ARL as it is with the potential premium fare does not do anything to assist local commuters and regional transit integration.
3. We need service at a local/regional level that helps connect the whole system, providing relief along both the YUS and BD.
4. What options are the most viable based on cost, construction issues, citizen concerns?
It strikes me that the most efficient means of approaching service to the Airport is to improve (and possibly) electrify GO service between Union and Mount Pleasant, and building the People Mover from the airport terminals to either Malton, Etobicoke North or a new Woodbine station. But the People Mover is the problem, here.
More than one person has suggested expanding the current people mover. That’s not going to happen. If anything is to happen to that people mover, it will be torn down and rebuilt, full stop. I’ve ridden it: the thing is not a monorail, it’s a cable car. The trains have no independent drive capacity whatsoever; they move because they are pulled by a single cable under the tracks. The system is currently limited to two trains, each operating on separate tracks. No provision has been made for trains to pass other trains on the same track. Service currently operates at either seven minute frequencies (because that’s the round trip of a single train) or three-and-a-half minutes when both trains are in operation. This frequency will be lengthened to about four minutes when the line is extended to the new part of Terminal One. Beyond that, extensions under the current technology simply isn’t possible.
The Blue 22 proposal called for a spur line to break off the Weston Sub around Etobicoke North station, and operate on its own elevated tracks to the Terminal 1 building. I assume, right now, that the Metrolinx-built proposal hasn’t changed from this model. If they operate this on standard GO/Metrolinx fares, this won’t be too bad. If service operates every fifteen minutes, then the people in northwestern Toronto get quarter-hourly premium express service serving the airport, the community of Weston, Mount Dennis (Eglinton), with connections to the Bloor-Danforth subway and Union. That ain’t half bad. But it’s not as good as it could be, in my opinion. People travelling to the airport from the west (Brampton, Guelph, Kitchener, etc) now have to transfer from GO or VIA to the Airport Express. That’s not so convenient.
I return to my desire that Metrolinx fold in the money for the Blue 22 proposal into a proposal to increase GO Train service between Union and Mount Pleasant to at least half hourly, seven days a week. Then, build in a new people mover from Malton GO station to serve the terminals. Better yet, at the Malton terminal, set in baggage check desks. The big advantage of the Blue 22 proposal was that people could check their bags at Union and head straight to their plane. That didn’t help anybody using this service from Dundas West or Weston. You could still do the checked baggage thing at Union. The people mover at Malton wouldn’t add another transfer between GO and the Airport — rather than bring GO to the Airport, we bring the Airport to GO.
I recall reading in one of the GTAA docs that the People Mover was designed to be replaced with selfpropelled if necessary. That said, it may be too late for that. Having it down for several months for refurbishing was a major pain in the ass never mind the length of time removing the existing and installing some sort of SP replacement would take. The Viscount car park has outgrown shuttle buses by now.
My previous main choice for an airport link was using LRVs to link to a GO/VIA interchange near Woodbine Racecourse, and I still like that idea not least because with a bit of customising it could piggyback from the TC order, it would serve the expanding racecourse complex, possibly link to Finch West LRT… but I notice it’s not a million miles from the Disco Road waste transfer station – given the city’s plans to expand this it could get whiffy while waiting for GO to arrive some days…
David Arthur wrote, “Gardermoen has the advantage of having been planned with a rail connection in mind…”
That is true and I was aware of it, but it does not detract from the point I was making about considering two of their operational benefits: having a mix of express and regular commuter trains, and having alternate express trains continue past the city core. Since we will be retrofitting service into the airport, we will not be able to benefit from that which Gardermoen had in building the new airport with rail services in the plan.
That said, I have heard there was space reserved/put in the plans of T1 to have something in the basement that would somehow simplify a retrofit. If this exists, it may only be suitable for LRT operations, and does not address how service will be implemented for T3.