The Dubious Economics of the Union Pearson Express

In today’s Toronto Star, Tess Kalinowski writes about recently released Metrolinx reports concerning the Union Pearson Express (UPX).

The items of interest are down at the bottom of the Reports & Information page and they include ridership forecasts from December 2011 and May 2013. The latter report was cited as background to the Auditor General’s 2012 Report on Metrolinx [beginning on p. 6 of the pdf].

Given that the projection is almost two years old, one might be tempted to say “maybe things have improved”, but that’s a tad hard to believe in the absence of any newer studies from Metrolinx.

There are great hopes, and even greater hype, for the UPX, and getting some basic information on the table is certainly worthwhile.

Commercial Confidentiality

Sections of the forecasts have been redacted by Metrolinx “to protect economic and other interests”, and the missing data appear to be entirely concerned with revenue projections and fare levels. How exactly this is applicable is quite a mystery considering that Metrolinx is a public agency and we are not dealing here with a privately operated UPX or a 3P, the very model that was abandoned because the “private partner” didn’t think the line could make money.

Metrolinx and, through them, Queen’s Park are hiding behind confidentiality provisions to save themselves from criticism over fares and costs, but we can get at that by other ways, notably in the Provincial Auditor’s Report (discussed at the end of this article).

Metrolinx owes the public a clear statement of just what “economic and other interests” are being protected other than the threadbare reputation of politicians who have staked much on this project.

December 2011 Forecasts

The first step in estimating ridership is to look at the overall projected use of the airport. The chart below starts with projected demand in 2020 and then carves away travellers who are not in the potential market for UPX services.

Of the projected 40.8-million airport users, 10.9m are captive to the airport because they are changing between flights. A small number, 1.8m, will be arriving or leaving during hours the UPX is not running. The next large block, 14.9m (36.5%) originate from or travel to locations the UPX does not serve. Another small block, 1.3m, use private shuttles such as links to hotels. This leaves 11.8m (28.9%) of airport users as potential UPX passengers. Of these, the overwhelming majority now use taxis or drop offs/pick ups for transport to/from the airport. This is the market UPX seeks to tap in its aim of reducing road congestion and associated problems such as pollution.

UPX201112InScopeDemand2020

Based on surveys of travellers in 2009, the passengers were reassigned by mode to show the effect of the UPX.

UPX201112BaseCaseResults2020

This chart considers all of 29.86m passengers who are not transferring at the airport, and predicts that the ARL would capture 3.08m trips. What the chart does not tell us is the distribution of trips within and outside of the potential scope for UPX riders (the 11.8m above). Note that the thickness of the bands in the first chart (in scope trips) is different from the bands in the “without ARL” column in the second chart (all trips). “Rental car” is a noticeably thinner slice for in scope riders than for airport trips in general. This probably reflects the comparative difficulty of reaching locations that are not downtown and the need for personal transportation once someone gets there.

In any event, UPX (labelled “ARL” above from its original name “Air Rail Link”) manages to pick up 3.08m trips which is 26% of its in scope market, or 10.3% of all trips to/from the airport. Most of these are to/from downtown, and so these can reasonably be assumed to be auto/taxi journeys diverted from the 427/QEW/Gardiner route.

The report estimates that the UPX riders have been diverted from other modes: 62% from taxis, 11% from an express bus and 27% from a car (rentals, drop-offs, parking).

Ridership on UPX is projected to  begin at 1.35m for the 2015 partial year (April 5 to December 31), and ramp up to a “mature” level of 2.97m annually in 2018. Thereafter, growth at 1.4% per annum is projected (based on experience with other similar systems worldwide) to a 2031 value of 3.57m.

A much more generous view of ridership was assumed in the Neptis Foundation report authored by Michael Schabas. In that report, which included quite rosy projections for the financial health of UPX, Schabas begins with a presumed 2015 ridership of 3m (annualized basis) with ridership doubling by 2023 and doubling again by 2033. This is vastly more riders than projected by Steer Davies Gleave in the Metrolinx study.

Part of the black art of ridership estimates is a projection of the “capture rate” for airport trips from various parts of the city. If there would be 100 trips to the airport from an area, how many of these would likely be picked up by UPX?

UPX201112CaptureRates

A high capture rate is predicted for downtown at 68% (note that although the chart includes a legend for 80-100%, no zone actually achieves this level). In other words, for every 100 trips to the airport from to/downtown, 68 are expected to use UPX. The proportion at Bloor Station is high too:

… capture rates are high at 53% reflecting the highly competitive nature of the ARL compared to other competing modes for those travelling to or from this area. [p. 18]

This is certainly wishful thinking because unlike a businessman downtown who would probably walk to Union Station, riders along the Bloor subway corridor are far more likely to get on the subway and, having done so, simply continue west to Kipling and the TTC’s 192 Rocket service. A related problem here is that there is no direct connection from Dundas West Station to the UPX platform. Metrolinx has even proposed a scheme to rejig (one might say “gerrymander”) Dundas West Station simply to improve the surface link between the subway and the GO/UPX station. It is worth noting that SDG explicitly states:

The ARL station at Bloor will be easy to access and have a good interchange with other transit modes. [p. 20]

They presume that in the absence of a good connection at Bloor UPX station, riders would backtrack to Union rather than simply taking the subway plus the 192. This is a rather blinkered view and clearly does not allow for the substantially added access time just to reach Union. (The effect of a longer trip is clear in the sensitivity analysis later in the report.)

Hourly demands over the day are projected from the known travel patterns at the airport (hourly volumes, trip times adjusted relative to flight times to allow for security clearance and baggage handling, variation in proportion of trips types by time of day) to produce a projected demand level for UPX in its first year.

The first chart shows projected demand on a typical day for traffic to and from the airport. This is well within the capacity of two-car trains. (The “ramp-up” scenario below presumes that traffic does not build immediately to the full projected level. Given that much of the traffic will be to/from downtown, this chart is also a good indication of the number of trips that will be removed from the road network by time of day.

UPX201112OpeningYearHourlyDemand

August is a heavy travel month, and the projected peak demand for it is shown below. This would take UPX either into standees (hardly a “premium” service) or a need for three-car trains.

UPX201112OpeningYearAugustHourlyDemand

Usage by station shows a very heavy skew to Union as the primary origin and destination.

UPX201112DemandByStation

Finally, the report considers the effect of altering assumptions in the model.

UPX201112SensitivityTests

It is intriguing to note that the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA) who run Pearson Airport have different assumptions in their model of airport traffic compared to the Metrolinx study. Notably they have a higher assumed mode share for downtown and they project a higher growth in air travel.

Adopting the GTAA air traffic forecasts leads to a 14% increase in the forecast ridership of the ARL. This is directly related to the fact that the GTAA air traffic forecasts are greater than the ones that have been developed by us for this study.

Use of other GTAA data to change the demand composition of the in-scope market has a number of small impacts, the biggest being the impact of the GTAA mode shares for the downtown metro area of Toronto which increases ridership forecasts by 7%. [p. 24]

Increasing the travel time has a negative impact on projected ridership. This is worth noting in the context of a proposed connection at Bloor/Dundas West where the existing transfer route would add substantially to trip time and also endure the penalty that transferring and waiting rank far higher than on board time as a deterrent to ridership.

May 2013 Forecasts

By 2013, air travel had grown faster than predicted in the 2011 study, and so future passenger volumes were updated. However, the charts showing projected travel at the airport suggests that this effect is quite small, and for some years the projections are actually lower. [Compare p. 8 of 2011 report with p. 9 of 2013 report]

  • 2015: 36.5m in both the 2011 and 2013 projections
  • 2020: 40.8m in the 2011 projection, but only 40.6 in 2013
  • 2025: 45.0m in the 2011 projection, 45.1m in 2013
  • 2030: 48.6m in 2011, 48.9m in 2013
  • 2035: 51.3m in 2011, 51.7m in 2013

Some of the change is attributed to the effect of the Island Airport diverting traffic from Pearson.

Some of the competing modes fell in price (allowing for inflation) and this made the proposed (and secret) UPX fares less competitive affecting projected demand. Express buses from downtown were still part of the mix, although these are no longer in the market in 2015.

The chart illustrating the “in scope” demand is almost unchanged in 2013 from 2011. Instead of 11.8m in scope passengers per year, the number is now 11.9m. However, the projected annual demand on the UPX has fallen by 2013 from 3.08m t0 2.46m. about 20%. Much of the UPX loss shows up in the auto categories:

  • Drop offs were 9.55m in 2011, but are now 9.73m.
  • Taxi trips were 5.77m in 2011, but are now 6.08m.

UPX201305BaseCaseResults2020

Because the revenue projections are redacted, we do not know how much of an effect the proposed UPX fares have on these numbers, or, indeed, what fare was included in the model, or whether a sensitivity test related to fares was included.

The forecast ridership in 2031 is lower in the 2013 report (2.94m) than the 2020 ridership projected in 2011 (3.08m).

The projected sources of UPX riding (taxis, express bus, auto) are estimated to make roughly the same proportionate contribution in the 2013 report as in 2011.

The projected reduction in car trips is 1.98m per year in 2020 rising to 2.36m in 2031. This may sound like a lot, but it is still under 10% of total traffic to the airport showing how important the provision of much-improve transit access via other routes will be.

In the 2013 study, the capture rate for the market for downtown has been reduced from 68% to 60%. Even so, 73% of demand is expected to come from this area.

Forecast annual ridership is expected to be split between the three stations with 79% at Union, 14% at Bloor and 7% at Weston. This is little changed from the 2011 report.

UPX201305HourlyDemand2020

The hourly ridership numbers come nowhere near the seated capacity which is now based on a mix of 2 and 3-car trains.

We have been advised by Metrolinx that the hourly seated capacity will be between 576 and 672, depending on the mix of 2 and 3-car consists. Both are well above forecast hourly demand. [p. 24]

What is even more startling, however, is to compare this chart from the 2013 report with the one in 2011 that showed demand for the opening year, 2015. The projected demand in 2020 is now lower than the originally projected demand in 2015.

Finally, in a look at airports around the world, the 2013 report gives the following comparison for Toronto. In this chart 2020 Toronto projections are compared to recent data from other cities. In other words, Toronto’s numbers are goosed by the inclusion of at least 7 years of ridership and demand growth relative to other cities.

UPX201305AirportComparisons

It is rather amusing that a combination of UPX with bus service is included here to show Toronto in a better light for overall transit access. The bus passengers (those who have not been poached away by UPX) were already on transit and do not represent any reduction in road demand or congestion.

This chart is described in unwarranted glowing terms:

With a forecast market share of 8.3% and passenger volumes of 2.5 million in 2020, the UPE in Toronto is comparable with other North American cities such as:

■ Vancouver, served by the Canada Line rapid transit service: 10% rail market share;
■ Chicago Midway, served by Chicago Transit Authority “L” trains: 6% rail and 9% transit overall;
■ Seattle, served by the Link light rail service: overall transit market share of 11%; and
■ Baltimore/Washington, served by a large number of rail services (Amtrak, MARC and a light rail system): 12% transit market share.

We will just ignore the fact that Toronto in 2020 with UPX will be well below Boston’s Logan airport served directly by the local transit system (the Blue Line), and the much better known (and used) Chicago O’Hare airport (also on the Chicago El).

In the conclusion, the report states:

The UPE is forecast to carry 8.3% of the surface access market. This is well within the range of other airports in the world, and in particular North American rail links such as Vancouver and Chicago. [p. 29]

The reader is not supposed to notice that the comparison is actually to Chicago’s minor airport, Midway, not to its primary airport, O’Hare, nor that many other North American airports already outdo the Pearson/UPX combination’s 2020 projections.

The Provincial Auditor’s Report

The Provincial Auditor reviewed, among other things, the question of cost recovery for the UPX operation and capital costs.

At the time of our audit, the province had not specifically required that Metrolinx recover the cost of operating the ARL from revenues that the service generates. The Ministry of Transportation (Ministry) informed us that Metrolinx would set the ARL’s fare in consultation with the province.

If operating the ARL on a break-even basis is indeed the objective, this may prove to be a challenge for Metrolinx. In 2003, Transport Canada announced a private-sector group as the successful Public–Private Partnership (P3) proponent that would design, build and operate the ARL. However, the group was unable to secure financing for the venture because its lenders did not feel that they had sufficient protection from “no market” risk (that is, from a situation where, despite all reasonable efforts to attract riders, the service does not generate enough revenues to be a viable business). They perceived this project to be riskier than other infrastructure projects because there was no “pre-existing demonstrated revenue stream.” The group proposed that the province assume the lenders’ risk by purchasing ARL assets if the “no market” scenario arose. The province rejected this proposal, so the group walked away from the project. In 2010, the government decided that the province, through Metrolinx, would build and operate the ARL itself. [pp. 210-211]

Yes, there are times when a partnership with the private sector just doesn’t work out, especially when the government won’t agree to bail out a losing proposition.

Metrolinx’s preliminary estimate of the ARL’s annual operating cost is approximately $30 million. However, according to Metrolinx, the cost could well be higher, because the service’s exact nature has not been finalized, so some relevant costs may not have been identified yet. For example, the estimate does not include the annual access fee of approximately $5 million that GO Transit was going to charge the private-sector group for using the GO-owned Georgetown South rail corridor. As well, if the fare was to recover the capital cost of the pro-ject over time, we estimate this would approximate $20 million annually over a period of 20 years. If that amount is included as part of the ARL’s operating cost, the total cost to be recovered from fares each year would rise to about $50 million. [p. 212]

Obviously, if UPX is part of Metrolinx, there would not be an internal charge of $5m for the use of GO Transit facilities unless UPX was treated as a cash cow by GO Transit. However, if there were any idea of farming UPX out to a private owner at some point, the question of track usage and other shared costs would be very much an issue.

If we take the annual ridership projections in 2020 of 2.46-3.08m, the cost per trip is on the order of $10 based on that starting cost of $30m. We do not know what additional costs Metrolinx might face that have led them to a standard fare of $27.50 and a Presto-based fare of $19. Metrolinx finances, especially at the detailed level of this one route, are a mystery. Will UPX riders actually be paying the full cost of their service? Will subsidy funds that might have gone to general improvements in GO Transit be diverted to prop up UPX?

The Auditor estimates that a fare of $28 would be required to break even on operations plus capital amortization, and qualifies even that number with concerns about UPX’s ability to achieve market share at a high ticket price.

This does not include the UPX’s share of electrification costs which are still unknown, at least to the public.

Conclusion

The Union Pearson Express was a vanity project for the former Chretien government in Ottawa together with their “partner” SNC Lavalin who were originally to build and operate the line. It then turned into a provincial project under Dalton McGuinty and is now in the hands of the Wynne government. There will be much hoopla, many photo ops, and possibly even some riders. Much effort has been spent over a very long time for a project that should have been delivered as a basic part of the transit system, at most as a branch offering within the GO Transit network.

Much more openness and transparency are required from Metrolinx about this and all of its projects so that informed decisions can be made, up front, about transit investments, subsidies, fares and services. The sham of “commercial confidentiality” must be stripped from these debates.

Part of me wants any transit project to succeed. The worst possible environment for a transit advocate is to spend time explaining that some new line, some new network won’t be like whatever recent debacle happens to preoccupy media and politicians. The projections for UPX are not encouraging.

122 thoughts on “The Dubious Economics of the Union Pearson Express

  1. As someone in the supposed catchment area for UPX, working in the financial district and living in the garment district I can get a airport limo or taxi to YYZ for my partner and myself for roughly the same as the UPX fare or about $50. The bonus being the limo picks me up at the front door, no Presto card, no lining up to buy a ticket at Union. Also no lugging suitcases onto the King car, assuming that I could even get on the King car.

    The fare for the SEPTA service to the airport in Philadelphia is less but in line with a standard GO transit fare. Sure the standard passenger coaches look a little rough but it is an affordable service with connections to the entire transit system. We build a fancy system that is incompatible with any other component of the transit infrastructure and when it fails (not if) we’re saddled with the cost.

    But I feel as though this is a “I told you so” moment… I am pretty sure I posted that this pig wouldn’t fly when it was in the planning phase!

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  2. Mark Rejhon said:

    The intermediate step of 2-to-3-car diesel trains is a hasty step considering it should have been electric right from the start (and in an ideal world, ideally with automatic train control right from the outset, to more easily share with interspersed, cheaper commuter services). At least, the stations are all 4-car-train ready and the route is electricification-friendly (including blank placeholder pads for the catenary poles on the UPX bridge/viaduct at the airport). The economics of a 4-car EMU can be debatable but at least we’re not stuck with 2-to-3-car forever.

    By my observation UPX Union and Pearson stations as built are for DMU’s comprising 3x25m vehicles, and are not long enough for 4 car trains unless of reduced car length of 18-19m. Such change would not increase capacity, and would require complete re-jig of platform edge doors. It looks like Union platform could be extended by one car, and Pearson platform extension would be at the expense of the people mover as well as substantial structural work.

    By my figuring and based on the 25minute journey time, capacity could be increased by adding trains in two steps, 12minute and 10minute frequencies. It should be possible to do this for peaks only dropping back to 15 minute service after. The 12 minute frequency would require 5 of the 6 3-Car DMU’s purchased, and all six if a waiting train at Pearson was preferred. The 10 minute frequency would require all 6 units, without a waiting train at Pearson, and subject to all 6 units being available.

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  3. We build a fancy system that is incompatible with any other component of the transit infrastructure and when it fails (not if) we’re saddled with the cost.

    But I feel as though this is a “I told you so” moment… I am pretty sure I posted that this pig wouldn’t fly when it was in the planning phase!

    I think it is a costly project better spent on other things. But I believe it likely will not fail. Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London UK also have similar systems with similiar costs with lots of naysayers ($15-$45), and they have succeeded well enough to be sustainable. Toronto is a very livable city for those who can afford it (alas) and continues to boom like gangbusters, probably for a long time to come, like a World City. I expect the two car UPX trains to be frequently standing room only during peak, and still over half full at most other times, with empty trains only occurring during moments of lack of arrivals, like incoming weather delays, or super early/late during low moments of fluctuating air traffic. They will be quick to announce expansion of all trainsets to maximum length.

    Even so, UPX is not necessarily a succeed/fail. The megaprojects it helped kick off, Georgetown Corridor, will bring benefits to GO RER, HSR, SmartTrack, and whatever trains uses this Canada’s most important passenger train corridor. This corridor will be electrified anyway, as a priority for all rail services, not just UPX. With an upgraded Euro/Japan style automatic/positive train control system within a decade or two, there can still be room for UPX to share the trackage with other services.

    Also remember HSR and SmartTrack/GO RER _may_ be high platform trains for this route, so we may be keeping those types of stations longer, and making existing GO platforms on this specific corridor. So UPX may not exactly be incompatible from a platform height perspective.

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  4. Pearson is very surge prone. The reason we need more than two cars is Pearson has surge traffic. Imagine an A380 arrivig at near the same time as a delayed 747 and 777. That will easily overload a series of multiple 2 car trains.

    Daily, will have many opportunities for Metrolinx to toot full capacity, even if the 615am train might be near empty in one direction.

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  5. By my observation UPX Union and Pearson stations as built are for DMU’s comprising 3x25m vehicles, and are not long enough for 4 car trains unless of reduced car length…

    I stand corrected. I thought I read somewhere about 4 car trains. It seemed the first and last set of platform edge doors were beyond the first and last doors on a 3-car UPX. I could be wrong on that count.

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  6. Mark Rejhon | April 13, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    “Even so, UPX is not necessarily a succeed/fail. The megaprojects it helped kick off, Georgetown Corridor, will bring benefits to GO RER, HSR, SmartTrack, and whatever trains uses this Canada’s most important passenger train corridor. This corridor will be electrified anyway, as a priority for all rail services, not just UPX. With an upgraded Euro/Japan style automatic/positive train control system within a decade or two, there can still be room for UPX to share the trackage with other services.

    “Also remember HSR and SmartTrack/GO RER _may_ be high platform trains for this route, so we may be keeping those types of stations longer, and making existing GO platforms on this specific corridor. So UPX may not exactly be incompatible from a platform height perspective.”

    I think that you are smoking some funny tobacco if you honestly believe that UPX kicked off the Georgetown Corridor expansion. UPX is delaying the implementation of hourly or better still half hourly service on the Georgetown/Kitchener line from Union to Mt. Pleasant. UPX with its 15 minute service will make it difficult to run a 15 minute service through Bloor Station for both services because there is not room for 6 tracks, with platforms for 4 tracks, through there without adversely impacting the West Toronto Rail Corridor Trail.

    Union Station may have the track capacity for more rush hour trains but I do not believe that it has the platform capacity for a lot more trains. Some of its platform are barely 8′ wide. Have you ever been on one of these platforms trying to get off a full train when another train comes in? It is frightening trying not to get hit by the new inbound train while you are still trying to get off the platform. Union’s platforms are too narrow to allow for a large increase in the number of passenger. You can run more trains as long as you don’t run many more passengers.

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  7. “Also remember HSR and SmartTrack/GO RER _may_ be high platform trains for this route, so we may be keeping those types of stations longer, and making existing GO platforms on this specific corridor.”

    This brought up a few questions that I’ve had for quite some time.

    1) Since Union Station is nearing the end of a massive renovation that has low platforms for all but the UP Express, is it possible for SmartTrack/GO RER to use high platform trains on any routes? Has the renovation of Union station limited the options for rail vehicles for RER?

    2) Was there ever an explanation as to why Metrolinx designed UP Express to use high platforms when GO uses low platforms?

    3) If platform edge doors are a safety feature of the UP Express, why are they only at 2 of the 4 stations? (or are the platform edge doors for climate control and only at stations where Metrolinx is expecting riders)

    Steve: (1) I don’t think anyone thought about high platforms when the “new” Union was being designed because RER and any equipment other than a bilevel train wasn’t on the drawing boards. (2) Simplicity of equipment procurement. (3) Probably because the intermediate stops will have other types of equipment operating through them.

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  8. Kevin Richardson says

    “1) Since Union Station is nearing the end of a massive renovation that has low platforms for all but the UP Express, is it possible for SmartTrack/GO RER to use high platform trains on any routes? Has the renovation of Union station limited the options for rail vehicles for RER?”

    Platforms that are the height of GO’s handicap ones or higher have to be somewhere between 12 and 15″ from the edge of train moving past the platform if the train speed is over 10 mph IIRC. Since Metrolinx owns all the tracks on which UPX will run they can control this. Lake Shore, Kitchener and Milton trains run on tracks owned by CN or CP for part of their run. High platforms will not be allowed by either CN or CP.

    Putting high platforms in Union would have required major changes to the elevators and steps and it would be very difficult to build platforms that could accommodate high and low platform trains.

    Regional commuter trains like RER that I rode in Europe had platforms at the height of GO’s handicap ones but they came out to the edge of the train. Most were bi level or had depressed sections at the doors for low floor entry. I did no get to Paris.

    “2) Was there ever an explanation as to why Metrolinx designed UP Express to use high platforms when GO uses low platforms?”

    I believe that it was to make entrance and exit easier, especially for passengers with luggage.

    “3) If platform edge doors are a safety feature of the UP Express, why are they only at 2 of the 4 stations? (or are the platform edge doors for climate control and only at stations where Metrolinx is expecting riders)”

    They are mainly to keep the climate constant, can’t have high rollers getting cold or sweaty. Since the chance of the high rollers getting on or off at Weston or Bloor is fat or slim they are not needed there. I really doubt that VIA would ever use those platforms but they could as long as there were no doors at locations that would not match VIA’s end of coach location, but they could be spotted to use a couple, but not all of them.

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  9. About a my prediction of a possible migration to high platforms on Kitchener route:

    There is a major thread on the UrbanToronto forums which I frequently participate in. It’s called The Great Platform Height Debate. There is precedent for gradually changing the height of platforms over the long term.

    High platforms are not needed on all GO routes. But it is going to be potentially needed on various stations in the Kitchener route, if all services — GO RER, SmartTrack, UPX, and High Speed trains are ALL becoming high platform.

    Reasons of high platforms:

    — Greater/cheaper train availability because many train manufacturers only manufature trains for high platforms. Nearly all high speed trains are high platforms.
    — Safer for platform-edge standees. Also, high platform trains are also smoother on the exterior with less protrusions and no gaps to fall under the train, so are less dangerous when standing too close to platform edge (except if you fall into the platform, then low tracks are harder to climb out of). Boarding/exiting the train is much faster
    — Much faster boarding. I have been to Paris, and their GO train equilvalent — Paris RER (which Metrolinx GO RER is in part, inspired by) and they use high level platforms combined with some bi-level EMUs on some Paris RER routes. Boarding was much faster than a GO Train, as they loitered at the station only about as long as a subway train, saving almost a full two minutes of layover time per station (compared to GO). Some GO RER routes actually run every 3 minutes at peak period, so they really have to do very rapid stop-gos at stations, subway-style. Only high platforms make that possible, and they even had pictures of high-platform trains of the international examples in one of their GO RER PDFs, so they apparently aren’t opposed to the idea of high platforms.
    — There is predecent of commuter lines gradually being converted (typically over a generation) to high platform. A recent one is California’s new high speed rail. California is about to embark in a two-decade-long process of converting stations to high platforms, due to their new high speed train.
    — Precision and tolerances of modern high-performance EMUs and high speed trains permit a tight subway-style gap, eliminating need for a platform bridge. Since they are made to not rock back and forth enough to collide with the platform edge even when passing by at high speed.

    My suspicion is 50-50 chance that Kitchener Line will become fully high platform within 30 years, because it’s the high speed corridor.

    Only a few tracks at Union would need to be retrofitted; the track level does not have to be changed but the platform would need to be raised; there is enough overhead room to simply build a higher platform and retrofit the entrances/exits/elevators with a few more steps and higher-rising elevators. It would be a construction mess but would not last more than a year of platform closure in a concerted effort. If you look carefully at Union, the overhead room would not require overhead modifications, but you would need to modify the entrances/exits (extra steps for stairs; and extra distance for elevator rise). There is precedent of platform height retrofits; they are disruptive but should not be nearly as disruptive as the current Union revitalization, though the platform closures could impact service (but not necessarily shut down tracks if done carefully, if there’s a platform available on the opposite edge).

    It would not happen right away. But this is Canada’s most future-critical interregional passenger train corridor (Georgetown Corridor investments + the High Speed Train Corridor + High performance GO RER + SmartTrack + UPX). I really do not think it would permanently stay low platform 30 years from now.

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  10. “I think that you are smoking some funny tobacco if you honestly believe that UPX kicked off the Georgetown Corridor expansion.”

    Scroll up further, and — categorically — I even say it multiple times:

    “It’s not correct that Georgetown South was only for UPX.” (my words)

    “People are being totally silly when they claim that the Georgetown South Project was only for UPX.” (my words)

    I simply used the word “helped kick off”, UPX was not THE reason, but it helped. Without UPX, the Georgetown corridor might not have become be as a big megaproject as it was, e.g. adding fewer track. There aren’t any UPX-only trackage, even if UPX might have sole use of the tracks initially, and technically GO RER (SmartTrack?) could make use of them, if using sufficiently-high-performing EMU trainsets that doesn’t hold up UPX service. Besides, I don’t smoke 😉

    “UPX is delaying the implementation of hourly or better still half hourly service on the Georgetown/Kitchener line from Union to Mt. Pleasant.”

    This is correct.

    “UPX with its 15 minute service will make it difficult to run a 15 minute service through Bloor Station for both services because there is not room for 6 tracks, with platforms for 4 tracks, through there without adversely impacting the West Toronto Rail Corridor Trail.”

    Perhaps true today, but it’s not impossible. It will require more overpasses over Bloor, and yes, it may adversely affect a small section of the railpath primarily near Bloor. North of Bloor, any remaining embankment slopes will have to be trenched/noisewalled (where it is not already), so trains can run closer to the edge of the corridor right of way. This was already done in some sections, but may need to be increasingly done. I’ve seen a Metrolinx proposed diagram, including ARL, that shows six tracks through Bloor. Trains may pass closer to the existing railpath, and a new overpass constructed immediately to the left of the Bloor railpath overpass, but would not eliminate the Railpath. (Alas, admittedly, a bit less scenic along that section.)

    You can see the potential routing of the sixth tracks in the Google Maps view. The six tracks (AND room for platforms) are visible on the maps, although it is out of date respective to the Georgetown corridor changes. This isn’t necessarily needed now but will be necessary for all-day service on all GO routes within 10 years.

    Over the long term, there are technical fixes when forced by necessity. Upgraded automatic/positive train control, like those used in Europe to enable 3-minute headways between commuter trains (like Paris’ RER service — yes they call it RER over there, and I’ve ridden the electric bi-level RER commuter trains — one of the inspiration of GO’s RER), can put a few trains between the UPX trains, if necessary. The upgraded signalling system on the UPX line, can preserve UPX service while introducing additional traffic. There are crossovers (for emergency use) can be used to allow UPX to bypass stalled trains, and more can be added if necessary.

    Automatic train control systems aren’t yet used on GO transit lines, but if mother of necessity happened, it could be used to increase capacity of the Georgetown Corridor, if throughput became a problem. This may have to be worked out with Transport Canada, and TTC is currently adding it over the next decade. High Speed Trains require upgraded automatic/positive train control systems for safety reasons, so Kitchener corridor is a prime candidate to be the first commuter corridor to receive such a system installed within 30 years.

    “Union Station may have the track capacity for more rush hour trains but I do not believe that it has the platform capacity for a lot more trains. Some of its platform are barely 8′ wide. Have you ever been on one of these platforms trying to get off a full train when another train comes in? It is frightening trying not to get hit by the new inbound train while you are still trying to get off the platform. Union’s platforms are too narrow to allow for a large increase in the number of passenger. You can run more trains as long as you don’t run many more passengers.”

    Are you aware a few platforms are currently closed today at Union during revitalization? Once all of those extra platforms are open, and track-sharing in the VIA-rail tracks, they can schedule trains to spread the platforms around. Also, Penn station have quite narrow platforms too. There is room to double peak period traffic without doubling people on specific platforms (compared to today), precisely because of the current situation.

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  11. To allay Railpath concerns (if there is a major protest of eliminating the scenery to the west of Railpath), upgraded landscaping on the narrower landscaping, ultra-luxe noisewall, and artwork can be installed, to allay concerns. A few extra million dollars on beautifying Railpath will greatly compensate for the addition of an extra track. Quid pro quo.

    Like

  12. Future track-sharing on VIA tracks is also mentioned in one of the Metrolinx PDFs as well.

    And the diagrams of the new GO concourses have staircases onto several of the VIA tracks too.

    Like

  13. Mark,

    The issue is that the Kitchener corridor runs on the CN owned Halton subdivision between Halwest Junction and Silver Junction. It would take a major inducement to alter the freight train clearance envelope nationally. The alternative is retractable steps on all trains on the route or redundant doors. The question then becomes one of cost (very high) to capacity/safety improvements (marginal). If the premise is that high-platforms are needed for possible SmartTrack compatibility, then I’d reject it completely out of hand. If the premise is for high-speed rail use, how many stations would need it? To expect Ontario to pay for retrofits for a federal project is not very likely, and conversely to expect the federal project to pay for new/modified trains for GO is not very likely. If no one is willing to pay, why would this happen?

    Like

  14. Matthew,

    Are you living under a rock?

    The provincial clearly is. The provincial government paid a lot of money to gain 80% ownership of the entire GOtrain corridors, including most of the Kitchener corridor. In 2014, a large part of the Kitchener corridor was purchased by Government of Ontario.

    There is now only rail between three stations on Kitchener corridor (mainly around Brampton area) that is not yet Metrolinx owned. This is the toughest section of rail to purchase, but one proposal is the expansion of a GO-owned track or two, by expropriating a few rows of houses near Mill Street, building the two overpasses (over Mill St and John St), and slightly relocating the historical Brampton station building north. The mayor of Brampton wants all-day GO service very badly, and will negotiate well with the Governments. Ontario wants their hands on this federal corridor, even if it’s just a provincially-owned extra track or two next to the national tracks. It’s going to happen with 10 years.

    Like

  15. Correction: Talking to drum on UrbanToronto, it’s more likely that John St will be cut into a Cul-de-sac, with a pedestrian overpass, if that section is triple-tracked through Brampton. So a John overpass/underpass won’t happen, in order to preserve those hoses, but a cul-de-sac would be tolerable over there (Google Satellite View agrees).

    He agrees that the historic Brampton station will have to probably be moved slightly north, but that larger brick buildings have successfully been transported far larger distances in engineering feats.

    Mill street will be more challenging, as it will require a small bit of expropriation. The historic school can be accessed by the rear parking lot, so Mill can be trenched to go under the rail, and the office building to the north will need an alternate access, he says. There are many solutions to widening the corridor through Brampton with only very limited expropriation. There is already a lot of triple-tracked sections, including track added by the GO mandate (above and beyond CN rail), so it may be a matter of track ownership and corridor-sharing. It’s a difficult situation, but the provincial government is very determined to get their hands on owning some track through this small un-owned section of Kitchener corridor.

    Like

  16. As for high platforms, it may or may not happen, but many high speed train routes use a mix of express high speed trains (applicable example: London-Kitchener-Toronto) and all-stop high speed trains (applicable example: London-Kitchener-Guelph-Brampton-Perason-Toronto), followed by all-stop midrange trains (applicable: Current Kitchener GO route). If Metrolinx finds they can save hundreds of million buying high-platform EMU GO trains during GO RER upgrade of Kitchener, they may even decide to use the funds to convert some stations to high platform, but you never know. That’s why I say it is only 50-50. The link I showed you includes trains that have doors for high and low level platforms, and one bilevel electric train in Montreal uses this trainset, which helps a long-term migration between low and high platform (generational upgrade cycle spread over 20 years). Some GO stations are typically refurbished more often than that so it can be blended into a long-term budget. It’s probably only going to be done selectively, only on certain routes that warrants it, and certain stations probably would be prioritized.

    I do agree it’s not a 100% definite. But do you _really_ want to bet against Metrolinx going high platform on the Kitchener line?

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  17. The UPX is a Great Victory for all Downtowners as are the new subway trains, the new streetcars, and the new signalling system on the Yonge-University-Spadina line serving Downtown. A lot of progress has been made in Downtown transit in recent years and it’s time to bring the neglected areas such as Rexdale, Scarborough, Mississauga, Brampton, etc to the same standard.

    http://www.bramptonguardian.com/news-story/5539119-subway-the-way-to-go-says-byelection-candidate/

    http://www.mississauga.com/news-story/5179519-councillor-says-subway-not-lrt-the-transit-mississauga-needs/

    While the Scarborough subway will only provide better transit to Scarborough, it’s legacy will be to help more than just Scarborough. Already it has started the subway debate in Mississauga (see Link 1 and Link 2). While a Mississauga subway will not help me (full disclosure: a Scarborough subway will), this subway to Mississauga is long overdue and can hopefully be extended to Brampton in the near future. Even the SmartTrack should instead of going to the Airport Corporate Centre, should go to Cooksville GO station near Mississauga City Centre. While a subway to Richmond Hill is also needed, it should not be built citing the overcrowding on the Yonge Line and all day 2 way service on the Richmond Hill Line is what should be implemented as an alternative.

    Steve: I am tempted to just delete this comment for its continuation of the “downtowners keep all the toys for themselves” claptrap, but the links are worthwhile if only to show that Mississauga can be as delusional as Scarborough, especially when spending other people’s money. What happens if they fill up “Toronto’s” subway? Will they help us build a new one?

    Like

  18. Mark Rejhon writes

    As for high platforms, it may or may not happen, but many high speed train routes use a mix of express high speed trains (applicable example: London-Kitchener-Toronto)

    I don’t think that VIA’s Toronto-London route via Kitchener qualifies as either express or high-speed.

    Mark Rejhon writes

    The link I showed you includes trains that have doors for high and low level platforms, and one bilevel electric train in Montreal uses this trainset, which helps a long-term migration between low and high platform (generational upgrade cycle spread over 20 years

    The trains to Lake of Two Mountains (Electric) and McMasterville (Diesel), which have had cars with high and low doors since long before they were upgrades to bilevel service. Neither would I describe as high speed. EX GO Hawker Siddeley cars were once used with the doors at one end modified to sit high, flush with the car floor.

    A similar fix could easily be applied to GOs current trainset by putting doors in the mezzanine level of the car. It’s worth noting that in Montreal only Central Station has elevated platforms. No other stations do and all of the lines running through Windsor Station have regular equipment. I don’t think there’s any push to expand the amount of high floor stations.

    Like

  19. Steve

    From the perspective of Mississauga, if they can get Toronto to operate and pay for operating costs, and the province to pay for the lions share of construction (Vaughan type deal) the Mississauga subway makes sense, residents of Mississauga get service without the costs.

    From bramptonguardian:

    “Andrew McNeill is an urban planner and landscape architect who held a variety of positions with the City of Mississauga, including most recently manager of the downtown collaborative, before leaving in 2013 to become vice-president of Live Work Learn Play – an international real estate development and advisory firm that works to create mixed-use neighbourhoods. When with the municipality, he played a lead role in developing the Downtown 21 Master Plan.”

    However, I would argue that this serves the interests of Mississauga – but not Toronto, the region as a whole, or the Province. This would be incredibly expensive, provide excessive capacity and would likely create overload.

    Steve: I am not sure what Mr. McNeill’s credentials have to do with the basic question of who pays to built and operate any extended subway service, not to mention the knock-on effects of adding demand on the existing subway system. Planners — both professional and amateur — omit discussions like this from their proposals all of the time.

    Like

  20. Mark Rejhon said:

    Matthew,

    Are you living under a rock?

    This is uncalled for, especially when the remainder of your post talks to completely different points, which I was aware of. I can honestly say, I am as or more aware of track related projects than any individual at Metrolinx.

    Mark Rejhon said:

    The provincial clearly is. The provincial government paid a lot of money to gain 80% ownership of the entire GOtrain corridors, including most of the Kitchener corridor. In 2014, a large part of the Kitchener corridor was purchased by Government of Ontario.

    Clearly in what? Paying for HSR between Toronto and Montreal? Or any other route combination? Ontario has purchased under-used freight tracks where they can in order to own their massive improvements. The Halton subdivision doesn’t fall under the same category. Owning 100% of the Barrie line, doesn’t help things with the Kitchener line, of which 20.8km is owned by CN as a mainline freight route. The part that I stated.

    Mark Rejhon said:

    There is now only rail between three stations on Kitchener corridor (mainly around Brampton area) that is not yet Metrolinx owned.

    It’s actually four because Metrolinx only purchased as far as Silver Junction, not Georgetown Station, as in the media briefing. It’s a difference of 1-km, but just an example. Yes, this is the part of the corridor that I was talking about.

    Mark Rejhon said:

    This is the toughest section of rail to purchase, but one proposal is the expansion of a GO-owned track or two, by expropriating a few rows of houses near Mill Street, building the two overpasses (over Mill St and John St), and slightly relocating the historical Brampton station building north.

    You seem to be confusing purchasing with expanding. There are plans to expand the corridor. There is no willingness of CN to consider selling the corridor at a price that Metrolinx is willing to pay.

    Mark Rejhon said:

    The mayor of Brampton wants all-day GO service very badly, and will negotiate well with the Governments.

    So Brampton Station would need to be converted from two side platforms into a single island platform and possible a southern side platform. This area is already tricky getting the third track, but it will happen. If station redesign doesn’t occur as part of this planning, it’s not going to happen in the next 5-10 years. The same situation occurs at Mount Pleasant Station

    Likewise, Georgetown Station currently isn’t accessed by mainline tracks.

    Mark Rejhon said:

    Ontario wants their hands on this federal corridor, even if it’s just a provincially-owned extra track or two next to the national tracks. It’s going to happen with 10 years.

    Absolutely not going to happen. I’d be willing to give you 10:1 odds on this not happening. You pay me $100 each year that CN owns this corridor and I’ll pay you $10,000 if CN sells the corridor to Metrolinx by 2025.

    Mark Rejhon said:

    There is already a lot of triple-tracked sections, including track added by the GO mandate (above and beyond CN rail), so it may be a matter of track ownership and corridor-sharing. It’s a difficult situation, but the provincial government is very determined to get their hands on owning some track through this small un-owned section of Kitchener corridor.

    From the GO System Electrification Preliminary Design, the Halwest to Silver section of the Halton subdivision will be at least 3 tracks wide everywhere.

    Dedicated tracks are a different kettle of fish and GO has only looked at electrifying two of three tracks, but the issue remains freight needs to cross from the southern tracks to the northern tracks between these two points. You can make this happen away from stations, but you are then limiting the number of platforms possible.

    Mark Rejhon said:

    I do agree it’s not a 100% definite. But do you _really_ want to bet against Metrolinx going high platform on the Kitchener line?

    High platforms on the Kitchener line means no new stations south of Bloor (specifically at the Bathurst North Yard) and/or dedicated platforms at Union. At this time, I don’t see the need, and there isn’t anything even in the pre-concept state as far as it might impact the USRC.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I think the articles also point out how unknowledgeable these councilors are about their transit history. In Mississauga, Parrish said:

    “I don’t understand what our reluctance is to ask for a big project. We deserve a subway.”

    There was a look at a Mississauga subway and LRT was preferred because of the cost and the ability to build on the wide streets. Look at Calgary, Ottawa, or Edmonton, all of which are larger than Mississauga. All get along with LRT quite fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Mark Rejhon says:

    “Reasons of high platforms:

    “— Greater/cheaper train availability because many train manufacturers only manufacture trains for high platforms. Nearly all high speed trains are high platforms.”

    I road the French TGV, the Italian fast trains, and neither had high platforms. They were about the same height as the GO handicap platform but they were not HIGH platforms.

    “— Safer for platform-edge standees. Also, high platform trains are also smoother on the exterior with less protrusions and no gaps to fall under the train, so are less dangerous when standing too close to platform edge (except if you fall into the platform, then low tracks are harder to climb out of). Boarding/exiting the train is much faster.”

    If you want to stand on a narrow high platform at Union when a full train unloads be my guest. I have been knocked off a low platform by the crowds. Trust me, it is much easier to get back onto a low platform than a high platform.

    While I did not ride the RER trains in Paris most of the similar type of equipment in Europe is going to low floor articulated designs that have floor about the same level as the lower level of the GO bi-levels. These were very quick to board but would probably not meet current buff loading requirements.

    “— Precision and tolerances of modern high-performance EMUs and high speed trains permit a tight subway-style gap, eliminating need for a platform bridge. Since they are made to not rock back and forth enough to collide with the platform edge even when passing by at high speed.”

    It is not the “precision and tolerances of modern high-performance EMUs and high speed trains” that is the problem. It is the lack of it on freight trains that pass at 65 mph that would beat the hell out of the platforms. Stand next to one passing at speed.

    “Are you aware a few platforms are currently closed today at Union during revitalization? Once all of those extra platforms are open, and track-sharing in the VIA-rail tracks, they can schedule trains to spread the platforms around. Also, Penn station have quite narrow platforms too. There is room to double peak period traffic without doubling people on specific platforms (compared to today), precisely because of the current situation.”

    Yes I am aware of that fact but more platforms will not make the platforms any wider and safer and in a few years these will be even more dangerously crowded.

    “Also, here is the Metrolinx document on automatic/positive train control systems.

    “Metrolinx is already evaluating such systems for the future. Although not fully automatic (When I said “automatic”, I also included “positive” train control — there’s a difference), it improves throughput of a rail in a corridor (higher speed trains, tighter allowed headways for given speed trains, etc).”

    This document basically list the electromagnetic and other compatibility problems that must be met. For Metrolinx not to evaluate and look into these problems would be criminal. It does not really say anything about using them.

    “Matthew,

    “Are you living under a rock?

    “The provincial clearly is(?). The provincial government paid a lot of money to gain 80% ownership of the entire GO train corridors, including most of the Kitchener corridor. In 2014, a large part of the Kitchener corridor was purchased by Government of Ontario.”

    Yes Matthew, are you living under a rock? When you find out the address of this rock please advise me so I can update my address as I believe that I am living under the same rock.

    “There is now only rail between three stations on Kitchener corridor (mainly around Brampton area) that is not yet Metrolinx owned. This is the toughest section of rail to purchase, but one proposal is the expansion of a GO-owned track or two, by expropriating a few rows of houses near Mill Street, building the two overpasses (over Mill St and John St), and slightly relocating the historical Brampton station building north. The mayor of Brampton wants all-day GO service very badly, and will negotiate well with the Governments. Ontario wants their hands on this federal corridor, even if it’s just a provincially-owned extra track or two next to the national tracks. It’s going to happen with 10 years.”

    The mayor of every municipality within cruise missile range of Toronto wants all day GO service very badly. Wanting is not the same as getting. The GO station would need more than a “slight” relocation north. In order to clear the stair and elevator access and allow for the north platform to be converted into a centre platform the station would need to move about 20’, 6 m, north. This would place the new track over the area were the Hurontario Main LRT line will terminate on the north side of the CN right of way, at least in its most recent incarnation.

    The existing line is three tracks except the section from just east of Centre Street to just west of the CP diamond where the south most track disappears. To build the new track on the north side will require re-aligning all the tracks or installing more switches which will limit the speed of through trains to 45 mph if they take a switch. A more reasonable, but still difficult options would be to remove the building over the Brampton downtown bus terminal, which will likely happen anyways, and extend the third track along Railway Avenue thus closing it. All the houses on it are owned by developers and there should be a quid pro quo arrangement that would benefit everyone.

    “Mill street will be more challenging, as it will require a small bit of expropriation. The historic school can be accessed by the rear parking lot, so Mill can be trenched to go under the rail, and the office building to the north will need an alternate access, he says. There are many solutions to widening the corridor through Brampton with only very limited expropriation. There is already a lot of triple-tracked sections, including track added by the GO mandate (above and beyond CN rail), so it may be a matter of track ownership and corridor-sharing. It’s a difficult situation, but the provincial government is very determined to get their hands on owning some track through this small un-owned section of Kitchener corridor.”

    I have lived in Brampton for 40 years and I cannot find an historic school on Mill Street. There is an historic shoe factory on the west side of Mill Street north of the rail line and an historic skate factory on the south west side. None of the houses on the east side of Mill Street south of the rail line will have road access but most are probably owned by developers so trades could be made. The old shoe factory could probably have its driveway dropped down to the road level but its parking would be impacted.

    “As for high platforms, it may or may not happen, but many high speed train routes use a mix of express high speed trains (applicable example: London-Kitchener-Toronto) and all-stop high speed trains (applicable example: London-Kitchener-Guelph-Brampton-Perason-Toronto), followed by all-stop midrange trains (applicable: Current Kitchener GO route). If Metrolinx finds they can save hundreds of million buying high-platform EMU GO trains during GO RER upgrade of Kitchener, they may even decide to use the funds to convert some stations to high platform, but you never know. That’s why I say it is only 50-50.”

    High platforms will not happen on any line that will also run high speed freight because they rock too much. You would be much better using a vehicle like the European rail equivalent of the LFLRV. These are in France, and on [Bombardier’s] general page.

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  23. If getting knocked off low platforms is an issue at Union, dare I say platform doors would be the answer.

    Steve: And we will all be long gone before GO transit is operating with a technology that would permit precision stopping for platform doors, not to mention the amusing problems of alignment with various different fleets.

    Like

  24. Steve:

    I am tempted to just delete this comment for its continuation of the “downtowners keep all the toys for themselves” claptrap, but the links are worthwhile if only to show that Mississauga can be as delusional as Scarborough, especially when spending other people’s money. What happens if they fill up “Toronto’s” subway? Will they help us build a new one?

    Correct me if I am wrong but in the past you stated that there isn’t enough demand to justify a subway to Mississauga and now you are worried about such a subway to Mississauga overloading the system thus contradicting yourself.

    Steve: It is quite possible to overload the Bloor subway with new riders from Mississauga who should be travelling to the core via GO Transit, but still come nowhere near the capacity level of a full scale subway. There is a similar issue with any extension of the subway line into what should be GO territory.

    Steve:

    From the perspective of Mississauga, if they can get Toronto to operate and pay for operating costs, and the province to pay for the lion’s share of construction (Vaughan type deal) the Mississauga subway makes sense, residents of Mississauga get service without the costs. (I am not sure if Steve or Malcolm wrote this but I am assuming Steve but if it’s Malcolm, then please change ‘Steve’ to ‘Malcolm’)

    And who told you that the province is paying the lion’s share of the costs? The province paid one third and the province comprises York Region taxpayers too. Plus with the increase in costs being half paid by York Region, the province (which comprises York Region taxpayers too) is paying less than a third of the costs. Plus I don’t understand why with the vast majority of the extension and new stations being in Toronto and also with more than half of he trains short-turning in Toronto (St Clair West station, current Downsview Station, York University / Black Creek Pioneer Village), I don’t understand why York Region would be so foolish as to pay half of the municipal costs and half of the cost increases with the project being managed by the TTC being a Toronto screw-up. I don’t want to make this US vs THEM but when Steve/Malcolm (it’s unclear which one of you stated that but please correct me as needed) and others say things like “province to pay for the lion’s share of the costs”, “residents of Mississauga get service without the costs” you should know that there is much more to the province than just Toronto and Torontonians only account for a small proportion of the province’s population, GDP, and taxes. “residents of Mississauga get service without the costs”? Yes, as if Torontonians are the only ones to pay provincial taxes which is very from the truth but what is true is that only Toronto gets multi-billion dollar 100% provincial tax money (vast majority of it paid for by people outside of Toronto) funded projects like the Eglinton LRT while the province tells Hamilton and Mississauga/Brampton that it will only pay for one-third of their much cheaper LRT projects.

    Steve: Actually it’s the province and the feds who are paying the “lion’s share” between them. The issue for Toronto is the operating costs which will be paid with 100% Toronto tax dollars. Yes, Toronto gets a small amount of provincial gas tax revenue, but this is a fixed amount, and only part goes to the ops budget. There will not be any special subsidy to help Toronto pay the extra cost of running the subway up to Vaughan, and York Region is not on the hook for future capital maintenance costs. By the way, York Region is paying 40% of the cost increase, not half.

    Meanwhile, it may interest you to know that until 2015, Toronto was on the hook to help fund the GO Transit capital program, and paid about as much as all of the other 905 municipalities combined as Toronto’s “share”. GO Transit turns around and charges higher fares relative to distance travelled inside the 416, and provides less service (express trains skip stops in the 416).

    As for Eglinton, Toronto was originally going to pay part of the cost, but Queen’s Park wanted total control of the project, and paid for it with a 100% contribution. That was a political decision, and not Toronto’s. In the process, we have lost momentum on the other LRT lines because most of the money is going to one project. Tell me again how Toronto is benefiting from this arrangement? You may also have noticed that Queen’s Park is not planning to pay 100% of any of the proposed subway expansion or Smart Track.

    It’s a Malcolm line.

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  25. Alex from York Region said:

    Correct me if I am wrong but in the past you stated that there isn’t enough demand to justify a subway to Mississauga and now you are worried about such a subway to Mississauga overloading the system thus contradicting yourself.

    Let’s say the Bloor Subway runs at 75% capacity and the Mississauga extension would run at 20% capacity. Thus, when the 20% gets to the existing part you need 105% capacity. Not a problem for the new section, but definitely a problem for the existing section. Our transit system has to crush points Yonge-Bloor and Union that are critical to everything else, there are a few other highly important ones, but those two present the biggest issues for the TTC and GO as usage continues to rise.

    Steve: Two points here. First, your math appears to be off by 10% (as in 75 + 20 = 95, presuming that all trains run through to Mississauga rather than half of them short turning within Toronto). Second, some riders who now board the west end of the subway already originate in Mississauga, and so they cannot be counted twice. It’s also worth noting that the Bloor line at Kipling does not run at 75%, only further east, giving the mistaken impression to some that there is “available” capacity. A similar problem exists for the Scarborough extension.

    As of 2011, 20.3% of Ontario live in Toronto and 8.0% of Ontario live in York Region. So if you are going on a per capita basis, Toronto is paying $2.53 for every York dollar that comes from the province. However, the issue is more of an optimization issue than a relative payment issue. For the same money, a segment of the DRL could have been built (or pick your alternative project) that would move more people. With a limited pot of funds, whenever someone gets priority, the question becomes ‘why not us, we need/deserve it more’.

    Wanting a subway is like wanting a humvee. It specific cases, it makes sense and will be well utilized (off-roading mainly), but in other environments (city) it’s just a vanity bauble and a waste of money (price and gas). A Prius (BRT/LRT) is not as attractive on the surface of things, but it’s the better choice when all is said and done.

    My opinion in summary is dig only when and where you must, and spread the money as evenly as possible to the greatest effect.

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  26. Steve said:

    “Actually it’s the province and the feds who are paying the “lion’s share” between them. The issue for Toronto is the operating costs which will be paid with 100% Toronto tax dollars. Yes, Toronto gets a small amount of provincial gas tax revenue, but this is a fixed amount, and only part goes to the ops budget. There will not be any special subsidy to help Toronto pay the extra cost of running the subway up to Vaughan, and York Region is not on the hook for future capital maintenance costs. By the way, York Region is paying 40% of the cost increase, not half.”

    I would also like to note that the province includes far more than either Toronto, or York region. So my point with regards to Mississauga looking at subway, if the province and Feds essentially pay for construction, the Mississauga tax payer is on the hook for only a very small portion of the costs, and if the TTC is paying for operations, then Toronto is on the hook for the risk. This would make subway look reasonable from the narrow perspective of Mississauga.

    I also made the comment in terms of overloading the subway, and yes, 8k riders would not justify an extension to say Square One. However, adding 8K riders to the current load on the Bloor line would create issues somewhere east of Kipling likely before or around Keele. The idea of a subway extension has been raised before, and I do not believe that it makes sense to further extend the existing lines in general before adding more connective capacity. Further I think it makes more sense to extend only in so far in there is a major destination relatively close at hand, and that destination might serve well as a connective point to other services, say a BRT or LRT that would provide rapid transit beyond this point.

    I believe that this would have been a better answer with regards to the subway extension on Spadina as well. Subway to York, and LRT beyond. LRT to the west and LRT to the North. The road space was available, and these services are far easier to extend.

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  27. “Alex from York Region | April 15, 2015 at 10:55 pm”

    Correct me if I am wrong but in the past you stated that there isn’t enough demand to justify a subway to Mississauga and now you are worried about such a subway to Mississauga overloading the system thus contradicting yourself.

    Throwing in my agreement to others here: These two things aren’t mutually exclusive. An underutilized Mississauga subway can add enough people to overload the downtown subway. Both are simultaneously expensive problems for the city. No contradiction there.

    Like

  28. Steve said:

    Two points here. First, your math appears to be off by 10% (as in 75 + 20 = 95, presuming that all trains run through to Mississauga rather than half of them short turning within Toronto). Second, some riders who now board the west end of the subway already originate in Mississauga, and so they cannot be counted twice. It’s also worth noting that the Bloor line at Kipling does not run at 75%, only further east, giving the mistaken impression to some that there is “available” capacity. A similar problem exists for the Scarborough extension.

    That’s what I get for posting made-up numbers before my coffee. Adjust as you see fit, but the basic concept remains the same. I was just trying to show that a very under utilized extension can use up most, all or more of the available capacity where the system is more constrained. I wasn’t referencing any real world data.

    Like

  29. Matthew Phillips | April 15, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    “This is uncalled for, especially when the remainder of your post talks to completely different points, which I was aware of. I can honestly say, I am as or more aware of track related projects than any individual at Metrolinx.”

    I apologize, and take it back. You certainly know your stuff.

    “There is no willingness of CN to consider selling the corridor at a price that Metrolinx is willing to pay.”

    Wait four years. Changes in politics (e.g. HSR EA approved, next government in 4 years approving construction that occurs in the early 2020s) has a way of sweetening the pot.

    “Absolutely not going to happen. I’d be willing to give you 10:1 odds on this not happening. You pay me $100 each year that CN owns this corridor and I’ll pay you $10,000 if CN sells the corridor to Metrolinx by 2025.”

    Your 10:1 odds are correct only if the next government is not a rail-happy one. But I think the odds falls to 2:1 if next government are the Liberals at both the provincial and federal levels (and that only need a 4-year window).

    It was once true that HSR was just pie in sky, but with the massive momentum on the Kitchener corridor that’s far greater than any recent VIA expansions, HSR is no longer pie in the sky considering we are the only G8 country without a HSR route.

    By 2025, construction for HSR may be approved. With current municipal/provincial being rail-happy now, if federal later becomes rail-happy, it becomes only a 2:1 odds that HSR or “HSR Lite” (merged 200-240kph GO RER) gets approved by 2025. Guess what? Provincial HSR becomes a Metrolinx responsibility, gets billons allocated to it, and the price Metrolinx is willing to pay skyrockets.

    But firstly, I acknowledge you know your stuff for the present moment. I apologize for the uncalled comment. But do you know the politics pulse and the future too?

    Want to reconsider your bet, given this perspective?

    Like

  30. robertwightman | April 15, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    I rode the French TGV, the Italian fast trains, and neither had high platforms. They were about the same height as the GO handicap platform but they were not HIGH platforms.

    Yes, you’re right, the distinction between the approx ~24″ and ~48″ platforms. Both are relatively high platforms, and when I said high platform, I refer to a platform height raise in general. So I correct myself to “higher platform than now”. One advantage of 24″ would be that it would permit compatibility with the current bilevels, assuming modification to remove steps in the trains, though tricky to do incrementally (unless bilevels were later relegated to limited-stop expresses). As was said here, retractable platform edges may be required, however — like the ones Ottawa uses for their O-Train, which retracts to allow overnight freight operation — though GO would need a massive number of those, and reliability problems would be an issue.

    I still think it is a 50-50 chance that raised platforms will occur. Even Metrolinx was unaware of many of its future plans 5-10 years ago, and now both SmartTrack & HSR may be added to Metrolinx (HSR EA currently under way and complete in a few years; a favourable “next goverment”, if in a good economy, might end up greenlighting construction starting in the early 2020s and assigning it to a Metrolinx subsidiary, ala UPX/Presto). Theoretically, it is also additionally possible that a cost-saving measure is that HSR and long-distance GO RER might be combined into a HSR “Lite” of high-performance 200kph-to-240kph capable bilevel trains (like those used elsewhere in the world, a YouTube video shows a very long commuter bilevel EMU passing a GO-style platform in Europe at 206kph) so I predict Metrolinx will have to visit higher platform idea due to SmartTrack / GO RER / HSR joining the corridor, because they are going to be forced to source so many different trainsets and want to minimize platform duplication (e.g. avoiding a situation of 8″/20″/48″ platform heights). For this reason, I think it is 50-50 that platform heights may be gradually raised along the Kitchener corridor, as old Bombardier Bilevels get reallocated to other GO routes and replaced by other trainsets on the Kitchener route, in some sort of a phased manner that spreads cost over long term, and additional services get introduced, indirectly influenced by politics of new trains.

    “To build the new track on the north side will require re-aligning all the tracks or installing more switches which will limit the speed of through trains to 45 mph if they take a switch.”.

    On some train construction in some countries, they have machines to realign tracks incrementally during short or overnight shutdowns. This would be presumably used to help assist in realignment with minimal service disruptions, unless the track needed to be replaced anyway. The tracks will need to be redone anyway for higher speed operation as this is also the proposed high speed rail corridor (I guess it would greatly depend on the HSR EA and what government is still in power several years from now)

    “I have lived in Brampton for 40 years and I cannot find an historic school on Mill Street. There is an historic shoe factory on the west side of Mill Street north of the rail line and an historic skate factory on the south west side.”

    I stand corrected. The building referred to as ‘school’ is 45 Railroad Street, the Dominion Skate building. It might need to be accessed from Park St, or Railroad Street (especially if becomes a level overpass over the Mill trench, unless a cut-off Railroad Street becomes cul-de-sacs on both sides of the Mill trench). People are brainstorming many potential solutions. Based on what you’re saying, I think you would know more than I do about potential solutions during Brampton GO expansion.

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  31. Metrolinx-operated High Speed Rail

    Ontario Government: “Ontario Moving Forward With High-Speed Rail”

    It will take a few years before EA completes, so this means the decision to construct this line coincides with the next government cycle (at both the provincial and federal levels). We have one of the most commuter-rail-happy municipal and provincial governments in recent memory, and odds are we will vote them out, but odds we will not. If we do not, and if Ontario’s situation improves (better economy, more jobs, etc) there will be lots of eager people voting for someone who’s very pro high speed rail.

    With Metrolinx’ commitment to GO RER, and the quite very obvious potential assignment of Ontario-funded high speed rail to Metrolinx, a cost-saving move still is tantamount to purchasing 200-240kph high speed GO RER trains (very obvious, given the European precedent of high-performance commuter trains on routes that resemble the Kitchener route). Even for a limited leg to Kitchener (and eventually London), pushing faster trains further into the future but still suddenly increasing the Metrolinx budget for complete Kitchener corridor ownership. Both Kitchener and Guelph are about to have excellent transit. Many parts of the existing corridor can go many times faster (e.g. the rail line between Kitchener and Guelph is as straight as an arrow in most parts, with only a couple gentle curves, with enough distance to accelerate to 250kph, yet trains only average less than 50kph), without needing to purchase new expensive right-of-ways. Even if we don’t end up with 40minute ride times, high performance GO RER express trains can still make it to Toronto in under an hour from Kitchener in a theoretical “HSR Lite” GO RER proposal.

    It could take many forms, like GO RER and HSR being separate Ontario-operated services, or separate services operated by Metrolinx, or could be part of a 25-year plan that begins in 2020. Nontheless, the moment “when it gets approved” is when Metrolinx suddenly makes a huge quid pro quo for the rest of the corridor by 2025, even if the full HSR isn’t operating by the 2040s.

    As you know, I am being conservative about the timelines. I doubt Ontario’s ability to pull off HSR in 10 years, but I do believe “construction is approved” (of some form, HSR or high-performance rail) will occur with this 10 year timeline, and that’s when Metrolinx makes the big quid pro quo on the remainder of the Kitchener corridor.

    It is true that HSR was formerly thought of as a federal responsibility, due to Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal. That could still happen, much like Eurostar (international) and TGV (French domestic) shares the same high speed rail. Metrolinx HSR and VIA HSR aren’t mutually exclusive, considering that Ontario is currently far more rail-happy than federal.

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  32. UPX marks a pivotal moment for transit in Toronto and will effectively also serve as DRL west. All that is missing is SmartTrack which will serve as DRL east.

    Steve: Actually UPX has far too low capacity to serve as DRL west, and at the fares they are charging, nobody could afford to commute using that service. It’s a terrible waste of track/line capacity.

    Like

  33. Mark Rejhon | April 16, 2015 at 11:56 am

    robertwightman | April 15, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    “I rode the French TGV, the Italian fast trains, and neither had high platforms. They were about the same height as the GO handicap platform but they were not HIGH platforms.”

    “Yes, you’re right, the distinction between the approx ~24″ and ~48″ platforms. Both are relatively high platforms, and when I said high platform, I refer to a platform height raise in general. So I correct myself to “higher platform than now”. One advantage of 24″ would be that it would permit compatibility with the current bilevels, assuming modification to remove steps in the trains, though tricky to do incrementally (unless bilevels were later relegated to limited-stop expresses). As was said here, retractable platform edges may be required, however — like the ones Ottawa uses for their O-Train, which retracts to allow overnight freight operation — though GO would need a massive number of those, and reliability problems would be an issue.”

    In North America, where we are, high platform on a main line railway usually refers to a platform that is at the height of trap doors in VIA and Amtrak passenger trains, not some intermediate level.

    Using 24″ level platforms would still interfere with rocking freights at 60 mph. I believe, but don’t know for sure, that Ottawa only moves their platforms once a day each way when there are no passengers present. To have to do this at Bramalea, Brampton and Mt. Pleasant Stations when passengers are present would create major safety problems. I am assuming that the platform at Georgetown would not be on the freight line.

    “… Theoretically, it is also additionally possible that a cost-saving measure is that HSR and long-distance GO RER might be combined into a HSR “Lite” of high-performance 200kph-to-240kph capable bilevel trains (like those used elsewhere in the world, a YouTube video shows a very long commuter bilevel EMU passing a GO-style platform in Europe at 206kph) so I predict Metrolinx will have to visit higher platform idea due to SmartTrack / GO RER / HSR joining the corridor, because they are going to be forced to source so many different trainsets and want to minimize platform duplication (e.g. avoiding a situation of 8″/20″/48″ platform heights).”

    Show me a video of a North American freight train going by a similar platform at 100 km/h without destroying the platform. It is the freights that sway so much that they will hit the platform, not the passenger trains. Stand next to a track when a freight goes by at speed and watch how much the cars rock. As for 240 km/h trains on the GO lines, there is not enough distance between stations to ever reach that speed except on very limited stop expresses

    Matthew Phillips

    “There is no willingness of CN to consider selling the corridor at a price that Metrolinx is willing to pay.”

    Mark Rejhon

    “Wait four years. Changes in politics (e.g. HSR EA approved, next government in 4 years approving construction that occurs in the early 2020s) has a way of sweetening the pot.”

    It will have to contend with NAFTA if CN does not want to sell its line or make the changes requested by GO there will be one hell of a big law suit. It violates a company with American ties from its God given right to make a profit.

    Anyone who takes the Neptis HSR report at face value is in for a rude shock. You make a lot of predictions, Mark, but I will only make one. You are going to be disappointed.

    Like

  34. “Using 24″ level platforms would still interfere with rocking freights at 60 mph. I believe, but don’t know for sure, that Ottawa only moves their platforms once a day each way when there are no passengers present. To have to do this at Bramalea, Brampton and Mt. Pleasant Stations when passengers are present would create major safety problems. I am assuming that the platform at Georgetown would not be on the freight line.”

    That’s only if there isn’t full separation of freight from Metrolinx trains.

    Steve: Given the usage of the shared corridor, “full separation” must be physical, as temporal is not practical. I know that you know this, but this comes up from other readers now and then when making analogies to implementations elsewhere.

    “It will have to contend with NAFTA if CN does not want to sell its line or make the changes requested by GO there will be one hell of a big law suit. It violates a company with American ties from its God given right to make a profit.”

    It’s possible to run the HSR without affecting freight service — it will be very expensive, since parallel trackage is needed, and a flyover/flyunder, also possibly near the trainyard. But HSR can be done without interfering with freight service — albeit at a premium cost including payments to CN (for things like shifting track, etc). As one theoretical example of monetary transfer (If not “sale”, but “reimbursement”/”payment”/”reparations”), Metrolinx may have to help pay CN to trenchwall its own corridor so it can run more tracks in a narrower corridor, as one example. There is precedent of freight operating parallel trackage to non-freight trackage. Selling a corridor DOES NOT mean the whole width of the corridor. There is no NAFTA violation necessary. Many sections of the mainline can (with some pain) get some extra trackage, and the flyover/flyunder (and if absolutely necessary, the tunnel under the trainyard) will eliminate interaction between freight and GO.

    As an example, there are now two tracks instead of one going through Brampton, thanks to GO, and they are wanting to triple-track it.

    I’m also, additionally, not referring to the Neptis HSR report, which underestimates the cost of HSR.

    Like

  35. As an example of quid pro quo, CN slowed down (And one time, shut down freight for 3 days nonstop) to allow Metrolinx to finish building the West Diamond Grade Separation. NAFTA didn’t do a lawsuit for the CN shutdowns caused by this, because CN knew their service will improve.

    As long as a similar quid pro quo occurs in a future Brampton corridor megaproject, it is not impossible.

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  36. “As for 240 km/h trains on the GO lines, there is not enough distance between stations to ever reach that speed except on very limited stop expresses”.

    And that’s exactly what will run. In addition, you’d be surprised how fhe GO train that I ride on can manage to hit 80mph/129kph in less than 3 miles. That’s a single locomotive, not a powered wheel. Faster-accelerating EMUs can accelerate to nearly 200kph over the same distance in Europe. Here’s some statistics by a GOtrain driver on UrbanToronto:

    “That’s one example, others would be express & equipment trains on the Lakeshore East & West lines. But otherwise trains that service all stops won’t be reaching 90mph between stations. As for the other lines, the top speed on Barrie & Weston is currently 80mph followed by 75mph on the Milton line, then 65mph for Richmond Hill and lastly the Stouffville trains top out at a meager 50mph if you don’t include the Lakeshore East section of the run.

    We can and do regularly reach 80mph/129kph between certain stations as that speed can be reached in about 3 miles. Not that we really even need to, considering the current schedule. Outside of rush hour, operating at 60mph between most stations is sufficient to maintain the schedule. In any case that’s a little less than the average station spacing on the Lakeshore line before taking into consideration braking distances. With braking distances factored in, the average acceleration distance is less than 3 miles.

    For those interested, I once wrote down the top speed I was able to reached with a 10-pack(lightly loaded weekend train) on the Lakeshore E&W going full throttle before braking(normal braking that is, not last second) for each station. I’ve also noted speed restrictions and gradients that effect the maximum speed;

    going East, maximum speed before reaching station; (in mph)

    72 Burlington
    77 Appleby
    73 Bronte
    75 Oakville
    81 Clarkson
    80 Port Credit
    64 Long Branch – uphill gradient & hourly trains have to slow down early for a 60mph PSO on track 3 before the station
    65 Mimico – hourly trains crossover from track 3 to 4 using a 45mph turnout at campa, when we used track 3 all the way its 71-72
    80 Exhibition – trains reach the maximum zone speed of 80 before having to slow down before the ex for other speed restrictions
    60 Union – again, trains reach the maximum zone speed of 60 before slowing down prior to entering the ladder tracks in the USRC

    61 Danforth – large uphill gradient limits speed
    62 Scarborough – large uphill gradient limits speed
    64 Eglington
    67 Guildwood – large downhill gradient
    80 Rouge Hill – large downhill gradient, train speed limited by a 80mph PSO west of Rouge Hill
    (in the area of the “crooked bridge of death” aka the Highland creek bridge)
    66 Pickering – all trains have to slow down to 45mph when crossing over into the GO sub about a mile west of the station
    67 Ajax
    85 Whitby – trains reach the maximum zone speed of 85, otherwise 90 is possible within 3 miles assisted by the grade
    61 Oshawa

    going West

    71 Whitby
    80 Ajax – uphill gradient
    69 Pickering
    81 Rouge Hill
    62 Guildwood – large uphill gradient limits speed
    53 Eglington – large uphill gradient limits speed
    61 Scarborough – small uphill gradient
    83 Danforth – large downhill gradient, sometimes I can reach the maximum speed of 85 here(restricted by PSO)
    80 Union – large downhill gradient, trains reach the maximum speed of 80 before slowing down to 30 prior to entering the USRC

    51 Exhibition – speeds in the USRC & the fly-under limits speed
    74 Mimico – small uphill gradient
    71 Long Branch
    78 Port Credit
    75 Clarkson – small uphill gradient
    82 Oakville
    71 Bronte – uphill grade for a short while west of Oakville
    72 Appleby
    79 Burlington – sometimes 80
    61 Aldershot – hourly trains have to cross over to track 3 using 45mph crossovers west of Burlington”

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  37. If you have not ridden Paris’ RER, at the stations, they use dotmatrix or videoboards that have checkmarks next to upcoming stations. That way, you know which express train to step on. This makes it possible for express service to be more diversified (e.g. express, semi-express, allstop) without confusing passengers.

    As an example, the Kitchener line has many sections where there is more than 10 kilometers between the GO stations. Even Kitchener-Guelph is 20km, and even when adding a theoretical future Breslau station, there is still enough straight trackage in the existing corridor to accelerate to near 200kph. (The problem is it’s level crossings and single track — but if it was an electrified high speed dedicated-right-of-way, is a different story altogether). Current average speed is only 50kph on that because of its single-level and level crossings, taking 30 minutes for the train to go the ~20 kilometers between Kitchener and Guelph. Even the very faint Breslau curve could handle high speeds, as it is more gentle than the Etobicoke Lakeshore West curve that GOtrains routinely go 128kph (after Mimico, towards Ex) when they are running a bit late. Then that section of rail is a straight arrow for about 10 kilometers — more than enough for a 200kph acceleration if it were an electrified dedicated right-of-way, with separate tracks for separate train directions. Now there’s the Guelph-Rockwood, and the Rockwood-Action straight track that could sustain 200-240kph for a bit. Then if the Brampton corridor is completely physically separated from freight usage (corridor-sharing without eliminating a single freight track, and with no level rail crossovers), that section can also sustain high speed too. And freight trains will run faster, having zero interference with freight trains.

    For faster service, a Guelph bypass is necessary, but it wouldn’t be critical for achieving 1 hour Kitchener-Toronto semi-express service.

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  38. Edited

    Steve: at the fares they [UPX] are charging, nobody could afford to commute using that service.

    Actually, a new poll just revealed that more than half of the population think that the fare are about right.

    Steve: nobody could afford to commute using that service.

    I am willing to bet $10 that it is NOT true that “nobody could afford to commute using that service.” In other words, there is at least one person who can “afford to commute using that service” [even if they end up not doing so]. In fact, I can make an even stronger claim: there will be at least one person who will actually do so.

    Steve: Reductio ad absurdum — of course at least one person will be willing to pay, say, $30.40 per day ($600/month) to commute from Weston to Union via UPX, or from Bloor to Pearson. But most people are not willing to lay out that kind of money on top of all of their other transportation costs. That’s substantially more than a monthly commute from Kitchener to Union via GO Transit at about $532. There is a $10 fare and $300 pass offered for airport employees, but this is of no use to anyone who is trying to use UPX for commuting that is not airport-oriented.

    The poll does not ask about the line as a commuter service, but as an occasional access to the airport. You are misrepresenting its conclusions.

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