Union Pearson Express Continues Unimpressive Ridership

At its Board Meeting on December 3, 2015, Metrolinx will receive an update on the ridership for the Union Pearson Express. Previous statistics released by Metrolinx to mid-September were not encouraging with a fairly flat ridership in the mid-2000 range once the initial burst of “try outs” and free rides passed.

The new report only extends the published information by about six weeks to the end of October, and the numbers are presented in a way that masks what is really going on.

UPX_Ridership_To_201510

This looks like wonderful upward growth, but there are two problems:

  • The base of the chart is 60,000, not zero, and so the slope of the chart is more impressive than might otherwise be the case.
  • The ridership is reported on a monthly basis with no correction for the length of each month.
    • June was a short month with only 25 days of operation, and this included two promotional days with unusually high ridership.
    • October has one more day than September.

Plotted as daily averages with a zero base line, things don’t look quite the same. There was a drop off in the summer with July and August relatively flat, and a slight increase for September and October, roughly 7% but over a two-month period. The real question is where do things go from here?

UPX_Daily_Ridership_To_201510

To reach the target of 5,000 riders/day at the end of the first year’s operation will require almost a doubling of daily ridership over the period from November 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016, or a sustained growth of about 14% each month.

After many rosy accounts of the initial reception of UPX, we now read of the problems of getting people to adopt a new mode of travel:

Metrolinx just completed an airport ground transportation survey this fall which found that 70% of all travellers make decisions about ground transportation modes based on past habits or they have the decision made for them. This is regardless of whether they are flying to or from a home airport. Only 20–30% of travellers did research or saw/heard information prior to departure and this was mostly related to the destination airport. The findings underscore how deeply engrained travel habits are and the significant work required to successfully change these behaviours. This is consistent with what we have been told by other international air rail links – changing entrenched travel behaviours of both local and visiting air travellers takes time.

Before UPX launched, Metrolinx did extensive reviews of the air-rail link industry, and yet somehow this basic principle, the difficulty of getting people to change habits, escaped their notice.

Marketing efforts include a UPX presence at the terminal stations, trade shows and special events.

Additional marketing initiatives over the past few months have included:

  • Refreshed wayfinding & signage at Union and Pearson
  • Installed additional ticket sales & servicing kiosks inside the Terminal 1 baggage claim area and the T3 counter
  • Increased presence of UP Express Ambassadors at Pearson
  • Revised on-site advertising to complement wayfinding

Metrolinx has tinkered with the fare structure on UPX, although the trips are still quite expensive. An appendix setting out the recently modified structure is missing from the online report, but the fares can be viewed by wandering through the website for standard, employee, and group/corporate tariffs (although the latter contains no information about the discounts actually available).

By listening to, and understanding our customer needs we are continually evaluating our suite of fares and investigating new structures to respond to demands including:

  • Family Long Layover to complement the individual long layover
  • Family Meeter & Greeter to complement the individual fare product
  • Increasing the age for free child fares from 6 to 12 years of age, to align with other global air rail links
  • Changing the return fare costs to attract repeat usage

In an article by Oliver Moore in The Globe & Mail, we learn:

The service was forecast to hit 5,000 passengers a day by next summer, about twice the current ridership. [UPX President Kathy] Haley suggested on Monday that the forecast might be flawed, because it predated Uber, and hinted that the ridership goal could be in flux.

The possible effect of Uber, let alone the idea that the goal of 5k/day in ridership, does not appear in the report to the Metrolinx Board. It is hard to believe that a service, routinely promoted as a premium quality line with fares to match, should be at the mercy of lowly Uber. Is the market is not quite so upscale and immune to price as we have been led to believe? Are there not enough of that class of traveller to make UPX pay?

Metrolinx has yet to release any financial data on the line’s performance, and we are unlikely to see this until their next annual financial reports (which subdivide results by operation division within the agency) due in mid-2016.

The explanations, the excuses, for poor performance of UPX have all the earmarks of a service that was over-hyped from the outset to justify its design and cost. One question Metrolinx must answer is why they need so many staff, so much marketing, to attract riders to a line that was supposed to have demand come to it so easily. This route is on a par with a minor TTC bus route. 126 Christie has roughly the same daily demand, but it does not command an army of greeters, let alone its own President.

Remember when the airport link was to be a private sector project with no public money?

Pearson Airport is a major regional hub, second only to Union Station for daily passenger volume. Transportation to the airport and surrounding districts should address travel from a wide variety of origins, not just downtown. Service and fares should reflect that the majority of this travel is a combination of ordinary commuting and air travellers, each with their own needs that the network must support.

Metrolinx should concentrate less on its showcase, premium fare service to Union, and more on making the airport a major transit destination for the GTHA.

48 thoughts on “Union Pearson Express Continues Unimpressive Ridership

  1. Steve,

    You do not actually think the government (Metrolinx) will admit they blew the pricing and will continue to run the white elephant until its pricing comes in line with GO service?

    Steve: I suspect it will take a few years for this embarrassment to reach the point they will actually do something about the problem. Meanwhile we will hear lots about other Metrolinx good works to distract us from this folly.

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  2. Steve said:

    “I suspect it will take a few years for this embarrassment to reach the point they will actually do something about the problem. Meanwhile we will hear lots about other Metrolinx good works to distract us from this folly.”

    Unfortunately, this is far too true, however, the delay also further undermines the credibility of Metrolinx. If they were to start looking at how to connect the service beyond into Brampton, and look again at how to convince Brampton to have a LRT to a point meeting it, they could quietly begin the process of conversion now. They could then start talking about how this was the long term plan all along, and the airport from downtown, was only phase 1 of a plan to have frequent service linking the Hurontario-Main LRT, airport and its commercial area, downtown and Eglinton Crosstown with frequent service, and then be able to have the discussion of how they missed the level of expected ridership, and were shocked to the high side, and needed to expand the platforms. As the UPX DMU became a single car in a 3 car DMU train running every 5 minutes where the other 2 cars were of the regular commuter variety – double decker with high platform doors, and where they then publicly come to the realization that a capacity of 4500 passengers per hour (as opposed to ridership per day) was not nearly enough! If they had a platform close to Liberty village, they could even discuss how they needed to correct this, as it was clear that it was in need of expansion, as its high ridership was causing issues on the inner end of the line.

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  3. Interestingly, a round-trip cash fare is now equal to the cost of a Presto card and two Presto trips. So really, they’ve removed Presto as the preferred payment system. Very interesting that an agency of Metrolinx is doing that.

    Also, you can “pay onboard” for only $2, which isn’t too bad if you ever get away with not paying for 1 in 10 trips.

    The employee $10/one-way fare and $250/month pass ($4.95 per trip with a 50.5 trip multiple (Metropass)) is interesting, but still not cost-competitive to the TTC or Mi-Way. However, why do they need to use the UP Mobile App to do so?!

    There seems to be a lot of sloppiness with terms: UP Mobile, UP customers, etc. Either they need the full thing to be an acronym, always attach the Express, or risk losing their “express” brand.

    Their BOGO coupon is awful, unless you are picking up someone from the airport. Basically, buy two one-way trips and get an additional one-way trip for someone else free. Net cost per ticket: $12.67

    If they are offering free fares to children under 12, are they counting them in their ridership numbers? Just offer a few “school outings” and they’d pad their stats. “Family” and “child” fares don’t exactly point to the business traveller heading downtown for a meeting.

    Steve, you didn’t include compounding in growth estimate they only need 10.1% growth month-over-month.

    Also of interest is that they are only operating with a 96.99% on-time rating, and they haven’t even had winter weather yet. What will be the impact on ridership if/when it dips below 90% or 95%?

    One thing to say in the defense of Metrolinx is that they have their own political masters that pass judgement by fiat. UPX is one of those projects and Metrolinx is doing their best to triage a bad investment.

    Steve: Yes, I took the quick calculation and didn’t include compounding. That said, “only 10.1%” is a lot to ask.

    Re on time stats: I really wish they would break this down as to reason such as equipment failure, signals, track, construction, cancelled trip. In other words, how many of the late trips were avoidable?

    Metrolinx has its political masters, but they spend far too much time and effort “looking good” which only undermines their credibility. That sort of thing may buy ministerial happiness in the short term, but when there’s a big mess and a scandal, ideally just before an election, then all that “good news” won’t look so good.

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  4. Malcolm N. suggests that UPX should go beyond into Brampton. Perhaps it should proceed east out the Lakeshore East Line. I wonder if there is sufficient market downtown to ever support this service however, people travelling a longer distance might see an advantage. People from downtown seem quite content to spend money on taxis or Ubur while people in the east end of the GTA would find their charges quite expensive to travel to the airport plus having to deal with traffic on the 401. To do this, Metrolinx would have to acquire more equipment (how much does it cost?) and add high level platforms to some stations so, it is not a quick solution.

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  5. UPX should be folded into the Kitchener GO Line. 15 minute service to Etobicoke North station, stopping at all stops between Etobicoke North and Union. Hourly service out to Kitchener. Fares to be aligned with existing Presto fares from Etobicoke North to Union ($6?). Run the people mover from the airport to Etobicoke North station. Thus people can arrive from downtown Toronto or Kitchener at E. North station and hop on the people mover to the airport. Add station at Mt Dennis. John Tory can say this is “Smart Track West” and save a lot of money by not having to build a new line. Then we can focus on the downtown relief line to the east.

    Steve: Hmmm, just like the way Newark Airport, with its aging people mover, works.

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  6. I love how the initial band-aid solution was to roll out more of their god awful branding and marketing campaign. Coining it a “premium livery service” gave the impression UP was a Bay Street shuttle for the rich. The hyperbolic promotional videos that claimed, among other cheese, that “UP is a badge that elevates Toronto to full status among the world’s financial capitals” were rightly lambasted by critics. Add in the saccharine press releases for “strategic partnerships” with the likes of CIBC – look, we will have an ATM at the station, how innovative! – right down to the poor signage and wayfinding, it’s been a poorly executed marketing campaign right from the beginning.

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  7. The cost of riding the UP Express at the Presto fare is 81.5 cents per km which is more than double the cost of driving on the 407 in rush hour. The 407 is too expensive for most people so what makes people willing to pay far more than that to go to the airport?

    At least Metrolinx is competing with itself with GO routes 34 and 40.

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  8. Also, you can “pay onboard” for only $2, which isn’t too bad if you ever get away with not paying for 1 in 10 trips.

    Actually, you can’t. Because the UP Express always has a conductor onboard (talk about overstaffed!).

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  9. Haven’t ALL? of our major transit projects the last 30/40 years been on the lemon side? That is, too much expenditure on higher-order transit through lower density areas? Yes, we need transit, and yes, that can cost big sometimes, but if we keep over-building with less rationale, then that helps sink systems.

    The height-of-summer bike traffic on the new Queen’s Quay bike lane was about twice as much as this costly new service, and in some ways, it’s not the money, but the waste of the corridor, as it could/should have been far more of a service for the communities that it goes through.

    And so how to retrofit it for utility? It may be less easy to do so as my impression is that it is very much of a ‘Liberal’ project, sigh, though at times the same Liberals are far smarter and are committed to effective transit.

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  10. Hamish Wilson raises the interesting (non-cycling!) question of how much it would cost to fix the UP service. (Make it part of regular GO with people-mover used for the ‘last mile’ to airport.) What one might call the “Newark Solution”. Of course, any thought of Metrolinx or the government admitting the current system is a huge white elephant is unlikely.

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  11. Malcolm N said:

    UPX should be folded into the Kitchener GO Line. 15 minute service to Etobicoke North station, stopping at all stops between Etobicoke North and Union. Hourly service out to Kitchener. Fares to be aligned with existing Presto fares from Etobicoke North to Union ($6?). Run the people mover from the airport to Etobicoke North station.

    This is the likely configuration in the long run or something close to it. I say long run only because the political cost is too high presently until at least the current regime is gone.

    A more expensive option, but better than a spur shuttle is a through routing of the electrified rail corridor through Pearson.

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  12. The selective choice of axis for their graph reminds me of the saying by Mark Twain and Benjamin Disraeli:

    “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

    However, the phrase is not found in any of Disraeli’s works and the earliest known appearances were years after his death. Several other people have been listed as originators of the quote, and it is often erroneously attributed to Twain himself.

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  13. Not to detract from the dismal ridership growth, but to play devil’s advocate for a moment,

    The base of the chart is 60,000, not zero, and so the slope of the chart is more impressive than might otherwise be the case.

    The slope has nothing to do with what the base is. If the base were zero, the slope would be exactly the same angle, it would just be further from the base.

    Steve: You are incorrect as the two charts in the article demonstrate. The first, from Metrolinx, uses a non-zero base, and so the deltas are relatively higher in scale (not in value) making for a steeper (and more impressive) growth line. The second, mine, uses a zero base and also eliminates the skew caused by having months of different lengths.

    An increase of “X” is relatively smaller when the base is zero because it is against the full sweep from zero upward. The same increase on a chart with a non-zero base will always have a steeper line.

    This is a classic way to skew presentation of stats to make them look better than they really are.

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  14. The number one problem with this line is that it is not networked to anything…you buy an expensive ticket, and it can get you to exactly 3 other stations…only one of which is close to anything you’d want to go to (Union).

    You can’t use your ticket to get anywhere else on GoTransit…you can use it to get anywhere else on TTC…let alone other locations further out from there (Viva, Mississauga Transit, Whitby)…

    If you want to buy a ticket on their website – you get 3 options of locations to go.

    How is it that I can spend 30$ on a ticket, but only get to stop at 3 locations…that’s the opposite of a premium service…

    Even their route map seems to indicate that they are only expecting people from those 3 locations to use their service.

    Just to put it all in perspective…the price of paying with master card for UPX is 2$…the price for using the TTC is 3$…

    Steve: The lack of “integration” of UPX into the broader fare system, right down to the fact that they don’t market Presto as the primary way for first time users to access the network, is another example of how Metrolinx talks a good story about “integration” but fails to deliver if it might hurt their revenue model.

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  15. Calvin Henry-Cotnam says

    “The slope has nothing to do with what the base is. If the base were zero, the slope would be exactly the same angle, it would just be further from the base.”

    Steve:
    “You are incorrect as the two charts in the article demonstrate. The first, from Metrolinx, uses a non-zero base, and so the deltas are relatively higher in scale (not in value) making for a steeper (and more impressive) growth line. The second, mine, uses a zero base and also eliminates the skew caused by having months of different lengths.”

    Using the mathematical definition of slope, rise over run, Calvin is correct, but most people do not measure the rise and run on a graph to figure out its slope but look at it to get a “perceived slope.” Steve is correct in saying that this slope is exaggerated by using a non-zero base for the graph.

    If one is to make an argument using statistics then it behooves them to put everything in the same format. Using month over month growth is a problem when some months can have 5 weekends and a holiday while the next one would have only 4 weekends and no holidays. This gives it an extra 3 days of peak ridership. This comparison should be broken down into weekday, weekend and holiday ridership to show true growth.

    Steve: I should have said that the perceived slope, to use Robert’s term, depends on the vertical scale. With a zero base, an increase of “X” is relative to the maximum value on the chart. With a non-zero base, the vertical span is only that portion of the range containing values to be charted. In the latter case, the same “X” produces a larger change in vertical position and hence a steeper “slope”.

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  16. Hamish Wilson said:

    “Haven’t ALL? of our major transit projects the last 30/40 years been on the lemon side? That is, too much expenditure on higher-order transit through lower density areas? Yes, we need transit, and yes, that can cost big sometimes, but if we keep over-building with less rationale, then that helps sink systems.”

    I think this is exactly the result of the politics, and approach of one line, and line focused modelling and selling.

    Steve said:“The lack of “integration” of UPX into the broader fare system, right down to the fact that they don’t market Presto as the primary way for first time users to access the network, is another example of how Metrolinx talks a good story about “integration” but fails to deliver if it might hurt their revenue model.”

    The thing I find most frustrating here, is that the lack of integration is likely hurting their revenue. Integration might hurt their pricing a little, but since the marginal cost to Metrolinx and the UPX operation of filling those empty seats, so closely approaches 0 as to not be funny, a significant discount to for a multi-leg trip might maybe perhaps – help their revenue.

    One of the reasons, I think the basic model needs to be reworked is that if you only have say 40 passengers per trip and you can raise that to 120 by lowering the effective cost to the user by 50% – you are still up in terms of revenue by 50%. Altering the way it serves the region, would permit a much larger ridership, at this lower price, and likely be a better cost recovery equation – while also being a more relevant and useful service.

    I personally – by knee jerk like the idea of Malton, as a station better than Etobicoke North, however connecting the Airport circulator – as discussed above – to an off airport grounds station, and permit through service to beyond would be valuable, as it would also permit through service to the area beyond, and potential a better connection for transit to serve the area, as well as the airport. If the service were to integrate with Kitchener GO, and run high frequency through to say Brampton GO – it could likely even sell as a premium commuting service, with a high frequency, limited stop run to downtown, as well as the airport. Taking 4,000 cars off the road per hour peak, is likely much more valuable, than 5,000 per day to the airport, especially as we are unlikely to see this achieved soon. Also a service with higher frequency – would likely be more attractive – although not supportable with ridership to the airport only.

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  17. @Andrew,

    The 407 is full in rush hour, so while ‘most’ people won’t consider it, enough do to make it very profitable. Depending on when you look at the timeline narrative, the same idea was supposed to apply to the UPX – small market share near the top of the pyramid.

    @Sunny Ng,

    I was thinking about the age-old tactic of a trip in a bathroom, but I’m not sure what the frequency is with the 2-car trainsets.

    @Hamish Wilson,

    From your numbers that’s everything since 1975/1985. That includes: Highway 403, 404, 409, and 410, the SRT, and the Richmond Hill, Milton, Barrie, and Stouffville GO lines (Kitchener line opened in 1974).

    @DavidC,

    So the solution to the sunk costs of the UPX is to spend more? I’d rather build Eglinton West than spending at least $475M ($245M on tracks/stations + $128M on cars + $102M in inflation 2006 to 2015) on a People Mover between Malton GO Station and Terminal 3.

    APM cars: $4M each or $160K/pax (8 seats, 17 standing)
    Stations/Track: 3 stations & 1473m track for $150M

    @Malcolm N,

    Etobicoke North is further from the airport than Malton, this would raise the cost from $475M to around $1.135B ($611M on tracks/stations + $280M on cars + $244M inflation). For that price, we could operate the UPX as a free airport shuttle for long into the future.

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  18. TTC tokens/transfers should be accepted for the UPX and more stations are needed. No need to cater a luxurious train for the filthy rich who can ride limousines and take a helicopter ride to wherever.

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  19. Malcolm N says

    “I personally – by knee jerk like the idea of Malton, as a station better than Etobicoke North, however connecting the Airport circulator – as discussed above – to an off airport grounds station, and permit through service to beyond would be valuable, as it would also permit through service to the area beyond, and potential a better connection for transit to serve the area, as well as the airport.”

    The problem is that the line branches before it meets Malton Station; at least a connection at Etobicoke North would allow for transfers to the GO line.

    The station at Pearson is designed to make extension to the west or the lengthening of the station almost impossible without major expense. The equipment and station design seems to be such that it is not possible to extend the service nor run more of it.

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  20. Here are some tidbits to add to your info file on this beast.

    Public Cost.

    $456 Million is what Metrolinx admits to. The actual cost is much much higher. They spent close to $1.1 Billion to upgrade the GO tracks between the airport and the Junction. The $456 is part of that. The upgrade was purportedly to allow GO to run all-day two way service between Brampton and Union. The bottleneck was that there was only one track available for GO, so two way service was not possible. So they spent $1.1 B to put in two extra tracks. Problem now is those two extra tracks are reserved for UP Express. GO can’t run all-day two way service until they put in a 4th track, at an estimated $400 Million (in 2010 $). So $1.1 B is really what the Up Express cost.

    As for operating costs, the studies done by the feds earlier showed an operating cost recovery at about $4-5 per ride. Not $30. But those same studies suggested capital cost recovery (because it was to be entirely private sector installed and operated) over 20 years at $14 per ride, with a small profit. Unless Metrolinx is trying to recover the costs of its entire suite of Presidents and Vice-Presidents I fail to see how $27.50 is necessary to recover operating costs.

    Incompatibility

    To meet the Pan Am deadline, GO piggybacked on a railcar order put in by Sonoma-Marin county in California for a completely new service. The railcars they ordered were diesel multiple units, Japanese, assembled in Illinois (to meet buy America rules), and had 4 foot loading heights. McGuinty waived the Buy Ontario rules for this project. As a result of pressure from the Clean Train Coalition, the trains are Tier 4 diesel (cleaner) but Metrolinx promised they were ‘convertible’ to electric in the future. That turned out to be a lie. Metrolinx says they will buy new when they switch to electric, and use these trains on other GO lines. Trouble is, the 4 foot loading height is incompatible with GO station 8 inch loading heights. So to run on existing GO lines whole new platforms had to be added to the end of the existing platforms at a 4 foot height, at Weston, Bloor, and Union. I seriously doubt they will change the height of the platforms at any of the other GO stations, nor are they likely to convert their GO fleet to 4 foot floor operations. In addition they bought 18 railcars. This was so they could run 4, three car sets, with one spare and one backup. They haven’t run a three car set since the first month. So 6 vehicles are unused. They can’t run one car at a time as the signals might not be tripped by a single car.

    Ridership

    The studies conducted by the federal government in 1996, 1999 and 2000 concluded that to attract enough riders to make this work would require a number of connectivity issues to be solved. The fare suggested for maximum profit was $14 one way. Lower fares would attract more riders but would not maximize profit for the private sector operator. But the assumptions were seamless connections at Bloor and Union between the subway and UP Express. They are hardly that. UP express is a long way from the subway at Union. It was supposed to have an elevator connection directly to the subway platform. And the original plan was for a 150 metre extension of the platform at Dundas West subway eastwards to allow for an elevator connection directly to the GO platform. However Metrolinx did not build that, choosing instead a ‘covered walkway’ outside of about 750 metres to get between the subway and UPX.

    In addition, VIA indicated to me its intention to stop at Weston starting in the fall of 2014 to allow seamless connections from Stratford, St. Mary’s, London and Sarnia to UP. However last I heard they were not able to negotiate stopping rights with Metrolinx.

    Clean Trains

    Metrolinx has made some arguments that this project is part of a climate change/clean air policy. However they will need to garner more riders than even their wildest projections of 7000 per day to emit less pollution than those 7000 folks in cars. Assuming diesel tier 4 trains. Electric trains are planned, but not for 2017 as they promised. Apparently the more recent plan is for 2027. The current ridership of 2500 per day would emit less CO2 and NoX and particulates if they were each in cars.

    What’s needed?

    This was supposed to be a private sector thing. Governments were to smooth approvals, but in the words of David Collennette – ‘not one nickel’ of public money was to be spent on it. Twenty-two billion nickels later…

    In my humble opinion, we have spent public money, we should have public transit. With public transit fares and proper stops. It should be electric. We wouldn’t be worried about ridership if the fares were TTC level. Rob Prichard told the press when the fares were announced that the planned all-day GO service would allow Torontonians a reasonable fare. Trouble is, it’s many years and at least $400 M off, and even the handful of mid-day trains they added last month don’t all stop in Toronto. So they appear unable to keep that promise either.

    The north-west quadrant of Toronto is the only part with no subway or other rapid transit. This line could easily solve that problem. But it would take courage to admit they were wrong.

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  21. Mapeson said:

    “Etobicoke North is further from the airport than Malton, this would raise the cost from $475M to around $1.135B ($611M on tracks/stations + $280M on cars + $244M inflation). For that price, we could operate the UPX as a free airport shuttle for long into the future.”

    Yes, I have never actually advocated Etobicoke North – for this reason. Ross was actually quoting Tino, and mis-attributed it to me, as it was close enough I suppose. I have always kind of thought that Malton made more sense, as it would involve a much shorter circulator. I would even support moving the station to the point where the line takes off from the airport, and so maybe at Goreway Dr so as to allow the current portion of line into the airport to be used to reduce it even further.

    I am not in favor of Etobicoke North – simply because it is too far. I also think a fair amount of the Airport Corporate center would be easier to serve from here.

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  22. Steve wrote:

    The first, from Metrolinx, uses a non-zero base, and so the deltas are relatively higher in scale (not in value) making for a steeper (and more impressive) growth line. The second, mine, uses a zero base and also eliminates the skew caused by having months of different lengths.

    My “devil’s advocate” point was that throwing up the non-zero base as an argument detracts from the point that the daily values show the true picture over monthly as months have differing lengths, especially the opening month which was partial.

    Slope is delta-y divided by delta-x, and this does not change whether a base of zero is used or not. Having a non-zero base does provide for a y-scale that has a higher resolution and gives a visual impression of a higher slope. The argument is that the display exaggerates the slope, not that the slope itself is steeper because of the base chosen.

    I am not trying to stand up for Metrolinx’s dog and pony show, only pointing out an argument flaw that the the other side will exploit to detract from the real issues.

    Steve: I have already acknowledged the point you are making in reply to a previous comment. The intent of the graph is to give the impression of strong growth when, in fact, little actually exists. It is misleading, and it does not matter what the correct definition of “slope” might be to a mathematician. Please note that I did extremely well in maths, and have known what “slope” means for over half a century.

    Anyone who tries to cite my “perceived” vs “calculated” usage as evidence I don’t know what I am talking about will only reveal that their real goal is to misrepresent what the data actually say thereby (further) undermining their own position.

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  23. What has never made sense to me was a startup operation that went full bore from day one. Every car in use and run every 15 minutes. It would make more sense to start off with a small consist and maybe hourly (memory) schedule. then build gradually as ridership increases. This is what GO did when it began. Ramp up when you have riders. Go to 30 minutes then 20 minutes then 15 minutes adding cars as needed. Makes more sense.

    What to do now? Aside from just lowering fare which everyone thinks is needed, how about some promotion? Could each airline play a role? As the flight nears Pearson the Attendant says over the PA “Are you going downtown? Your air fare ticket is your pass to ride the Union Pearson Express, fast and direct to Union Station.” Let the airline pay a deeply discounted “wholesale” price ($10 ?) . Takes away the need to make a decision to change what you normally do when you arrive. Go look for an airport limo or a cab etc. Airline personnel get a freebee for a while. They will then be enthusiastic promoting the UPX to their passengers. Worth a try? People say “Think Outside the Box” I like to say “Throw the Box Away”

    Steve: Are you aware that Air Canada is already promoting UPX, but doing so at full fare, not by talking up or selling Presto cards? There is an organization challenge for airlines in that their flights come and go from a wide variety of destinations, and the last thing they need is an inventory of transit cards for the major cities they serve. When I fly to NYC, I don’t expect the airline to sell me tickets to the many different transit systems I might use to/from the airport.

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  24. @Mike Sullivan,

    First, the total cost of the Georgetown South super-project was well more than $1.1B, but you can’t attribute all the cost to the UPX. There were station expansions and upgrades (snow melting system at Bloor), there were intersection improvements (West Toronto Diamond and Strachan Avenue Depression) and existing speed restrictions were removed or reduced. This work also enabled a future track to be added at a substantially lower price.

    Second, the “Feds” study by KMPG didn’t look at fares beyond $15. Second, there was something obviously wrong with their survey as more people would use it at a $10 fare than a $5 fare (they only looked at $5, $10, and $15) and for $5 or $15 more would take it at 15-minute headways than 10-minute headways. They suggested 60% of single travels with heavy bags (note the plural) that said they would use the UPX would actually do so. Beyond that, their use of an 80% confidence level and misunderstanding of the relation of sample size to margin of error makes the whole thing seem very amateurish. Two data points don’t make a good interpretation of the sensitivity to pricing. They even provide an alternative fare curve that has $19 as the peak and $14 and $26 as equal levels of revenue.

    Beyond that, the average fare would definitely be below $27.50, just like the TTC doesn’t receive $3 (soon to be $3.25) for every passenger they have.

    I can’t comment on the compatibility issue, but electrification is much more complicated than they originally thought. UPX and Lakeshore West will be the first lines electrified and the specific EAs for these will start next year (preliminary design work is being undertaken now).

    Third, the issues with TTC are on the City side. Metrolinx has many plans for better integration, but the City/TTC aren’t interested in it (especially during the Ford era). At Bloor/Dundas West, everything within Metrolinx property was built, and just needs permission and funding to do the other portions.

    When did VIA indicate to you that they wanted to start Weston service in Fall of 2014? I haven’t been in the area in a couple months, but as the station was under construction until at least Summer 2015, it makes sense that they couldn’t add new service.

    Fourth, your suggestion that passenger 250 cars per hour are cleaner than 4 Tier-4 diesel trains is absurd. Unless you are aware of newer measurements, the UPX EA used the figures of: 3.60 ug/m3 NOx 24/hr-avg, 0.06 ug/m3 PM2.5 24/hr-avg, and 0.04 ug/m3 SO2 24/hr-avg. On the other hand, the standards for passenger cars are 0.9 g/mi NOx and 0.12 g/mi PM2.5 (if required). Thus, if 1% of the 250 cars are in the 99th percentile of barely passing, they are dirtier than trains.

    Fifth, as the UPX has been designed and built, it cannot handle the “subway” type capacity loading. Beyond this, most people don’t call 15-minute headways as “rapid transit”. While there is a case to be made, your points are all skewed and the problem isn’t as “easily solved” as you seem to think.

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  25. @Calvin,

    I avoided this debate before, but the difference is between “real” slope (delta y over delta x of the total) and “displayed” slope (angle above/below a horizontal line). While the real data is still there, the presentation of the data is misrepresentative of the overall reality. For example, they used the lowest month in comparison to the highest month to state growth as higher, rather than using the month before which would both be lower growth (lower delta y) and a longer period (higher delta x).

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  26. Mapleson said:

    “Fifth, as the UPX has been designed and built, it cannot handle the “subway” type capacity loading. Beyond this, most people don’t call 15-minute headways as “rapid transit”. While there is a case to be made, your points are all skewed and the problem isn’t as “easily solved” as you seem to think.”

    I would agree with this, however, the idea should really be a question of what takes priority, serving specific destinations, or serving the most possible riders and having the largest possible impact on mobility, well being, and maintaining economically and environmentally sustainable growth. With this in mind – the UPX service should have either been seen to be a low priority or integrated into another service, where the trip would be effectively supported, but not at quite the degree of costing options for other services. The sort of thinking that supported the UPX is in my mind the most important issue in Toronto going forward. Every service needs to be examined in light of an overall network, and the overall – inclusive of network effects need to be how we evaluate priorities. A commuter first service, would have been able to augment the value of the existing GO services (more frequency – same destinations and many of same origins) and as such would have made GO stations a more valuable point of linkage for local transit. How we look at GO investments going forward, has to be in light of how they can be integrated. This needs to also apply to rapid transit.

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  27. @Mapleson:

    A few minor points:

    1. Since UP express is bi-directional there are 8 trains per hour not 4 but it still creates a lot fewer emissions that cars do.

    2. While it is true that all the expansion costs cannot be attributed to UP Express the problem is with public perception. A lot of money was spent and Metrolinx in public meetings seemed to indicate that there would be all day two way service to at least Bramalea if not Mt. Pleasant before now. They did not put it in writing but said not to worry it would be in place by now.

    3. There seems to be a lot of work going on to add the fourth track but they still need to tunnel under one or more of the 401, 409, 427 as the existing underpass(es) will not accommodate a fourth track.

    Metrolinx has a perception problem in that a lot of money was spent so that Toronto could join the ranks of “World Class Cities” that benefits a very few well of businessmen while the ordinary citizens along the line have to put up with second class service and horrible commute times from Kitchener and Guelph. Also since the service cannot be readily expanded to rapid transit style service because of the station design, especially the terminal design, and Transport Canada rules this line is going to continue to be seen as a very wasteful white elephant by the general public.

    @Raymond:

    I am not sure if you meant to comment the length trains AND frequency or just frequency with

    “Every car in use and run every 15 minutes. It would make more sense to start off with a small consist and maybe hourly (memory) schedule. then build gradually as ridership increases. This is what GO did when it began.”

    The UP express cannot run as single car because the design only has a cab at one end. They are running the shortest possible consist possible, two cars and they are only running 10 of their total of 18 cars. They need 5 trains to run the service because of the two extra stops added. They could have run the service with 4 trains if it ran non stop.

    With the current running times they cannot run 3 car trains except for a day or two because they need to have one train out for service and one as a “Hot Spare,” ready to go at anytime. Because of their attempt to placate everyone they can only run two car trains and have one train for maintenance and 3 spares. This results in one of the highest spare ratios for any transit system that runs more than 2 units or service, 60 or 80% depending if you count the maintenance train or not.

    Another problem with going as a piggyback onto an existing US order is that its hotel power electrics are at 480 volts 3 phase, the US standard, instead of the 600 volts 3 phase which is the Ontario and GO’s standard. This means that none of the existing way side power is compatible with the UP Express equipment.

    If they started out with only hourly service it would have made even less of an impact because who would wait a hour for a train when a limo would have you to your destination before the next train arrived. If the service is going to have any chance of growing it had to start off with 15 minute service. That being said it is a poorly thought out concept that probably will take a very long time to become successful if it ever does.

    GO started out with 20 minute rush hour service from May 23, 1967. Since it was originally designed to be a work place commuter service it started out with that from day one. The off peak service started out as one train running a 3 hour shuttle that was gradually increased to hourly service. It ran two car self propelled trains in the off peak and then would combine them to form one 6 car train in the rush hour. It also used to replace long trains with short trains in the off peak after the self propelled cars proved to be hard to maintain and were converted to cab cars. The GO service and the UP express are designed to handle two completely different sets of clients.

    I am not trying to justify the UP express service but if it is going to be attacked it should be on facts because it fails that test big time. It will bleed large quantities of money until a new government gives up supporting it or it makes major changes in its operations. It cannot become a part of the TTC or GO service because it does not have the ability to carry the number of passengers required. It has way too many personnel compared to its passenger load. It should be run with one person crews and fewer terminal station personnel. I shudder to think what the number of administrative people are in its system are. That would be an interesting question to ask on a freedom of information request. I bet it would take them until 2020 to come up with an accurate count.

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  28. Should haves and could haves,
    As healthy on a plate as
    Moonbeams and cookies.

    I agree with the need for effective network planning and objective comparison of priorities, but I don’t see any way of achieving it long-term. Transit City was one such “city wide” plan that first suffered from tight purse strings then from hostile follow-up governments. A DRL line was under rated for decades by the TTC that kept promising to cram more people on Yonge. Good planning rarely survives political realities.

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  29. @Robert Wightman,

    1. That was a ‘duh’ mistake.

    2. That is/was a disconnect between Union Station/USRC conditions and political planning. We’ve relieved most upstream choke-points, so now where all trains converge is the key hold back. If they wanted to, they could run all-day trains between Malton and Bloor.

    3. They’ll also need to expropriate some land, so it’s mostly been a chipping away at the problem, so that it’s as easy as possible when they get down to it.

    Metrolinx is the whipping boy on this project, because they are the Crown Agency for transit. If it wasn’t for a strong McGuinty/Wynne push for it, it probably would have died a quiet death. It serves their political ends for Metrolinx to get the bad press while they get to feature in all the ribbon cuttings.

    I agree completely with your last paragraph except that a new government might give up supporting it. The OPC don’t want another “Eglinton tunnel filled in” moment and the NDP don’t want to be perceived as anti-business. Thus, I think we’re stuck with it and need to focus of making the most of what we have and is realistic for what it can handle.

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  30. Mapleson says:

    “If they wanted to, they could run all-day trains between Malton and Bloor.”

    My question is why would they want to and at what frequency, one train shuttling back and forth? The main load gets on at Bramalea. According to the schedule it takes 20 minutes to go from Malton to Bloor, add in a 10 minute layover at each terminal and you have an hourly service.

    The current weekday Mt. Pleasant service runs using three trains with an outbound train passing an inbound around Malton and an inbound train to Union getting there 4 minutes after the outbound leaves. This is because they can’t easily pass between Malton and Bloor St. Most of the inbound mid day trains hit Malton at the 22 with the outbound getting there at the 17 minutes after the hour. The outbound trains take 49 minutes to get from Union to Mt. Pleasant while the inbound trains take 54 minutes. There is usually a 3 to 5 minute wait at the west end of the USRC to set switches so the train can get into Union. We get to watch the outbound Mt. Pleasant train go by. Hopefully someday when Metrolinx gets all the track in place, removes all the slow orders and rationalizes the USRC they will be able to operate the service with 2 trains and an 11 – 14 minute layover in each station. There is nothing as pleasing as a well run service and this is nothing like a well run service.

    The mid day trains seem to be carrying about 400 people from observation but it would be nice to see actual ridership counts. It would appear that there is an unmet need for decent service. The residents of Brampton and Malton are getting pissed off at the lousy service and the empty promises from Metrolinx. The 7 pairs of trains are probably carrying a lot more than the UP yours Express trains but they don’t qualify as a “World Class Service for a World Class City.” Please pardon my vitriol, it is directed at the province not you, but your comments allows me a convenient place to express it. Keep up with the cogent information.

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  31. Mapleson said:

    “I agree with the need for effective network planning and objective comparison of priorities, but I don’t see any way of achieving it long-term. Transit City was one such “city wide” plan that first suffered from tight purse strings then from hostile follow-up governments. A DRL line was under rated for decades by the TTC that kept promising to cram more people on Yonge. Good planning rarely survives political realities.”

    Yes, but the fact is there are very few who did not know that “subway, subway, subway” was not a load of BS in terms of a broader network. Anyone who chose to think about it would have known there were issues with the western portion of ST. Thus when the voter chooses not to express themselves in terms of what makes the most sense, and tell the candidates what they think, well this is what you end up with.

    Soknacki and Chow both had better and more realistic transit positions than Tory let alone Ford, and yet they appeared to lose ground on the issue. Voters from all areas, need to be clear, they support logical, effective, and reasonable cost effective rapid transit. Realism is a question of whether the voter wants real improvement, or prefers fantasy. Hopefully in the coming cycles we will start to see an adult voting pattern, not one where people prefer an fantastical lie, to a practical, and viable truth.

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  32. Robert Wightman said:

    “The problem is that the line branches before it meets Malton Station; at least a connection at Etobicoke North would allow for transfers to the GO line.

    The station at Pearson is designed to make extension to the west or the lengthening of the station almost impossible without major expense. The equipment and station design seems to be such that it is not possible to extend the service nor run more of it.”

    Generally the idea I have always considered most desirable – would be to have an airport area circulator run – from the Renforth Gateway, through Airport terminals (both) to Malton GO. The route could provide linkage to other airport area services (International Centre – hotels – etc.) as well as the high level transit, where the Crosstown should meet the Mississauga Transitway, and at the other end Kitchener GO line with frequent service – in both directions, a ZUM link, and ideally a Finch West LRT terminus (or station, should it need to run further). The link should have come out to the GO line, not the current set-up where the train leaves the line. That way it would provide support – in terms of ridership as part of a service, that would also run on 15 minutes to Bramalea, and ideally Brampton GO Then when (if? based on Brampton city council’s resistance to it) the Hurontario/Main LRT runs out to there, it could also be linked, as could an east west service on Queen – if this were to actually come to be. The transfer you speak of could then happen at other stations as well. I do not think that we should even be trying to devote resources to have a service – that dedicates tracks and limited space to serve only the airport. The critical space at USRC and Union Station, and crew and rail space required for 15 minute service, should serve many ends, and as the balance of the network develops, this would mean that not only would the airport be linked to many places via rapid transit, the link that tied it to the core, would also serve to provide a high frequency link for many other origins, and linking services. This would also eventually justify a service, that was even more frequent than 15 minutes.

    The airport should be accessible by GO type service, from both directions, and the track should not serve only the airport. Hence – run the link out to GO, and other rapid transit, and get rid of the entire idea of an airport to core only service. If the circulator went out to connect to all these services, you could get to most of the city with ease from the airport and surrounding corporate centre, on rapid transit, not just the core. I think in terms of being able to get uptown, downtown, the inner or outer suburbs from the airport, by simply riding the circulator to one of 2 hubs, and getting directly to the International Centre.

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  33. “3. There seems to be a lot of work going on to add the fourth track but they still need to tunnel under one or more of the 401, 409, 427 as the existing underpass(es) will not accommodate a fourth track.”

    The 427 underpass is wide enough and does not require a tunnel for an additional track. That being said an additional track beyond the 3 in currently in place there, would not required past Wice for Kitchener service.

    “It has way too many personnel compared to its passenger load. It should be run with one person crews and fewer terminal station personnel.”

    Not sure I agree with SPTO at this time, I’d prefer to see PTC implemented to alleviate some of my concerns. The control were designed to be operated with a SPTO in mind though. But aside from the fact that the union is/would fiercely contest this, Transport Canada might not be open to granting a wavier, or whatever they would call it here, for such after Lac-Mégantic. That being said two head end crew members AND a GSR on each train is excessive. Two personal total as per the Milton operations would certainly be sufficient at this time.

    “removes all the slow orders and rationalizes the USRC they will be able to operate the service with 2 trains and an 11 – 14 minute layover in each station.”

    To be fair most of the slow orders that can be removed have been removed, except for the nonsensical 30mph limit through the Strachan tunnel – which was suppose to be 60 by now! The speeds else where won’t be going up/are here to stay.

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  34. @Robert Wightman,

    They wouldn’t want to, which is why they don’t. My statement was more to the point that the larger capacity issues are south of Bloor and west of Malton. The biggest difference that will come in the USRC will be if/when they convert the yards into satellite stations.

    I’m definitely in favour of timetable expansion, but for Brampton the heart of the issue is a third track through downtown and capacity/construction in the USRC. The UPX was a waste of money and capacity, but that section alone wouldn’t fix Brampton’s problems (which is part of the reason why they are outside the RER Phase 1 core area).

    @Malcolm N,

    I’d disagree that “anyone who chose to think about it would have known”. First off, I would say most voters don’t think about it, they just vote according to their gut and use policies they like to justify their decision. Second, those that do think about it, mostly don’t know the ins-and-outs of transit operations. Third, even among those that do know how it all works, transit is only one issue amongst many. Maybe you liked Chow on transit, but Tory on policing. The main issue with representative democracy is that we get one vote on a general candidate and the uninformed are weighted equally to those with expert knowledge. Voters are human and expecting them to select the “best overall” option over the “best for them” option is naïve. The Truth needs a stronger narrative to compete with a fantasy.

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  35. Mike Sullivan said:

    “Metrolinx says they will buy new when they switch to electric, and use these [diesel] trains on other GO lines. Trouble is, the 4 foot loading height is incompatible with GO station 8 inch loading heights. So to run on existing GO lines whole new platforms had to be added to the end of the existing platforms at a 4 foot height, at Weston, Bloor, and Union. I seriously doubt they will change the height of the platforms at any of the other GO stations, nor are they likely to convert their GO fleet to 4 foot floor operations. In addition they bought 18 railcars. This was so they could run 4, three car sets, with one spare and one backup. They haven’t run a three car set since the first month. So 6 vehicles are unused.”

    Sometime in October, somewhere on the Toronto Star website, there was mention of running the UPX trains all the way to STC via the SRT route, but the link has disappeared. A SmartTrack-lite, perhaps?

    Steve, how feasible do you think that idea is?

    Steve: This has been referred to under various names including SmartSpur. I believe this is an utter red herring because there are not enough UPX trainsets to operate a frequent service over that entire route, and there are limitations on the number of trains per hour that will fit in the affected corridors. Advocates for this scheme make claims that remind me of the grossly inflated capacity and service claims in Tory’s own election materials.

    If Metrolinx builds any LRT in Scarborough, they will use standard gauge track, so that is not an issue. The SRT does not run in enclosed tunnels, it is all open air, and so diesel-powered ought not to be a big issue, either. Because these cars are self-propelled, no electrified third rail or overhead wiring is necessary, and the SRT line could potentially be extended crossing streets (by over- or under-pass) or even running alongside streets in a ROW. Yes, diesel-powered will not have the acceleration of electric-powered, but the railcars are on hand and ought to be not wasted, and should be good for a couple of decades at least. I’m not sure what SRT’s platform heights are.

    Just thinking that this might provide an update to SRT on the cheap.

    Steve: The platform heights don’t match, and SRT cars are narrower, therefore the UPX cars will not fit the existing stations on two counts. I find the entire exercise of trying to shoehorn the UPX trains into service somewhere, anywhere, simply perpetuates our looking at “solutions” that constrain future expansion of a true LRT network, and make for a lot of problems on the rail corridor side as well. We should sell these cars to another city where they will fit into existing operations, assuming we can find one.

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  36. Paul G says:

    “The 427 underpass is wide enough and does not require a tunnel for an additional track. That being said an additional track beyond the 3 in currently in place there, would not required past Wice for Kitchener service.”

    I don’t know which underpass, but I think it is the 401, has room for only 3 tracks. Since the UP Express branches off just west of the 427 there will be a need for 4 tracks to that point to run 2 way service for 18 hours a day. I don’t know where Wice is but I am assuming the freight company at 5955 Airport Road which is beyond the 401 and 427 and near the UP Express cutoff so I again say they need a fourth track at least that far which means 4 tracks under the 401 not 3 and every time I go under I cannot see room for 4 tracks.

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  37. @Peter Strazdins:

    The major problem is collision protection and FRA/Transport Canada regulations. UP Express is operated as a railway while LRT is not under those rules. They cannot be made to adhere to the buff loading collision requirements as their frames are 10 cm above track level whereas the UP Express cars have their centre sill at coupler height. If one where to hit an LFLRV it would slice right through.

    Also as Steve said the vehicles have different widths, platform heights and operating characteristics. They will not interline.

    @Mapleson:

    Thanks for your information, it reinforces what I was sure was true. I assume that the RER phase 1 will go to Bramalea station. Metrolinx has completely torn up the south platform, the one that used to be used by the short turning trains that only ran to Bramalea, and is rebuilding it in a much more robust fashion. This would be the turn back platform for RER service if it gets to Bramalea. Even only running this far will require a fourth track until the UP Express cuts off unless they improve the signal system to allow two different 15 minute services operate on the same track. That will happen just after I am elected king of Canada.

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  38. Mapleson said:

    “First off, I would say most voters don’t think about it, they just vote according to their gut and use policies they like to justify their decision. Second, those that do think about it, mostly don’t know the ins-and-outs of transit operations. Third, even among those that do know how it all works, transit is only one issue amongst many.”

    The thing is – most chose not to think, but use their gut. Also even when they mix issues, it really appears that Chow was hurt by transit – I preferred Soknacki for transit, but well, thought Chow was better than Tory who was better than Ford. However, both of latter 2 of them seemed to make progress in the polls based on transit, where there plans were bad and worse. The better 2 seemed hurt by transit. Ultimately – given the amount of polling done, if people want real progress, they will realize that a recognition of others needs is required to advance their own. Ultimately everybody will block the other guy’s lavish transit fantasy, but might just trade what they need in order to support what the other guy needs. However, you have a point in that fantasy seems to get a much better marketing campaign – however – the voter needs to work harder to see through it. If the voter will not step up and look hard, and support real governance, well…

    Steve: It is ironic that Olivia Chow’s “transit” platform was undermined by her campaign wanting to avoid making her look like someone who would spend millions, while John Tory won (but may yet be hurt by) with a cock-and-bull SmartTrack scheme that has severe operational and financial problems that will haunt him as a failed campaign promise. In both cases, candidates were badly served by their campaign advisors.

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  39. Thank you Steve and Robert W. for the clarification. It was my thinking that if Toronto city council continues with the B-D extension folly, the one good hope for SRT would be a relatively inexpensive upgrade which could coast through regardless of SSE or ST. And I champion the SRT, whether it is in a format similar to today’s, or low-floor LRT. I took the hint when the internet link disappeared!

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