After months of ignoring the obvious, Metrolinx and their Queen’s Park masters will lower fares on the Union Pearson Express.
Although the Board does not meet to ratify the change until 6:00 pm February 23, 2016 (as I write this), the report has been online for a few hours, and the change was announced by Minister of Transportation Stephen del Duca earlier in the day.
Not shown in the chart above is a reduction in the monthly pass for workers at the airport. It will fall from $300 to $140, according to The Star.
The official story told both in the management report and accompanying presentation is that UPX did everything it set out to do – it was built on time and on budget, it ran (mostly) on time, and its customers were highly satisfied with the service. Only one small problem – not enough customers.
The low ridership is attributed to four problems.
People Don’t Know It’s There
It has been more challenging then expected to reach both local and non-local markets to ensure they are aware of the service. Notwithstanding the significant media focus on the service and the marketing efforts that have been undertaken, more effort is required to build awareness of the service. [p.2]
This is just a tad hard to swallow given the amount of puffery around town about the new service beginning well before the line opened. Metrolinx now talks about a variety of strategies including staff not just at Pearson Airport to lure travellers to their service, but even with marketing further afield including the ability to buy UPX tickets at airports like Montreal that originate a lot of Toronto-bound traffic. One cannot help wondering what the effective cost per passenger will be.
People Use The Service They Know
Second, engrained habits on how people travel between Pearson Airport and downtown Toronto have proven to be difficult to change. Individuals are used to driving, taking a taxi or limousine to the airport, and with the recent rise of car/ride sharing services, more effort is required to incent people to change their past practice and test the new service.
What is completely ignored in this statement is any concept of convenience, the possibility that auto-based travel (shared or otherwise) provides point-to-point service, whereas UPX by definition is a transit service one must access where it actually stops. This is a major impediment. The demand modelling done for Metrolinx included a fairly wide catchment area, but most of the trips from the various modelled zones required a transit journey just to reach a UPX station. If someone is already on transit, especially the Bloor subway, then continuing to Kipling and the 192 Rocket is not a difficult choice. The problem lies in getting an airport traveller onto public transit in the first place.
People Don’t Know How To Find It
Third, there is uncertainty among potential customers about the beginning and end portions of their trip. This includes the “first mile/last mile” topic, in terms of the total trip time experienced by customers, and navigating at Pearson Airport and Union Station, both of which are complex visual environments, and with ongoing construction at Union Station making wayfinding and signage more complex.
That “first mile” also includes getting to the UPX station, never mind navigating through it, and yet Metrolinx looks only at the last leg of such a journey as the source of problems. Without question, Union Station is a challenging place these days for anyone who doesn’t know it well. Regular commuters adjust as the paths change, but for would-be airport travellers, this could be a first journey. As for the airport, bad signage has been an issue since the line opened. Trotting out this among the excuses begs the obvious question of why this had not been fixed months ago.
People Think It Costs Too Much
The fourth barrier to ridership growth has been perceptions about price. The research indicates that there is a view that UP Express is expensive, without knowledge among potential customers what the exact price is.
This is really the most bizarre explanation for corporate failure I have ever seen. It’s like saying that people don’t buy a Rolls Royce because they think it would cost too much, but they’ve never been into a dealership on the off chance of a one-day sale. Instead of just saying “the fares are too high”, Metrolinx proposes to jetison the “business class” fare structure and go after a completely different market.
As evidenced by the large turnout on the recent Family Day Weekend, when more than 43,000 riders waited in line up to 2-3 hours in order to ride for free, there is a great deal of interest in and curiosity about UP Express. Management is proposing a multi-faceted strategy to build on this interest. A key part of this strategy is a new fare structure.
The proposed new fare strategy is designed to attract new riders, change air travellers’ ingrained travel habits around ground transportation, provide a viable new travel option for travel between downtown Toronto and communities served by UP Express, and reinforce UP Express as a high-quality component of the region’s transportation network.
In otherwords, rather like Porter Air, the UPX is going to have a never-ending sale, although whether it will feature daily adverts with cuddly critters exhorting us to fly UPX remains to be seen.
Let us be honest: you can have the greatest engineering and project management and the nicest trains (even with a drab colour scheme), but without customers, you have failed. The new fares will generate more riding, although how much effect they will have on the bottom line is quite another matter. Fares for non-airport trips will sit at the same level as GO Transit which remains uncompetitive, except on speed, for local travel within Toronto.
A huge, obvious, and totally missing part of the equation is fare integration with the TTC. If, like the 192 Rocket, a trip on UPX included free transfer to the TTC for inbound riders, and a discounted outbound fare with the same effect for outbound trips, then UPX would truly be part of the transit system, not a tantalizing, but annoying service that looks nice on the map, but isn’t worth the effort.
After Metrolinx spent months telling us that the line just had to find its market, the market proved Metrolinx wrong. All the brave talk about success on other fronts is a nice show, but it is meaningless because the service was not properly designed from the outset. I wonder how many awards they will collect from the Air Rail Association for that little blunder?
If you look at the platform pictures (# 5 & 6) you will notice the swing out “gap filler” that bring the platform to the door sill. At night these have to be swung up out of the road so that freight trains can use the line.
The Weston sub still has some significant switching west of Etobicoke North Station and usually one interchange train to Lambton (?) and back each day. These along with any possible detours means that trains on this sub can meet freights. I believe that CN prefers the Weston Sub to the Newmarket sub for these detours. I still want to know what speed the GO trains that don’t stop at Weston and Bloor street go through these stations at.
Get off at the GO Weston station and you will see that there are only 3 tracks and that each has a high platform. There is room for a fourth track to the north east but it is not in yet. There is a daily interchange freight from MacMillan Yard to the CP at Lambton as well as numerous industries on both sides of the line starting just west of Martingrove. (Check google maps.) The freight trains need to cross and also run on these UPX tracks as you call them; however these tracks have to be able to handle freight trains at all times to allow for access to these industrial spurs. Looking at the map you will see that the freight trains have to run on “UPX only tracks.”
There are NO tracks that are dedicated full time for the UPX service until the cutoff to the airport. They may handle only UPX trains most of the time but they must be able to handle freights on demand. If you look at Google maps satellite views you can see numerous freight cars on these sidings. So yes, the UPX tracks do host freights. Whenever I take a GP train from Brampton to Union either just after 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. I usually see a CN freight with 20 to 30 cars and 3 GP 9 locomotives on the line. Freight trains can operate past high platforms if they do so at restricted speed, under 10 or 15 mph I believe.
The O-Train does not operate on a line with any freights operating on it at the same time that they do and with no possibility of it being used for diversions. There does appear to be track continuing north west from the just south of the transit way station but on Google satellite view it appears to have trees growing up through it. If you follow this track into Quebec you will see that one branch north of the river dead ends near Rue Moncalm. The other branch appears to be under construction as there is new ballast and the tracks are not aligned properly. There also appears to be no active industry on the tracks but I cannot tell for sure. The track to the south appears to end at Leitrim Rd.
The situations are very different. The O line runs on tracks that do not appear to have much, if any active switching on them whereas the Weston Sub has way freight and interchange traffic as well as lot of GO trains that have a lot more mass than the Ottawa O-Trains. In a collision I want to be on the GO train. Contrary to what you say Metrolinx knew all about the O-Train and realized that the two situations are very different for the following reasons:
a) There are no freights that need access to the O-Trains 8 km of track whereas there are active switching and inter change trains on the Weston Sub.
b) The Weston Sub must be able to handle CN freights any time CN wants to go on the line.
c) The only vehicles on the O-Train are the talent cars while there are a few of big heavy freight and lots of GO trains.
d) The operating characteristics of the two system are completely different.
Was the UPX service a wise use of resources? Hell no, but neither would the use of LRT cars on track that has to handle freight trains at anytime. Are the FRA TC operating rules antiquated? Yes, but they are the ones that must be obeyed. Should we fight for Change? Yes, but we have to operate with what we have now.
Steve: Please note that I will not entertain another lengthy installment in this conversation. This topic has been covered here before, and we do not need to hash out a lot of poorly-informed speculation.
I noticed that GO allowed people who normally took the TTC downtown to ride GO for their TTC fare. I just want to know where you put your token or cash fare when getting on the GO train today. Also at what time did Metrolinx make this announcement and how many GO lines still had service running on them? They also included UP Express. How did the fare person handle tokens or cash fares from TTC riders.
I see that Metrolinx has announced that all service will be following their “snow schedule” tomorrow which means no express service as this requires the use of switches to allow the express trains to pass locals. This reduces the number of switches required to operate the system. Oh, UPX will only be running every half hour instead of every 15 minutes. I guess with all the air line cancellations it won’t be overloaded. Wait, it is never overloaded unless it is free.
Steve: Your comment has the distinction of being the 44,444th approved comment on this site!
From the Ottawa Report, linked but not quoted:
Lots more covered in the report.
I have also seen the three GPs idling on the *eastern lead track* to the McMillan Yard almost every morning coming south from Guelph on the later GO train. Yes freights *cross* those tracks, I never stated otherwise, there’s a few separated freight sidings, my point stands that Metrolinx had choices to make and yet didn’t do so. I can find no evidence that they even discussed them.
Leasing arrangements for the Talents and the reason they were subbed out also fully discussed in that report. It involved the help of the NRC, switch frogs and wheel loading, but I digress.
You’re talking the O-Line, correct? I have seen no such device on UPX high platforms.
Full regular line run speed! I’ve found out the hard way that afternoon runs in from Mt. Pleasant run non-stop Malton to Union. And the VIA trains run even faster … I watch them and GO barrel past the high-level platforms all day from my office, and watch the tracks all night from my apartment (The Crossways). I’ve yet to see a freight exchange or even a freight local on either the former CN or CP tracks.
It appears that Ottawa has beaten Toronto to the punch on regulatory issues, and it’s still being ignored.
I’ve applied to get some reports from Transport Canada that I’ve been unable to locate on-line.
I know from experience that the GO collectors can issue a “complimentary ticket”, and given the circumstances, if UPX don’t have such a thing, GO ones would be honoured if the collector was paid a TTC fare, shown a TTC payment on the Presto card (via the reader) or shown a transfer, which ostensibly would have to be surrendered to get the complimentary ticket.
It will be interesting to see if there is any tally made public as to how many trips were allowed.
The source [for the YYZ reach figure] is Numeris RTS Fall 2015 with a target of Age 12+.
RTS has the largest sample size of any private sector survey. It is diary based and respondents are weighted for age, sex and household income, among other factors. RTS is widely regarded as the most accurate and comprehensive product survey available in Canada.
The market research industry is well aware of the perils of self selection and the means of proper survey design to address it. Whether and which means are employed is a matter of cost and value. RTS is not a cheap survey.
I thought that the GO trains would pass the high platforms at speed as they do not oscillate much about their vertical axis, yaw. The freight trains however have a lot of sideways motion when they go by at speed and would probably contact the platform.
None of them get south of the North Toronto sub. There is a track that joins the Weston Sub to the MacTier Sub between Weston and St. Clair Station. It allows trains to go southbound fro CN to CP and northbound from CP to CN and it has been totally rebuilt and has nice shiny track so it gets used.
And yes the Gap fillers are for the O-Train. They were in the photos on one of your links.
I guess that is better than being the 666th comment though I believe 4 is considered unlucky in some cultures. Thankfully there are 5 of them and not 4.
I still think investing in a DMU-based rail-link was a waste of public money. The tech is not a solution to the problem of air-rail links. The era where it was good at solving problems is over. The whole premise of running a main-line train shuttle service in a busy rail corridor is the result of short sightedness and unwillingness to spend on real solutions which are not heavy rail. The technology will be replaced when electrification occurs and second there will be clamors for an alternative anyway due to the severly limited passenger catchment. Furthermore the particular choice of vehicles is short-sighted. The vehicles are not true MUs (you can’t run one solo) and thus you can’t combine them arbitrarily, rendering expansion difficult both for the UPX program and also if you wanted to move these vehicles to GO service.
I don’t think anyone informed here argues otherwise. The question is *WHEN?*
To think DMUs are past their time is foolish, to say the least. I’ve posted extensive reference, argue with the experts if you wish. The challenge for now is to get the South Georgetown Corridor carrying the bulk of persons it should be.
Show me evidence, beyond a pipe dream, Giancarlo, of a solution within the next five years…*if we’re lucky!*
We need an interim solution, and now with the big announcement of UPX’s demise, this forum is an excellent one to exchange informed ideas of how to do that, as from what has transpired so far, Metrolinx seem to be bereft of practical ideas for the Hoi Polloi, while treating chosen others to rides in Cadillacs…with Mr Poi’s money..
Apologies for serial posting, but this isn’t the case:
I looked into that extensively, and single unit running doesn’t denote MU status or not, but they *can* be run as single units. I was researching the thrust to weight ratio of the units and the approx 750hp of the prime movers to tail what I thought was a ‘trailer coach’…but I found out *every unit is powered* and every one has a driving cab. The toilet may be a defining factor in *comfort* MU running, but where are they on the subway cars? And subway cars (in most cities) are permanently linked pairs.
The Nippons have limitations, but that isn’t one of them. They’re actually very good vehicles, but as may be proven, a very unwise choice. Ferraris are lovely too…but someone has to do the shopping every day.
Steve: An issue with very short trains is that they may not provide enough connectivity between the rails to register as “being there” to the signal system.
The definition of MU is the ability to control more than one vehicle from just one control stand. The UPX trains meet this definition. According to you none of the TTC’s subway fleet of G, M, H and T1 series cars meets your definition of MU because of the way they share auxiliary equipment between married pairs of cars.
The original Budd cars which were RDC2, baggage-coach combines only had a driving cab in the baggage end of the car. When they needed to be turned they where either wyed or turned on a turntable. This was soon seen as inefficient and control stands were put in both ends. The UPX cars can run as a single unit but there is no need for them to do so.
VIA paid CN to change the signalling system 30 to 40 years ago to detect 2 car Budd trains. Before that they had to run 3 Budds to show up on the crossing and signal circuits. CP ran single unit Budd trains to Peterborough and Niagara Falls because they had modified the track circuits. The signal system can be changed to detect short trains but is there a need for this ability?
Steve: Only in the context of proposals from readers who want to run single unit UPX trains. If the signals can’t handle this, that is a considerable barrier.
So what would prevent someone going to the airport from the east end (of Toronto or further east on the Lakeshore line) from taking a GO train to Union, switching platforms to another GO train to Bloor station (at no extra charge given the transfer credit) and then hopping onto the UP Express for the $5 fare to the airport? As an example, using Presto from Guildwood, that gives me an $11 fare all-in.
Depending on (sometimes infrequent) connection times at Union, it might be faster than schlepping all the way from GO platforms to the UPX departure point.
I stand corrected. Although I never really thought of subway cars as MU. I was also not aware of the need to double or triple them up for signal reasons. I have seen single Budds on the Chapleau-White River VIA run when I was working up there but that’s CP track so perhaps they upgraded it as they did Niagara. It does see heavy freight traffic. As the only time I’ve seen DMU in action, forgive me if I think they are best suited for taking you and your canoe to a place with no roads. I have been on EMU. Montreal commuter trains to Lake of Two Mountains qualify as such I think we’ll agree. While not the most shining example (on-time performace was poor when I was a kid which was not fun in the winter; I hear it has since improved). They illustrate another use of MU I tend to lean on, commuter rail with closely-spaced stops, 12 stations over ~18 miles, much closer together than UPX. Despite the performance trains were and are jam-packed because of the broad catchment and convenience
I have not seen MU be successful in being a 15-mile airport people mover. UPX has not convinced me.
It is not the MU part that is unsuccessful as they are working quite well. What is not working is the service itself. It would be unsuccessful regardless of the equipment with the operating strategy it used at the start.
The main advantage of MUs, whether DMU, DEMU or EMU, is their faster acceleration and braking rates than on locomotive hauled trains. The Deux Montagne line reduced one way running time from 55 minutes to 35 with modern EMU equipment. Older studies showed a similar benefit on GO’s lakeshore lines with EMUs. Another advantage is the ability to shorten or lengthen trains easily, especially with automated couplers.
For limited stop express service the locomotive hauled trains are cheaper to operate because they have fewer vehicles which are subject to the 92 or 184 day inspection rules and total running time is close because they do not have to accelerate as many times as local service.
When I have a choice of routes, the number of transfers plays a big part in my decision.
Skipping the long and confusing walk from the east end of Union Station to the UPX platform would be attractive — particularly if I had children in tow, or heavy luggage.
But if the frugal traveler doesn’t mind spending an extra half hour, and making more than one transfer, in order to save money, why wouldn’t they go to Kipling, via the TTC, and take the 192 bus? For some travelers this would have the advantage that the 192 stops at both terminals, while the UPX forces them to transfer to the slow and inadequate inter-terminal cable car,
I see your point. I guess I haven’t considered all the angles. My definition of success did include something of financial viability in addition to on-time performance and capacity. I guess what I really want to know is how much of the 450-odd million dollar hole that UPX is in is due to the choice of vehicle? It’s easy to say that the choice of equipment is wrong when they are running empty, however is the railcar a good fit for the service at the projected ridership? Is there room for growth if it ever took off? Will it never take off because the vehicle related constraints (and costs) preclude delivering the kind of service that would make it attractive?
After the Weston Coalition against Georgetown South, Metrolinx is highly gun shy on expropriation. The way they left the situation is that Metrolinx built their “half” of the connection to the edge of the property, and the TTC/City can complete it if/when they like.
That depends on how you define “overseas”. I can spend a week all-inclusive in Cuba for around $600. If use most my weight allowance to bring clothes to sell, the trip will pay for itself with a potential to come out ahead.
There are a few options on the table. CalTrain extended their original order of 14 to 17, with the 14th having been delivered in December 2015. If they moved quickly, they could future extend the contract for $2.9M per car. Second, they could sell off the fleet to SMART or Portland and try out the US Railcar Aero. Third, they can hold out for electrification and supplement/replace the fleet as needed.
The reliability of models is based on the bias of the assumptions going in. The ridership data and pricing was based on a curve with two points. The math was egregious and if we just let it slide for the well-foreseen pricing/ridership crisis on UPX, then we are encouraging the same pattern to be repeated on the SSE or SmartTrack than over inflate their numbers to make they pass muster.
Yes, Metrolinx was/is fully aware of the process on the O-Train, but it’s a completely different kettle of fish. It was the same rail engineers responsible for the UPX EA and O-Train design, and it was the same CPR Coordinator that worked on both projects (CPR was involved in the UPX tangentially due to the potential impacts on the Lower Galt and MacTier subdivisions).
Metrolinx isn’t petitioning to change FRA rules (or an exemption) as they are currently negotiating with CP over purchasing the Galt Subdivision (Milton Corridor) or what can be done to get two-way all-day service on the line. Unless the federal government steps up and will resolve the ownership/freight rights situation, Metrolinx is going to keep playing nice.