UPX Fares are Falling Down, Falling Down

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?

57 thoughts on “UPX Fares are Falling Down, Falling Down

  1. Does this mean they could have been charging $12 all along or are a bunch of rusty Budd cars coming to replace the new trains? Perhaps there will be some creative accounting of the costs of UPX versus Toronto West upgrades and everyone will pay in fare increases.


  2. UPX’s big drawback, aside from price, is location. It’s right down by the lake at Union, not in the centre of the city, where it could draw riders from all directions. Except for those in the core, a trip on the UPX involves travelling in a direction that is NOT toward the airport. For me, who lives near St. Clair West station, it would mean about a 25 minute trip (walk to subway, ride to Union) and then take the thing out to the airport. On top of TTC fare (Metropass for me), I’d pay $27. That’s the hypothetical trip. What happens in real life? Well, I had to pick my wife up from the airport last week and this is what happened:
    Walked to St. Clair West station
    North on subway to Lawrence West station
    52A bus to airport

    The trip took about 90 minutes total and was all done on my Metropass, a sunk cost. Taking UPX might have saved me 20 minutes, but even at a $12 fare, I don’t think that’s going to attract me.


  3. I once worked for a company whose offices were located out near the cargo hangers. I took UPX to get there and back.

    When I got to Pearson on the way back it was virtually impossible to find the bloody thing. There are signs marked train starting on the second level but nothing below. On the ground floor there are signs pointing to Zum, Miway, TTC and GO but nothing else.

    It took me awhile because I kept getting turned around and lost looking for signs to point me in the right direction. I kept ending up at the Link trains which does not help me much.

    The only place I have seen with decent signage is Union station.


  4. I have a couple points based on my own experiences and observations:

    1) Finding the service can be a challenge at both ends of the line. At the Airport, it operates only from Terminal 1. Which means people arriving at Terminal 3 have to transfer to Terminal 1, and the free shuttle is great but there have been times when only one shuttle is operating.

    At Union, thanks to the current work, people are easily confused – I have encountered people trying to find the service.

    2) I’d love to see the fare interlined with the TTC and/or GO Transit. Once the TTC is fully Presto enabled, there is absolutely no reason why Metrolinx could not provide a co-fare, and it is a laugh that there is no interlined fare between GO Transit and the UPX as they are both run by the same organization – the repainted GO coaches specifically say “Metrolinx” and so does the UPX.

    3) The lower fares should help, but at the same time if I am using it to access the airport, I hope it does not end up being filled with commuters. It’s a catch-22, I don’t want to see the trains running empty (like they do now) but at the same time it is meant to serve the airport, not commuters from Weston or Bloor St.


  5. Wow! In all my years in business, I’ve seen some pretty flimsy excuses for failure, but these four all boil down to UPX saying, “The people of Toronto are idiots.” Maybe, just maybe, that finger is pointing in the wrong direction.

    1. “People Don’t Know It’s There.” That is a stinking, steaming pile of bovine effluent. The UPX self-described target market of frequent business travelers is well aware that it is there. And even people who have never been to the airport before tend to have access to this computer site called “Google” to find ways to get to the airport.

    2. “People Use The Service They Know.” Which is why Dutch immigrants to Canada have the same cycling mode share as when they were in The Netherlands. Oh wait. Not so much. A train is scarcely an unknown transport device. And there are plenty of new train lines that were successful on day 1. Just not UPX.

    3. “People Don’t Know How To Find It.” There is some truth to this. UPX is hard to find, at both ends. And yet, because the people of Toronto are not, in fact, idiots, they can figure it out. I will point out that driving a car to the airport is a much greater navigational challenge. Yet people manage to figure it out. Because they are not idiots.

    4. “People Think It Costs Too Much.” Again, bovine effluent. I see from CAA (not exactly anti-car people!) that typical car driving costs paid by a private car driver are around $10,000 per year. And CAA is not including several costs, such as car parking. One would be very, very hard-pressed to find any combination of public transit methods whose annual passes add up to that much.

    Here is the reality: Although there are many glaring exceptions, most people are not idiots. They will use the method of transportation that is the fastest, easiest and most convenient way of safely getting from A to B for the places that they are going. If that method of transportation is public transit, then they will take public transit. If it is cycling, then they will ride a bike. If it is driving a car, then that is what they will do. Why? Because the people of Toronto are not idiots.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s a nice train, I like it, it kinda reminds me of riding on the DMU’s between Nottingham and Manchester.

    Not having flown into Pearson since the UPX opened, are there plenty of banners ads etc telling you that there is a fast way to downtown or are they sadly lacking? I flew to London last November and certainly by the time you passed through security you knew that Heathrow Express existed, and if you didn’t notice before then giant banner ads for the service in the terminal. I even got stopped on my route asking if I wanted to buy a ticket.

    Visitors to the city will always be the prime market whether business or pleasure and if they don’t check the “getting from the airport”, then they should be at least aware the service exists by the time they continue on with their journey.

    Whether the lower fare will increase trade, I hope it does, for me personally and for large majority of people living in the GTA. It’s not convenient for me as I can get the Go Bus that goes down Yonge from Finch, but judging by the 401 it would be sometimes quicker to take the subway and the UPX. I agree some sort of fare integration is needed, the option of buying a $10 return ticket when you book your flight etc. The next question, are all those limos going downtown going start some “anti Uber” style protests with a potential loss of income!!!!!


  7. I’m very happy the fares are now (much) lower – 9$ is, given my location at the foot of Spadina, hard to argue with given the alternatives. Critically, it’s also now guaranteed to be less than a cab – even 4 adults will spend less than they would on a cab. That being said, I live incredibly close to Union, and even I take the 509/510 as my “first mile” … And that first mile means those same 4 people now save a tiny bit with a cab.

    So I really wish they’d cut the fares a little less, and included free TTC transfer! It’s purely psychological, but to me “UPX fares now $15, $12 with Presto, AND include free TTC usage to and from any stop!” would have been a lot more bang for their buck – I and other travelers would still feel like they’ve genuinely lowered the fare significantly, and as an added bonus it’s now integrated fully with the friendly local transit provider!

    Heck, even offering the option of adding $3.25 for a fare at point of sale to those who buy the Prestoless tickets would be an improvement… Sigh.


  8. I wonder if the UP Express spur could be replaced with an extension of the Finch LRT from Humber College to Pearson Airport. It ought to be possible, given that 3-car LRT trains are only a bit longer than 3-car UP Express trains (2-car trains should be able to fit easily), and LRT can handle sharp curves and steep gradients. The idea would be that a transfer between LRT and GO would be built near Woodbine Racetrack.


  9. Still some anomalies in the matrix.

    A non-presto ticket from Pearson to Bloor plus a ticket from Bloor to Union is cheaper than a ticket from Pearson to Union.

    I wonder if you can buy both at Union or Pearson.

    But Presto is even weirder. What is the point of fare media integration if you don’t use it when it counts most?

    With Presto adoption at TTC’s Union station, it is hard to comprehend that Metrolinx can’t comp the TTC fare on inbound trips. Outbound Presto will have to wait a short while for the fuller TTC rollout.

    $9 to get on UPX and then anywhere in the city would be quite attractive.

    Family fares are still a problem for integration, because you can’t get them with Presto, but that’s a wider problem with Presto, not unique to UPX.


  10. Let us continue to boycott the UPX until we get down to TTC fares with free transfer between UPX and the TTC. Please spread the message by encouraging everyone to continue the boycott.


  11. Bill said:

    … or me, who lives near St. Clair West station, it would mean about a 25 minute trip (walk to subway, ride to Union) and then take the thing out to the airport. On top of TTC fare (Metropass for me), I’d pay $27. That’s the hypothetical trip.

    Pearson via Subway to Dundas West / Bloor UPX should take 50 minutes, for a 40 minute savings. Cost of UPX is now $5 for you, seems like it should shift your travel pattern.


  12. And… the… Dundas… West… Subway… Station… to… the… GO…/…UPX… Bloor… Station… opens… … ….?

    Steve: If it were in the Minister’s riding, it would be open already.


  13. Another thing that Metrolinx was counting on was regular business people from Montreal and Ottawa and Toronto businesspeople going to these places.

    When the project started the security nightmare was starting in airports and VIA was increasing service in the corridor.

    VIA keeps posting great numbers on its trains and anecdotally when I travel I usually am in business class on VIA. It’s full of people working and a last minute fare is cheaper than the cheapest economy fare on any airline.

    The travel time is comparable to flying when you include security and taxiing by your aircraft.

    Ironically the target demographic is going to Union … Just that they don’t need Pearson and the UPX.


  14. The way the revised fare announcement played raises some interesting questions about how things work between the provincial government and management at Metrolinx. Steven Del Duca announced the revised fares before the Metrolinx board met and approved them. You’d certainly be forgiven for asking who’s really in charge here, and how arm’s length from the government is Metrolinx? This is the most public display of who really calls the shots I can think of. I guess the Metrolinx board and their meetings are pretty much for show only.

    Steve: The Metrolinx Board supposedly brings outside expertise from the broader private and social sectors, but one almost never hears this in their public debates. Staff recommendations are approved as written. The biggest controversy in recent memory was over station names when it was clear even to the board members that Metrolinx staff were simply trying not to accept that their “protocol” for naming might need to be changed.


  15. There’s much chatter today about the link at Dundas West taking 5 years. Seems many people in the media havn’t heard of the long term issues the TTC has had dealing with The Crossways.

    Steve: There is something called the Expropriations Act. If Metrolinx had wanted to build this connection, they could have used the big fist of Queen’s Park to make it so years ago. However, Bloor Station was only a peak hour operation for GO, and its inclusion in UPX was not part of the original design. Hence, no interest in pursuing the project.

    On another note, I find the discussion about the UPX somewhat troubling. Its amazing how many people have an opinion about this bit of transportation that they are likely to only take once or twice a year, if that. The vast majority of Torontonians will take a trip out of Pearson maybe once every 20 years – most just can’t afford to travel via air. But, many in the media and government do go through Pearson, either through work or just because they can afford to take vacations where flying is an option. So, to them, this is a part of their lives. And, as a lot of people who don’t take transit do fly, there is some affinity for the discussion in the 905. Reminds me of the subway discussions driven by people who never take transit. I just don’t think though that this issue is all that important except for people who go their daily for work, or like us on here who are discussing transit systems in general.

    I do not begrudge people having the money to fly. BUT, I do find this discussion (outside of the transit focused sites like this one) a bit too much about aspirational living, rather then the day to day transit needs of Torontonians.

    It’s like having a discussion about the intricacies of going to Starbucks or Whole Foods (both of which I use and enjoy) when most people are trying to figure out how to get the best value out of Instant Coffee or No Name brands bought at No Frills.

    I guess what I’m saying is on a day when we saw tremendous crowding at Yonge/Bloor station, the UPX issues seems like #uppermiddleclassproblems .

    Steve: But there is half a billion invested in UPX plus its ongoing operating cost, money that could have been used to provide transit for the other 99%.


  16. Even if it somehow manages to get enough customers to boost the income, it still smells like:

    a) a waste of a corridor – it should have been more sub-regional (TTC-based too)
    b) a lot of money, better used elsewhere
    c) assisting a great generator of greenhouse gases as we don’t want to consider just how stinking bad for the planet all that flying really is, including “green” Toronto, which won’t look at including emissions as it’s ‘outside’ city boundaries
    d) those that created the messes are not paying for it – and that’s so typical. Sigh.

    Where will the shortfalls be coming from??

    Liked by 1 person

  17. It’s a big fancy table, but it boils down to:

    $9/$12 Union/Pearson to Pearson/Union
    GO-Fare Union/Pearson to Weston/Bloor
    UPX<GO Weston/Bloor to Bloor/Weston
    UPX<TTC Weston/Bloor to Bloor/Weston to Weston/Bloor

    UPX 'Family' Pass allows one less child than the TTC 'Family' Pass. It's $13 more expensive from Union, equal from Bloor, and $1 cheaper from Weston. The difference between the individual and family versions of the Meeter/Greeter or Long Layover only works if you have 1-3 children (2-3 if only 1 adult). When 4 people are using a family pass, it's equal to senior rates. When 5 people are using a family pass, it's cheaper.


  18. It’s still a relative waste of a corridor and the half-billion.

    Who will be picking up shortfalls – those that voted for it, or the taxpayer?

    The good news being: this does call into question how well things are schemed.

    After we blow some more billions on schemed subways in the wrong places to assist private landowners ahead of the public, then we’ll maybe get to more sensible transit in the more-correct places.

    It’s not just Moronto, it’s Morontario. Or is that Morontariowe?…


  19. While I am no fan of the 192 Rocket portion of the Bloor/Danforth route to and from the airport, until Metrolinx and the TTC get their act together regarding fare integration and the transfer at Dundas West / Bloor I doubt I will be riding UPX.


  20. On the seventh dawn of the seventh day, Scarborough subway and SmartTrack plans will be resurrected again; doomed to shadows will be the DRL; and a saviour to all who take public transit.

    Steve: And there will be trumpets, and a lot of very silly Monty Python cartoons.


  21. OgTheDim said:

    The vast majority of Torontonians will take a trip out of Pearson maybe once every 20 years – most just can’t afford to travel via air.


    Over 20 years, the vast majority of Torontonians will fly through Pearson several times. But the vast majority of Torontonians do not live near the UPX line.

    Fun facts:

    Just a hair over 60% of Torontonians fly in a year, and 56% of Torontonians flew through Pearson last year. Pearson has much lower volume but slightly higher 52wk reach than Union (53%).

    Almost 30% of Torontonians flew overseas for pleasure last year. This is not entirely surprising, given that more than half of residents are foreign-born.

    I’m richer than the vast majority of Torontonians yet I consider flying overseas to be an extravagance and my priorities lie elsewhere. Overseas travel is clearly a budgetary priority for many households, including those with less than median incomes. How they afford it I can only guess.


  22. I’ve just had a discussion with one of the Toronto newspaper writers, and unfortunately, he feels I’m demeaning his “character” but making a very crucial point clear. It’s befuddling a number of persons I’ve spoken to, and I think a lot of the basis of it is purposeful hyping on Metrolinx’ part.

    Here’s the phrase the author and others have stated in the press:

    (matching fares for the similar but less frequent, limited service GO trains). First, we have a disagreement on the full meaning of “fare”, albeit that is understandable, I note from many posts here that it is being equated to “cost of fare”.

    There’s a difference, and perhaps that term if better defined by “tariffs”, the legal definition of carriage.

    Here’s how Metrolinx themselves state it, with a *crucial* modifier:

    “with prices that match GO fares”

    “Prices!” The fares *do not match* as the GO fare entitles you to continue further on an incremental basis. The UP fare does no such thing.

    So if you wish to travel from Weston to Union to transfer on a GO train to a further destination, you get *absolutely no credit* for the price you paid for that fare.

    The ambiguity is rampant in the press, through no fault of the authors in many cases, albeit they have missed the sneaky proviso that Metrolinx slipped in.

    Until Metrolinx matches the “FARE” of what GO offers (and someone on an overcrowded GO train coming from points north of Weston can get off at Weston and transfer to the UPX to disembark at say, Bloor) then to imply that the “fare is matched” is disingenuous.

    The price of the fare to travel the distance is matched, but not the fare itself, the terms of GO fares being quite complex and detailed, almost all to the favour of the traveller.


  23. Apologies for the back-of-the-envelope math here, but just to frame the discussion a bit I couldn’t resist:

    – Metrolinx was saying 7k passengers per day was their break even point on operational costs
    – With the fares cut in half (it’s actually bit more than half, but let’s assume that some significant portion of the existing customers weren’t paying full price) that translates to 14k/day
    – The current schedule runs 156 trains/day (78 in each direction), meaning an average of 90 riders per train hits your break even point
    – Another way to look at that is that with the capacity of each three-car trainset at 173, it comes to just under a 50% load
    – Even if you run at near-full for 8 hours a day (the current busiest times of 2-7pm plus three hours for the morning rush), you still need to average over 30 passengers per train over the rest of the schedule to hit your target
    – Keep in mind that this train runs from 5:30am until 1am, are you really doing 30 riders/trip at those times?

    None of this is to say that dropping the fares was the wrong move, but I’m curious as to what the business case for the chosen figures was. If this is “public transit”, then operating with an ongoing subsidy is not necessarily a bad thing, but it should be explicit somewhere that full farebox recovery of operational costs is no longer the goal.

    Steve: Full farebox recovery is a holdover from those halcyon days when the whole thing would be built and operated by a private company at no cost to the public purse. There’s a reason that idea fell apart, and the basic facts years ago were that the private sector considered it an unworkable investment.


  24. Direct quote from board meeting referring to the “research” they did in Europe and Asia and how it didn’t translate with Toronto riders:

    “Some of our customers say, ‘I’ll definitely take the train in London, but I wouldn’t think of taking it in Toronto. FOR SOME REASON there is a North American appreciation and love for the car.”

    I think this highlights just how clueless Metrolinx really is. They can’t think of a reason why people in Toronto would take the car? Let’s take a look at a few:

    – (was) Cheaper to drive, or be driven
    – Door to door
    – Europe and Asia actually have integrated transit systems!!
    – Europe and Asian airports have direct rail links at each of their terminals.

    This last point bothers me most about the UP Express. Because there is only one station, passengers going through terminal 3, must add approx 10 minutes to their trip … luggage and all. The GTAA people mover is shaky, uncomfortable and often has trains coming 5+ minutes apart. Haneda and Narita each have several lines going to their Domestic/International and T1/2.

    From the start, the UP Express has been poorly thought-out.

    Most people I know would rather avoid traffic and the hassle of using a car. But the burden to use UP Express is simply too high, even with the fare reduction.

    Steve: What I simply cannot stomach among all of the puffery around UPX was that Metrolinx managed to win an award for this screwball scheme before the line even opened. That’s like getting an Oscar before you even start filming. This has all the earmarks of an inside job among “friends” in the industry, or a very limited competition.


  25. “Another way to look at that is that with the capacity of each three-car trainset at 173, it comes to just under a 50% load”

    UPX cannot run three car train sets on a consistent basis because they only have 18 cars and need to run five train sets which is 15 cars. This only leaves one spare train for maintenance and no “Hot Spare” for change offs. Adding the two extra stops increased the running time so that it is not possible to do it with four train sets. More great planning by Metrolinx. If they actually manage to increase loading because of the fare reduction then they will need to order another 3 car train set.

    Steve: But their line has such wonderful performance! It should be child’s play to operate with only one spare set. I am waiting for them to have to admit that the fleet is too small, but they will find some way to blame it on those pesky critics instead.


  26. Robert Wightman writes:

    UPX cannot run three car train sets on a consistent basis because they only have 18 cars and need to run five train sets which is 15 cars.[…] If they actually manage to increase loading because of the fare reduction then they will need to order another 3 car train set.

    Since the initial rationale for that choice of make and model was by piggybacking onto a California commuter line’s order, they’ve dug yet another hole.

    I was wondering how tight the rolling stock inventory was, that answers it … so it’s a case of Hobson’s Conundrum. If the loading does go up significantly (I think we all have doubts until the operating model is changed radically) then they will be short vehicles, and not able to order more as ostensibly the model is not on the production line at this time.

    And perhaps that’s actually a blessing. It might prevent ‘good money after bad’. If the cause d’etre of the line is slanted towards commuter, the decision on platform height has to come to a resolution. From what I can gather, the high-level platform is somewhat of a standard … but still highly problematic everywhere else on the GO system for reasons often discussed in this forum.

    And contrary to the bizarre claims somewhere on the Metrolinx website (if it’s still up) electrifying these vehicles is like the same axe, but two new handles and three new heads. They’re not even DEMU’s but pure DMUs. They’re fine pieces of engineering as is, no fault there, but completely out of their element on the GO system. They might be adaptable with a step to use on low-level platforms for outlying reaches of lines that will be late being electrified, if ever electrified at all.

    So what’s the option, with an eye down the road, for a line that’s barely here or there? The corridor is certainly ripe for frequent service with just a couple of coaches outside of rush hour, and supplementary during, and provisions other than the extra track is in place up to Bramalea.

    Metrolinx has an impending decision to make: Lease in supplementary DMU’s until electrification is in place to go to electric? Some of the UK ROSCOs just might have some units for hire, some even with ‘Buckeye’ couplers (ostensibly compatible with North Am knuckle type) on-board signalling and control compatibility besides.

    Metrolinx have now forced themselves out of the pot and into the fire from a situation they unwisely put themselves in in the first place. Much of the UPX RoW can be re-used, it had to be built anyway, but the high-level platforms present a very real conundrum to catering to the very commuter traffic that is the only way for this dodo to fly.

    And on a completely different note … if Metrolinx were really serious about catering to commuters to fill seats, they’d immediately start honouring GO tickets, not brag the empty mantra of “matching the cost of GO fares”. That would increase GO commuters travelling to and from Weston/Bloor to Union (which are not available on the afternoon southbound runs on GO between Malton and Union) and continuing onto connecting GO trains and buses at Union. Given that option, why would they take the TTC? It’s a no-brainer.


  27. Ross Trussler wrote:

    “Just a hair over 60% of Torontonians fly in a year, and 56% of Torontonians flew through Pearson last year. Pearson has much lower volume but slightly higher 52wk reach than Union (53%)”

    If you are basing that information on that one Forum poll, a reminder that poll was landline phone based and thus relied upon people the self selection of people answering the phone. Paint me skeptical.


  28. Let me repost this snippet of Robert Wightman’s excellent last post:

    UPX cannot run three car train sets on a consistent basis because they only have 18 cars and need to run five train sets which is 15 cars.[…] If they actually manage to increase loading because of the fare reduction then they will need to order another 3 car train set.

    I encourage readers to re-read his full post February 25, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    It’s been eating at me, I’d read up on this thoroughly a year ago, and forgotten most of the details, let alone the glaring significance which I can reference now after digging again.

    I’ll itemize a more complete post later, a good half an hour to an hour’s digging reveals a lot if you follow the links, and if the links lead you against a prescription source, enter what little is posted from the subscription source into Google, and subscription-free sources show.

    Trains has what looks to be a very interesting subscription only story on the SMART system (oh the irony of the name!) (Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit) as to their need to purchase more coaches, and a very alarming indicator I alluded to last post. It appears that the ‘production line’ was still extant at the time of this article, but ostensibly no longer:

    Here’s from a non-subscription local newspaper article:


    […] The three additional cars will boost SMART’s seating capacity by 35 percent, officials said. Because of the escalating costs for rail cars, the grant also was estimated to have saved taxpayers about $11 million, according to state officials.

    “It’s a big deal,” said Farhad Mansourian, the rail authority’s general manager, expressing thanks to Kelly and McGuire for securing a piece of the competitive grant funding.

    The three cars will expand SMART’s existing fleet of 14 cars, which operate in two-car sets, enabling the system to run a trio of three-car sets, Mansourian said. The new cars are “middle cars” that will sandwich between two of the existing cars, he said.

    That configuration boosts passenger capacity from 320 people sitting and standing to 450 people in the three-car sets, he said.

    The added capacity will help enable SMART to extend service from the Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport to Windsor, a link currently missing from the rail development plan. The authority also needs $39 million to lay track from the airport area to Windsor, Mansourian said.

    SMART took delivery of four gray and green rail cars in April and has the other 10 on order, he said.

    The rail agency also needs $40 million to extend the line 2.2 miles south from downtown San Rafael to the Larkspur ferry terminal, but believes it has that money in hand. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission awarded a $20 million grant last year and the other $20 million is included in President Barack Obama’s proposed $4 trillion budget, which is awaiting congressional action.

    With the price of rail cars expected to double after 2017, the latest grant saves SMART — and ultimately taxpayers — $11 million, Mansourian said.][…]

    I have so many links up on my task-bar, I’ve lost track, but suffice to say that I’ve established that this model of vehicle has been built *specifically* for two operators: SMART and UPX. Ironically, the claim of UPX “piggybacking” their order onto SMART’s is back-to-front. UPX Have more vehicles! So is the cart pulling the horse? And since SMART are touted to expand even farther, and the price of vehicles will have “doubled” by now … rather than UPX digging their hole any deeper, and the convenient ’cause d’etre’ no longer pertains (Airport only), there’s some very serious questions to answer as first raised by R Wightman.

    Electrification of these vehicles, although promoted by the manufacturer and Metrolinx, is absurd. Even if it was practicable, they would have to be tested and trued all over again for certification, not to mention after electrification, almost every mechanical aspect would have to be replaced, plus space for the transformer to be made inside. I’ve looked again for the diagram I saw posted months back, it appears to have disappeared. Shredded? I’m an electronic tech, believe me, the claims were nonsense. The way to go is to order a much larger fleet of tried and trued *low platform* (Perhaps dual, a discussion in itself) vehicles, or LRVs coupled into trains running dual-voltage if need be.

    So if SMART is faced with vehicles “twice” the price of the original order … and UPX is stuck with their inappropriate choice … perhaps Metrolinx can minimize losses by selling the remaining stock to SMART and start again? This time with the Airport Express running as part of GO RER, and the vehicles being RER ones.

    I’d mentioned the time gap between electrifying the Georgetown South Corridor and having to upgrade it for frequent commuter use. Will that have to continue to be diesel in the interim? Quite possibly/probably. If Metrolinx were to lease in DMUs or buy sufficient to cascade to the peripheries of the system that isn’t electrified later, and as local feeders, then a decision must be made soon to to this.

    I’d say Wynne and Del Duca have their work cut out for them, and it might start by immediately collapsing the present UP executive, and merging the working aspects into GO. We don’t need Cadillacs, Chevrolets do the shopping just fine.

    Aspects of Smarttrack can be up and running in a year or so to Bramalea. May I suggest a new name for it?

    StartTrack. And it should start right now for planning. First step might be to see if the UK ROSCOs (Rolling Stock Leasing Companies) have DMU’s that could be certified to Transport Canada’s requirements. A ten year leasing period is common, would justify conversion/upr-rating costs and be just about the right time-span until electrification is finished on that corridor, and EMUs are ordered and delivered.

    And for the Airport once StartTrack is up and running to Bramalea? Run as a shuttle to Etobicoke North, single train, might have to retain another train set also as a spare of the present stock to do it. Or LRV.


  29. Does this mean they could have been charging $12 all along or are a bunch of rusty Budd cars coming to replace the new trains?

    Ah, the Budd Railcars… 45 years ago I rode one to Kitchener, and back. I thought they seemed old, even then.

    Could the Budd vehicles ever have performed satisfactorily, with a new coat of paint, and with new interiors? If they couldn’t, why was this the original plan? If they could, would the maintenance head-ache of maintaining really old vehicles have wiped out any cost savings of not buying new?


  30. I’m a little bit disappointed by the amount of self-satisfied nay-saying here. When you build transit systems, it’s impossible to predict how many people are going to ride it. You can try doing some modelling, but that’s notoriously unreliable. Ultimately, you just have to make an educated guess. Sometimes you’re wrong. That’s life. Many cities around the world have $30 express trains to their airports. The government looked around, thought it might work in Toronto, found out it could be built fairly cheaply and quickly, so they went with it. The alternative would have been to spend the money on nothing because Toronto wasn’t going to approve a new streetcar line during that period and $500m only buys about 1.5 subway stations, which isn’t worth the trouble. In hindsight, building the UPX didn’t work out, but it was not obviously a bad investment when they started the project (unlike, say, the Scarborough subway).

    Steve: Considering that studies by the private sector raised serious concerns about the line’s financial viability, this is not a case of “nay saying”. The private sector walked away from this scheme.

    If you keep berating and punishing people for past failures, then politicians will never be willing to take a risk making big transit investments. Politicians can always not build new transit (or send transit into a never-ending hole of studies), thereby saving money and lowering taxes — an instant political win. Or, they can take a risk and raise taxes to pay for something new that might not end up paying off — they’ll end up taking a beating for going into debt and raising taxes, and if it doesn’t live up to expectations, they’ll be punished by naysayers like you guys. Given those choices, it’s no wonder they prefer to not build anything and just lower taxes. We’ll get no high speed rail. We’ll get no new streetcar lines. Instead, we’ll get safe investments like a widening of the 401 or DVP or something — a guaranteed vote getter. You just have to look at California or Vancouver where the nay-saying has gotten so strong over high speed rail and new transit investments that it’s politically far easier to not build any transit and just let the place go to Hell.

    Steve: A bit of basic math would reveal that the vote getting potential of the UPX as designed was low because the line had limited capacity thanks to train size and frequency, and the high fare meant it was not a credible part of the overall transit system for anything but travellers to/from downtown willing to pay the price for fast access to YYZ. Even then, the supposed business market did not materialize.

    Political past failures include building lines where there is little demand while ignoring needs of the overall network to the point that the subway is badly overloaded and cannot be “fixed” quickly or easily. When these decisions are compounded by support from “experts” who have their own axes to grind (including the political success of their candidates), there is just cause to complain.

    As for the tax argument, the pols are very good at claiming that rail systems (the original Air-Rail link, the RoFo subway network, Tory’s SmartTrack) could be built at little or no public cost because somehow the private sector (or development related tax revenue) will pay for their pet schemes. These are outright lies, and they deserve to be called out for such crap.


  31. Articredriver writes:

    Could the Budd vehicles ever have performed satisfactorily, with a new coat of paint, and with new interiors? If they couldn’t, why was this the original plan?

    First off, the “original plan” was for a non-stop run Union to Airport. Those Budds weigh a ton(s), and are analogous to boats … more rather ships. Once up to speed, they do alright, but the acceleration rate for stop-start is very poor. You overlook a very important point though, from memory: They were to be re-engined. I associate memories of them with huge clouds of blue smoke on acceleration. Whether they could reach Tier 4 standard is doubtful. There’s some question as to whether the present Nippons even do, (albeit California will be applying their standards, not just federal ones, on the SMART line).

    The sight of those Budds sitting down in New Toronto was a sad one, but there’s far better choices to be had sitting in rail-yards around the world, and in vastly better shape and much more modern than the Budds. In the UK especially, many state-of-the-art DMU and especailly EMUs are coming on-line, leaving slightly older but still highly usable DMUs available for leasing. There’s some resentment that they usually cascade to the North from the richer South, and that resentment is understandable, but with the Balkanized and Privatized present UK rail system, ROSCOs (even with the major one majority Government owned) means that rolling stock is leased to those with the money, not those with the most need.

    Australia might also have some idle stock to lease, it’s well worth looking into. What seems apparent to me is that it would be absolute folly to lock into a choice by buying at this time, since it’s a foregone conclusion the future for RER and perhaps the entire GO system is electric. (I’m dubious of outlying trackage being a candidate for electrification, and DEMUs are a compromise in performance not satisfying either criterion. Dual function locomotives are probably the answer there and loco-hauled carriages as at present used).

    Any thought of Budds dug out of the grave is manic at best. There are some excellent options if Metrolinx takes a look around. And right now, CAD appears to be poised to regain value, and Sterling crash further. It’s time for ideas and discussion on the future, and especially the interim period for Bramalea to Union RER before electrification is completed.


  32. A point about the Budd cars. While they might not perform to today’s standards, they were wildly successful in their day and adopted all across North America especially given the aggressive cost-cutting habits of railroads at the time . The same probably won’t be said about the marvels Metrolinx recently purchased. The era of DMUs is over and Metrolinx made a poor choice investing in them.


  33. Giancarlo | February 27, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    “A point about the Budd cars. While they might not perform to today’s standards, they were wildly successful in their day and adopted all across North America especially given the aggressive cost-cutting habits of railroads at the time. The same probably won’t be said about the marvels Metrolinx recently purchased. The era of DMUs is over and Metrolinx made a poor choice investing in them.”

    One major reason for their adoption was the fact that they only had two driving axles so the “weight on drivers” was 44 ton or less. This allowed their use without the need for a fireman which saved on salaries. They could run with just a 2 or 3 person crew instead of the 5 or 6 for a locomotive hauled train. Labour regulations have advanced a bit since then.

    I would not say the days of the DMU are over. With new FRA, and hopefully TC, regulations that allow a doubling of time between service intervals from 92 to 184 days if the locomotive has on board computer diagnostics and reporting, then there will probably be more of them. They would probably make more economic sense than running 2, 3 or 4 car locomotive hauled trains that VIA uses. Any vehicle with a control stand counts as a locomotive so that includes DMUs, EMUs, cab cars and locomotives.

    I am leery of dual power locomotives because of their increased cost (about 3 times a straight diesel) and complexity along with their inability to haul more than 8 coaches in diesel mode. The new AC motored tier 4 locomotives that Metrolinx is buying would be much better for service that runs beyond the end of electrification because they would probably run express on the electrified sections.


  34. I accumulated reams of information and links searching last night. I caught up on some of Steve’s previous topic strings, I’m wary of posting redundant information already covered at length, so I wanted to push forward on new information, and didn’t really know where to start.

    Once again, Robert gives me the cue on where to pick up:

    I would not say the days of the DMU are over. With new FRA, and hopefully TC, regulations…

    In all deference to Metrolinx, *at the time of deciding* on the present Nippon stock, they had next to no choice. The only other regulation-compliant company building North Am DMUs was Colorado Railcar, since defunct, and thus Tri-Met looking for an alternative to increase their stock. There is one choice: Nippon Sharyo, and it’s for a very good reason that Robert touches on (and I’m sure has been discussed previously in these forums): Onerous North Am Regs, so ridiculously out-of-date that they *stymie* solutions. TC is just a mime of FRA, a political point I’ll touch on in conclusion, as it’s a crucial part of presenting some excellent choices.

    There have been a number of studies on this, not least one by SMART before choosing Nippon, a pdf file that I’m trying to track down. We can work around that for now, as a number of excellent US authors have.

    On SMART, access this link, it is an obviously funded piece to bias the mentioned study’s outcome. I’d normally ignore it, as I have a lot I’ve uncovered, but it gives an insight into how political all of this is: (it actually buttresses my point on the doubling cost of increasing the present UPX fleet).

    Here’s more on the subject: (I trust this comes under the Fair Use Doctrine, as Munro’s blog would if used elsewhere but be fully accredited).

    Thursday, July 16, 2009
    SMART to Use Heavier Rail Cars
    by Michael Rhodes
    The Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) Board, in a 9-2 vote, has elected to use heavier, American-made rail cars instead of lighter, quieter, low-floored, European-made models that some of the directors originally favored.

    A report on the various options, presented by SMART staff to the board Wednesday, noted that while the light cars “offer more operational efficiencies in comparison to an FRA-compliant design on a per vehicle basis,” they would be much more difficult to purchase and implement, since the SMART’s planned rail service “lies within a perfect storm of American rail service regulators.”

    For one, the light cars are not Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) compliant, and thus SMART would need to negotiate temporal separation from any freight service, which will soon begin operating again in the North Bay for the first time since 2001. Since the light cars would be produced abroad, they also would require a waiver of the Federal Transit Administration’s Buy America clause.

    The light trains would also require various modifications to meet FRA-defined conditions for alternate compliance, and SMART would need to be willing to “construct and maintain its track to tighter tolerances than specified by the FRA class 4 track requirements,” the report said. Each of these steps could incur additional costs and delay the scheduled 2014 start date for service.

    Stephen Birdlebough of Friends of SMART, which advocates for building the rail line, said his group remained conflicted. There was “enough energy in the direction of wanting to press for futuristic approach that we didn’t (have) a consensus,” said Birdlebough. “I lean toward the staff’s view. Once we heard the board begin to focus down on the issues … I became convinced for this line this is the right decision.”

    The report also cited the fact that only one manufacturer, Stadler of Switzerland, was willing to produce the cars, which would lead to far less competitive prices.

    Overall, neither car option was expected to run the full 71-mile route faster than the other, with both taking about one and a half hours to complete a one-way trip. The report concludes that their energy efficiency is also roughly the same:

    The light vehicles achieve schedule performance with 41 percent less energy consumption and 37 percent less fuel consumption on a per vehicle basis; however, the proposed FRA-compliant vehicles will be larger than the proposed alternate-compliant vehicle. As such, an FRA-compliant [diesel multiple unit] will provide about 50 percent greater passenger capacity, so the energy and fuel consumption per seat between the two technologies is practically equivalent.

    A full fleet of either type would cost around $90 million.

    Some further details from the SMART staff report:

    Interoperability. A compliant vehicle makes it more likely that SMART someday can directly connect with the regional and national rail networks, such as Capitol Corridor, Amtrak and, ultimately, high-speed rail. Conversely, a compliant SMART system could more easily accommodate trains from elsewhere entering into the SMART corridor.

    Emissions. While the alternate-compliant vehicle is more fuel efficient, the compliant vehicle has a larger passenger capacity. On a per-seat basis, the energy consumption, emissions and carbon footprint of the two vehicles are almost identical.

    Electrification. Like Caltrain is currently doing, SMART may someday want to convert its DMUs to electric-powered vehicles, particularly if more electricity from renewable sources is available. Compliant car builders have indicated they can design vehicles ready for relatively simple retrofit from diesel to electric. Stadler told SMART its alternate-compliant design does not and will not allow for this.

    I suggest accessing that article in full for some of the linked text and to read the comments, and to graciously increase the hits on the site.

    In the cause of objectivity and overview on Metrolinx’ choice, I defer from commenting beyond stating the view ‘at that time’ was… ‘skewed’. It’s a view that we *have to get beyond* to have choices beyond what UPX is now stuck with.

    Further to the debate on exactly the same theme, un-dated, but with a different view:

    According to the APTA Voluntary Standards and Recommended Practices, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has even more strict requirements than the federal minimum, including 300,000 pound corner post strength, 500,000 pound collision post strength, and 200,000 pound anti-climber strength. Colorado Railcar’s DMU meets these requirements as well.

    In comparison, the Bombardier Talent, Siemens Regio-Sprinter, and other similar European DMUs (classed as light DMUs by the industry) fall far short of the requirements. For instance (according to a report prepared for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rapid Transit) the light DMUs average around 400,000 pounds static end load, or about half the FRA requirement. Light rail vehicles in use in many urban settings are about 200,000 pounds loading.

    So what does this all mean? Why even worry about compliance when it is possible to secure waivers (see rule 238.7) that make it possible to run virtually any equipment under certain circumstances? The answer lies in the fact that in many cases, the requirements for exemption are very restrictive.

    Again citing the SMART report, the FRA is likely to require separation of light and heavy vehicles either by time (meaning day vs. night for instance) or space (meaning light vehicles may only operate in an area that no heavy vehicles will, and vice-versa.) The majority of the passenger rail projects in operation or proposed operate in conjunction with freight traffic on rails owned by a party besides the transit agency. The disruption to normal services required to meet the requirements would in many cases make it impossible for the railroad and transit agency both to operate successfully.

    Here’s a current examination of the legal issue, again from the US, but TC moves virtually in lock-step to the FRA, from Nov 2015:

    DMUs, the FRA, and Environmental Law Reform

    This month’s Planning magazine features an article (paywalled for non-APA members, sorry) by longtime California planner William Fulton about the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, the state’s demanding, and notorious, environmental review law.

    […section deleted due to need for brevity in this forum…]

    …And while CEQA is (thankfully) limited to California, the federal equivalent, NEPA, suffers from some of the same problems.

    Returning to California, though, we find SANBAG, the MPO and council of governments for San Bernardino County, planning an extension of rail service from San Bernardino to Redlands. The project isn’t in and of itself a particularly bad one; it’s pretty low-key, in an existing right-of-way with few obstacles, and serves an area that could generate OK ridership. Though the new line will connect to Metrolink service at San Bernardino, planners are currently leaning towards running it with Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) trains, such as those used by NICTD’s Sprinter service between Oceanside and Escondido. That’s probably the right choice; planned frequencies (30 minutes at peak) don’t justify electrification, and a pure extension of Metrolink service couldn’t offer the desired level of service.

    When you use DMUs, though, you have to make a choice. DMUs aren’t particularly common in the US, and most used outside of this country don’t live up to the Federal Railroad Administration’s notoriously obsolete crash-safety standards. “Noncompliant” European-style DMUs are faster, cheaper, quieter, and cleaner than conventional American locomotive-hauled equipment–or the few relatively crappy FRA-compliant DMUs in existence today–a point that is backed up strongly in SANBAG’s Environmental Impact Statement on the project. Because the line only hosts one freight train a week, it would be relatively trivial for SANBAG to obtain a time-separation waiver, allowing noncompliant DMUs to operate freely most of the time, as they do on the River Line in New Jersey, Capital Metro in Austin, Denton County’s A-Train, and the Sprinter. But as Americans, we cannot be content with allowing one body of law to regulate rail safety, so CEQA and NEPA must have their say:

    […section deleted for brevity…]

    In other words, the attempt to use cleaner, quieter, and faster rail equipment–undoubtedly an environmental win–falls afoul not just of rail safety regulations, but of environmental law as well. In the real world, mitigation to satisfy CEQA and NEPA here is relatively easy and wouldn’t consist of anything more than SANBAG would have to do anyhow to obtain an FRA waiver; but the involvement of environmental law in this case–and taking an absurd position!–is at the very least a minor irritant that showcases the need for reform, and at the worst a major time waster and cost accelerant.

    It’s worth noting (though I’m hardly the first to do so, as the links above demonstrate) that the case for FRA’s regulations is incredibly weak to begin with. Caltrain, the commuter service on the San Francisco Penninsula, received the most far-reaching waiver that FRA is known to have yet awarded for its future electrification project. Their assessment showed that European-style trains are uniformly safer in the case of a grade-crossing collision, and that for trains leading with a cab car, FRA’s crash-worthiness requirements showed clear benefits only in the band between 15 and 25 mph of closing speed in the run-up to a crash:


    The complexity–and obsolescence–of FRA regulation is one thing. But having environmental law considerations with an agenda other than what’s cleanest layered on top of it demonstrates the absurdity of the situation that transit planners and railroaders face today. Let’s reform the FRA, sure. But let’s not stay within our silos and stop there. As long as it goes unreformed, held captive to NIMBYs and special interests, environmental law will seep into every corner of planning…and not in a helpful way. Let’s fix this.

    A discussion ensues in the above blog on the safety (or not) of Metrolink loco-push-pull UTDC coaches and locos in Calfornia, the same as what is used by GO, and yet how the larger picture of safety, costs, and environment is being lost in the debate in California and the entire US. That debate is almost identical in Ontario and Canada.

    Further example of the piqued and well-informed blogging in the US on this:

    A couple of months ago, Frank wrote a blurb about the Obama administration’s commitment to legalize European passenger train designs, which today are effectively prohibited by Federal Railroad Aministration regulations, by 2015. […] The FRA modifying its rules to legalize European train designs in the US could make American high-speed services faster, much cheaper to build, and more environmentally friendly, because American trains will no longer have to be built to a completely unique crashworthiness standard, girded with battleship-like quantities of steel.


    …cities and large towns are connected by regional passenger rail lines that run all day and late into the evening, with coach services extending to smaller towns. Most of those regional lines will never carry enough people to justify the massive expense of high-speed rail, but they’re well used, and taken together, carry far more trips than the high speed lines.

    The success of the high-speed lines could not happen without the connectivity provided by regional and local services, not to mention the higher-density, less-car-focused land uses they have facilitated for more than a century. These regional services make extensive use of a technology that, thanks to the FRA’s over-zealous regulation, had hitherto occupied only a niche role in American passenger railroading: the Diesel Multiple Unit train.

    DMUs are diesel-powered versions of their cousins, Electric Multiple Units, of which American light rail vehicles are an example. Each carriage has its own propulsion system, and trains can be made up of as many or as few as are needed to meet demand. DMUs are typically slightly larger than a light rail car, and seat 100-200 people; the photo above is an example European DMU, a Stadler 2/6, on Austin’s Capital Metrorail Red Line. That design was previously only usable on track not shared with freight trains or other traditionally-constructed mainline passenger trains, but after 2015, it will be legal to operate it on shared track. This is a very big deal, because much of the existing urban and suburban rail trackage in the US has at least some freight or mainline traffic.

    Whether those FRA regs have been changed yet or not should not prevent the Ontario Gov’t from petitioning Ottawa to do so here in Canada. It would not only immediately offer *far greater* choice for rapidly moving ahead to establish the RER from Bramalea to Union as a first leg of the RER, it would allow Bombardier (for better or worse! lol ) to offer a number of DEMUs based on DMUs to populate the system. Ironically, many of these currently available DMUs use the same Cummins engine as the Nippons.

    And so that brings us to “funding”! And so, if Ontario were to require “Made in Canada” content from the Ottawa injecting a larger share of funding beyond what’s already been committed in the cause of ‘economic stimulation’…I suspect Wynne would have Justin’s ear.

    I’m short on the technical details of the RoW (minus a few missing pieces) from Bramalea south being either ‘freight free’ or ‘restricted access’, ostensibly Steve, Robert and others could critique that, but it’s time to take a *bold* political initiative to find a way forward from the UPX debacle. It’s no use blaming prior decisions, (albeit fault must be found within the UPX executive) we have to find *dynamic* solutions to get that corridor moving and much more efficiently used.

    I still wonder on the do-ability of LRT on it, a la the Karlsruhe model, but that is really pushing it.

    Steve: The exact point where some of your quotes end was not clear in the original text, and I have attempted to introduce indenting that matches what you intended.


  35. Steve: You did an excellent job in formatting. If there’s a shortcoming, it’s in some of the terms I used, or failed to qualify.

    For instance “DEMU” I referred to as an interim step with limited numbers of stock to getting service running now on the South Georgetown Corridor, and ostensibly those being run electrically at a later date when electrification ‘comes to town’. I have an awful feeling, contrary to claims, that it will be longer than touted, and any study I’ve accessed so far is only to the airport.

    It may so egocentric, but I think this forum (and I know it’s read by the national press transportation writers) can fuel pressure on Queen’s Park to get the lead out. I had no idea the US debate on DMUs was an issue in itself until digging on which UK (and other nations) DMUs used the Cummins QSK19 engine. It is the most common one used! It’s only the ‘R’ variant that cleans up after itself, a light tweak really. And therein lies the magic of that engine … when pushing a vehicle that weighs half that of the Nippon Sharyo DMU. Performance will virtually match acceleration/deceleration of EMUs.

    Is that my preferred choice? No, electric is, but we’re faced with a stated “five year” time-frame on that … in reality, probably more. That corridor is needed now, and with the present ‘set of rules’ there are no choices. That has to change, and it’s by forcing newer, more dynamic thinking. My immediate question now is the possible synergy of the present Bombardier LRT order options to morph them into light DMUs (possibly DEMUs) to be cascaded to outer regions as feeders when they are replaced by devoted EMUs on the South Georgetown Corridor later.

    If nothing else, the ‘high platform/low platform debate’ will come full circle again with low-floored XMUs.


  36. Pardon my having to ‘come up to speed’ again, I’d lost track of latest developments, and invite others to comment on Ottawa’s O-Train ‘privileges/exemptions’ on heavy rail line in Ottawa. As best as I understand it, heavy and DMU traffic is time separated to satisfy Transport Canada regs. At the very least, this means precedent has been set for similar to be done on the Georgetown South (at least Bramalea South) corridor. Can that, and *should that* be taken further, or even need to be?

    Attempted to find the legal details last night, no luck, will continue looking. Also why the Bombardier Talent light DMU was dropped for the ostensibly heavier Alstom LINT.

    Found best article so far on this.

    I’m still reading it, but would value some of the well-informed posters’ comments. Quite often meaningful details are missed in otherwise good articles.

    Steve: This has come up here before. Temporal separation is a question of having freight movements at off hours when the transit service is shut down. The problem for the GO corridors is that if there is a blockage on one of the freight roads and they need to divert traffic, they can do this all day long, not just at 2 am.


  37. Steve writes:

    This has come up here before. Temporal separation is a question of having freight movements at off hours when the transit service is shut down. The problem for the GO corridors is that if there is a blockage on one of the freight roads and they need to divert traffic, they can do this all day long, not just at 2 am.]

    Agreed! However, the Union to Airport section that UPX uses doesn’t host freight, unless someone can point out otherwise, and if it does, how do they handle clearing the high-level platforms? When I speak of the ‘missing section of track’ to Bramalea, it is the section that would allow ‘passenger only’ trains. There may be some overlap with freight in the ‘yard’ at Union with the routing the UPX uses. Of course, regs are different in yards than on the mainline. There may be some complications at the approach to Bramalea, even with an added ‘passenger only’ stipulation.

    Steve: Well, your basic assumption is wrong, and I am not going to spend my time formatting your long post here. As for your proposed “spirited banter”, brevity will encourage people to actually read what you write. If you want to post article this long, get your own blog.

    I think we’re on the nub of contention with this point, at least one of the nubs.

    I’d be at a loss to address your point, but have just found what I was looking for on the O-Train, and I have to eat some of my earlier claims…and if I have to eat them, Metrolinx have to *eat them and more*.

    I stated February 28, 2016 at 1:28 pm:
    [In all deference to Metrolinx, *at the time of deciding* on the present Nippon stock, they had next to no choice.]

    It turns out they did, they not only had a choice, for some reason, they chose to ignore it. And I’ve also been incorrect in accusing Transport Canada in not taking an initiative to take a lead on this. They’ve not only done that with O-Train, they’ve published a couple of papers on it, I’m just delving them now.

    A few excerpts: (note the date, folks!)

    Ottawa, Ontario

    City of Ottawa — Transportation Utilities and Public Works Department, OC Transpo

    Started 2001, extended to 2005

    [The O-Train was Ottawa’s first experience with light rail transit. The O-Train travels an 8-km track past five stations, two of which connect to the city’s bus rapid transit system (the “Transitway”), over two bridges and through a tunnel beneath Dow’s Lake. The line serves Carleton University, a major employment centre, and a shopping mall in a densely populated neighbourhood.

    The O-Train was initiated to assess the technical feasibility of using an existing rail corridor for rapid transit, to validate expectations about ridership, performance and cost, and to allow proper analysis of possible larger-scale implementation.
    The O-Train travels on an 8-km length of existing freight rail track, and connects to the city’s bus rapid transit system (the “Transitway”) on each end of the line. The existing corridor is owned by Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). The line serves Carleton University, a major employment centre, and a shopping mall in a densely populated neighbourhood.

    The pilot project is unique by North American standards and involves four “firsts.” It is the first time that light rail
    passenger trains had been mixed with heavy rail traffic on an existing rail network, and the first time passenger rail services had been operated by a single operator. In addition, this was the first time Bombardier Talent DMU trains had been used anywhere in North America, and the first trains driven by bus operators.

    (Stephen: Actually factually incorrect. Everyone overlooks the San Diego Trolley, on which I used to commute regularly when living in San Diego. It still sets many precedents in North Am, not the least municipal EMUs on FRA regulated track)(and it only ever has had a single operator)
    The O-Train was initiated to:

    Assess the technical feasibility of using an existing rail corridor for rapid transit
    Validate expectations about ridership, performance and cost
    Allow proper analysis of possible larger-scale implementation
    Negotiating an agreement with CPR. With no prior experience in light rail, the region needed considerable outside expertise to implement the pilot project. Municipal officials negotiated a lump sum build/design contract with CPR, which gave them access to CPR’s knowledge and experience and enabled the region to control the project costs and implement the service quickly.

    Partner expertise. There were no examples in North America of a single operator passenger train, so municipal officials relied on the expertise of its partners to design and implement the O-Train. More than a dozen partners lent their experience and knowledge to the project. Some of them include:

    CPR, as owner of the corridor, engaged Morrison Hershfield (an engineering and management firm) to manage the project. This included design and construction administration, upgrading the lines and maintenance facilities, and building the rail stations.
    Bombardier provided and maintains the trains and, with AR Concepts, developed and installed the signaling system.
    Transport Canada worked with the city to develop an operating plan that met federal legislation requirements under the Rail Safety Act. The plan includes operating rules, emergency procedures, employee training programs, and a Safety Management System.
    The 8-km line. Prior to the O-Train project, the CPR freight line and its rail yard were seldom used and in poor condition. CPR upgraded the line to accommodate the O-Train, and no other trains use the track except when the O-Train is not operating.

    The CPR track crosses two other active rail lines, making the signalling and braking systems (discussed below) important safety elements.
    Bombardier Talent Diesel Multiple Units (DMU). Three Bombardier Talent DMU trains were commissioned. The trains were built in Germany and shipped first to Montreal before arriving in Ottawa in January 2001.

    The trains use Clear No. 1 diesel fuel, which contains less sulphur than other grades. The trains comply with exhaust emission requirements of Euro-II contaminant standards (the standards set by the European Union).

    Each train weighs 72,000 kg, is 48 metres long, with seating capacity for 137 passengers and standing capacity for 150.

    Each train is equipped with two four-stroke diesel engines, water-cooled in-line motors, and a horizontal-shaft design with exhaust gas turbocharger and charge cooler. Top speed is 120 km/hr.
    Recognition. The O-Train has won several awards:

    Canadian Urban Transit Association’s Corporate Innovation Award (June 2002)
    American Public Works Association’s Project of the Year Award (January 2003)
    FCM-CH2M Hill Sustainable Community Award, in the sustainable transportation category (May 2003)


    City of Ottawa
    Transport Canada
    Human Resources Development Canada
    Canadian Pacific Railway
    Canadian National Railway
    VIA Rail
    Carleton University
    Public Works and Government Services Canada
    National Capital Commission
    Ottawa Police Services
    Women’s Initiative for a Safe Environment
    Transport 2000
    Canadian Transport Agency
    Local citizens and advocacy groups
    The Bombardier trains were better suited for long distance commuter service. Although the trains were a good choice for this pilot project, as the city proceeds with a more in-depth Ottawa Rapid Transit Expansion Plan Study, alternative vehicles and propulsion systems will be studied. Several requirements including turning radius for inner city use, platform height, train acceleration and vibration would be problematic for downtown service. The new trains being studied are lighter and can be mixed with downtown traffic.

    I’m now reading through the City of Ottawa report, it is highly detailed and extensive:

    An immediate question comes to mind, since I and a lot of others have been blindsided and fooled on this:

    Were Metrolinx not aware of this report? How could they not be? I have a myriad of questions to find answers to from these reports, *as it stands* the answers to rapid implementation of the first leg of RER north to Bramalea by existing and affordable…*much more affordable* means is extant and tested. Would these vehicles be suitable once that corridor is electrified? No, but they can then be used on outlying routes.

    One very major point that I disagree with the OC Transpo decision in is the use of “bus drivers” to operate these units on heavy rail. There’s a couple of SPAD incidents showing by Googling, posted just recently.

    Metrolinx already has a standing agreement with Bombardier for training and using their own train drivers (“engineers” if you must). That agreement should not be broken, for a number of reasons.

    I’ll have much more reference next post. I look forward to some spirited banter!


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