GO Transit to Take Over UP Express

According to Oliver Moore in The Globe, the separate Metrolinx division responsible for the Union Pearson Express will be placed under GO Transit’s control. The fate of UPX President Kathy Haley is unclear.

UPX even managed to win awards from the Global AirRail Alliance for:

2015 Travelport Project of the Year – UP Express

2015 AccesRail Integrated Partnership of the Year – UP Express

2015 Personality of the Year – Kathy Haley, UP Express

2014 Air Rail Concept of the Year – UP Express: Strategic Partnerships, Toronto, Canada

2014 Travelport Project of the Year – UP Express: The Airport Connection

2013 Travelport Project of the Year – Union Pearson Express Project

One wonders who they were competing against, but the Alliance’s site does not list nominees, only winners. It is am impressive “project” that can rake in the hardware before ever carrying a passenger or proving its viability as a business. Such is the back-scratching nature of the industry, I must assume.

While it may be convenient to target Haley as the culprit here, the real question is how the structure and corporate attitude that led to UPX’ creation arose in the first place. From the beginning, this has been a project for which the word pretentious is almost inadequate. Despite the abandonment of this scheme by its original private sector proponent – for the simple reason that it was judged financially unsound – Ontario forged on with this as a signature project, part of the Bid Book for the Pan Am Games. We would show the world what Ontario could do.

Haley may take the fall for this fiasco, but she worked for a board who lapped up the praise, who bought into the flawed vision of what UPX would become. That board, and the government who set all of this in motion to begin with, owe us all an explanation.

When Is a GO Train not a GO Train? When It’s UPX!

Among the mysteries of the internal organization at Metrolinx is the presence of separate “divisions” for GO Transit (the commuter rail service), Presto (the fare card service) and UP Express (the premium fare airport shuttle service).  Rather than using the GO brand for the airport service and integrating its operation and fares, Metrolinx treats UPX as a completely separate entity, no doubt so that it could isolate the operation as a profit centre on the books. We now know that “profit” is the furthest thing from a UPX future where just finding riders now takes precedence.

Soon, fares on UPX will be much lower and this might encourage some to incorporate the UPX into their journeys. However, there are two glaring holes in the new arrangement.

UPX, being a separate operation, does not have fares integrated with connecting GO services at Union. Riders transferring between these services will pay separate fares for each leg of their journey. Presuming that UPX fares stay low, this should be corrected, at the latest, in the next annual review of GO’s tariff.

But the really bone-headed decision (or lack of decision) lies with the TTC. Although GO fares discourage “local” travel within the 416, there is a legal transfer move a rider can use called TTC Times Two. A trip can start on the TTC, transfer to GO, and then back onto the TTC again using the original TTC transfer.

With UPX moving to lower fares and the likelihood that it will attract commuter trade within the city, the question becomes “is TTC Times Two valid for UPX”? I asked the TTC’s Brad Ross and Chris Upfold this question at the recent TTC Board meeting. Their answer? “No” because (a) UPX is not a GO train and (b) a TTC policy change would be required.

The irony, of course, is that GO operates in the same corridor as UPX, and it would be impossible to distinguish whether a traveller with a transfer from the Lawrence 52 bus arrived at Union Station via GO or via UPX, except of course that GO service only runs in the peak period.

During the March 1 subway shutdown thanks to a power vault fire, TTC riders travelled on GO and UPX for no extra charge. The reverse courtesy has been extended to GO riders on occasion. This did not require a formal meeting and policy decision, simply the recognition that there is one transit network regardless of the logo on the train.

How riders get from one connection point to another should not matter. Between now and March 9 when the new UPX fares take effect, can someone at the TTC show a small spark of initiative and decide that a traveller on either a GO or UPX train can use TTC Times Two? Or will we continue to have an artificial distinction between two services provided on the same track by the same agency?

TTC Board Meeting Review: February 25, 2016

The TTC Board met on February 25, 2016. This article is a review of some of the reports and discussions at that meeting. For the full list, please refer to the agenda.

In this article:

As part of an update on cycling initiatives, the Board passed a motion asking staff to work together with the City on improved parking facilities for bicycles at subway stations. An article on this appeared on Torontoist’s website.

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