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?