Transit advocates push to make Union-Pearson rail link more affordable
More local service along route also sought
A coalition of transit advocates are pushing Metrolinx and the city to add more stops to the Union-Pearson rail link and make the new train more affordable for the public to ride — effectively converting the express train to Toronto Pearson International Airport into another transit line.
“We need a transit line that serves the northwest of Toronto that’s affordable, accessible, and sustainably electric,” said Rick Cicarelli of the Clean Train Coalition at a Monday, Dec. 8, news conference. “That’s not what Metrolinx is planning on delivering.”
Cicarelli was joined by representatives of the Toronto Airport Council of Unions and TTCRiders, at a news conference held just days after Mayor John Tory’s executive committee approved a set of studies looking at the SmartTrack subway-style surface rail plan Tory promoted during the election, and just days before the Metrolinx Board of Directors hears an update on the pricing policy for the Union-Pearson rail link.
At that meeting, scheduled for Dec. 11, the board will be hearing an update on the construction of the line, which is expected to be open in 2015. As a part of that update, the board will hear a report on the fare policy.
In September, it emerged that the fare could be between $20 and $30 — with a portion of that going to Pearson Airport in the form of a fee to defray parking revenue.
The coalition of advocates argue that the fare should be set at or around the price of a TTC ride — and the line itself should provide local service to communities along the route, as an extension of SmartTrack.
“We all support the request that SmartTrack continue along the Union-Pearson corridor and the LRT be extended westward on Eglinton,” said Cicarelli.
That would mean the portion of SmartTrack that Tory hoped would go underneath Eglinton Avenue would be replaced by a longer light rail line.
TTCRider spokesperson Jessica Bell said the Union-Pearson line itself is well-positioned to provide rapid transit to parts of the city currently starved for it.
“We think it shouldn’t be the Union Pearson Express, it should be the Union-Pearson line,” said Bell.
“Charging $29 to get on a train, building trains that only hold 130 people is wrong. There should be multiple stops — there are now only four stops. Liberty Village is one of the most densely populated areas in Canada. The Union-Pearson line runs right through Liberty Village. It could benefit all the people who live there but it doesn’t.”
Seam Smith of the Toronto Airport Council of Unions pointed out that the airport is one of the largest employers in the city and workers from Toronto need a reliable way to get to and from there without using their cars.
“John Tory said there’s a new sheriff in town. Well we’re hoping he will recognize the needs of people who live and work in our city,” he said.