On Thursday, the Metrolinx board will be discussing specific fare reductions at its board meeting. The fare reductions include allowing children 12 and under to ride free — up from 6 years of age, and a reduced return adult fare of $44 rather than $53. Airport workers will be able to temporarily buy a pass for for $250, instead of $300, and a buy-one get-two ticket offer is also being temporarily introduced.

These fare reductions are minor and won’t make the train into a truly affordable and useful line for Toronto. In solidarity with neighbourhood groups, airport workers and transit riders in the west end, we’re calling for the Union Pearson train to be converted into a truly useful clean public transit line with stops in neighbourhoods, electrified trains, and TTC fares.

Metrolinx’s latest report on the Union Pearson train also shows that after six months in operation, 9 out of 10 seats on the Union Pearson train are still empty. Nine out ten seats are empty if the trains run at their full three-car capacity.  On average 16 people take each 173 seat train.

In its report, Metrolinx says that ridership is increasing, but this is misleading because the report uses monthly ridership totals even though the days the train was running each month varied.  Daily ridership in October was 2540 passengers. Daily ridership in September was 2480 passengers.  Daily ridership in June was higher at 2858 passengers.  The train began operation on June 6.

The Union Pearson should be the Downtown Relief Line for the west, but instead it’s an empty luxury line for jet setters. These fare cuts are a small step in the right direction but they don’t go far enough.  If we truly want a useful train line we need to pay a TTC token to board.

“While these virtually empty UP Express trains pass us by we’re packed like sardines on the chronically underfunded and overcrowded TTC,” says Sean Smith, Pearson Airport Council of Unions organizer.  “The drop in the fare for airport workers is a step in the right direction but if we really want this train to be useful to Pearson Airport’s 40,000 workers the price needs to be lower,” he said.

The 23-km UPX train line is nearly as long as the 26-km Bloor-Danforth TTC train line, and like the Bloor-Danforth line, it runs through one the most heavily populated regions in Canada.

However, while the Bloor-Danforth line carries about 180 million people a year, the UP Express line will carry just 2.94 million by 2031, provided the train meets Metrolinx’s ridership growth goals.   By 2031, these trains would still be just one third full.

We’re also calling on the Wynne Government and Metrolinx to look to Vancouver on how to do it right. Vancouver’s new 19-km train line from the Airport to downtown has 16 stops, and it costs the regular public transit fare to ride it within the city. Riders pay a $5 fare surcharge if they use the Airport stop, but many riders are exempt, including monthly metropass holders.

“There will come a day when Metrolinx and the Wynne Government wake up and convert the UP express into a truly useful, affordable train,” says TTCriders spokesperson, Shaun Cleaver. “This report tells us the Wynne Government and Metrolinx are still asleep at the wheel.”

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