Thank you MPP Albanese for writing this letter. We trust you are negotiating behind the scenes to secure true TTC-level fare rates so your constituents can access better transit.
Just one point – MPP Laura Albanese says that airport workers have been properly consulted. The airport workers don’t agree with this assessment. We meet with Metrolinx on Thursday December 4 to talk about the fare issue, but basic information that would help us have a fruitful and useful conversation was not provided. Information not shared included: the cost of operating the train, the fare price Metrolinx is considering, and more. It is not possible to have a genuine negotiation unless useful information is shared.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
OPEN LETTER TO METROLINX
I am writing to express my views and concerns and those of my constituents relating to the fares that are to be set for the UP Express when it commences operation in 2015.
First and foremost, a “fare standard” is needed from Metrolinx that can explain and justify fares. I believe this is the right time for Metrolinx to develop such a standard, keeping in mind the different users of the UP Express. I note that to date, with the exception of airport workers, Metrolinx has not engaged in any meaningful and transparent consultation with the public. Metrolinx has held public consultation on closing small streets during construction of the UP Express, therefore it should look for additional ways to engage the public on something so important as a fare that affects hundreds of thousands of transit users.
In the absence of public consultation information from Metrolinx, I would draw your attention to an August, 2014 Forum Research poll that gauged likely public use of the UP Express in relation to different fare levels. The poll found that with a fare of $10 dollars for a one-way trip, 62 percent of those polled said they were likely/somewhat likely to use the service. At a fare of $20.00, likely ridership dropped by half with only 31 percent saying they were likely/somewhat likely to use the service. At a fare of $30.00, likely ridership plummeted to a mere 12 percent who said they were likely/somewhat likely to use the service.
Although the UP Express’ original purpose was a destination rail to connect Toronto’s Union Station to the Pearson International Airport, it is safe to say that the project has evolved to be much more than simply that. The UP Express now includes planned stops in Weston and Bloor West between.
I am encouraged by the recent comments from the CEO of Metrolinx who has indicated that other stops are planned along the rail corridor: “We’re protecting for a station at Mount Dennis to connect up with the Eglinton Crosstown and we’re protecting for a station at Woodbine as well.” (Toronto Star, November 5, 2014.) Surely the purpose of all these stops is so local residents can use and benefit from the rail service. To date we only read in media reports vague references from Metrolinx relating to the fee, estimated to be between $20 and $30 dollars.
To reiterate, the fare should reflect the fact that the UP Express is a publicly owned service, built and paid for with public tax dollars. With that in mind, the fare should reflect the following considerations:
1. Different fare schedules for seniors and students, typical of fare policies relating to other public transit services
2. Pro-rated fares for commuters accessing the services at stops, including Weston and Bloor West and future stops along the rail corridor
3. The capacity to utilize the PRESTO swipe card system to ensure the UP Express is integrated with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).
The UP Express is being built in time for the Pan Am Games but it will last decades beyond next year’s event. I believe we have to think long-term about how the UP Express fits into overall transit and how it will help to reduce congestion. We need to ensure it benefits both people using the airport and local commuting residents.
Looking back on the history of the Air Rail Link, now UP Express, the service has changed substantially from its initial plan to be a high speed, private train, exclusively for airport customers with no apparent concern for the communities surrounding it. Since initial planning in 2002, the UP Express is a much improved service which has the potential to benefit local communities and residents. Evidence of this can be seen in new developments coming near the Weston station which advertise the UP Express as a benefit to purchase property in the area.
The Provincial Government is funding over $19 billion worth of transit expansion and improvement projects, which are already underway, including investments in York South-Weston for the Eglinton-Crosstown, Go Transit and the UP Express.
Now is the time to seize the potential of the UP Express to serve multiple transit demands and the greater good.
Laura Albanese, MPP
Cc; Hon. Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation