Sunday, 7 June 2015

Toronto joins the 21st century with Pearson airport train

Toronto's shiny new YYZ airport train
wikicommons images (except as noted)
Toronto has finally joined the 21st century with its new train service to Pearson International Airport (YYZ). There have been discussions since the late 1980s, but this week the dream become a reality.

One can now jump on a train - the Union Pearson Express, or UPExpress - from Toronto's YYZ  airport to downtown (or vice versa) in about 25 minutes onboard a touted luxury train that boasts a comfy ambience and free WiFi, similar to that of the Heathrow Express. This new train only stop twice enroute – the Weston and Bloor West Stations.

The price tag for a one-way journey is a steep $27.50 fare per adult. Gasp.

The fare is quite high in comparison to other airport-downtown train journeys around the world and it is difficult to determine whether this price point will gather enough passengers to warrant itself a sustainable business model. The Vancouver Canada Line, a comparable national example, takes approximately half the time (half the distance) and only costs $5.50 during peak times and $2.75 evenings/weekends, so a $10-15 price tag for the UPExpress would seem more fitting.

creativecommons image
chriskillam on Flickr
Based on the current pricing system, the reduction in airport parking and taxis could be quite limited, and given the UPExpress only frequents downtown, it seems more geared towards business travelers and tourists versus city residents, whom would be better off catching a taxi or a bus. There is a reduced fare for Presto fare-card holders ($19 one-way), but it's not enough to entice regular riders.

What would be a game changer would be if the UPExpress had alignment to Toronto’s subway system or light rail transit to give more flexibility in options for all travelers.

In the meantime, having more transit choices for travelers at the Pearson International Airport is a good thing so long as the arguably prohibitive cost does not make this investment a boondoogle.

Related resources
The Union-Pearson Express is the good news story Toronto refuses to accept
Union Pearson Express test ride: A first look at Toronto’s downtown-airport train
Union Pearson Express Opens Today
Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ) transportation guide

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