Thursday, October 13, 2016

Significant fare drop in March was the boost UP Express needed

by Cindy (Cj) Smith

After a rocky start, where low ridership was blamed on unreasonably high fares, Toronto's airport express train, Union Pearson Express (UP Express), is experiencing increased ridership thanks to a lower fare structure introduced in March. conducted an email interview with the head of  Metrolinx's public affairs department to find out how much UP Express's ridership had increased since the fare drop. 

When the service first launched in June of 2015, a one way fare was $27.50. Metrolinx reduced the fare to $12 for passengers traveling without a Presto card. Fares are now $9, down from $19 for Presto card users. Seniors pay $5.64 with a Presto card and $6 without one. Children under 12 ride UP for free.

Dialy ridership under the old fare structure was 2,400 passengers a day. Since the new fare prices were adopted, ridership has skyrocketed.

People are loving the service—ridership is now over 8,000 passengers per weekday and continuing to rise, wrote Anne Marie Aikins, senior manager of media relations at Metrolinx, in an email to

Since fares dropped in March, wrote Aikins, approximately 80 percent of passengers are airport travellers – people flying in or out, or working at the airport (UP Express promises a 25-minute train ride from Union Station to Pearson)

Aikins said the remaining passengers are daily commuters, occasional commuters, or those attending an event or game. The percentage split for passengers goes up during the morning and evening rush hour.

What's interesting to, and relayed to Aikins, is learning that people living near Weston and Bloor UP Express stations have given up the TTC, opting to spend more in fare to save time by grabbing an UP Express train, rather than fighting for a bus or subway trains; once the service became more affordable.

Aikins was pleased to hear that. As with any new service, she wrote, we have learned from our experience. By lowering fares, we are able to make this service more accessible for commuter and airport traffic, encouraging more people to use transit and removing more cars from the roads.


Mark said...

There is a market for people to pay for the extra convenience UP provides. I did the same thing for years when I lived in Mimico. The GO Passes were $30 more per month vs. TTC passes but the commute was 15 minutes vs. 60-90 minutes.

C.J. Smith said...

Do you think a separate fare structure would entice more ridership?

Anonymous said...

It's nice to the boondoggle of airport train that was wildly exxagerated about by the C-ON-FIB-ERALS living up to the expectations. I sure hope heads were rolled over the bloated pricing. Apparently many fare reports were submitted and then ignored because of greed.

G said...

Nice article, CJ.

I'm happy that the UP is becoming a success. My only complaint is that the Weston and Bloor commuters get these fancy trains every 15 minutes with plugs at every seat and free wifi, all subsidized by the loyal LSE and LSW passengers that bring in the lion's share of revenue, who get bupkis.

Unknown said...

Nice to hear that more people are using the service but still way below the break even point of 28,500 riders/day (something Atkins fails to mention). The subsidy paid to keep this train running will continue to load more costs on all the other services run by Metrolinx.

Mark said...

I don't think a separate fare structure is really necessary. It all works on Presto, you hard code your station in and they can adjust accordingly.

I think they also have to be careful that they remember the primary reason for UP is to provide an express link to the airport. If you price the other stops too low, then you risk making it unattractive to Airport passengers. If the airport traffic suffers, then the whole raison d'etre for the UP in the first place is blown to smithereens.

Skin Man said...

John Routh....OMG UPX is an unmitigated failure. I suppose you can allow 24 months from start to hit thier stride...but 8500/day is so far away from target as to be meaningless.

Shame on me for not knowing this, but do the other lines breakeven as well?

Johnny said...

In response to G, LSE and LSW have long since been the darlings of the GO Transit system getting all-day train service AND at a higher frequency than the other lines. Not to mention the express lines that are not available to all other lines as well. Now Weston/Bloor finally get an alternative and you complain, that's funny.

Robert said...

I would like to do a freedom of information request to find out how much UP Yours Express is losing with the reduce fares. They are running 3 person crews just like GO trains but only 2 cars. Anyone know how many people they have at Pearson and Union to guide wayward travellers to their trains? This system has to be subsidizing every rider at a huge extent. When I get their true subsidy figures I will let you know.


Anonymous said...

Lol too bad they not breaking even. Never will