I have a transit confession. Before last Tuesday’s decision to reduce fares, I was already an UP Express rider. With my Presto card I paid $15 to Pearson from Bloor, my home station, making the UPX 1/3 the cost of a taxi, ½ the cost of Uber, at least twice as fast to the airport, more reliable than any option and more luxurious than a limo – of course I had the entire coach to myself.
No question that the UPX works for me, but I don’t represent the commuter access needs of the region. I live within a ten-minute walk to the Bloor UPX station. Not many people in the city have that location advantage. The new cheaper fares will likely attract a greater number of airport goers who live and work within the UPX catchment, but make no mistake, it will not transform the UPX into a commuter train.
Of the approximately 40,000 people work at Pearson, only 3,500 live anywhere close enough to the UPX to consider it a commuting option, regardless of the ticket price. As for the other direction, it might poach some riders from a crowded Kitchener GO line, but only those that originate at Weston, and perhaps Bloor, but these folks already have access to the subway.
We know from the research conducted by Pamela Blais for the Neptis Foundation, that the bigger Airport Employment Megazone, which includes Pearson and the airport corporate centre, employs 300,000 people and is the largest and fastest growing employment centre in the province after downtown Toronto, which employs 465,000 jobs. Yet unlike downtown Toronto, the Airport Employment Zone is underserved by transit, and consequently is responsible for 500,000 auto trips per day. The fare-reduced UPX wont solve this problem either.
Neptis Foundation’s Employment Megazones from Planning for Prosperity