Union Pearson Express
|Union Pearson Express|
An artist's rendering of the future UP Express vehicle.
|Type||Airport rail link|
|Locale||Toronto and Mississauga|
|Stations||Toronto Pearson Terminal 1 Station
Toronto Union Station (SkyWalk)
|Line length||23.3 km (14.5 mi)|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Operating speed||145 km/h (90 mph) |
The Union Pearson Express (UP Express) is an airport rail link service under construction in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It will run between Canada's two busiest transportation hubs: Union Station in Downtown Toronto, and Toronto Pearson International Airport. The project, estimated to cost C$456 million, is to be completed in time for the 2015 Pan American Games.
The UP Express is a division of Metrolinx, the Ontario government agency that manages and integrates transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Metrolinx is also the parent company of the GO Transit regional transit system; UP is to be a distinct service from its sister division with a unique visual identity, vehicles and fares, but will nonetheless share some common resources, including tracks, signals and maintenance facilities. An airport rail link was one of the priority projects identified in Metrolinx's regional transportation plan, The Big Move.
The UP Express will travel from Union to Pearson in 25 minutes departing every 15 minutes, seven days a week. It is expected to carry 5,000 passengers per day, replacing approximately 1.2 million car trips in the first year alone. Construction began in 2011, some of which is being accommodated as part of the Georgetown South Project, expanding a rail corridor the UP Express will share with GO Transit and Via Rail. Initially, the UP Express will utilize diesel multiple unit (DMU) trains that will meet EPA Tier 4 United States emission standards. The DMUs will be convertible to electric power, which will occur with the electrification of the Kitchener line and the UP Express at a future unspecified date. The issue of electrification has become a source of opposition and legal challenges from the Clean Train Coalition (CTC).
Improved transit connections to Pearson Airport have been of interest since the late 1980s. Before the specific pursuit of an airport rail link, three formal studies were conducted, and released in 1989, 1990 and 1991. The latter two presented options for either making a connection from the GO Georgetown train line, or the Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) Bloor/Danforth subway line.
SNC Lavalin era
Transport Canada made a request for proposal for an airport rail link in April 2001. In May 2003, the submissions were pared down to four pre-qualified private consortia, who were then invited to submit business cases. A SNC-Lavalin subsidiary named the Union Pearson AirLink Group was selected as the successful respondent to finance, design, construct, operate and maintain an airport rail link on November 13, 2003. The service was to be called Blue22, as a trip would take 22 minutes to or from Pearson with a stop at the Bloor GO/Dundas West TTC Station. Trains were to be refurbished Budd Rail Diesel Cars, and were expected to begin running between 2008 and 2010.
By 2008, there had not been significant progress on the project, due to failed consensus in negotiations, regulatory hurdles and community opposition. In June 2008, the Ontario government revised the environmental assessment process from a required three-year period to six months, and later that summer it resumed negotiations with Union Pearson AirLink Group on terms for a public-private partnership. Furthermore, the high speed link received public statements of strong support from Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty, Toronto Mayor David Miller and the federal government.
In November 2008, Metrolinx, the Ontario government agency for Greater Toronto and Hamilton transportation, released its Regional Transportation Plan titled The Big Move, outlining how an airport rail link was part of a strategy to establish multi-directional high-order transit connectivity to the Pearson Airport district, alongside the Mississauga Transitway and future transit corridors along Highways 427 and 407, and Eglinton and Finch Avenues. In December 2008, Metrolinx became the proponent of new EA that would simultaneously assess a combination of both Union Pearson AirLink's project and GO Transit's Georgetown South Service Expansion. The final Environmental Project Report was released on 30 July 2009.
After two years of failed negotiations and financing difficulties, the public-private partnership between Ontario and the Union Pearson AirLink Group was called off in July 2010, and Metrolinx was handed responsibility to directly own and operate the service. Metrolinx established the new operating division that would become Union Pearson Express. The name 'Air Rail Link' was used as a placeholder until the official name was unveiled on November 29, 2012.
Metrolinx largely preserved the same project scope as had been previously approved in the EA, with the service designed around air travellers rather than conventional commuters. Changes from SNC Lavalin's former proposal included refinements to take into account synergies with GO Transit. In November 2010, the Board of Directors of Metrolinx authorized its staff to enter into negotiations with Sumitomo Corporation of America to supply DMUs; the contract was approved by the Board in February 2011 and executed on March 31, 2011. Kathy Haley was named inaugural President of the division in July 2011.
The UP Express is described as having a focus on customer service. Multiple features are being considered, including power outlets, onboard refreshments, Wi-Fi internet, luggage facilities, washrooms, flight information screens, and airline check-in and ticketing machines. The Presto card will be available for use on the system.
From the SkyWalk beside Toronto Union Station, the UP Express will head northwest along the existing GO Transit Kitchener line. This 22-kilometre section of track between Bathurst Street and Highway 427 is being upgraded as part of GO's Georgetown South Project, which is improving infrastructure along the to accommodate the UP Express, current and future GO Transit, Canadian National, and Via Rail services. Beyond the 427, a newly constructed 3.3 km (2.1 mi) rail spur will carry the UP Express to Toronto Pearson International Airport Terminal 1.
The trip will also include two intermediate stops at Bloor and Weston GO stations. Bloor station will be redesigned for thorough integrated connections to Dundas West station of the Toronto subway, and GO Transit services. At Pearson, a connection to Terminal 3 will be facilitated by the LINK Train.
The Union Pearson Express fleet will consist of six trains, each one composed of three diesel multiple unit (DMU) cars, for a total of 18 DMUs. On 1 March 2011, it was announced that Metrolinx had chosen to buy 12 DMU cars (six 2-car trains) from Nippon Sharyo at a cost of C$53 million, for the service,. This was later expanded to 18 DMU cars (adding one car to each train) via an option order. This brought the a cost to US$75 million. Each car can seat 60 passengers and have flip-up seats to accommodate mobility devices, LED overhead and at-seat lighting, and fully automatic doors.
The UP Express DMUs are based on the design created for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system in California. Powered by a diesel hydraulic drive with a 6-speed automatic transmission and regenerative braking, they are FRA Tier 1 compliant with crash energy management features. Braking energy is converted into electricity by the auxiliary power generator, and helps to provide onboard lighting and heating. Modifications for UP Express use include Transport Canada compliant enclosed overhead luggage bins and an enhanced enclosed luggage tower.
It was also announced on 24 October 2011 that consortium AirLinx Transit Partners was selected to complete building the UP Express. The consortium comprises some of Canada's largest construction companies such as Aecon and Dufferin Construction. Construction on the spur line and passenger station at Pearson began in the spring of 2012, at a cost of $128.6 million.
The propulsion units for the airport link trains will be new Tier 4 diesel engines with substantially lower emission than most other diesel vehicles in Toronto. The Environmental Impact Assessment for the UP Express was carried out assuming that trains would be Tier 3 standard rather than Tier 4, and showed that at peak frequency the air quality effect of the additional trains would not take any pollution level over the provincial criterion levels. The 2010 Metrolinx electrification study, which did assume the use of Tier 4 emissions technologies for diesel propulsion options, found that the Georgetown / UP Express diesel service would contribute in the order of 0.2% to local air pollution and electrification would result in only a small positive effect on local air quality levels. In an additional review of human health assessment in 2011, GO Transit examined the current plan for Tier 4 emission controls on both the UP Express trains and conversion of existing GO locomotives to Tier 4 and found that the human health risks of the diesel UP Express service are negligible, but that current background air quality (from other pollution sources in Toronto) is an issue.
Public opposition and legal challenges
Residents living along the Weston section of the proposed route have objected to alterations to accommodate the trains. Concerns include the division of Weston from the closing of level crossings, noise levels, air quality and property values. In April 2009, the Clean Train Coalition (CTC), representing the communities along the rail corridor, formed to put pressure on Metrolinx and the province to immediately prioritize electrification of the densely populated Georgetown South corridor and Union-Pearson Rail Link on opening day. However, both the province and Metrolinx Chairman Rob Prichard have indicated that using diesel trains is the only way to prevent significant delays. "We believe the Greater Toronto Area needs this project as fast as possible, and that means going with the cleanest diesel technology in the world," stated Prichard.
In August 2012, the CTC took legal action against Metrolinx by submitting an application for judicial review. The application requested "quashing and setting aside any decision to implement or run Diesel Multiple Units along the Air Rail Link", on the basis that by taking direction from the Ontario government to complete the UP Express in time for the Pan American Games, a proper analysis between operating diesel and electric trains was not completed, running contrary to Metrolinx's legislated mandate. It also asserted that another review of air quality was warranted due to the World Health Organization's reclassification of diesel exhaust as a carcinogen.
However, since 1988 the WHO has classified diesel emissions as "probably carcinogenic to humans" and this classification (in part) has led to the new tighter standards on diesel emission (such as the Tier 4 emission standards of the UP Express). The carcinogenic classification is based largely on studies of high occupational exposure to diesel emissions, such as in underground mining. The WHO announcement on the change in diesel classification does not propose any changes to the WHO Air Quality Guidelines, which were used for the air quality thresholds in the 2011 Additional Review of Human Health Assessment for the UP Express (and noted to be more stringent than the guidelines used in earlier studies).
Saba Ahmad, the lawyer representing the CTC, described the application as a test of whether government agencies must obey their own legislation. "We have been left with no choice but to seek a legal remedy to stop this dirty diesel plan," said CTC Chair Rick Ciccarelli. "We tried to persuade the government and Metrolinx to do the right thing and build an electric air rail link from the start." On November 21, 2012, the Ontario Divisional Court turned down the application, and ordered the CTC to pay $30,000 in court costs.
The Toronto Transit Commission operates the 192 Airport Rocket bus route, which links the airport to Kipling Station on the Bloor-Danforth line subway line. Cash fare for the TTC is $3.00, and allows passengers transfer to other routes to complete their journey without an additional fare.
GO Transit operates two bus routes connecting to Pearson. Route 40 provides hourly non-stop service between Richmond Hill Centre and Pearson. Route 34 provides service to Brampton and the York Mills Bus Terminal. Fares for these services range between $4.20 and $5.65, depending on the distance travelled.
The original Eglinton Crosstown LRT was projected to connect Pearson with the main TTC transit network by 2018 as part of Transit City. However, Mayor Rob Ford announced the cancellation of Transit City on the day that he took office. The redesigned Eglinton–Scarborough Crosstown line announced four months later included the Scarborough RT, but the line will terminate at Black Creek Drive instead of connecting to the airport. A future extension could eventually reach the airport, completing the line as envisioned.
The Toronto Airport Express is a privately operated airport bus service from the airport to downtown Toronto. As of 2012, a "One Ride Scheduled Service" to or from downtown Toronto costs $26.95 and a "One Ride On-Demand Airport Express Connect" fare costs $29.95. A one-way trip is approximately 45 to 90 minutes, depending on traffic.
Taxis and limousines are available, at both variable and flat-rates, depending on which zone in Toronto the trip will originate or terminate, and are the most expensive form of transport – other than driving a car and paying the parking fees at the airport.
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- Official site
- Official Metrolinx project page
- Union-airport rail link on way (17 June 2000)
- Transport Minister Announces Winning Proposal for Toronto Air-Rail Link (13 November 2003), with included map
- Clean Train Coalition
- Weston Community Coalition
- Union Pearson Express's channel on YouTube