AIRPORTAVIATIONNEWSTECHNOLOGY

Toronto’s UP Express Reduces Prices By More Than 50% (Update)

Airport Terminal 1 Station (YYZ)

(Post published first on February 23 with updates on February 29, 2016)
Concerned over low ridership, Metrolinx which operates Toronto’s airport train service Union Pearson Express (UP Express) will announce it will lower prices to attract more passengers.

UP Express

Overview

UP Express began service June 6, 2015 ahead of the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in the Summer.The 23.3 km (14.5 mi) route costed over CDN$450 million (Feb 23, 2016: CDN$ 1 = $US0.73 = £ 0.52) to complete and featured four stations.

UP Express Train
UP Express Train
Source: Metrolinx

Technology

  • UP Express trains are newly designed and manufactured Tier 4 diesel multiple units (DMUs).
  • UP Express will be the first rail service in North America to use Tier 4 diesel which reduces airborne particulate emissions by 90 per cent and nitrogen oxides by 80% compared to the existing technology.
  • Designed with future opportunities in mind, UP Express vehicles will be convertible to electric propulsion.
  • Metrolinx has committed to the electrification of UP Express as a first priority in its future electrification plans.

Route Map

UP Express starts its journey from:

  • Union Station located in Downtown Toronto . This station has access to VIA Rail (regional rail), GO Transit (local trains and buses) and Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) (streetcar, subway and city buses).
  • Bloor Station is located within a 5 minute walk to Dundas West subway station and has direct access to the GO Transit Kitchener line
  • Weston Station has direct access to the GO Transit Kitchener line
  • Pearson is the final station which connects passengers to Terminal 1 of the Toronto Pearson International Airport. It has direct access to the airport terminal train that transports passengers to parking lots and Terminal 3.
Route Map
Route Map
Source: Metrolinx

Total time of journey is 25 minutes with trains operated every 15 minutes between 05:30 (530am) and 01:00 (1am) local time.

Amenities On Board

  • The trains are fully accessible and have been designed with the comfort and convenience of guests in mind.
  • Trains are equipped with convenient amenities including:
  • WiFi
  • Flight disruption information
  • Overhead luggage storage
  • Luggage racks at access doors
  • Space for oversize baggage
  • AC Power outlets
  • Tray table on seat backs
  • Toronto events information

Costs

The UP Express replaced the direct Toronto Airport Express bus service that costed CDN$26.95 (service ended in 2014).

Current prices are listed below:

ONe way / REturn (CDN$)
Adult Ages 20-64 $27.50 / $44.00
Senior Ages 65+ $23.40 / $38.30
Student Ages 13-19 $23.40 / $38.30
Family $55.00  / –
Meeter and Greeter Return – / $27.50
Family Meeter and Greeter Return – / $55.00
Long Layover Return – / $27.50
Family Long Layover Return – / $55.00
Children under 13 Free
Accessibility Companion Free

While Metrolinx hoped that the new service would be used by 5,000 travellers daily to start and expand this number to 7,000 within three year.  In the  reported only 2,450 riders used the service daily on average. This is around 10% of the capacity and is well below the breakeven point. In an effort to kickstart demand and build awareness for the service, Metrolinx offered a free trial during the weekend of February 12-15, 2016 to great success.

This prompted the agency to consider lowering prices permanently from CDN$27.50 to CDN$12 for standard tickets purchased online or at station kiosks and CDN$19 to CDN$9 for travellers using Presto cards. This reduces prices between 53 to 56%.

UP Express Prices (Old vs New)
UP Express Prices (Old vs New)
Source: Metrolinx

The new price reflects better to the other public transportation option from the airport. Travellers can take the TTC’s 192 “Rocket Express” bus connecting to subway at Kipling Station for a standard price of CDN$3.25 or with token at CDN$2.90.

Comparing old and news prices result in UP Express 2.77-4.13X more expensive than options from TTC.

COST MULTIPLE COMPARED TO TTC (STANDARD – CDN$3.25) COST MULTIPLE COMPARED TO TTC (TOKEN – CDN$2.90)
OLD PRICE (STANDARD) 8.46X  9.48X
OLD PRICE (PRESTO) 5.84X  6.55X
NEW PRICE (STANDARD) 3.69X  4.13X
NEW PRICE (PRESTO) 2.77X  3.10X

Global Comparison

UP Express’ new prices are more competitive with other international offerings as shown below. Note that while it runs as an express train, the speed UP Express takes for its journey is slower than these examples.

EXPRESS TRAIN NAME (CITY) STANDARD COST CONVERTED COST (US$ – FEB 23, 2016) ESTIMATED DISTANCE / MINUTES TO DOWNTOWN
UP Express (Toronto) CDN$ 12  8.76 23 km / 25 min
Heathrow Express
(London Heathrow)
£27  37.86 32 km / 15 min
Narita Express
(Tokyo Narita)
¥3,020 26.93 70 km / 53 min
Arlanda Express (Stockholm Arlanda) 280 SEK 33.00 39 km / 20 min
Maglev (Shanghai Pudong) 50 RMB 8.00 31 km / 8 min
Airport Express (Hong Kong) HKG$100 12.87 35 km / 23 min
A’REX (Seoul Incheon) ₩3,700  3.01  61 km / 43 min

While express trains provide a lot of convenience and time savings, their relative high prices have been faced with public resistance and pressure for change. Without permanently lowering prices, some agencies are introducing off peak pricing build demand. London’s Heathrow Express is an example where passengers could get up to 75% off at off-peak times (News).

Many others just forego building an express train and link their regular subway or city train service into the airport to maximize usage.

Future

Toronto city planners are studying whether to extend the new Eglinton Light Rail Transit (LRT) line westward to the airport. This will create a new opportunity for Torontonians living in the North, Central and East end another option heading to the airport.

UP Express could also be extended to East or North Toronto to pick up more passengers who do not want to transfer. Fare integration with other transit bodies in the region (including VIA Rail, GO Transit and TTC) would be useful to contain travellers’ costs.

Update – February 29, 2016

Travellers will be able to take advantage of the new prices on March 9, 2016.

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