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Open letter to Metrolinx: How to fix UP Express

December 2, 2015

Mr. J. Robert S. Prichard
Metrolinx Board of Directors


Mr. Bruce McCuaig
President and Chief Executive Officer
97 Front Street West
Toronto ON M5J 1E6

Attn: Kathy Haley, President, UP Express

cc. Premier Wynne, Minister Del Duca; Mayor Tory

Re: Union Pearson Express

Dear Mr. Prichard and Mr. McCuaig,

Toronto’s north-west needs a public transit line that accessible, affordable and sustainably electric.
Unfortunately, the Union Pearson Express is not on track to deliver on any of these counts. As is well documented since the opening day, it is overpriced, under-used, too oriented toward marketing a commuter “airline experience”, and employs vehicles that will need to be converted in some fashion to handle transit ridership needs and electrification.

We need improved public transit that enables travel to and from homes and workplaces between the downtown core, airport district and the employment areas along the corridor. It should have significantly more affordable fares than UP Express has demonstrated in order to lead to higher usage and benefit Toronto’s economy through the reduction of gridlock. It can achieve health benefits (aside from less polluted air via electrification) by reducing extended bus commute times which are difficult on families, on lower income people who face more life stress, and generally on people’s mental health. 

SmartTrack is in the final planning stages, and has been facing coordination challenges because of Metrolinx’s priority for delivering UP Express, which is geared to tourists and business travellers. We believe that a vastly improved transit network can be built quickly by recognizing the value of SmartTrack. Our recommendation is that Metrolinx consider integrating UP Express into SmartTrack, and that a combined local transit and air rail express service be City-run.

We ask that the Province, the City and the Metrolinx Board consider the following:

1. Integrate the air-rail service being delivered by UP Express with SmartTrack as a City-operated transit line providing multi-stop, affordable and electric, local and express services between Union Station and the Airport district.

2. Accelerate the new station planning and the electrification program. We expect that it is possible for construction of added stations and electrification of the line to start when municipal, provincial and federal infrastructure plans are finalized, that it can happen to incrementally improve service levels, and that it can be completed by 2021.

3. Plan to convert the existing UP Express vehicles for upcoming electrification, or to redeploy or sell them, and let the public know. Include interior remodeling of UP Express trains that are still on order so they can best function for public transit purposes in the interim, with flexibility to accommodate travellers. Consider options for configuring and scheduling the current trains to best meet immediate local public transit needs as well as airport service.

4. Include renewable energy technologies in planning for this new transit infrastructure project. As the world nations gather in Paris for the Climate Change Summit, take bold action as sustainability leaders for the transportation sector and ensure the shift off of fossil fuel.


Suri Weinberg, Clean Train Coalition
Carlo Ammendolia, Weston Community Coalition
Jules Kerlinger, Mount Dennis Community Association
Timothy Noronha, the West Bend Community Association
Doug Bennet, Wabash Building Society

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  1. […] Clean Train Coalition, still chugging along, released an open letter this week calling on the province and the city to get their acts together and make the UP Express into local […]

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