My golly gosh. Isn't it so good to have fast train when you go to or arrive at an airport to get to the middle of town. Some of Australia's cities have them, but not the second biggest city in Australia, that is Melbourne. For some reason governments have decided it is not their responsibility. What was a 20 minute bus trip to airport at an usurious cost of the airport bus of around $17 one way. The 20 minute trip time has blown out to up to 50 minutes because of traffic congestion on the freeway and at the airport. The cost of the train is similar in Sydney, but the trip there is by train and by my experience, it is fast and reliable. Marcus Wong tells you about his experience of Melbourne's airport bus here.
In Toronto, Canada's largest city, a newly built a limited express train from the airport to the main city Union Station had just opened when we visited a couple of years ago. You can read of our arrival to Toronto and using the train here, but here is a snip from what I wrote then.
A new limited express train to the main railway station had only begun service last month. I looked around in vain for someone or a machine to buy a public transport card, called Presto and I could not find anything. Although we knew we would pay a premium price for buying a normal ticket, we did so from a machine. My one way fare was CA$27. With the Presto card, it would have been $19. I was a little annoyed but as we discovered later, the system has not been fully rolled out.
I think it was late afternoon when we caught the train. Being new, it was very clean and rather quiet in the number of users. Early days.
It felt uncomfortably warm in the train. At the first stop the train sat for five minutes and it was clear the timetable would not be met. I believe the train was shut down to reset the air conditioning as when we finally moved, lots of lovely cool air flooded in.
The early ridership numbers were dismal. It was very quiet when we travelled on the train, admittedly a very new service. We as good as had a carriage to ourselves.
When it opened in June 2015 its first passenger numbers for the month were around 2,800. It dropped the next month and by January 2016 there was something like 13 people on average per train, on one day at least. Build it and they will come was an absolute failure.
What to do? While it was a public private partnership, the government was covering the high losses. The usual excuses were pumped out, lack of awareness. More advertising. Making sure people realise the benefits. Nothing was mentioned about the extremely high cost of travelling on the Union Station to Pearson Airport Express, that wasn't an express train anyway. At best it could be described as a quickish suburban train.
But then traveller numbers had tripled by June 17. Why so? Essentially the fares were cut in half, and if you had public transport card, Presto, you were only paying $9 from the Pearson Airport to Union Station, and $12 by cash.
Some argue, perhaps with some right, that the train should just be part of the normal Toronto public system and fares charged as appropriate to public transport.
I can't find later ridership figures than mid 2017, but the train line has also become part of some people's daily commute between interim stations. The UP Express has become so busy that commuters using the few intermediate stations need to be corralled to wait for free spaces while airport travellers are given priority.
The line is actually referred to as the up express, not the U P Express. I think there are some very salient lessons to be learnt from Toronto's UP Express experience.