Sunday, July 3, 2016

UP Express Subsidy Under Fire

The provincial government chose to give money to an empty airport express train instead of packed subway cars, according to a transit riders group.

TTCriders is up in arms over a recent Metrolinx report, which revealed the Union Pearson Express train received a government subsidy — $52.26 per ride — during its first 10 months of operation which was about 50 times larger than what the TTC received — 89 cents per ride.

“The Union Pearson train will continue to need a big subsidy because it was poorly designed to be a small boutique service for jet setters,” said TTCriders spokesman Jessica Bell in a statement Friday. “We question why Premier Wynne is so willing to fund the Union Pearson train, but refuses to fairly fund the overcrowded TTC, which is what the vast majority of riders use.”

The group is pushing for Mayor John Tory and Premier Kathleen Wynne to give the TTC what they deem is fair funding — $1.26 a ride. It also wants the airport train service transformed into a mass transit line with stops in neighbourhoods, TTC-level fares and electrified trains, Bell said.

The TTC faces a budget crunch, requiring $178-million more than last year just to maintain current service levels. Toronto’s executive committee has asked the TTC to slash its budget by 2.6% — the equivalent of taking 900 of the city’s 1,600 buses off the road during peak hours, according to Councillor Gord Perks.

“Toronto riders are in for big fare hikes and service cuts next year, and that’s entirely the fault of Premier Wynne and Mayor Tory,” said Bell.

Metrolinx defends its ridership and performance since UP Express launched June 6, 2015.

“This is just the first year for UP Express and our goal is to get the subsidy significantly reduced over time,” said spokesman Anne Marie Aikins. “Ridership has gone way up and continuing to increase every week. It is now over 8,000 every weekday.”

Mayor John Tory’s office referred questions about the issue to TTC Chairman Josh Colle, who couldn’t be reached for comment.

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