April 14, 2015

The Union-Pearson Express: Public Transit For The Rich?

David G.

Metrolinx, the Ontario provincial transit agency, has recently unveiled the new Union-Pearson Express (UPE) train which will run from Pearson International Airport to Union Station in Toronto starting in May. This will start a month before the Toronto 2015 Pan-Am Games open which have already caused some controversy for its outlandish overspending problems, fast-tracked development projects leading to gentrification, and the lack of proper infrastructure. The Pan-Am games will cause traffic jams across Toronto which will affect the city's ageing infrastructure. Recently, the capitalist CEOs in charge of the Toronto 2015 Pan-Am games have been caught overspending their budgets, which consists of public money from taxpayers. Money went to paying for expensive limousine rides and purchasing luxuries such as designer shirts. This is one of many controversies that the TO2015 committee has got itself into in recent months.

The UPE will run every 15 minutes on the clock and you can get from Union Station to Pearson in just 25 minutes. Right now it takes about an hour and a combination of subway and bus to get from downtown to the airport on the existing public transit system. But here is the catch that Metrolinx has openly said. An adult one-way ticket from Union to Pearson will be $27.50, $19.00 if you have a Presto card. The prices were approved by the Wynne's neo-liberal Government back in December of 2014, which is now the most expensive ticket price for a similar airport express system in North America. For example, the Airport rail link in Vancouver built in 2010 costs $9.00 one-way, and the Airport rail link in Chicago costs $5.00 one-way. 

These outrageous prices has caused many Torontonians to be concerned, since transit prices and the cost of living in Toronto has skyrocketed over the past decade. Mayor John Tory raised cash fares for the TTC above $3 only two months ago. A poll conducted recently that was reported in the CBC that two-thirds of Torontonians find that the prices for the new UPE train are too expensive. Parkdale NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo has already criticized the UPE that “it should not be an executive boutique for business travellers”. Why did the Ontario Liberal government and Metrolinx pour $456 billion dollars into a transit line that is not for the people but only for the privileged elite? Because according to Metrolinx “business travellers are the demographic”.

Premier Wynne checks out the new UPE
The demographic statement by Metrolinx is very ignorant, one-sided and fails to mention that the vast majority of people in the Toronto-area that take public transit, like myself, are people of all kinds that travel everyday on buses, subways and streetcars.

What demographic group does the Union-Pearson Express serve? This Liberal bondoogle obviously doesn't serve the people that regularly use public transit. This new express line certainly doesn't serve the thousands of workers at Pearson Airport that make minimum wage and who need to get to work, nor will Metrolinx give the airport workers any discount for the UPE. According to union reps at Pearson, there are between 10,000 to 15,000 workers that live in Toronto. Martin Smith, President at CUPE Local 4047 says that “if the fares aren't affordable, the public will not use the Union-Pearson express.”

The prices for the Union-Pearson Express are unjustifiably expensive for the majority of the people in Toronto. It will not benefit anyone except the wealthy and Kathleen Wynne's cronies. We should continue to fight for affordable transit everywhere in Canada first by freezing fare hikes and putting a cap on fare prices, and moving towards free public transit for all!

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