Providing express, high-quality rail service between Union Station in downtown Toronto and Terminal 1 at Toronto Pearson International Airport, the highly anticipated Union Pearson Express is a key component of The Big Move – Metrolinx’s strategy for a modern, efficient and integrated transportation system in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).
The Union Pearson Express will play a centrally important role in driving economic growth for businesses and communities across the GTHA. As traffic between downtown Toronto and Toronto Pearson is expected to double over the next 10 years, the Union Pearson Express will fill a vital gap in transportation options by creating a quick, dependable service between Toronto Pearson and Union Station – the two busiest transportation hubs in the country.
But there’s more to the Union Pearson Express than traffic relief. By providing fast, reliable and convenient service between downtown Toronto and Toronto Pearson, the Union Pearson Express will help secure and enhance the GTHA’s status as a globally competitive economic hub, allowing it to join the ranks of other leading global financial centres that have rail links connecting their downtown to the airport.
In 2015, the GTHA will step into the global spotlight for the Pan/Parapan American Games, and the Union Pearson Express will provide thousands of spectators and participants from around the world with a new experience – a warm and convenient first welcome to our city and province. Following the Games, the Union Pearson Express will continue to provide visitors with reliable and enjoyable access to the many tourist and cultural venues Toronto and the GTHA have to offer, assisting in the promotion of the area as a tourist destination and attracting visitors to its hotels and restaurants.
Shovels are already in the ground, and the project has started producing economic benefits. Design and construction of the Pearson passenger station and the three-kilometre rail connection commonly called the “spur” line between Terminal 1 and the existing GO Kitchener train line are underway, and will strengthen the local economy by creating more than 1,200 jobs. Upgrades to 22 km of track on the Kitchener GO line – part of the Georgetown South Project – will support the Union Pearson Express and provide infrastructure improvements, including future all-day, two-way service. Currently underway, the Georgetown South Project is expected to create 10,000 jobs over the next five years.
The Service: Fast, Reliable, Convenient & Comfortable
With the focus on the customer, the Union Pearson Express will offer a host of conveniences, including modern, comfortable interiors, power outlets for laptops, multi-channel ticketing options, Wi-Fi, luggage facilities and screens with flight information. At stations, customers will be able to roll luggage directly on and off the train. Travellers will choose the Union Pearson Express as the best way to travel to and from Toronto Pearson because its 25-minute journey will be fast, frequent, reliable, convenient and comfortable. Service will begin in 2015, and launch in time for the Pan/Parapan American Games.
Inside, guests will enjoy a memorable and differentiated experience, thanks to the innovative design and comfort features of the trains. Joining a competitive bid process begun by the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system in California, Metrolinx has closed a contract with Sumitomo Corp. of America for the delivery of 18 Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs). Each train will provide comfortable and spacious seating for approximately 180 people. Environmentally, the trains will conform to Tier 4 air quality requirements – the strictest non-road emissions standards possible. The DMUs are also designed to be convertible to electric propulsion, pending approval of the results of an environmental assessment currently underway and of funding for the electrification of the Kitchener corridor.
The Union Pearson Express will operate on a 25-kilometre rail route. Twenty-two kilometres of the route will share Metrolinx’s upgraded Kitchener GO rail corridor (formerly the Georgetown corridor), and a new three-kilometre rail spur, currently under construction, will connect the Kitchener line to Toronto Pearson Terminal 1. The rail line will branch off from the Kitchener corridor at Highway 427, near Goreway and Zahavey drives, and connect to a new passenger station across from the Pearson Terminal 1 parking garage, directly adjacent to the People Mover station connecting Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.
Trains will depart Union Station and Toronto Pearson every 15 minutes and will make stops at Bloor and Weston GO stations. The total trip time between Toronto Pearson and downtown will be 25 minutes. Weston station has been designed to accommodate the Union Pearson Express shuttles and provide easy connections between GO Transit and the Union Pearson Express. The Bloor station includes designs for a future integrated connection between the Union Pearson Express, GO Transit and the TTC’s Dundas West station on the Bloor-Danforth subway line. Union Pearson Express guests will experience convenient transfers between the Union Pearson Express and the GO and TTC systems, while still enjoying the time, convenience and efficiency benefits of an express airport-to-downtown service.
An integrated transit system is a priority for the GTHA, and the Union Pearson Express will address a significant gap in airport-to-downtown travel in Toronto. Each year, an estimated five million cars travel between downtown Toronto and Toronto Pearson. With this number expected to grow to nine million by 2020, the Union Pearson Express is expected to remove 1.2 million car trips in the first year alone, while offering a critical alternative for quick and easy access to Toronto’s downtown core and Toronto Pearson.
Since Metrolinx was assigned the Union Pearson Express project in 2010, significant work has been undertaken and teams have made impressive strides on key elements of the project, including upgrades to the rail corridor and procurement of the Union Pearson Express shuttles. The project is progressing on budget and will be delivered on time for the 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games.
The total budget for the Union Pearson Express is $456 million (in 2010 dollars). This investment includes $355 million in construction infrastructure and contingency costs, and approximately $100 million for service development and business and operations planning. To date, Metrolinx has awarded two contracts. One contract is for the new passenger station at Toronto Pearson plus the three-kilometre spur line connecting Toronto Pearson and the GO Kitchener line, awarded to AirLINX Partners Inc. for $128.6 million. The second contract is for the vehicles, or Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs), 18 of which are being commissioned from Sumitomo Corporation of America for US$75 million. Contracts for other project elements have yet to be tendered.
Construction is underway on the Terminal 1/GO Kitchener spur and the GO corridor upgrades, and will also take place at the Union, Bloor and Weston Union Pearson Express stations. Upgrades to tracks and signals, as well as construction of dedicated maintenance facilities, are also in progress. Meanwhile, the service elements of the Union Pearson Express are in development. These include customer and back-end technology projects, operational training for crews and customer service staff, and extensive safety and operational testing.
The business plan for the Union Pearson Express is under development, a process which takes into account a number of factors critical to business success, including ridership forecasts, fare structure, staff requirements, and other operational issues. Metrolinx conducts detailed market research on an ongoing basis, to ensure that the Union Pearson Express service will be relevant and reflective of the needs of the market. The results of this research are being used to guide key elements of the business plan under development.
The Union Pearson Express’s fare structure has not been determined, as the business plan is under development and has yet to be finalized by Metrolinx.
While current estimates for ridership on the Union Pearson Express range from 1.2 million to 1.8 million passengers in the first 12 months of operation, ridership projections depend on a number of variables, including fare structure. As well, Metrolinx continues to evolve the model for ridership forecasting. Two elements are key to ridership analysis: technical analysis and expert opinion. Technical analysis is based on industry standards commonly used to estimate potential transportation demands, such as roads, urban transit systems and rail networks, to provide an estimate of the potential market and traffic. In the case of the Union Pearson Express forecasts, the consensus expert opinion is that there are no direct comparisons available between the Union Pearson Express and other air rail links, as each is unique in terms of demographics, service offerings and other factors.
That said, we anticipate phased ridership growth over the first three years of operations, after which the Union Pearson Express will have achieved mature ridership levels.