When Toronto's airport train enters service next year, passengers will probably pay somewhere between $20 to $30 to ride from Union Station to Pearson airport.
The key word is "probably" because the regional transit authority Metrolinx has yet to announce the fare structure for the Union Pearson Express.
Yesterday Coun. Josh Matlow said adult one-way fares in the $30 range are too steep to entice passengers — families in particular — from opting for the airport train over taking a cab.
Matlow also said it's "absurd" that $2 of each fare will go to the Greater Toronto Airport Authority as compensation for lost parking revenue.
"We're going to be paying to not park at the airport," Matlow told CBC. "This fee would penalize air travellers for making a choice that helps fight congestion."
Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins admitted UP Express is more geared toward business travellers. The new train will include only two stops between Pearson and the airport. The trip will take about 25 minutes.
Aikins also said the service will strive for a fare structure that offers a break for families, children and seniors.
Still, the idea of a $30 fare caused quite a debate among our audience. Yesterday's story had 381 comments, with many suggesting the UP Express amounts to a $456 million public subsidy for business travellers. One caller to the Metro Morning Vox Box said many business travellers won't bother with the airport train because a taxi cab or limousine is more direct and the fare will be paid by employers.
We should also note that Toronto travellers seeking a cheaper way to the airport can use TTC's Airport
Rocket service, which operates from Kipling Station for a regular TTC fare. According to the TTC's trip planner, a journey from Union Station to Pearson's Terminal One using this service would take about 65 minutes.
But is a $30 fare really out of whack with what high-speed airport trains charge in other cities? CBC.ca took a look and found a wide range.
Speaking broadly, airport rail links fall into two categories. In some cities (London, Paris, Chicago) the airport is connected to the city's existing rail network. In other cities (Stockholm for example) the airport is reached by a separate, dedicated airport train. These are often high-speed trains with no stops, or few stops, between the airport and downtown. These tend to be more expensive than a standard transit trip.
Here's what airport trains costs in other cities.
Name: Arlanda Express
Travel time to downtown: 20 minutes
Cost for single adult one-way fare: $41, but there are discounts for volume buying. For example adults travelling together on a single trip pay $19 each.
Notes: If the train is more than two minutes late for any reason, you get a free trip. Why so steep? Well it's Sweden but also the airport is 39 kilometres from the city.
Name: Narita Express (N'Ex for short).
Travel time from Narita to downtown Tokyo Station: 53 minutes.
Cost: $32 regular fare (though this week the N'Ex website was advertising as discounted $16 adult fare for non-Japanese passport holders).
Name: Canada Line
Travel time to downtown: 26 minutes
Notes: Part of Vancouver's SkyTrain system, the Canada Line runs on elevated trains. The electric trains are fully automated.
Distance to downtown: 27 kilometres
Notes: The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line connects the airport terminals with Chicago's downtown.
Name: Heathrow Express
Fare: $47 ($38 if the ticket is bought on board).
Travel time: 15 minutes from Heathrow Terminals 1, 2, 3 and Paddington Station.
Notes: You can take the Underground to Heathrow but it's a long, often crowded journey. The Heathrow Express is a premium high-speed service.
Name: Airport Link
Fare: $16 (one-way adult)
Travel time to downtown: 15 minutes