Union Pearson Express trains are running at just 10 per cent capacity, but the government isn't ready to budge on the cost to ride them.
Metrolinx revealed last week that ridership has dropped 23 per cent since the service launched in June. Only 2,500 people are riding the trains daily, and Transit Minister Steven Del Duca expects that to rise to 5,000 riders by next June.
At Queen's Park, MPP Michael Harris said the UPX is "becoming a white elephant on the rails." He blamed the government for spending $4.5 million for a design firm to add luxurious touches to the trains, which are becoming known as the "Pearson ghost express."
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"That's why we have 14 riders on a 173-seat train," he said.
Del Duca defended his government by citing the government as a success because it was delivered on time and on budget. The issue was then brought up again by MPP Cheri DiNovo.
"How much will Ontarians pay to subsidize this luxury service for only a few business-class travellers that regular people can't afford to access and can't afford to take?" the MPP asked in question period.
"I don't think anyone here in the Legislature would suggest that we should make rash decisions around important transit concepts and projects that we have," the transit minister replied.
The cost to ride on the express route has been a hot button debate since well before the trains began leaving the stations in June. At $27.50 per one-way trip, or $19 with a Presto card, it's clearly far more affordable for people commuting across Toronto to use other forms of transportation.
TTC riders can access Pearson airport from Union Station for $3.00, or $2.80 with Presto, which is a far cheaper option than the UPX.
Airport taxis, minivans and limousines cost anywhere from $55 to $60 for an average one-way ride. UPX offers a family fare for two adults older than 18 and three children under 18 for $55.
In Chicago, riders can get from O'Hare airport to downtown Chicago for less than $5 US, according to the Transit Chicago website. In Vancouver, you can travel from the airport to downtown for $6.75 using the SkyTrain, TransLink revealed online.
Del Duca says that it's cheaper to take the train from Union to Pearson than it is to take a train from London's Heathrow or Tokyo's Narita to the hearts of those cities.