The troubled Union Pearson Express train could be absorbed as part of Mayor John Tory's SmartTrack plan, suggests a city staff report set to be released this week – an idea the province, which runs the airport train, is rejecting.
Since its launch in June, the UPX – which is run by the provincial transit agency Metrolinx – has been plagued with low ridership numbers and questions over its pricing model. On Wednesday, Mr. Tory said that a forthcoming staff report on his 22-stop SmartTrack plan hints at the city taking over UPX in the future.
"This is an idea that was put forward in the city report," Mr. Tory said. "I'm willing to talk about anything that's going to get people moving in the city with the province. It's their train, but I'm willing to talk about anything."
Still, the mayor acknowledged that the idea is just a "passing reference" in what is expected to be a lengthy report on the feasibility of his $8-billion SmartTrack, which would run on the existing GO rail network and has a planned stop in the Pearson airport area. The staff report is expected to be released to the public on Thursday.
"It isn't a formal sort of suggestion or anything," Mr. Tory said. "It says UPX might be considering its business plan again and we might be participating." He added that the idea has never come up in his regular meetings with Metrolinx officials.
A statement from Metrolinx, meanwhile, made clear that talk of changing the UPX service is coming only from within the city. "We are not considering any changes to the business model and UP Express will remain provincially owned, and operated," said spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins.
A report in The Globe and Mail last month pegged average daily ridership on the UPX at about 2,500 since its launch. In order to break even on operating costs, the service requires 7,000 riders each day.