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Luncheon With Kathy Haley, President of Toronto's UP Express

November 25, 2015

Written by MHSRA member and All Aboard Indiana Editor Donald Yehle:

Former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was among 100 people who learned how Toronto tackled the challenge of connecting Canada’s busiest train station with its busiest airport. The Union Pearson (UP) Express train, which launched last June, is transforming Toronto, championing Ontario, and putting the city on the world stage. To a room full of CrossRail Chicago supporters, Kathy Haley, President, UP Express, explained how the service has benefited hotels, convention business, entertainment and tourism. 

A Toronto airport monorail had been talked about for decades, as far back as 1958.  The advantages of an airport express have been well understood for a long time. “In our planning, we understood customers would want a predictable and reliable service that will get them to the airport on time, rather than to be stuck in traffic for 60-90 minutes,” Haley said. 

O’Hare Express trains could eventually accomplish what UP Express/Metrolinx trains are doing in Toronto -- moving guests with minimal stops between downtown and the airport, at a faster speed than commuter trains, in spacious and comfortable seating. 

In an effort to implement the best practices from around the globe, project planners and engineers studied six international air-rail links -- London Heathrow; Changi Airport Singapore; Narita Airport, Tokyo; Copenhagen Airports, the Vancouver, Canada, Authority, and Schiphol Amsterdam. The success of the UP Express has positioned Toronto as a desirable destination for people to live, work, visit and play.

This seamless, serene and elevated urban transportation rail service considered unique passenger needs as it runs every 15 minutes, and operates for 19.5 hours per day. The service only takes 25 minutes to travel the 15.5 miles between the train station and airport.

Sixty-five million annual passengers is the anticipated initial ridership for the “idea whose time has come.”  In the next decade, annual ridership should grow to 130 million people or more.

The service is economical, with a $27.50 one-way charge, compared to Toronto cab and limo charges of $50 to $60. Lunch guests also learned that 1.2 million cars are being moved off the road and those passengers are choosing to use the UP Express in the government operated service’s first year.

Metrolinx is more than a train system. It’s a bundled experience for travelers visiting Toronto. The service allows individuals to go station-to-station without ever stepping outside.  A sense of calm and place is achieved through architecture, materials, color, texture and typography.  Retail and other non-fare revenue sources are incorporated into the design, Haley continued.  

As CrossRail Chicago’s vision for transportation in our region is advanced, Haley would encourage every effort be made to understand consumer behavior.   Look at all “touch” points, including information & planning, getting to the station, ticketing, airline services, the station, boarding, on the train, de-boarding and getting to the terminal, Haley said.