Shoo, Blue 22

Long dormant after a turbulent initial Environmental Assessment phase, it appears that Blue 22, the proposed plan for an airport rail link, has awoken and may be railroaded though the opposition and before Metrolinx gets its act together and releases their delayed regional transit plan. Meanwhile, other options, outlined below, are largely ignored.

Blue 22, as planned, would offer a one-seat ride from Union Station to Pearson Airport for a cost of $20 one-way (when first presented to the public in 2003-2005). The route would follow the CN Weston Subdivision through Parkdale, the Junction, Mount Dennis, Weston and Rexdale, splitting off near the 427 and entering the airport with a stop at Terminal 1 next to the current people mover station. The brand ‘Blue 22’ was derived from the expected travel time, 22 minutes. The plan was originally announced in 2000 by the federal government and Mel Lastman during a flurry of announcements coinciding with Toronto’s bid for the 2008 Olympics.

The proponent of the proposal is the large engineering conglomerate SNC-Lavalin, chosen in 2003. SNC-Lavalin’s proposal for a privately owned and operated rail link piggybacks on rail improvements that will be necessary to provide all-day, two-way service on the Georgetown line to at least Mount Pleasant station in northwest Brampton. The plan is to use several refurbished Rail Diesel Cars, which were originally built by Budd in the 1950s, and widely used by CN, CP and later VIA until about 1990 (RDCs are still used for two VIA services in Northern Ontario and on Vancouver Island).

Blue 22 is flawed for many reasons, and Torontonians should be demanding better. The initial Class EA called for only limited GO Transit improvements for its Georgetown rail corridor, while SNC-Lavalin’s premium express trains would be using up most of the new capacity, though hourly GO service is still a possibility, but Blue 22 would get priority over all other users, including GO, VIA and local TTC or community uses, like Railpath. Finally, this project, if word of a fall final decision is true, will come before Metrolinx releases its final transport plan which may have its own vision for the corridor. As a privately-operated service, SNC-Lavalin intended to charge $20 for a one-way ticket, which would price many out of the market, or maintain an advantage for taxis and even the Pacific Western Buses, which provide a door-to-door service downtown. With limited stops, the plan ignores markets other than tourists and business travellers heading downtown (only 17 percent of travellers departing from Pearson originate in the downtown area), and ignores travellers heading to or from the airport from elsewhere in Toronto and the GTA, and the pricing scheme all but shuts out airport workers, or commuters heading to nearby offices. Only one intermediate stop, Bloor/Dundas West, was considered.

The initial proposal was derailed by a particularly angry Weston community, who packed local meetings, including the cavernous Prayer Palace on Jane Street in May 2005. They were angry as the plans called for some of the rail crossing be closed, and others sunk into underpasses, because of the increase in the number of trains operating along the rail line, most of which would not stop. They not only attacked the proposal for the impact to their neighbourhood, they found other serious flaws, such as the fact that SNC Lavalin was also acting as the EA consultant for the project that it was advocating. As a result, the initial EA was junked and a full, broader EA has emerged, with a new EA consultant and a supposed full look at the alternative technologies and alignments. But the new Ontario transit EA process, now used to rush Transit City lines through, can be used here to resurrect the original Blue 22 with minimal delay or consultation.

Some have criticized the Weston residents of being no better than anti-development NIMBYs. In this writer’s opinion, that is far from the truth. The Weston Community Coalition has been on record in supporting an increase in the number of trains through Weston, but they want a public transit solution that would actually bring some benefits to this mixed-income neighbourhood. They also put forward the alternative of a trenched rail corridor that would leave the existing streets at grade and better mitigate increased noise from the extra train traffic.


There are several options that should be studied instead of Blue 22. In an earlier post here, regular commenter uSkyscraper has listed all the different ways in which North American airports are connected to their downtowns. All of these are public-subsidized services, though some services charge a premium for accessing the airport.

Heavy rail subway. Theoretically, Pearson Airport could be served by a heavy rail subway, like those in Cleveland (North America’s first airport rail link), Chicago (O’Hare and Midway), Washington-National, San Francisco, Atlanta, Mexico City, and the nearly complete Canada Line mini-metro in Vancouver. (This was also the solution that the winner of the 2008 Olympic bid went with, with the Beijing Airport Subway opening last month.) If ever built, a subway to Pearson would either be an extension of the advocated Downtown Relief Line, or less likely, an Eglinton Subway.

Light rail. This is a common method of linking airports with downtowns in North America, with Baltimore, St. Louis, Portland, Minneapolis, and proposed lines in Phoenix and Dallas joining this group. This is actually a much more feasible and likely solution for Toronto, at least in the short-to-medium term, using available space in the Weston rail corridor to link either to Dundas West station, Union Station, and/or the Eglinton-Crosstown Transit City line, which would be tunnelled directly east of the line anyway. A light rail line on the Weston corridor would benefit from separated operation from street traffic and would likely have metro-style stop spacing. If built, this LRT would have more in common with rapid transit as in Calgary or many US cities, than with local Transit City routes. Steve Munro has mused about this as a solution (at least as far south as Jane or Eglinton) on his blog.

I have used the Baltimore LRT rail link last October. While the trains are infrequent, the service is fast and directly serves Baltimore’s downtown core. The fare was very inexpensive as well.


BWI-destined light rail train in Downtown Baltimore.

Regional rail/rail shuttle. Cities in North America that have a regional or commuter train connection to the airport, either directly or via short rail shuttle include Philadelphia, Baltimore, Newark, and New York-JFK (the AirTrain connects with both the subway and with the Long Island Rail Road). This is much more common in Europe and Asia, where in many cases intercity trains serve large stations at or near the airport. Newark and Baltimore have frequent intercity Amtrak service adjacent to their airports. Montreal may go this route, and VIA does offer shuttle service from their Dorval station to Montreal-Trudeau.

The regional rail/shuttle set-up, along with light rail, are the most immediately feasible solutions. The advantages of this solution include providing a station at Woodbine Racetrack where VIA trains from London, Kitchener and Guelph could gain direct access to the airport, as well as GO trains to Brampton and Georgetown. VIA is planning much-needed track improvements on the north mainline, which could improve frequencies and improve travel times on this rotue. As well, it adds impetus for frequent rail service to places like Malton and Brampton, often overlooked in regional transit plans.

The other thing going for this concept is that Metrolinx is promoting the concept of regional rail to complement or replace GO’s commuter service, tentatively called REX, or Regional Express. If built, REX would provide relatively frequent regional rail services across the Toronto and Hamilton areas, similar to S-Bahn in Germany/Austria or RER in Paris. A stop here on a line to west Brampton or Georgetown could be part of that network.

The proposed Finch West Transit City line could also be extended here from nearby Humber College, and with connections to TTC, Mississauga, Brampton and York Region buses, this could become an important rail hub, serving the lower-income Rexdale neighbourhood, and also the planned Woodbine Live commercial development on the racetrack lands.

A rail shuttle to the airport, either as an extension of the airport peoplemover or as light rail, could run to here or as in some cities, like Vienna, a premium airport express could be provided as an alternative to riding a regional rail train, and even run directly into the airport lands as planned, but allowing passengers from local trains, GO/REX and VIA to use their trains at Woodbine for free or a nominal fee, similar to other airport service premiums.

– – – – –

Any of the above schemes would provide real rapid transit for the underserved northwest end of Toronto, serve many more markets than the exclusive downtown traveller crowd, and provide Weston with what it has been asking for – more trains, but more service to go with it. There would be a trade-off between faster service and more frequent stops, but a more reasoned proposal would solve several of our transit issues with one shot.

There is still the opportunity for SNC-Lavalin to profit from this arrangement if necessary – a parallel premium one-seat ride could still be offered, much like Vienna. Or it could merely have the contract to build the necessary infrastructure and/or operate the trains at a fare and service model that would benefit a wider market.

If the government is committed to have an airport link built and operated quickly, private partnerships are one way to go, but these have mixed results (the Canada Line or the Viva system in York Region are examples of P3 done right, the 407 or Brampton Civic Hospital are examples of P3s gone wrong). This is where SNC-Lavalin, with its construction and engineering expertise, can help.

Finally, one can look to the example of London-Heathrow, where one can choose between the low-fare and slow Piccadilly Line, which was the first rail link, opened in 1977. Later, to serve business travellers, the rapid, and very expensive Heathrow Express was introduced in 1998. Finally, in 2005, a mid-tier service, Heathrow Connect, half the fare of Heathrow Express, but 25 minutes to Paddington versus 15 minutes, and designed for travellers heading to intermediate stops and airport employees. With Blue 22, the cart (express alternative) is being but before the horse (a simple, public, rail link).

photo by Sam Javanrouh 


  1. Arguments against Blue 22 tend to be specious, and those made in this article is no exception.

    – “only 17 percent of travellers departing from Pearson originate in the downtown area” — I’m not sure where you got those numbers, so I can’t look it up myself, but I’ll bet that downtown is by far the largest single origin/destination for Pearson passengers. It’s also home to an increasing number of people, myself included.

    – “SNC-Lavalin intended to charge $20 for a one-way ticket, which would price many out of the market” — First, an air ticket is a premium luxury good, usually purchased by the (relatively) affluent; it makes no sense to give flyers a government subsidy on their transit trip to the airport, and I’m happy to make them pay. Second, if you hang around the airport a lot, you will observe that families (who would not benefit from Blue 22) make up a small minority of flyers. Third, I’m sure the executives of SNC-Lavalin are smart enough to lower the price if they can’t fill trains at $20, or offer family passes if need be.

    – “There are several options that should be studied instead of Blue 22” — Have you ever used Chicago’s blue line? Or London’s Picadilly line? In each case it takes about an hour to get downtown (not including wait times), which is wearying after a long flight, and frustrating after a short one; this is not a compelling option for business travelers, who will simply take taxi. Further, light rail is already going to the airport, via the Eglinton TransitCity line.

    – “The advantages of [a rail shuttle] solution include providing a station at Woodbine Racetrack where VIA trains from London, Kitchener and Guelph could gain direct access to the airport” — If your objective is to provide connections with VIA and GO, why not do that at Union? It’s already the largest transportation hub in the region, and it makes no sense to duplicate that function at the airport — especially since the arguments in favor of London, Kitchener, and Guelph ignore points east and south of Toronto, such as Oshawa, Kingston, Hamilton, and the Niagara region.

    – Finally, and most importantly, there’s no reason why your suggested routes — which, as you point out, complement an express route rather than replace it — can’t also be built. You talk of “putting the cart before the horse”, whereas it is more like sticking your thumb in the eye of the cart vendor, because you don’t have a horse yet. Given the progress of transit construction in this city, the alternatives are decades away at best, while Blue 22 is ready to go right now and has the backing of government. Rail to the airport is a major missing piece of transportation infrastructure, and it’s time to take the solution that is available. One can turn your argument on its head: if regional, non-express services are still needed, they can be built later.

  2. Que bono?

    When the worst option is the one chosen, despite the democratic will of the community and plain common sense, you have to ask yourself who benefits, and put their asses in jail. Wouldn’t doubt some land is already bought by people who bought along the Shephard line.

  3. Andrew:

    This article was a response to the fustration I get with people arguing that we should be happy with whatever we are given, rather than demand better. Blue 22 is screwed up, meant to benefit a private firm by providing a half-baked rail link with a limited market while spending as little federal dollars as possible.

    The 17% figure comes from planning documents, this one being a Pearson Airport ground transportation study.

    Uh, with regional rail, you can still make a connection to Union, but a station at Woodbine wouldn’t force people from London, Kitchener, Guelph or Brampton to double-back and pay at least $20 more.

    Yes, I did use the Piccadilly Line, thanks for asking. I flew into London Heathrow once, in 2004. I took the Piccadilly Line because, yes, I was on a budget, but also because I was heading to Liverpool Street station, and this way, I’d take an hour, but I’d avoid the notoriously unreliable Circle Line. If the Heathrow Express ran to Liverpool Street, I might have considered it. taking the underground, I was able to purchase a through ticket to my desination, which was on the West Anglia line just outside the M25, for about the same fare as the Express was by itself.

    I did make mention that a complementary route could be done, but the proposal as is now, does not even recognize any complementary, affordable uses.

    In no other airport in the world has a super-premium airport service started before a public transit or regional rail service reached it first. This will be the first time that an express-premium route is given priority over a local or rapid transit link.

  4. why isn’t the proposed airport service part of the GO network? i understand that only a small spur line would be required to get from the existing GO tracks to the airport, and the train could make local stops as well.

    why does it matter that only 17% of airport trips originate downtown, as mentioned in the article? union station is the main public transit hub for the entire golden horseshoe (TTC, GO and VIA), so service to union station helps everyone who is interested in public transit. for example, it would finally become practical to take public transit to the airport from, say, oshawa or kingston.

    as for the cost, $20 is a huge improvement over the fare of $50 or more charged by taxis or limos to get downtown; my workplace, for example, bears these costs every time that i’m sent out of town on business. plus, the train won’t run the risk of getting stuck in traffic. the $20 fare may not assist airport employees, that’s true, but all the other alternatives for getting to and from the airport will still exist.

  5. An apologia for NIMBYISM at Spacing, despite the avowed urbanist nature of the publication? I’m shocked!

    I do like how the desires of an impoverished, violent neighbourhood are considered but the needs of the city as a whole are ignored. It’s like Spacing is intentionally trying to destroy Toronto or something.

    Supposedly people want to reduce reliance on cars and specifically on the Gardiner. To get people out of their cars, taxis, and limos, you need to offer an attractive service, rather than a dingy, cramped, unsecure, slow service. Currently to get to Pearson from downtown it’s $45 and an unknown amount of time. The Blue 22 offer mirrors that of Heathrow Express by solving the two problems of getting to the airport – expense and time. A train that stops frequently in unsafe areas priced to attract minimum wage commuters as well as travelers just will not work.

    It’s frustrating to see EVERY urban initiative opposed by Spacing. Infill and intensification is condemned as vertical sprawl or for gentrification. New transit designed to take the most car dependent travelers off urban highways is villified. The only alternatives offered are as viable as offering unicorns for everyone.

    Can someone, anyone, get some reality into Spacing? Do something positive rather than just offer stereotypical reflexive non-sense?

    The point about 17% of travelers heading downtown – you’d see a substantially increased share with an express train from Pearson. People who live in midtown and uptown would use the service, given the excellent links to Union. More business travelers would be able to leave from their office thanks to the guaranteed trip length instead of taking the day off and leaving from their suburban home. Furthermore, Blue 22 will make rail a valid method of getting to Pearson for people who live along the GO and VIA corridors. It’s rather more attractive to take the train to Union from Port Hope or Hamilton rather than driving to Pearson and paying to park for a few days or weeks.

    Blue 22 is an exciting mass transit service that people WANT to take. You don’t see business execs clamoring for new TTC service for their personal use everyday. You’re reaching the hardest population and getting them into a mass transit habit. And this is bad? Seriously? Did spacing get a big cheque from the Taxi Association or something?

  6. The notion that “people can afford $20” is misguided.

    First, you want to get airport workers too, not just travellers.

    Secondly, there is a decrease in convenience between getting a cab from your door and schlepping to the station with suitcases.

    Thirdly, a cab (and long term parking) is only more expensive if you’re considering one occupant. Trains generally charge per seat.

    At the same time, it’s more convenient than the TTC (subway to Kipling and Airport Rocket) so you don’t need to go too cheap.

    There is a very simple answer – make it GO in both operation and fare structure. A 2-ride ticket should be equivalent to the Union-Malton trip which is $10.10 for a two ride ticket. That’s more than TTC but less than a cab ride by a long shot, especially for families with children who can use the group pass.

    Stop at the existing stations plus Woodbine with the possible addition of one at Eglinton to meet the Transit City line. The increased number of tracks would be available to VIA as well, whereas a subway or an LRT would likely be solely used by them, and there might be land lost due to the need to physically separate LRT/subway from heavy rail for maintenance purposes.

    A station at Woodbine with a VIA/regional rail halt would make the airport more accessible to 519ers – the nearest current station to Pearson is 20km in Brampton. Taking a longer view, using GO at Pearson might be a pusher to electrification of that corridor in addition to the plan to electrify Lakeshore West.

  7. Common says, “It’s frustrating to see EVERY urban initiative opposed by Spacing. Infill and intensification is condemned as vertical sprawl or for gentrification. New transit designed to take the most car dependent travelers off urban highways is villified. The only alternatives offered are as viable as offering unicorns for everyone.”

    You certainly don’t read Spacing much. We have posts extolling the virtues of highrise living, and have been supportive of the good transit plans put forth by the TTC and Metrolinx. And you’ve missed our rants against the silly NIMBYism that often reigns in this city.

    But I guess some people only see what they want to see.

  8. Sean,

    Just a quick correction, but the Shanghai maglev connection to Pudong airport has preceded the yet-to-open subway line.

    Still, I agree with you about all points. My preference would be for regional rail over light rail or the subway, both of which are more suitable for shorter-distance urban transportation. Regional rail would be facilitated on a multi-track electric mainline (similar to the Northeast Corridor in the US) that would serve double duty as a regional rail link to Brampton and the Northwestern suburbs, as well as an intercity passenger rail link to Kitchener and Guelph.

  9. Sean:

    Thanks for the link to the transportation study. As I expected, downtown (or the “Former City of Toronto”) is the top destination, at 17%. The next destination on the list is “Mississauga”, at only 11%. The only other destination above 10% is “Halton Region”.

    You’re criticizing Blue 22 for benefiting a limited market, so I don’t understand why you continue to advocate a spur to a stop at Woodbine, which benefits an even more limited market and would be done at comparable cost. A high-speed link to Union would benefit both downtown and the entire region, through GO and VIA.

    The fact that the express service is the first to be offered is not a good enough reason to reject it. As a downtowner, my options for getting to the airport include: taxi, at $50+; or the airporter bus, which takes 30 minutes (if you board it at the Royal York Hotel, much longer otherwise) and costs about $15. Blue 22 is a solution that will improve airport access for a large number of people like me and, as you say, “while spending as little federal dollars as possible”. Given the experience of transit funding in this city, that should be applauded. It certainly doesn’t deserve the vitriol it is receiving.

  10. Leonard: Thanks for the correction, except I don’t generally consider gadgetbahns or vanity projects when writing this stuff (there’s no vanity in 60 year old RDCs). Still, Shanghai will open a metro line to its airport in 2010, only 6 years after the Maglev was opened (which does not have good ridership numbers). I agree, I like the regional rail option the most as well, though if done right, light rail wouldn’t be a bad choice, particuarly as this will be a rapid transit version of this technology.

    Andrew: While Pearson went with a technology that’s difficult to expand (the cable-propelled system), ideally, I would like see a people-mover also serve as the inter-terminal shuttle, mitigating the transfer issue. Once you’re on a peoplemover, you’re practically at the airport anyway. Apparently, the basic infrastructure (supports and stations) can support conventional light rail.

    I think Common hurts his argument further when he claims that Weston is a violent place and that local stops along the Weston Sub, like Weston, or Eglinton West (where a connection can be made to Transit City) are unsafe, and how air travellers would be scared to use such a service.

  11. Common’s comment “A train that stops frequently in unsafe areas priced to attract minimum wage commuters as well as travelers just will not work.” itself reeks of NIMBYism. I don’t think the residents of Weston and the Junction would appreciate being lumped in with Rexdale.

    That aside, the graphic from today’s Star had the spur line branch off at Malton station and then run down Airport Rd. into Pearson. If they’re going to build a spur line, this one seems more ideal with Malton as the transfer point. The infrastructure is already there and the track would be relatively straight running down Airport Rd. instead of the circuitous weaving required to get from Woodbine to Pearson.

    The absolute cheapest solution would be to extend the People Mover up to Malton, upgrade the station and let VIA stop there and then increase the frequency of the trains on the Georgetown corridor. Malton in effect becomes a regional hub for the northwestern GTA.

  12. To spend all that money and have only a few stops is a crime. There has to be a way of making it more transit friendly to the areas it will pass through. And the point is well taken that at 20 $ a pop, airport workers may take a pass on this.

    I do find humour in people talking about getting out of cars so they can then get on a jet.

  13. It’s also worth noting that it is increasingly likely that mass air travel, given world oil supplies, will be going the way of the dodo. How very much like Toronto to make a large investment in a project that will come on line just in time for hardly anyone to need to use it anymore.

  14. I should have added that maybe instead of trains to planes, we need more trains!

  15. Spacing positive? Err, no.

    I just reviewed the past month of postings (I read daily, thanks) and notice how little actual content spacing has put up this summer. The daily links, Montreal Mondays, and even notices make up the vast majority of posts. Actual content with an opinion on urban development in Toronto consisted of an analysis of Shanghai’s under-expressway bridges and how they’re a possible second best alternative to dynamiting the Gardiner, Dylan’s opposition to the Avenue strategy and preference for decaying strip malls (because decaying anti-urbanism is better than anything possibly bourgeois), agitation against an Eglinton subway, and support of bike terrorists.

    There is continual opposition to new condo developments despite Spacing’s avowed preference for urbanism. Any change, especially if it involves the private sector, is typically opposed and depicted as malevolent. Criminals, such as graffitti artists and the massholes, are celebrated.

    As to Weston being violent: there were 3 shootings with 5 victims in Weston over the past 9 days – 3 men shot at a church dance at 30 Gordon Mackay (just south west of Jane & 401; 1 dead 2 wounded) July 26th, man shot in the leg at 2200 Weston Rd on the 27th of July, a police officer was shot at without result outside of 2460 Weston Rd on August 4th. On the 26th of July 2 shootings happened just outside of Weston, one at Eglinton & Black Creek (murder) and one on Tretheway (leg wound). That’s not exactly what one would call a peaceable area.

    Does NW Toronto need better transit – of course. Should it be levered off of an airport service – of course not!

    If you want to get cabs off of the Gardiner, you need to offer a competitive service. $20 and 22 minutes is an excellent offer for so many people. Everyone I know raves about Heathrow Express. It’s cheaper than the alternatives and gets you where you want to be in 1/3rd the time.

    Blue 22 would be cheaper than a taxi for 2 people or a limo for three. That’s great value right there and covers the vast majority of airport trips. The time savings and lack of traffic makes it a better solution even for people who could get to the airport cheaper in a taxi/limo. Parking rates is up to $28/day and $140/week, $75/week for valet at parknfly which is having a really good sale for the summer of up to 4 weeks for the price of 1. Blue22 stays competitive for 2 people and offers much better value proposition.

    As to supporting transit city – you fall in love with anything LRT. LRT destroys cities and is only cheaper thanks to the crappy accounting that the TTC uses. If you include the costs incurred by businesses, residents, and street users while ROWs are put in place, they are much more expensive than subways. But externalize the costs and your little communist experiment is great. Everyday I regret that the streetcar tracks were never torn up in Toronto. Buses are so much better on lightly used routes and subways are superior on high traffic ones. But Spacing loves its streetcrars and LRT (it’s not a streetcar, really, this time it will work, won’t suck, won’t be slower than walking)

  16. “I don’t think the residents of Weston and the Junction would appreciate being lumped in with Rexdale.”

    I don’t the folks in Rexdale would appreciate the insinuation they their neighbourhood is a worthless, hopeless ghetto, either.

  17. It’s not perfect but a link should have been in place years ago. It’s a shame to this city that it hasn’t been.

    YES to stops at Bloor and Parkdale and perhaps one more (Eg?) between Bloor and Pearson.

    The map in the Star shows how a Union rail link could loop around at Pearson and run back along Eglinton. Now that is some beauteous, integrated planning.

  18. Ugh. It seems there is almost an ideological difference here between Common and Spacing and he/she gets their kicks out of torturing themselves. “Bike terrorists”, “criminal graffiti artists and massholes”… A “common” case of superiority complex…

    But since I’m a big supporter of Spacing, let me stick up for you guys: In that same period as mentioned above, Spacing is, er, positive. Comments may not always veer in that direction, but even the critical posts (even mentioned by Common) were about improving the city, and most presented solutions. And that’s ignoring all the promotion of positive events (midnight bike ride, ie) And as an RSS subscriber for 2.5 years, I have never seen Spacing write a post objecting to specific condo developments.

  19. At 20 bucks a ride, Blue 22 users deserve better than Budd RDC’s left over from the Eisenhower/St.Laurent era!

  20. Ideally, every city should have a direct, non-stop rail link from the airport to downtown and the largest transit hub, whatever other service is desirable or necessary. As Andrew points out, the fact that this may be the first new service to the airport to happen is simply not a reason to reject it. I’m hoping against hope that this doesn’t get mired once again in the endless spiral of bickering — the sooner shovels break ground, the better.

  21. Gee, why don’t we add stops every three blocks? What’s the point?

    And it won’t matter that the line is supposed to end up downtown, Union Station will have caved in on itself from decades of neglect by the time any scheme gets going. “Next stop, big heap of rubble formerly known as Union Station.”

    Why does EVERYTHING take so long to happen in this city/area?

    I’m looking forward to riding the Transit City LRT lines in my retirement years.

  22. Given the transit challenges facing the GTA and given the amount of money that will need to be spent on solutions, Blue 22 seems to be a very short-sighted plan. A very expense solution to deal with what is only a fragment of a very large overall, region-wide transit proble. At least in terms of the details I’ve heard. Why such a big push now? If we had all the money in the world, maybe a premium-priced, express line to Union station would be a no-brainer… But given all the other needs that exist, and given the potential for this corridor to service many of these needs, why exactly is this a must? Both McGuinty and Miller are insisting that it has to happen — what they haven’t explained is how this represents a good use of resources, a considerable portion of which will be public. I don’t think anybody is asking for stops every three blocks. But does anyone really think that a proposal for a one-way, non-stop trip at $20 bucks a pop will do much to lessen congestion in the GTA? Yeah right. I do think this is a transit connection that makes a lot of sense — providing fare costs are lower so that more people (eg airport workers) will use the service, and providing that there are some spots so that people along parts of this route (that are some of the areas most poorly serviced by TTC) can get into Toronto a lot quicker. Unless, the plan is changed to accommodate these broader needs, the bottom line is tha the premier and the mayor are advocating for a vanity project that basically serves a relatively upscale clientele. Sorry, but given the transit needs that exist region wide, that’s a pretty disgusting stance.

  23. I must agree with sam: commoner, if the Blue 22 was entirely self-financed (i.e. no outright subsidies, or hidden subsidies from using publicly financed rail improvements, being allowed to disrupt right-of-ways at level crossings, shortened EAs, the time of all the civil servants diverted to shoehorn this thing through…), there would probably be few complaints about it.
    However, express trains for jet-setting business people being paid for out of my rather empty pocket just doesn’t sit right. And I’m sure that running these trains through Mt Denis, Weston, etc. must feel to the residents there that they are getting their noses rubbed in it!

  24. It’s not perfect. LRT (with quick, subway-like stops and gos) rather than the heavy stock would be much better. But at least it’s a step in the right direction.

  25. John Barber makes a good point today (eek!) that the “high speed” link is false advertising, what with the half-century old railcars and all.

    We’re talking about Budd cars, not a maglev. Mayor Miller rode a 430km/h link in Shanghai – ours will be lucky to see 33% of that pace.

  26. Adding a few stops (Weston, Bloor, Liberty Village would be my suggestion) wouldn’t add much time to the trip and would greatly improve the utility of the line. Would a “blue 30” instead of “blue 22” really be so terrible?

  27. First of all, I think the talk about Rexdale and Weston is a red herring. Etobicoke North and Weston GO stations have been around a long time, is anyone claiming a crime problem at those locations?

    blarg – again, it depends on like for like comparison because a cab picks you up from your door and only stops at traffic signals and congestion. If the train speed including the trip to the station can’t beat that consistently during on and off-peak traffic, it’s no good – it must attract the bulk of the catchment as a better outcome rather than railfans and environmental diehards.

    Adding stops should be done carefully – Bloor is a no-brainer because of the subway and likely Eglinton but Etobicoke North would be on shakier ground especially with a stop just down the line at Woodbine, and surely that must be inevitable given the Live development?

    The Weston community has valid complaints about the process but talking about running the route out the Lakeshore and up 427 is just moving the issues to someone else’s district and creating a longer, less efficient route. An LRT up the 427 is probably a good idea but to replace the Airport Rocket not downtown-Pearson.

    Extra tracks and removing level crossings will not just add Pearson capacity but GO, VIA and freight too – a corridor which runs intercardinally NW-SE rather than a slave to the cardinal directions is a rare distance saver in Toronto and not easily substituted for. You could build the Spadina Expressway today more easily than a new multipurpose heavy rail line.

    Grade separation of Weston roads by sinking the alignment and top of the line sound attenuation is feasible, if expensive compared to the cheap-at-all-costs solutions currently proposed – but forgoing the chance to turn the Weston rail corridor into a serious contender to reduce both Pearson’s and downtown’s congestion effects would be irresponsible.

  28. One more comment on this issue. Virtually all the cities that have a one stop link from downtown to the airport are very very well serviced by transit (crisscrossed by subways etc. as in London’s case). So when you have Blue22’s supporters, including our Mayor and Premier, pointing to how they have such great connections in other cities to their airports, you’re kind of left wondering as to why these proponents aren’t bothering to mention the conditions in those cities that help explain why such links make sense for these other cities — but not for ours given our current conditions. But then again our politicians (of all stripes) have a habit of looking for models in other jurisdictions without bothering to look closely at the conditions needed to make those models succeed here.

  29. Given that we are currently stuck with SNC-Lavalin and have an embarrassing need to get this done, perhaps we should not shoo Blue 22 but press ahead, with the caveat that it bring benefits to GO as well.

    i.e. let SNC take their gamble on the business crowd, but allow GO to also run on the route, including the spur to the airport.

    This is not unlike how the new high-speed track of the Channel Tunnel will feature Eurostar trains to Paris but also Javelin trains for local stops within the UK. Or, even more relevant, the Heathrow Connect service that runs local trains along the Heathrow Express route. Express is privately owned, but Connect is part of the local regional franchise.

    This way, everyone wins. SNC operates a direct service and gets a chance to make their money back on their investment, if the market supports it. GO gets to run a train to the airport that they otherwise did not have funds to build, and provides the regional and local connections and low-cost option.

  30. I honestly don’t see the appeal of a privately operated premium service when far more trips could be handled almost as fast by a public option. We need to get Pearson’s workers, not just its travelers, to and from the place; if a few useful connections along the way help support that, great.

    I do wish the new EA rules had had a caveat of ‘only if Metrolinx likes it’, which would allow Transit City to be pushed through but not this kind of backward, decade-old thinking.

  31. People seem to think that Blue 22 would only serve business people in downtown when really it would serve anyone coming into Southern Ontario by plane. For those tyring to get to places like Kingston without a car a link to the region’s transit hub at Union Station is invaluable and absolutely necessary. Its a shame that its taken so long to provide a viable public transit link to the airport because of NIMBYism at its worst. In the end Blue 22’s greatest benefit could be to provide a realistic impetus for something better in the future.

  32. Indeed, Marcus. Tourists, downtown residents (who are growing in number) and anyone along the Bloor line would benefit, as well as those connecting through Union Station, not just business travellers.

    Mind you, at twenty bucks a pop, Blue 22 might still lose some business to the TTC (as horrible as its airport connector is).

  33. I can see why some people here are willing to settle for ancient rail cars for a $20 a ride because we don’t have a rail link like other world class cities like Cleveland and Baltimore, but others are right. Service to places like Weston and Rexdale and Brampton stinks. Have the people calling Westonites “the worst kind of NIMBYs” tried the 89 bus? Let’s let SNC-Lavalin build the sucker, because they have this wrapped up anyway, but have a deal to allow more GO service (at least hourly all-day/7 day a week trains) and contract a service to connect to Rexdale, Weston, Mount Dennis and get cheap rapid transit out here, at fares compatable and integrated with GO and TTC. Might take 25-30 minutes instead of the precious 22 minutes, but it would be better for a lot more people.

  34. are you kidding $20 for one way? You might as well take a cab. I live in the westend and a cab to pearson is about $40-$50. If you happen to be going to pearson with some additional travel companions this blue 22 service simply makes no sense, let alone a non-starter for those that live nowhere near union. Perhaps if it was less expensive it would be a broadly good idea.

  35. Left unquestioned is whether should be spending money on connecting the airport, which is on its way to becoming a dinosaur in the age of peak oil and climate change, with anything at all.

    A real alternative to this fruitless endeavour would be teaming up with Quebec and northeast/midwest US states and cities to get a regional high speed rail system built.

  36. Great piece by John Barber in yesterday’s Globe on this issue, in which he asks why there has been so little public scrutiny of this proposal given that public monies are apparently forthcoming for this. Great op-ed piece in today’s Star by Paul Ferreira (former MPP for York South-Weston) and Mike Sullivan (chair of the Weston Community Coalition) in which they SUPPORT using this corridor for mass rapid transit … but not for the BLUE 22 proposal as it now stands.

    Blue22’s supporters have been quick to label the Weston community as “NIMBYites”. As usual, this label is little more than an excuse to ignore what people are actually saying. Despite what Blue22’s supporters are saying about this being a “green” initiative, a $20plus, one-stop transit service is going to do precious little in terms of reducing congestion in the GTA. Who is anyone trying to kid? The price is a real barrier that significantly limits its utility and useability. I can’t help but think that there is some other agenda further down the line, once SNC has been ensconced as a service provider, thanks, in part, to public monies.

    People in Weston (and elsewhere in Toronto) are right to complain about this plan. And yet, various levels of government seem intent on ramming it through, thereby squandering an opportunity to significantly improve mass rapid transit in the area.

  37. The problem with Blue22 is that if you want to connect to other destinations as Marcus says, are you going to pay $22 to get to Union station?

    If Pearson was part of the GO system, an integrated fare should be possible – a fare from Malton GO to Oshawa GO stations is $10.15 for a single fare – a distance triple that from Pearson to Union!

    Without integrated ticketing, at least with GO and preferably with VIA too, another FAIL for Blue22.

  38. “Left unquestioned is whether should be spending money on connecting the airport, which is on its way to becoming a dinosaur in the age of peak oil and climate change, with anything at all.”

    Charles, as a city of immigrants I think Toronto will be one of the last airports to see a serious decline in air traffic, at least long haul. Air France are already recognising this in Paris by integrating their long haul services with TGV rail connections direct to their CDG2 terminal. Air Canada should be pushed to do likewise rather than running Dash 8s and Beeches to London, Kingston and Sarnia.

  39. Help me out here. Do I understand that the oft quoted 17 percent of travellers departing from Pearson originate in the downtown area comes from a study done in 1991? The study says that departure/origin point is the (Old) City of Toronto for 17% of all airport users?

    Why even bother quoting it as authorative. It’s 17 years out of date. The city and GTA population distribution has changed quite a lot since then. Plus people who equate downtown with the old city of Toronto nead to have their head checked.

  40. Mark, GO fares are government subsidized. Should the province offer a $5 travel voucher to anyone who buys $1000 worth of goods at Holt Renfrew? If not, then why should they subsidize a few dollars worth of a rail ticket to the airport, for those who already purchased a $1000 air ticket? (Putting aside airport employees, who would be a minority of users anyway.)

  41. Andrew, why should the government subsidize SNC-Lavalin’s private rail link? Why should we ignore all other needs on the corridor? Why do nearly every other city in the world with a rail link subsidize it?

    By the way, if that shopper at Holt Renfrew takes the TTC or GO, or even drives on city roads, they are subsidized somehow, like anyone else headed to that part of town.

  42. The general consensus on this and other sites seems to be: YES to the Pearson-Union rail link on this corridor but make it LRT and include 3 or 4 stops to integrate with TTC.

    This should also be done on the east side, northeast to Scarborough where there is a similar corridor. Do that and you could wad up the rinky-dink Transfer City plan a give it a free throw as most of the same general areas would be served but in a smoother, more efficient fashion.

  43. Sean,

    – Why should the government subsidize SNC-Lavalin’s private rail link?

    I never said they should. I’d rather they didn’t, but I’d also rather have a rail link than nothing at all.

    – Why should we ignore all other needs on the corridor?

    Taking this argument to the logical conclusion, express routes should never be built as transit, a conclusion with which I profoundly disagree. On the other hand, why are you insisting that downtown’s needs don’t matter?

    – Why do nearly every other city in the world with a rail link subsidize it?

    Because they are all apparently swimming in transit money. We’re not. There are also very notable examples that don’t, such as Sydney.

    – By the way, if that shopper at Holt Renfrew takes the TTC or GO, or even drives on city roads, they are subsidized somehow, like anyone else headed to that part of town.

    Nonsense. What you want is to build a new transit station *at the airport*, which (unlike the existing TTC/GO/road system) can’t be used for any other purpose since it is located at the airport, and for which the vast majority of users will be affluent enough to afford air travel. You then want give these affluent users government money to make their train tickets cheaper. This strikes me as both regressive and ridiculous. The cost of tickets is easily the lamest argument against Blue 22.

  44. Charles: “A real alternative to this fruitless endeavour would be teaming up with Quebec and northeast/midwest US states and cities to get a regional high speed rail system built.”

    Would not the same tracks be reusable for a regional high-speed system? Isn’t outskirts-to-Union the trickiest bit in building such a system?

  45. hunter

    I don’t know where you get the idea that LRT is a consensus option “here and elsewhere”. There is the Blue22 option, the GO option, ICTS from Woodbine station, Pearson-Weston-downtown LRT and subway with strong proponents for each.

    In fact I don’t know where you get the idea for most of your post, not least because a substantial amount of Transit City like Finch West and Sheppard East goes completely unserved by your theory.


    John Barber reminded us during the week that *Blue 22 was supposed to need no subsidy* – that was the rationale for the fare price. However, diesel and construction costs have both ballooned since the Collenette era so it will be interesting to see what breakeven + PPP return ends up as now.

    The problem is not that Blue22 is an express route, actually – it’s that it is understood to have exclusivity within GTAA land under the original agreement. Under exclusivity GO Transit would not have the right to operate all the way to a terminal in parallel with the express as happens with Heathrow Express/Heathrow Connect.

  46. Which is why I said, “MOST of the same general areas would be served but in a smoother, more efficient fashion.”, Mark.

    Anyway, those areas are not too transit friendly.
    Subways to the Boonies are white elephants.

  47. This conversation has been very interesting to read — how many of you actually live anywhere along the corridor? And I don’t mean just around the Weston-Mount Dennis area? If you live in Liberty Village, you are screwed too by this project. Your crossing at Strachan will be closed and good luck if you need to get anywhere south of that crossing, like to the grocery store. This is not just a NIMBY argument — it’s an argument revolving around public money being spent on a private, for-profit line that less than 10% (our estimates based on current facts) of the airport travellers will use. What do you think will end up happening? SNC Lavalin will decide that they aren’t making enough money and will end up selling the line back to the very government who paid for all the infrastructure to construct it — that’s a sweet deal! So a company who is being giving the rights to the corridor for the next 53 years and is only paying $1 per year for the use of the corridor could make that decision. But GO Transit, who will be forced to build the infrastructure, will have to go to CN to lease the land at market rates in order to build something that has nothing to do with them except that in order to get their upgrade funding (which is years overdue) they must build the new rail lines for SNC. Bend over, anyone?

    And Common, I don’t know where you live in the GTA but Weston is no more dangerous that the Entertainment District or Queen Street or Yonge Street or any other area of the City. We have our problems and they have been escalating of late but our biggest problem stem from people who ‘think’ they know Weston and what it is. Try to remember that you only hear about the 1% of the people who live here who are the problem not the ones who are actively trying to make the community a better place to live and work. You are perpetuating a false face to the community that it does not deserve. Learn about our 200 plus history and then we can talk. Come talk with the elders of the town who have lived here their whole lives and so do their children. Come to visit and we will show you around — we are a very friendly bunch when not being jerked around.

    Thanks to those who ‘get’ our concerns …

  48. I think comments by Andrew above where he stated that if SNC can’t fill the trains they will lower the price..Heres the kicker> THIS TECHNOLOGY WONT SUPPORT A VOLUME OF RIDERSHIP!! A study on old bud cars>will bring to light some seriously limitations!! when you read what we are actually getting . Also there is no regulatory body on pricing, SNC call the shots not Toronto and gas prices are rising as we speak. We are not replacing the car with a non polluting ,mode of transportation we are spewing out horribleposins and tixins into the air generations of an ever growing qand ever polluting city will breathe into their lungs.

    Weston will soon have their direct air poisoned and have examined that what is best for Our backyard is best for Toronto too. Its called being responsible ciizens and rising to the challenge we have now to blow 300 million on a polluting old albatros that will be so far from world class as to make us the future laughing stock of cities.. OR in urban planners and David Suzuki again to say YES WE DEMAND MORE!!!

  49. I’ve just found out about the details of this link and am appalled by how it only serves a very small part of the population, mostly business people in downtown Toronto. We will be either trading the Island Airport for the link, or have two business oriented projects that make it easier for the affluent to get around with no improvement to the average Torontonian.

    Given the elite clientele Blue22 will serve, I can’t see why I should support the public funds going to the project, and the exclusivity offered SNC-Lavalin. Perhaps if Pearson workers and others who might make the trip regularly, but can’t write it off, could use the route private investment of this amount might be justified. Why then can’t there be 3-4 stops along the way? And what will stop the private owner from jacking prices or demanding other concessions along the way, or from dumping their commitment if it doesn’t work for them. 407/Skydome deja-vu?

    I live near the corridor south of Dundas. My concern is the pollution that will be emitted by 50+ trains running in my neighbourhood seven days a week. I’m told this is the 21st Century, yet we’re going to use 50 year old diesel trains…what kind of backwater do we live in? These trains were made when gas was about 5 cents a gallon…they weren’t built with any ecological consciousness in mind. (By the way, does anyone know if an environmental assessment is available for the Blue22 project? The georgetown site mentioned above hasn’t been updated for a couple of years) The city is doing very little as it is to improve air quality, other than hoping for a rainy summer like we just had, so why is it ok to stink up the air all the more?

  50. I don’t know for sure whether the vehicle are the right ones, but I’d be pretty surprised if they just dust off some 50-year old cars without major engine work if not more.

    I also don’t know how the various neighbourhoods would be affected beyond what the proposed increased GO traffic alone would do, but that’s what the EA is for. On that point, it seems to be stalled at the Province if you look here: – it seems the Terms of Refrence were submitted and the comment period expired, but the Ministry of Environment has never approved them, and without that the EA can’t continue. I believe I read somewhere speculation that the Province might re-start the EA under the new transit fast-track provisions, but I haven’t seen anything more on that either. Maybe it’s just too hot a topic?

    On the funding issue, I was under the impression that what SNC won was the right to spend its own money on the development to provide this airport link (buy the cars, build the link between the GO line and the airport, and possibly contributions with GO to the overall line expansion – I don’t know about that detail). Anyway, if they spend their money and revenue aren’t what they need, they’ll have to adapt which might mean reducing service (overall speed) by increasing the number of stops to get more riders. It’s a tricky trade-off that they’ll have to review regularly, just like setting any prices.

  51. Now that Metrolinx has taken over the project, and a fast-tracked EA has been done, the same problems emerge. Blue 22 will have an average of 12 riders per Budd Railcar. We will have subsidized it to the tune of about 60% of the total cost. The fare will be unregulated, and will likely be MUCH higher than the $20 set to provide the maximum profit in 2002. Each Budd Railcar will, even with brand new engines, pollute the equivalent of 104 automobiles (NOx) and 117 automobiles (Particulates). When the new services Metrolinx is proposing are added, it will be like having 20 lanes of the 401 added to the downtown core, in terms of pollution. Not a single station will be added, but there’s a half-baked promise that Blue 22 will stop in Weston. With fares so high, it’s unlikely that the private operator will continue to stop there when no one takes it. The fares will be set to keep the service from being too crowded for the elite business traveller. Sounds a lot like the 407.

  52. @mike:

    “Each Budd Railcar will, even with brand new engines, pollute the equivalent of 104 automobiles (NOx) and 117 automobiles (Particulates).”

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a citation for that claim, if you’ve got one.

    Here are some details on the RDCs proposed to Blue22 but they don’t have engine performance numbers. (page 47 onwards)

    IRSI’s rebuilt Budd car:

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