On The UP & UP: Open Jaw Test Drives Union Pearson Express

with Martha Chapman

A smiling greeter at ticket sales

The shiny new interior

Arrival at YYZ

And viola! Onto the concourses

If you don't live in the greater Toronto area, you were probably spared all the hoo-haw about the Union Pearson Express train service (nicknamed UP) which debuted recently to coincided with the Pan Am and ParaPan Am Games. “Too expensive." “Too noisy." “Too polluting."

So we thought we'd take to the rails to see what the service is actually like. Why not join us for the ride?

2:20 Arrive Union Station by subway and proceed to try to find the UP service. Given my awful sense of direction and the Station's status as the largest transit hub in the country, this is a good test. Fortunately, there are signs, albeit small ones, about every 20 ft to take you along the 5 min. walk to the UP platform. Along the way are cheeky ads for UP: “Hit the road, road."

2:25 Arrive at the sparkling ticket counter to be greeted by friendly UP girl in much ballyhooed uniform. Purchase one way ticket to the airport for (gulp) $27.50. (The fare is only $19 if you use a Presto card which is valid on several regional transit systems such as the GO commuter trains.) Notice you can also check in for AC, WS and UA flights here.

2:27 Step onto shiny new train which features generous luggage racks, free WiFi and screens listing any flight delays. Also a very hipster UP magazine in the seat pocket. My car also features about 10 pax and strong 'new train' smell.

2:29 Train glides out of station. It picks up speed and we are soon leaving the downtown core, leaving me 25 min. to chat with fellow pax. One YYC man, who's already a repeat rider, comments: “They've done it well. Lots of staff, spotless trains, beautiful experience." From a YUL'er: “Fantastic. I'm impressed by the low emission engines. I'm a big proponent of mass transit and you cannot get to the airport in 25 min. any other way. Legally, that is! This way it always takes the same amount of time, it's roomy. I'd definitely ride it again." One staff member mentions that pax appreciate the comfort, convenienc, and speed. “Yes it is expensive compared to public transit, but that can be confusing especially if you are from out of town." (The TTC, our local transit commission, offers a non-stop luggage rack-equipped bus service from the westernmost subway station included in your $3.00 one way cash transit fare.)

2:39 We pull into one of the 2 stops enroute to the airport. No one gets on or off at either.

2:56 After passing a stunning golf course and the light industry surrounding the airport, the train glides to a halt at a shiny new platform. Excellent signage points pax to walkways to the concourses of Terminals 1 or 2, and there is a short monorail ride to T3.

3:00 I make my way to the TTC bus service at arrivals level which will take me within a block of my home. I board the tired old bus with shuffling airport employees and a few luggage-laden visitors; deposit my 3 bucks; bus has noticeable old bus smell.

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