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TTCriders questions transportation minister on empty UP Express at town hall

Last Updated Jul 29, 2015 at 10:20 pm EST

Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca faced a number of foes when he sat down at a Liberal transit town hall Wednesday evening.

The event, hosted at Davenport Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre by local Liberal MPP Cristina Martins, was billed as an opportunity for the government to speak about its plans for public transit in Toronto.

But one transit advocacy group attended the forum to get what they said were real answers.

Jessica Bell, executive director of TTCriders, said they have tried several times in the past to speak with the minister only to come up empty handed.

“We have tried on numerous occasions and we have never heard any response. It’s disappointing to us because there are 1.8 million transit riders… We think we matter,” she explained, prior to the forum. “You’d think the transportation minister would take the time and meet with us.”

At the town hall, Bell voiced concerns about TTC fare hikes and the need for service improvements.

Another target of criticism by TTCriders has been the lack of passengers on the UP Express – Metrolinx’s gold-plated airport shuttle that runs between Pearson Airport and Union Station.

The group has said that, according to their informal observations, the UPX is running at 8 per cent capacity – an average of 14 people per train. Each train has a 173-passenger capacity.

Metrolinx said that, on average, 3,250 customers ride the Union-Pearson Express daily, with the heaviest time being Sunday between 2 to 7 p.m.

“Based on the early numbers and guest feedback, it’s clear that the UP Express service is long overdue for Toronto and a much needed option for travellers who want a fast and seamless trip from downtown to the airport,” the company said in a statement.

Metrolinx added that the UPX volume is directly tied to flight volumes and that the two-hour window used by TTCriders to make their observations on ridership on one day is not a good sample of its ridership.

Metrolinx has said they are pleased with the number of passengers using the UPX so far and expect it to increase over the next year.

While Del Duca was getting grilled inside, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) was outside roasting the Wynne government over its plan to pay for public transit by privatizing Hydro One.

“Kathleen Wynne consulted widely on possible new revenue tools to fund new public transit before the last provincial election,” OPSEU President Warren Thomas said in a release. “But instead of following the advice of experts, she has opted for a disastrous plan to sell off most of Ontario’s biggest asset, Hydro One – with no mandate, with no public consultation, and with a strong majority of Ontarians opposed.”