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Province drops fares by more than half on struggling UP Express

Last Updated Feb 23, 2016 at 4:01 pm EDT

The province is lowering fares by more than half on the UP Express, in an effort to attract ridership on the nearly empty trains that run from Union Station to Pearson International Airport.

The base fare will be reduced by more than half from $27.50 to $12. Those with a Presto card will be able to hop on it for $9, down from $19.

The plan now goes before a Metrolinx board meeting for approval on Tuesday night. If the board approves it, the new fare structure starts on March 9.

The UP Express also offers a commuter-friendly option, letting riders travel between Weston, Bloor and Union stations, but not the airport, for $4.71 (one stop) and $5.02 (two stops) for those with a Presto card – which is in-line with GO Transit fares.

Minister of Transportation Steven Del Duca announced the updated fares at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon. Metrolinx president and CEO Bruce McCuaig was also in attendance.

“This is in the interest of providing middle-class families and commuters with more affordable and accessible options so that we can help reduce gridlock on our roads and highways,” Del Duca told reporters.

Airport employees will also be able to ride the trains at a reduced fare.

Trains between Union and Pearson depart every 15 minutes, and take just 25 minutes to reach either destination.

Over the Family Day weekend, Metro offered riders free service on the UP Express in an effort to introduce more people to the service. More than 10,000 people rode the service on the first day of a three-day trial. Overall, 43,000 riders used the service.

“Every service line takes time to build awareness and customer loyalty. We have listened, we have learned, and today, we are taking action to make the UP Express more affordable,” Del Duca said on Tuesday.

Since the train started running last summer, ridership hasn’t been as high as the transit agency expected.

Metrolinx had originally set a goal of 5,000 riders per day for the first year of the service. But numbers show that in both November and December monthly ridership dipped under 70,000, with an average of 2,300 riders every day.