The TTC workers’ union and a residents’ group say poor forecasting on the airport train casts doubt on other Metrolinx projects

Lea, a massive boring machine, is being used to burrow a path for the $4.9 billion Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

Lea, a massive boring machine, is being used to burrow a path for the $4.9 billion Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

The head of the TTC workers’ union is calling for an independent public inquiry into Metrolinx in the wake of the provincial agency’s decision to drop the fares of the Union Pearson Express.

Metrolinx’s failure to project adequate ridership for the $456 million airport train casts doubt on other projects it manages including the $9.1 billion Eglinton Crosstown LRT, said Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113.

Meantime, he called on the TTC board to demand the numbers on the TTC’s operation of the Crosstown. Metrolinx will be in charge because it is contracting the TTC to run the trains and it has contracted a private provider to maintain the LRT, he said.

But there is no clear understanding of how operating subsidies will be shared, said Kinnear.

“We believe the provincial government will not subsidize the operations of that line to the degree we need,” he said.

The city is already subsidizing the TTC’s existing operations by about $500 million, or a third, a year.

“Add 20 per cent to a $500 million cost, you’re talking tens of millions of dollars. Fares are going to go up substantially higher, service levels, particularly in off-peak, will be substantially lower, and the subsidies will be substantially higher. The provincial government has not given us any indication with all this expansion what the level of funding is going to be for the TTC,” said Kinnear.

“We’re saying that 10 years from now the subsidy rates of transit in Toronto are going to be substantially higher (for the city) than they are now and it’s because of Metrolinx,” he said.

TTC commissioners should be demanding numbers (on what) the projected costs to the city are going to be in the next 10 years. If they don’t do that they’re negligent in their responsibilities, he said.

“(With one exception) none of them have asked any questions. The scary part is I don’t think they know what to ask.”

In a statement Thursday, Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins noted the agency is managing more than 200 projects worth $16 billion and that “the majority of our projects, like UP Express, are delivered on time and on budget.”

As for the Crosstown, Aikins said: “Part of the master agreement says that operating agreements must be in place two years before the line opens. So that isn’t completed as yet.”

The line is expected to open in 2021.

Kinnear is not the only one expressing concern about Metrolinx’s forecasting.

A residents’ group called Options for Davenport raised doubts Thursday about the forecasts for riders on the Barrie GO tracks. The group is fighting a plan to build a giant rail overpass to accommodate a GO expansion expected to provide service to five times the 17,000 people a day who ride on that corridor.

“Local residents have had serious doubts about these projections and have been expressing those concerns since last year. The dismal ridership on the UPX has shown these doubts are well placed,” the group said in a press release.

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced Tuesday that the airport train prices will be halved effective March 9 to help attract riders. Metrolinx officials admitted that they had no hope of hitting their target of 5,000 riders a day by the end of the year under the original price structure.

The cost of a one-way ride on UPX will go down from $19 to $9 for Presto card holders, $12 from $27.50 for non-card users. Family and airport worker passes and tickets will also be reduced. In the meantime, riders get a voucher for a free ticket to compensate them for the difference.