All Aboard the UP Express Train
I love trains! So in June 2015 when Toronto finally got a direct train from downtown straight to the airport, I was very excited. For a world class city like Toronto, the lack of public transportation link all this time was quite shameful. Amidst lots of controversy, this train was finally put into service with much fanfare. For the first few months of its operation, ridership was skeletal due to a prohibitive fare structure and limited access from public transit lines in the city. In March 2016, fares were reduced to a much affordable price point and the train was opened for commuter access.
Regardless of how controversial the train might be, it is definitely a very comfortable way to travel to and from the airport. I had an opportunity to travel on this train at an event organized by Toronto Travel Massive, UP Express and Toronto Tourism. The train is air conditioned, has wifi access and is literally a door to door service from Union Station in downtown Toronto to Pearson international airport.
Besides being a fun ride, I think the train gives a new visitor to Toronto an excellent overview of the city.
Explore Toronto on the Way!
The UP Express train takes about 30-minutes to reach downtown and looking out through its large windows, with the CN Tower in sight more or less throughout the journey, gives the visitor a chance to get introduced and oriented to the city.
Starting from the airport, the train passes over a jumble of highways 409 and 427 and takes a sharp right, emerging next to the sixty-year old iconic Woodbine race track. You’ll then cross the conservation park along the Humber river, one of the two major rivers on either sides of Toronto.
First stop on this route is in downtown Weston, a former 19th century village that was since absorbed into the Borough of York in the 60s and Toronto in the 90s. Instances of increased graffiti along the tracks is a sign that you are in the Junction, one of the upcoming neighbourhoods in Toronto and worth a stop.
Bloor is the next stop on the train, located right next to a subway station and the funky neighbourhood of Roncesvalles. Cutting through Little Portugal and Parkdale (another ‘hipster’ area you should check out) in a south-easterly direction, the train meets tracks from the Lakeshore line and heads due east towards the Union station.
You can sense downtown Toronto around you now, with shiny glass towers adjacent to rail tracks, and, if you arch your neck sufficiently, the CN Tower, which was just a speck on the horizon twenty minutes ago when you left the airport. Before you know it, the train will be pulling into the single-platform dedicated train station for the UP Express, adjacent to the Union station.
Welcome to Toronto!
Ticket price and alternatives:
$12 one way for the entire journey. If you are a frequent commuter, I will definitely suggest buying a PRESTO card for $6 – you will break even in two trips since the cost of a PRESTO fare is $9.
Oddly enough, the fee for one-stop and two-stop journeys is $5.3 and $5.65 respectively. The total number of stops on this line is three, aside from your station of origin. So if you really want to save a couple of dollars, you can buy a two-stop ticket, get off and buy a one-stop ticket, and board the next train in fifteen minutes.
The system is not fully integrated with Toronto’s transit system; you will be required to pay additional fare to get on the subway, bus or streetcar. In fact, may local public transport users prefer to travel on the city transit system that will take you anywhere in the city for about $3.
Stops: Pearson International Airport, Weston, Bloor, Union
Journey time and frequency: It takes 25-30 minutes from station to station, and there is a train every 15 minutes.