An express rail link to Pearson airport is a fine idea, as long as the scheme doesn’t make second-class travelers out of anyone whose trip starts somewhere other than Union Station.
Until now, it looked as if residents in Brampton or northwest Toronto would not be able to access the airport via the busy Georgetown rail corridor that runs next to Pearson.
At last, plans are moving ahead to bring high-frequency service to this and adjoining GO rail lines, including a private-sector train between Union and the airport.
The stalled project has been handed over to the provincial planning agency Metrolinx and there is now the opportunity for some responsible planning to happen, hopefully in a much more transparent fashion. Many have blamed residents of the Weston area for airing their concerns that the premium-fare airport service would mean the closure of local streets, excessive diesel fumes and most galling — the train wouldn’t even stop in Weston.
The fact is the previous plan was seriously flawed, not only due to the secrecy surrounding the use of public funds, but the manner in which other users along this major corridor would be denied access to Pearson. It’s time to cross fingers that the province can close a deal through its Infrastructure Ontario department that won’t turn the Pearson air rail link into another Highway 407.
When the former Conservative government sold the toll road to a for-profit conglomerate, many Ontarians thought Queen’s Park would protect taxpayers and drivers better. Not so.
Since Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty insists on completing the airport line with a high degree of private sector involvement, we can at least ask that the secrecy of the transaction be only the minimum required.
The airport rail link is bundled with significant and overdue public investment. It may be tempting to hide subsidies to private concerns within this near-billion dollar mega-project, but Queen’s Park and Metrolinx must follow the best practices used elsewhere in the world.
The public deserves clear answers about this multi-corridor scheme and they should get them at six upcoming public meetings in early February. Comment online at metrolinx.com.