"When my ship comes in...", the old joke goes, "I'll be at the airport!"

Joking aside, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) wants to turn that cliche-twister further around so that, one day soon, people will seriously say, "When my bus comes in, I'll be at Pearson airport."

The GTAA is developing plans for what it's dubbing "Union Station West", a regional transit hub at Toronto Pearson International Airport, which it hopes to open by the late 2020s. The airport authority continues to reach out to, and work with, transit agencies and governments to firm up plans for rapid transit to and from the Pearson area. For example, the GTAA"s vision includes extending the light rail transit lines along Eglinton and Finch Avenues West and connect the future Highway 407 rapidway to the air terminals and the Mississauga Transitway.

Map illustrating how Pearson could link to LRTs, trains and buswaysA transit hub at Pearson could link several major transit services, image, GTAA

Speaking of the transitway, that's why the GTAA's president and chief executive officer Howard Eng joined the federal member of parliament, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, and the City of Mississauga's mayor, Bonnie Crombie, to officially launch a new express bus service linking central Mississauga to Pearson Terminals 1 and 3 on Friday, November 23.

Since October 29, MiWay passengers have been able to travel along the entire transitway between Winston Churchill and Renforth stations and then express through mixed-traffic to and from Pearson. MiWay "MiExpress" buses along the new 100 Airport express route stop at all 12 transitway stations, also allowing passengers to connect with the TTC, GO Transit and Brampton Transit buses.

MP Bains and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie beside a MiWay busBains and Crombie pose with a PRESTO farecard before boarding a MiWay bus at Mississauga City Hall, image, City of Mississauga

“Mississauga residents now have better transit options to access the Toronto Pearson International Airport,” said Minister Bains. “Our government is helping create a new route that will serve the growing needs of riders in Mississauga, whether they travel for work or pleasure.” Bains, who is the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, represented the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities at the launch event. But Bains would likely have appeared anyway--his home riding of Mississauga-Malton contains Pearson airport.

Map illustrating MiWay MiExpress route 100 Airport expressMap of MiWay MiExpress route 100 Airport express, image, MiWay

The federal Public Transit Infrastructure Funding program—an equal cost-sharing funding program in which the City of Mississauga and the Government of Canada each contributed $58 million—helped the City to fund the new express bus service. The program is also helping the city improve other transit services, including buying 13 new buses, buying another 80 buses to replace part of the current fleet and rehabilitating another 280 more buses.

Dignitaries pose before MiWay bus at PearsonThe GTAA's Eng and Mississauga councillors Ron Starr and Dave Cook joined Bains and Crombie at Pearson, image, City of Mississauga

“This new route offers a quick, efficient and more affordable way for residents, visitors and thousands of airport employees to get to and from Toronto Pearson International Airport,” said Mayor Crombie. “It is also good for business because it makes it easier for international companies to move employees from the airport to their offices in Mississauga. By strengthening regionally connected transit, we are helping create jobs and grow our economy.”

MiWay bus at Orbitor Station on the Mississauga TransitwayA MiWay bus leaves Orbitor Station on the Mississauga Transitway, August 7, 2017, photo, James Bow, Transit Toronto

The rationale for a building a major transit terminal at or near the airport is becoming increasingly clear. Pearson welcomes more than 47 million passengers annually and contributes directly or indirectly to 6.3 per cent of Ontario's gross domestic product. The airport zone now offers jobs to 300,000 people and 49,000 of those jobs are at Pearson itself. The GTAA estimates that "in the future", the airport would handle 85 million visitors, while the nearby area would supply 700,000 jobs and generate 8.5 per cent of the provincial GDP.

In fact, the airport area is now the second-largest employment centre in Canada–behind downtown Toronto but ahead of Montreal and Vancouver in the list. (And many of the people working there live in Mississauga.) Unlike most major Canadian employment areas, however, this one currently has very poor transit connections.

“We congratulate the City of Mississauga on the launch of [this] service, which will improve transit connectivity to Mississauga for our passengers and employees. Mississauga is home to more than 13,000 airport employees and many global businesses that rely on timely access to the airport,” said Eng. "We look forward to continuing to work with the City and other surrounding municipalities to enhance Toronto Pearson’s regional transit connectivity as we work towards our vision of serving as the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area’s second major transit hub.”

Representatives of the business community, including David Wojcik, president and chief executive officer of the Mississauga Board of Trade, endorsed the new bus service and supported the goal of improving regional connections to Pearson.

“As a global organization, we frequently travel and welcome a great deal of guests through Toronto’s Pearson International Airport,” said Alok Kanti, President and CEO, Bayer Inc. “We are pleased to see that this expansion has been completed as it will lead to improved accessibility for our employees and those that we do business with.”

Dignitaries pose inside Pearson's Terminal One.GTTA Mississauga officials and business people with the other dignitaries at Pearson's Terminal 1, image, City of Mississauga

“[Our company] owns and manages an extensive portfolio of commercial real estate, with properties and team members located across North America,” said Tullio Capulli, Vice President, Property Management and Leasing Office and Industrial, Eastern Canada, Morguard Brokerage. “Having a direct transit line between the airport and the Mississauga core, where our head office is located, is a great option for our tenants and our employees.”

The MiExpress buses along route 100 operate every 16 minutes from about 4 AM until 7 PM Mondays to Fridays. But, they also add to the mix of MiWay services along the bus-only roadway, offering passengers frequent service—about every five minutes—during rush hours. GO Transit buses also operate along the transitway linking Hamilton and Pearson to the airport and central Mississauga. Those buses, however, require an extra fare, making them less attractive to Mississauga commuters.

The City of Mississauga has opened the transitway in stages since 2014. In 2014, the shorter route attracted 8,022 riders. In 2017, 15,143 passengers boarded buses along the transitway—an increase, the City of Mississauga says, of 77 percent. End to end, it has reduced bus travel times by about fifteen minutes per trip.

Early rendering of the proposed Pearson transit hubA very early rendering of the proposed Pearson transit hub, image, GTAA

Last February, the GTAA engaged HOK to design the regional transit centre and passenger processing facility. HOK is leading a design team that includes WSP Engineers and Weston Williamson + Partners. It intends to engage with many stakeholder groups, including airport partners, government and local community members.

We will continue to update you on plans for the "Union Station West" terminal at Pearson as they unfold. What do you think of the proposal? Add your comments by filling in the form below this page. Or take part in our Forum by joining one of these discussion threads:

* * *

UrbanToronto has a new way you can track projects through the planning process on a daily basis. Sign up for a free trial of our New Development Insider here.