On June 6th, Toronto transit is set to reach a major milestone with the opening of the Union Pearson Express, connecting two of the foremost transit hubs in Canada with an airport rail link. On May 25th, UrbanToronto rode the new Metrolinx train from Union Station to Pearson International Airport, previewing the journey 1.5 million riders are projected to make in the coming year.

         The new trains were suplied by Sumitomo and Nippon Sharyo, image by Marcus Mitanis

The journey begins from the spacious Union Station platform (profiled yesterday), where we board one of the UP Express' new Nippon Sharyo DMU trains, set to make the 25 minute trip to Terminal 1 at Pearson International Airport.

Stepping onto the train, image by Jack Landau

Stepping through the level-entry platform screen doors, the interior decor of the train is characterized by soft earth tones, with a subtle interplay of copper, pumpkin, and sage (the official colours of the UP Express) hues seen on the interior fabric (below). Likewise, the otherwise sleek, metallic exterior (above), is accented by stripes of the same colour pallet, giving the train a discrete yet recognizable style.

        A look inside, image by Jack Landau

Riding the UP Express is relaxing and comfortable, with the smooth passage of the train a far cry from rush hour traffic of the 401. The cabin configuration is spacious, with a wide central corridor and ample space for luggage provided in the racks at the front and back of each cabin. Each seat comes equipped with an electrical outlet, while fold-down tray tables accommodate food and drink, as well as computer usethe trains and stations are equipped with free, high-speed wi-fiwhich will prove a certain boon to time-strapped business travelers, fidgety children, and everyone in between.

        A look at the tray table, image by Jack Landau

As the train departs Union Station, an impressive urban vista immediately presents itself from the large windows. Picking up speed, views of South Core and the Financial District skyscrapers quickly give way to CityPlace and Fort York, then Liberty Village and the Gladstone Hotel.

Leaving Union Station, image by Marcus Mitanis

Past Dufferin Street, we race by an eclectic collage of west end row houses, older industrial buildings, and slab apartment towers. After stopping at Bloor Street and at Lawrence Avenue and passing through a couple of gently raked tunnels, we suddenly find ourselves passing over the leafy Humber River ravine, the city views now replaced by golf course and forest. Moving towards Malton, we get a close-up glimpse of the Woodbine Racetrack as the train nears its final destination at Terminal 1.

Passing by the Woodbine Racetrack, image by Jack Landau

Since our test run only briefly pauses at the Bloor and Weston stations, our entire journey takes only slightly over 20 minutes. Even with the two full stops during revenue service, however, the ride will take just under 25 minutes, giving travelers a scenic tour through a diverse cross-section of Toronto neighborhoods while minimizing total travel time.

    The UP Express leaving Pearson International Airport, image by Marcus Mitanis

On the technical side, the UP Expresses' new Nippon Sharyo DMU trains make this the first rail service in North America to use Tier 4 diesel, reducing emissions by 80-90% compared to previous technology. Metrolinx has purchased 18 cars in total, which can operate in a two-car (seen above) or three-car configuration, seating between 115 and 173 passengers respectively. The service will operate between 5:30 and 1:00 AM daily, making approximately 140 trips per day in total. 

Leaving Pearson International Airport, image by Marcus Mitanis

We will return tomorrow with photos from our visit to UP Express' platform at Pearson, and we will provide further updates when Toronto's long-anticipated airport rail link enters into regular service on June 6th. Until then, we leave you with a video of highlights from the journey:

Additional information and renderings of the Union Pearson Express can be found in our dataBase file for the project, linked below. Want to get involved in the discussion? Check out the associated Forum thread, or leave a comment in the space provided at the bottom of this page.

Related Companies:  AECOM, EllisDon, Metrolinx, MMM Group Limited, Morrison Hershfield, WSP, Zeidler Partnership Architects