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Union Pearson Express marks 1st year with near-4x ridership surge following fare cut

The new Union-Pearson Express train is pictured in motion as it rides along the rail, in Toronto on August 29, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Stephen C. Host

Once targeted for steep fares and near-empty trains, Toronto’s Union Pearson Express airport rail link has seen a dramatic rebound in ridership since slashing fares, with usage nearly quadrupling in time for its first anniversary.

While the every-15-minute train service was carrying about 2,200 daily average riders at the start of the year, the service announced Monday — UPX’s one-year mark — that it now boards 8,200 passengers a day.

The growth comes after fares were cut by roughly half in March as the service became a political controversy for the provincial government, with the premier stepping in to call for changes.

VIDEO: Wynne says ‘changes needed’ for Union Pearson Express
Click to play video: 'Wynne says ‘changes needed’ for Union Pearson Express' Wynne says ‘changes needed’ for Union Pearson Express
Wynne says ‘changes needed’ for Union Pearson Express – Feb 10, 2016

The estimate is based on head counts, ticket sales and other measures, with a final tally based on revenue due later, spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins said.

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Ridership is expected to keep growing, climbing about 6 per cent a week. Four out of five of passengers take the train to the airport, while the rest are commuters, Aikins added.

“We couldn’t be more happy that people are loving the service,” she said in an email.

When UPX launched with what critics deemed a too-pricey cash fare of $27.50, the one-year goal was 5,000 average riders.

Aikins couldn’t provide a revised target under the cheaper fare structure, saying the service was “still determining the impact of the change.”

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