The fastest jaunt from YYZ: Riding Toronto’s UP Express airport train

Aug 27, 2021

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The best way to get from Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) to Downtown Toronto isn’t by Uber or taxi. Instead, it’s by the Union Pearson Express (UP Express for short), Toronto’s relatively new express rail link to YYZ. It will whisk you from YYZ to the city in just 25 minutes, with departures every 30 minutes during the pandemic.

Better yet, it’s just a fraction of the cost of an Uber from YYZ to downtown. I took the UP Express from YYZ when I was in Toronto earlier this month covering Canada’s reopening to vaccinated Americans.

Here’s a look at my experience riding the train and everything you need to know before riding it yourself.

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In This Post

Everything you need to know about the UP Express

UP Express Train in Toronto
(Photo by sockagphoto/Shutterstock.com)

The UP Express is Toronto’s express train service between Toronto Pearson International Airport and Toronto’s downtown Union Station. It makes just two other stops en route to Union Station and — as discussed — takes just 25 minutes to complete the journey.

Right now, trains run every 30 minutes from the airport due to the coronavirus pandemic. That said, it runs every 15 minutes during normal times. We’re hopeful that standard service will resume once international travel to Canada picks up.

The train itself isn’t high-speed per se, but it’s faster than you might expect. According to UP Express, its trains travel at up to 87 mph, which is far faster than any subway or bus. Plus, it avoids traffic you might encounter when taking a car into the city.

How much is a UP Express ride?

A single ride on the train costs $12.35 Canadian dollars, equal to $9.86 U.S. dollars at the time of writing this article. Better yet, children under 12 ride free, making this a budget-friendly option for families with young children. This is far cheaper than an Uber or Lyft from YYZ to downtown that can cost more than $40 one-way during peak times.

Related: How train travel can be good for the environment

My experience riding the UP Express to Toronto

Actually riding the UP Express is a seamless process once you arrive at YYZ. I arrived at Terminal 1 on an Air Canada flight from the U.S. and found the UP Express ticket booth right outside customs. You can either buy your ticket here, at the machine across from the booth or at machines nearby the train entrance.

I bought a ticket at the kiosk and made my way to the train station. It’s a hike from the terminal, but there is plenty of signage telling you where to go. You’ll walk over the sky bridge that connects the airport to the parking garage and then up a series of escalators. There are more ticket machines available at the entrance — you may want to purchase tickets here as they are valid for one hour from issuance.

I arrived a few minutes before the next scheduled train was set to depart. The platform was mostly empty, but the train was full toward the front. A friendly UP Express employee asked me if I had a ticket and then directed me toward the back of the train, where there were plenty of seats available.

There are luggage racks in each train car, which is a huge benefit for those traveling with checked bags. I placed my bag in the rack closest to the door.

I took a bulkhead seat by the door. There are plastic dividers between each seat, which I appreciate during a global pandemic. The seats are comfortable and the legroom is more than adequate for the 25-minute ride. There’s a screen and map on the bulkhead.

You’ll find power outlets at each seat and free Wi-Fi throughout the train. I worked on my laptop for the bulk of the train ride and the internet connection was stable.

UP Express power outlet
(Photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy)

UP Express’ train cars remind me of the Hong Kong Airport Line, which is a similar train service from Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) to Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. The interiors look similar and have nearly identical amenities. The only major difference is that UP Express runs diesel trains while the Airport Line is electrified.

The 25-minute ride went by quickly and we pulled into Toronto Union Station right on time. It’s a beautiful train station, with a classic arrivals hall. It’s in close proximity to most downtown hotels and provides transit links to GO Transit trains, Amtrak and Via Rail.

Related: Why didn’t I fly? 13 hours on Amtrak from New York to Montreal

Bottom line

I would gladly take UP Express again from YYZ to Toronto. It’s a quick and convenient train service that is faster than rush hour traffic and a fraction of the cost of an Uber. Plus, it’s great for tourists staying at a hotel downtown as it’s just a quick walk from some of Toronto’s most iconic hotels. Do yourself a favor and try it out on your next trip to Toronto.

Feature photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy.

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