Hate to say I said so

Posted on December 1st, 2009 3 great comments. Room for one more!

but I said so.

I’m talking, of course, about the Union Station Revitalization project that’s been floating around City Hall since at least last year. There were all sorts of crazy projections floating around about how long it would take to complete the thing, but most of them seemed awfully unrealistic. With no real information or experience of any kind in these matters, I came up with an arbitrary start date of 2011 with completion set for some nebulous time after that. Now, with the project winding its way through the last dusky corridors of City Hall, I’m a little troubled that the number I pulled out of my ass is probably closer to reality than anything the experts were paid exorbitantly for.

Part of the problem is that, along with my far-flung dates, I also had visions of a Hindenburg-like execution that, on top of stretching the project out to a future when the apes have taken over, includes cost overruns that are certain to result in another new tax.

The Star article that finally broke ground on reality mentioned that the construction company that will be doing most of the work will try to be accommodating and will try to “make the hoardings (crowd barriers) as attractive as possible”. I hadn’t been to Union Station for a while so I popped by again to see these attractive new hoardings for myself.

union station, revitalization, project, transit, go, construction, toronto, city, life

So, okay, this is pretty subjective, but I’m not feeling any aesthetic love here. I only bother to mention it because it seems to be an indicator of what is stated versus what is reality, something that, not being realized on this initial small scale, will probably translate to larger misses when the project really gets going. In other words, if this is Vanbot’s version of attractive, their other definitions/time lines/estimates are also likely to be a bit off.

I would be pleased as punch to be proven wrong on this. But really, should we care about temporary barriers? Isn’t what will ultimately be underneath be more important? I’d like to say yes, but if these things will be hanging around for a minimum of 5 years, I don’t think that the word temporary really applies; they will effectively be Union Station for the next half-decade.

The Star article also mentions that part of the move to a new Union Station is to try to make it more of a destination. Two problems with that:

  • Do we really need another place to spend money we don’t have? Having restaurants near to the Rogers Centre makes sense, but how many people are eager to run for the train laden with impulse purchases?
  • The GO concourse is already a destination! People arrive at the station to wait for trains and buses, maybe buy a coffee and a bagel. If not, they’re on their way to work or on their way back home. Chances are that if they’d wanted to do something elsewhere — to shop, for example — they would’ve done so on their way to the station; there’s plenty of opportunity.

union station, concourse, revitalization, project, transit, go, construction, toronto, city, life

Finally, and this is really more me wondering out loud, what types of new retail they could introduce that they don’t already have? Morning caffeine, newspapers, and a bite to eat are all well-represented. There’s currently a liquor store for carry-on entertainment, a bar for the less patient, and a dry cleaner for those on the vomitous tail end of either one. I can’t imagine what could be missing.

union station, revitalization, project, transit, go, concourse, construction, toronto, city, life

You may want to savour these images, it’s unlikely that the station will look like this much longer. Even if, as I suspect, they don’t start work for another couple of years, upkeep on something that is scheduled to be demolished isn’t likely to be a priority. It’s exactly the same reason I have for not cleaning my flat. And I don’t even sell anything (legal) from there!

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