Checking in: Union Station Revitalization

Posted on March 21st, 2013 3 great comments. Room for one more!

This city project that I was blogging about as early as 2009 has always been a bit difficult for me to imagine. I mean, I knew that the areas beneath the station (where the daily commuter crunch happens), were going to be gutted and something new was going to go in, but I recently discovered some new images showing what it’s really going to look like in the end. (Yes, I did borrow these from blogTO.)

The best one is probably the basic cross-section showing how the ground beneath the trains is being transformed:

20130321-Union-Diagram

Basically, they’re splitting the lower mezzanine into two levels from the existing one.

I’m not sure how this is going to connect to the TTC and PATH, but presumably (see below), this is being done to accommodate more foot traffic, so hopefully they won’t try to jam double the people into the same entrances and exists.

The builders, NORR Architects, also provided some artist’s renderings of the upgraded station:

20130321-Union-GORender  20130321-Union-RetailRender

Based on the illustration above, it seems like there’s a lot of wasted vertical space. This is where my doubt (above) comes from.

Don’t get me wrong, aesthetically it’s nicer, but the fact that this is being done in a limited space beneath the trains make me wonder how efficient this will actually be. But I’m staying optimistic.

The one thing we can definitely look forward to is seeing a newly scrubbed exterior on the station, and new moat roofs over the lower-level outdoor pedestrian areas (where all the smokers hang out):

20130321-Union-ExteriorRender

20130321-Union-MoatRender

I don’t take GO, or the TTC for that matter, nearly as much as I used to. However, even when I was commuting daily (and this was many years ago), the crush was sometimes unbearable and the station just seemed horribly dated. The decor would probably have been pretty cool in the 70s, but with the wear of age and constant traffic, it was just starting to look rundown.

Personally, I look forward to seeing the newly reno’ed station — it’s an indelible slice of Toronto, and worth an occasional (but sensitive), upgrade or two.

3 Comments on “ Checking in: Union Station Revitalization ”

  • Daniel J. Christie
    March 21st, 2013 11:47 am

    I spent ten years of a 30-year railroad career in GO Transit operations, then run by my employer, CN. Iwas an engineer, the person who drives the train. Union Station’s GO platforms were dangerous 30 years ago, crowded, poorly lit, littered. Everyone knew back then that there would never be (not in our lifetimes anyway….) a comprehensive overview of GO operations that might dovetail into an airport line up the Weston Sub, co-ordination with the TTC or, God forbid, use of the CP North Toronto Station/Liquor Store to facilitate CP GO operations from Milton on CP’s North Toronto Sub relieving pressure on Union. While many of these ‘innovations’ may now be being considered -or even implemented- the fact remains that since its inception as a Centennial Project in 1967, GO Transit has always had a kind of temporarieness hanging over it. Yes, Union Station is badly in need of an upgrade but I stand by what I have said so many times elsewhere, usually about VIA Rail: Stations don’t move people; trains do.


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  • Patrick
    March 21st, 2013 12:17 pm

    Noted! :)


  • Daniel J. Christie
    March 21st, 2013 12:27 pm

    Possibly the most important change in GO operations (since the installation of 8.2 miles of dedicated main between Pickering and Whitby) is the handover of the former CN Kingston Sub trackage from Pickering to Union. Lack of freight business on that stretch and the huge GO eastern storage facility at the old CN Don Yard is certainly encouraging. These, from an operating perspective, are the things that really matter. And, I never thought I’d see the day when the CP/CN Junction diamond was undercut. How much of my life was wasted waiting for the light at Weston to get back down to Bathurst North yard with a string of loads out of Canada Packers. But CP controlled the light and trains entering and departing Lambton Yard had priority over CN yard and transfer movements.


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