Union Station Revitalization

On Wednesday, November 14, the City of Toronto will host an open house at Union Station to display plans for the station from 12:30 to 6:30 pm.  Further information on the Union Station project is available on the City’s website.

Please note that although I am a member of the Union Station Revitalization Public Advisory Group for this project, the following comments reflect my personal opinion, not that of the USRPAG.

Today, the National Post reported GO Transit’s Gary McNeil as saying that GO should buy the station to take it out of the hands of “dithering politicians”.  McNeil, along with others who mused recently about taking over the TTC, should stick to running their own businesses before they weigh in on City matters.

Union Station’s future was mired for years in a failed scheme to have it managed on a long-term contract by a private company, and there was good reason to believe both that the selection process for a private partner and the financial situation for the City were less than ideal.  Much time was wasted in this exercise.

Although the detailed report is not yet public, some indication of the short-term spending requirements has already appeared in the Budget Analyst’s notes for the City’s Capital Budget.  Some Council members will groan about the high cost of owning this heritage station, and McNeil’s proposal that GO would happily take the building on will have an eager audience.  They should think twice. 

GO has been starved for funding for well over a decade, and the last thing it needs is the expense of bringing an aging and poorly-maintained station up to first class condition.  Moreover, GO’s operations will soon fall under the GTTA which may have its own spending priorities.

Meanwhile, some members of Council mused recently about shops and markets in Union Station.  This is a nice idea, but why couldn’t they wait for the staff report on the station to come out? 

A fish market at Union, if nothing else, will lend a distinct aroma to Gary McNeil’s trains.  For those long winter nights when trains languish miles from Union Station, McNeil might add a self-serve grill to the GO concourse so hungry passengers can eat their catch-of-the-day while it’s still fresh.

Union Station needs a lot of work to handle the expected growth in demand over the coming decades.  Many agencies need to work together with each other, with the politicians and with the public to make Union Station the great hub it can be for downtown’s transportation systems.

Those who take off in their own directions wanting only to read their name in the National Post as often as possible do nothing to aid this vital project.