The Union Station Revitalization proposal, described here in another post, was approved by Toronto’s Executive Committee on Monday, November 26. Press coverage of this event appeared in The Star and The Globe & Mail here and here.
The Union Station Revitalization Public Advisory Group (USRPAG), of which I am a member, presented a deputation to the Executive Committee which will appear in Part II of this thread.
Since the current scheme surfaced, so to speak, I have had various comments here (not all published) asking about the viability of the proposed retail concourse and the links between it and the rail concourse above. So that readers can better understand the proposal, I have included below a number of illustrations taken from a virtual tour of the redesign scheme.
[Updated: Views of the proposed atrium in the GO Trainshed have been added.]
One important thing to remember is that the layouts are not cast in stone, and improvements can be made.
The Existing Go Concourse is located under the east wing of the station and only extends about half way down the trainshed. The rail level is about 1.5 stories above this, and the GO area includes a cramped set of mezzanines between the concourse level and the tracks. The north end of this concourse is primarily occupied by fast food outlets.
The Existing Concourse Elevations are all at different levels. (In these drawings, elevations are relative to a “zero” at teh base of the structure.
- The Bay Street Concourse (used by GO) is at 7’6″. This is actually a bit below the level of the Arrivals Hall under the Great Hall — remember that there are a few steps up as you go west from the GO area into the Great Hall itself.
- The York Street Concourse (now used primary by a rental car agency) is at 10’00”.
- The Lower Centre Concourse (the basement under the Via Rail concourse) is at 4’6″.
This arrangement makes movement between the concourses impossible.
The proposed new retail concourse is at elevation 2’0″ across the entire width of the building. This is important because it is the same level as the mezzanine of Union Subway Station to which it will directly connect.
The New Retail Level lies under the GO and Via Concourses. Visible in this drawing is the retail space (pink), the connection up to the Via Concourse (light blue with red arrow), the new loading dock (large gray area on the York Street side), new covers over the moat and teamways (blue) and, in the upper right corner, the connection to the subway.
It is not immediately obvious, but this drawing actually includes the subway mezzanine. The east end of the moat will be excavated to provide a direct connection from the Retail Level across into the subway. By the way, the new second platform for Union Subway Station is under the moat and at the same level as the Harbourfront Streetcar loop to which it will directly connect.
The New Concourse Above Retail Level will be built to match the level of the existing Via Concourse. There is actually a slight difference between them, but it is small enough that the transition can easily be handled by ramps. Note the slot with the red arrow in the north end of the Bay Street Concourse. This is for an escalator bay that, at its lower level, points directly at the crossing to the subway.
There is also an oval-shaped opening in the floor of the Via Concourse that lines up with the existing ramp down from the Great Hall. This is a direct link down to the Retail Level via escalator. Other openings are shown in the Concourse Level to provide views and connections down to the Retail Level, but the locations are not fixed and are shown for illustration only.
The New Go Stairs provide many more connections from the much-expanded GO Concourse to the track level above.
The New Concourse With Stairs shows a similar view, but with the Via Concourse. The red and green boxes are new connections to and from the track level. Remember that the GO Concourse will be higher than it is now, and the distance between it and the tracks will be about 2/3 of what it is today.
(In case anyone is trying to visualize the change, remember that there is the small stair up to the Arrivals Concourse from the GO Concourse, and then the ramp up from the Arrivals Concourse to the Via Concourse. The change in height is roughly the combination of these two increments.)
Also visible in this drawing is the new exit to Union Plaza at the south end of the building (in blue). This will not only provide access from the station to new developments in the area, but access to the station and its Retail Concourse for the large population who will live within walking distance. Anyone who has seen the Dominion in the basement of College Park (Yonge and College) will know the kind of demand a forest of condos can generate.
The Proposed Moat Coverings will provide protection from rain and snow in the moat which is now open to the elements. The central part of the moat is already covered by the bridge from the sidewalk to the Great Hall which is now being restored. Note also the new widened entrance to the Promenade area at York Street and the new stairs down into the moat from the northeast and northwest corners. For other views of the station plans, please refer to my original post.
One additional item worth mentioning is the Go Trainshed Proposal. It is not part of the Union Station project, but is a major plan by GO (who owns the trainshed) to brighten and enhance the platform space. Much of the trainshed will be renovated and painted as it is a heritage structure. However, a central span, matching exactly the width of the Via Concourse below, will be removed and replaced by a raised glass canopy. The position of this structure is dictated by the location of supports below.
Here is the GO Atrium By Night, and you can see it in the distance in the view of Union Plaza linked above.
Finally, there has been some discussion about the possibility of widening platforms and moving tracks. Moving the tracks is physically impossible because they stand on columns that go down to bedrock. Those columns are not going anywhere.
One option that has been proposed is to remove some tracks so that platforms could be widened into the vacated space. I am not sure that we would be left with enough usable track space, although railway stations in other parts of the world are claimed to operate successfully with very frequent service and much different track layouts. However, a major change in the platform arrangement at Union is highly unlikely and, in any event, is not in the scope of the Revitalization Project because the City of Toronto does not own the trainshed itself, only the structure beneath and the air rights overhead.