Union Station Funding Approved

Today, Queen’s Park and Ottawa announced their funding contributions to the Union Station Revitalization project.  Ottawa will spend up to $133-million while Queen’s Park will spend $172-million toward the $640-million total.

At a special Council meeting early in August, Toronto will likely announce the private sector partner who will take the head lease for all of the commercial space in the expanded station, and this lease is expected to contribute a substantial amount to the City’s share of the project.  That partner will be responsible for managing all commercial tenancies.

On other sites that I will not bother to cross-link, there has been an overflowing of bilge on several fronts including the civic workers and VIA strikes, Mayor Miller, spending on “a building that works”, among other arguments.  The level of misinformation, deliberate or otherwise, is staggering.

To refresh everyone’s memory, here is what we are getting for all that money:

  • Restoration of a physical building which has been disintegrating for several years.  Some of this work has already been done or is underway by the City notably the windows in the west wing and the bridge over the Front Street moat.
  • Creation of a completely new two-level concourse area under much of the station.  This will be achieved by digging down so that the lower level is at roughly the same elevation as the existing subway station mezzanine.  The new upper level will handle GO passengers, and will be roughly three times the size of the existing GO area.  The lower level will provide general circulation and shopping.
  • GO improvements and other changes in the station will accomodate a doubling of demand expected at this site over the next decades.  This could not occur without the reconstruction and the provision of greatly expanded pedestrian areas.
  • The lower level of the west wing, now occupied by car rentals and underutilized back-of-house space, will be converted to GO and commercial space.  This work will be completed before work moves to the existing GO space and empty former Post Office areas in the east wing. 
  • Why shopping?  Aside from all the commuters, there will be a large population right outside the soon-to-open south door of Union Station occupying both office towers and condos.  The character of commercial uses in the station should be improved so that it does not appear like an overgrown dollar store.
  • Energy efficiency of the building will be substantially improved, and air conditioning will be provided with deep water cooling from the lake.  Energy is a major operating cost for the station today.
  • The connection to the subway station will be revised to eliminate the stairway between the subway mezzanine and the moat.  The moat will be enclosed so that travellers don’t have to endure the weather, whatever it  may be, to reach the subway and the PATH network beyond.
  • A new northwest PATH connection will be created from Union Station north via York Street to Wellington.  This will divert many commuters from the eastern connection and ease congestion on that side of the station.
  • GO Transit will buy and move into the vacant west wing offices from their leased space at the foot of Bay Street.  These offices will be renovated to modern requirements, but some heritage areas will be retained.
  • Connections between various parts of the building will be improved, and new links will be added to simplify access between sections and to spread out pedestrian traffic.  For example, there will be links to the new GO concourses through the archways in the south wall of the Great Hall now occupied by the Security Office (east) and Harvey’s (west).
  • A new south entrance, built as part of the recent GO Transit platform work, will give passengers direct access to a plaza between the station, the Air Canada Centre and other new developments in the area.  A new taxi stand in this area is intended for use by arriving VIA passengers to separate them from the activity on Front Street.
  • The east entrance via the old Post Office, now Scotiabank, will be reopened and the space on the ground floor will become part of the public area of the railway station.
  • Renovation of the York Street teamways for pedestrian use in a manner similar to what is now in place on Bay Street.
  • This heritage building will be restored, where appropriate, by stripping off more recent additions such as mid-60s ticket counters.
  • GO Transit will rebuild the trainshed substantially in the form it now has but (a) cleaner and brighter, (b) with provision for future electrification and (c) with a glass atrium roof running the length of the shed in the area directly above the VIA concourse (the location is dictated by the location of supporting columns beneath).

Information on this project is available on the Union Station website.

Other projects that will take place in the same timeframe include:

  • TTC’s second platform for Union Subway Station.
  • TTC’s expansion of capacity in the Harbourfront streetcar loop to accommodate the new eastern waterfront streetcar service.
  • The reconfiguration of Front Street from Bay to York to provide additional pedestrian capacity.

It is unfortunate that this announcement comes just as VIA staff go on strike.  However, the project has been in the works for years, and spending on this major work with decades of future benefit is long overdue.  Fortunately, the announcement was not delayed in deference to then-pending strike.  Moreover, the primary beneficiaries of this work will be commuters on GO Transit for whom additional train capacity is constrained by the limits of the station itself.

Some have claimed that there is nothing wrong with Union Station that needs fixing.  They have not looked closely at either the building itself, at the severe congestion problems or at the vast amount of unused space available for expansion, much of this hidden from public view.

This is not a “make work” project, but something Toronto badly needs.  Union Station handles more passengers every year than Pearson Airport on a fraction of the capital budget.  The station doesn’t get to charge an improvement fee to every passenger to fund its ongoing construction and operations.

The reconstruction will be a long project, not without its inconveniences.  We are lucky to have an almost-empty west wing in which to start and create new space for GO so that existing operations can continue during the early phases.  Detailed design will be completed this fall with work in the west wing to begin in early 2010.  The project will complete in 2014.

27 thoughts on “Union Station Funding Approved

  1. This is great, great news. Rail is going to be much more important for any urban community in the near future that all these plans you gave a breakdown for shows me that Metrolinx is showing a lot of thought to what the future is most likely going to look like and what we are going to need.

    I know it is cosmetic but I greatly appreciate the high ceiling they have planned for the new GO station. I was at Penn Station in NYC not too long ago and the low ceiling there made the whole station feel more crushed then it is – it does handle a lot more traffic then Union does but feels a thousand times more crowded because of this design.

    Steve: The double-height ceiling is only in the north half of the new east concourse, and I’m not sure how “low” the Penn Station ceilings are by comparison with the Union Station scheme.

    One item that isn’t included but I feel strongly that it should be is that the Coach Canada Terminal isn’t included in these plans. I think with all the commuter rail, subways, streetcars and GO buses st Union Station that the Coach Canada bus terminal makes much more sense having it at this transit hub to help us commuters. I have a little self interest here as I have family that lives in a smaller city that GO doesn’t service so I have to get my commuter bus at the Coach Canada Terminal up on Bay St. Please Metrolinx include this commuter bus terminal in these plans.

    Steve: There have been studies of alternate coach terminal locations, but I don’t think anything is settled. The biggest problem is finding a chunk of land that is available, large enough and easy to connect to the railway station.


  2. I have doubts that this will provide enough capacity to handle the 2020 plans. We will need even more GO platforms soon. Are there any provisions for underground platforms for electric trainsets in these plans?

    Steve: No. Moreover creation of such platforms would be extraordinarily difficult if not impossible under the existing station, and the only alternative proposal has been a secondary station west of the existing one. However problems with capacity of the tracks leading into downtown remains.


  3. Great news! I wasn’t originally sure about all the shopping when this was announced, but after seeing what Washington, D.C. has done with their Union Station, I’m more excited. If Toronto can do something similar to Washington, then I think it will be an exciting part of the downtown core.

    As for the bus station, I thought that the site at York and Harbour was going to be used? Was that not finalized?

    Steve: There is no decision yet on the bus station. It’s worth noting that the distance to York and Harbour from the subway is over twice as long as from Bay Street Terminal to Dundas Station. Just the sort of convenience we want for travellers with luggage.


  4. It’s clearly not impossible in an absolute sense to get underground platforms at union. The question is how deep do they have to be and as a corollary to that, how far out do the tunnels need to start?

    My suspicion is a station (and I would call it a separate station, they’re clearly integrated but anything on this scale is going to be quite distinct operationally from the current station) would fit just below the level of the street underpasses (or the new concourses if they are lower than the street crossings). In any case once the approach tunnels get below street level it shouldn’t be too hard to get to just about any reasonable depth before hitting the station.

    These approach tunnels are the real problem, but assuming electric only operation it looks like the western entrance isn’t too hard with portals between Strachan and Bathurst (especially if the railway buys the triangle of land inside the junction of the Weston and Lakeshore corridors).

    Steve: To get a sense of relative elevations, you may want to look at the post I did a while ago with some cross sections of the station shown. (Note that the first drawing in that post is from the TTC and does not include the lowered moat which shows up in later images within the article.) The lower concourse level is at the same elevation as the existing subway mezzanine which is, itself, close to the surface of Front Street. The new Northwest PATH will go over the subway structure west of the station at roughly this elevation. One of the better cross sections from that post shows the relative levels of everything including the existing tracks.

    The ideal place for additional station space is just south of Front Street, but unfortunately we filled it up with the convention centre and a hotel, among other things. The convention centre goes down a long way under the existing rail corridor and it extends south beyond Bremner Boulevard. That poses a big barrier to any underground structure coming from the west. There is also the little problem of the water table which, of course, would be above anything we might build there.

    The maximum grade for electrified operation would be 2%. You would need a minimum of 25 feet to provide for a roof slab and support for whatever the new station was built under, clearance for overhead power and the trainshed. At a 2% grade, the approach ramp would be 1,250 feet long. To this must be added the length of the station itself, at least 1000 feet, and so the descent into the new station must begin something like 2,250 feet west of whatever structure will be the east limit. The ramp has to be fitted, somehow, into the existing rail corridor and hooked up with the Weston and/or Oakville subdivisions. My preference would be to link to the Weston line both because it’s easier (it could descend through the existing Bathurst yard, and would not conflict with other movements), and because this corridor is more likely to have trains whose trips end at Union.

    I believe this is somewhat in line with what you are proposing.

    Sorry for Imperial measure. These things were built in feet.

    In the east things are harder, with streets all crossing below grade, and more frequently as well. Off hand I would guess the deciding factor as to reasonability of the tunnel is whether the descent can be stuffed into a space west of the Don without closing any underpasses. This one does look like the answer might be no, but I wonder if the grade might be acceptable to get under Cherry street within the Don Yard? Failing that, would it be the end of the world to close Sherbourne underpass?

    Steve: Yes. One of the goals of the eastern waterfront plans is to make as many places where it is possible to cross the rail corridor as possible. Land there is also more constrained than to the west and it would be trickier to fit a ramp structure.

    All in all, I admit new platforms aren’t necessarily a good idea, but it is a smaller project than, say, burying the highway, and is, IMO, worth a preliminary feasibility study when we look at Union’s capacity. It’s certainly the kind of project that wouldn’t be regretted afterward.

    Steve: Just to make sure this is not a straw man, nobody is talking about buring the highway, only putting it on the surface from Jarvis to the Don in an area that has a lot of underused land at present making the project comparatively easy to implement. Issues of whether this should be done are quite separate and I don’t want to get into a war about that here.

    Aside from all that, the idea itself also raises the possibility of an underground bus terminal. Such a terminal is hard to justify on its own, but wouldn’t necessarily be a huge addition to an underground station addition, and would solve the space problem quite nicely. Of course, the other possibility that looks really good to me is to put the terminal in the ACC parking lot; I can think of a number of ways to do it and preserve parking, but is it really so vital to have a lot of parking right next to Union Station? For that matter, couldn’t the ACC work something out with Blue 22 and the GTAA for even parking at the Airport and a shuttle downtown?

    Steve: What do you mean by the “ACC parking lot”? If you refer to the land on the east side of Bay, it’s privately owned and will have a building on it at some point. Basically, almost all of the “vacant” land south of Union Station is slated for redevelopment, and is not in the public sector. This is another example of how various political interests allowed the rail lands and associated space in the waterfront to be sold off rather than reserving enough space for corridor expansion and additional transportation uses. At the time, nobody was thinking of the huge growth in future rail travel, and many still hoped for an expressway network into downtown. Things have changed, but we are living with bad choices made decades ago.


  5. Steve comments:
    “This is another example of how various political interests allowed the rail lands and associated space in the waterfront to be sold off rather than reserving enough space for corridor expansion and additional transportation uses.”

    Simple, we run the rail lines along the Gardiner’s elevated section! A downtown terminal can be built into an adjoining building. Put a green canopy over top, and voila!

    The previous is of course a joke. The Sekrit Agenda of the Waterfront Master Plan is to put in multiple swanboat terminals all along the lakeshore.


  6. Is there sufficient space in North Toronto (Summerhill) station for the Swan Boat Canal to the Don?

    This is an important consideration as we look at how to accommodate an overflow of Swan Boats at Union Station.


  7. I sure hope you’re right Steve. I hope that Union Station’s commercial spaces do not turn out like Warden Station’s (even though they are two different stations on two different systems). At Warden station there were originally two stores called Flirtations, the signage for them still exists above the stores. It was designed to give people something to do when they were at the station and make it more commercial. Those stores are now run down and cheesy dollar stores that add nothing, and may even take away from the beauty of the station.


  8. You sure aren’t kidding about this Union Station project being long overdue! Anyone who walks in that place in 2014 is probably in for a real treat. One question I have, though, is that isn’t it going to be more than a little tricky to put in that new lower concourse under the existing one?

    Steve: The process will be that the existing columns will be replaced one by one (they go below the current floor level), and the existing floor will be removed. The new columns will be built to look similar (round, in the 20s style), but will actually be steel for structural support surrounded by a non-bearing decorative surface. The upper level will be installed as a separate floor supported by the new columns that will pass through this level up to the existing track slab.

    Another question I have is where are the car rental facilities going to be located?

    No matter what we do to make society more rail and transit-friendly and less car dependent, there’s still going to be those who either need, think they need, or just plain outright prefer to rent a car when they get off a VIA or (dare I say) Blue 22 train.

    Steve: Not in the station. I have no idea where they are going, but their lease on the space will be terminated so that construction can begin in the west wing next year.


  9. I am trying to remeber how many tracks VIA has in the new Union Station. I think it is 4 but they should only be allowed 2 considering the number of passengers they have compared with GO. If they only had 2 then they might have to change their modus of operation into something approaching the 20th century. Instead of moving GO operations to the North Toronto station VIA should be moved there as they would not overload the Yonge subway and all of the GO trains would share a common downtown terminal. I rate the possibility of this happening slightly lower than my plan to remove two lanes of traffic from Avenue Road in order to widen the sidewalks and put in bicycle lanes, complete with a modified T-bar to help northbound bikes up the hill.


  10. Steve.. just read your article now and have chanced upon your website. Nice work.

    The Union Station upgrade is long overdue. Walking off a go train toward my cubicle north of Front, requires that I now slow march through the moat in sometimes -30c weather to the path at Royal Bank and beyond.

    The PATH system in Toronto works. It’s amazing not having to endure the elements through most of the downtown core during the winter. The missing or weak link is Union.

    Having just returned from Manhattan for the first time, I was surprised, and now I actually have a tepid appreciation for Toronto. This is up from disdain. Yes the GTA has been victimized by very poor political choices in the past 30 yrs, but I can say that there are still some things that work. Glorious Manhattan works as a tourist destination but I really wouldn’t want to make that town home. Jammed up bridges/tunnels to a land locked core island seems problematic to me.

    I can’t stress enough to anyone who will listen, that we do need some important improvements in the GTA

    A) A subway to the airport. Any serious city has one. Munich is fine example among many others. Pearson has a tram to a hotel ???
    B) Expanded PATH system underground is a real gem. We need much more connectivity to our cultural sites via this system.
    C) East/West Subway along 401 and make the Sheppard line go somewhere … like Markham??
    D) Finally now the Union Station upgrade. Enhanced and easier connectivity as a starting point downtown … good start.



  11. “where are the car rental facilities going to be located?”

    I would suspect that they will move into the parking garages of neighbouring office towers. I think some rental companies already have fleet storage and return set up this way. This certainly doesn’t prevent them from having a kiosk at Union.


  12. I would like to thank David Miller for his wonderful growth initiative for Toronto with all the magnificent condos blasting up all over the place, leaving little space for transportaion. I start to wonder if we would even have a Bloor-Danforth line if he was mayor in that time and if the technology was there for condos to be built. Bloor and Danforth would be a condo lane. I wish the provine owned more land in the city so it would prevent alot of these projects from going on. Exaple of this is the vacant lines near Kipling. If the province didnt own that there would certainly be condos and i think the TTC would have more trouble redevelopping those lands.

    Steve: The decision on land use in the rail corridor goes back to the pre-amalgamation days and has nothing to do with David Miller. It was a classic example of the development industry getting what it wanted and transportation taking a distant second place. As for Queen’s Park, I should remind you that under the Harris government, the agency charged with managing provincial lands came under fire for some unsavoury dealings of its own regarding land in the Bay Street condo corridor. I won’t say anything about controlling rampant growth outside of Toronto where the development industry manages to bulldoze through any attempts to constrain it regardless of the party nominally “in control”.

    At Kipling, much of the land is owned by the City, not by the Province, and a proposal for redevelopment is well underway. You may also have noticed the condos just north of Kipling Station. One reason this area took so long to develop is that there were far more attractive lands at Islington.

    As for no subway on BD, David Miller is not anti-subway where it makes sense to use this technology, and the BD corridor is an obvious example. The City’s position on the Richmond Hill extension, by the way, is that a pre-requisite is the Downtown Relief Line, a subway proposal the last time I looked.

    Oh yes, “condo technology”. Hmmm, if by this you mean taking up space with tall buildings, I should point out that the “technology” has existed for much of a century. I live in a mid-60s high-rise near Broadview Station that was a direct result of the subway’s construction. It’s a rental building because condo ownership was comparatively rare in those days, but the land use issues are identical.


  13. Re Robert’s Comments:

    Shhh; don’t tell anyone, the Avenue Road narrowing is going to happen. The T-Bar….ummm, not so likely.


  14. Steve wrote:
    “The ideal place for additional station space is just south of Front Street, but unfortunately we filled it up with the convention centre and a hotel, among other things. The convention centre goes down a long way under the existing rail corridor and it extends south beyond Bremner Boulevard. That poses a big barrier to any underground structure coming from the west. There is also the little problem of the water table which, of course, would be above anything we might build there.”

    I’d think any future Downtown Relief Line choosing to align itself along the rail corridors to serve Union Stn (as opposed to utilizing Queen St as the east-west connector from about Roncesvalles or Dufferin to Broadview or up Carlaw) would best to lie directly underneath the commuter-rail hub as opposed to having a direct transfer with Union subway station (YUS). Whereas Front and/or Wellington Streets are overly built-up and would be very complicated and expensive alignments to implement; routing beneath the train station by contrast would only disrupt traffic flows within Union GO/VIA Station itself during the construction period. In fact were the station stop to lie betwix the ACC and the southernmost platform area of Union, very little disruption would occur actually in the most heavily used section of the terminal.

    Past Union it’d be possible to veer the line up the Esplanade relatively easy (as the GO Transit bus terminal property is a natural pathway the line could follow in getting there. On the west side, the first logical stop would have to be at the Convention Centre (easy walking distance from CN Tower, Rogers Centre, Metro Hall, the CBC and even the Harbourfront Ctr on a warm day), and seeing as increased traffic through their complex would surely be good for business I don’t see why they’d have a problem annexing off one of its North building basement levels to the TTC for a platform area.

    And while this alignment creates quite a bit of distance in-between the existing Union subway stop and this new one, an underground concourse exclusive to TTC patrons within the fare-paid zone could link up the two stops, perhaps with a threadmill walkway like what was once used to connect the two Spadina Stations.

    Steve: What part of my description that said you can’t get past the convention centre underground, let alone under Union Station itself, did you miss? The area you describe is intended for use by the Waterfront West LRT, but it will approach from the south and won’t bump into the convention centre.


  15. Where exactly is the PATH connection to the northwest up York St. going to go? I suppose it could connect to 1 University, and perhaps link up with the west end of the TD Centre, but there aren’t a lot more big towers up that way, and then you hit St. Andrew Stn and the existing PATH. The exits to the York St. Teamway from the west end of the platforms have diverted a huge number of people out of the main GO concourse, as have the stairs that exit directly on to the east and west sides of Bay St, and the exit into the ACC. The pedestrian traffic through the main concourse has been dissipated somewhat so that the main users are now those going to the subway and straight north parallel to Bay St. People going east and west now have better exit options.

    Steve: The teamways have the disadvantage that they’re not underground and all the pedestrians using them have to cross Front Street to go further north. Getting more people into PATH avoids this problem including weather effects.

    If you read the report on the NW Path Website, you will see a detailed map of the new connection on page 24.


  16. Steve wrote:

    “GO improvements and other changes in the station will accomodate a doubling of demand expected at this site over the next decades. This could not occur without the reconstruction and the provision of greatly expanded pedestrian areas.”

    Kevin’s question:

    It is certainly true that right now there is a pedestrian congestion bottleneck in the station and that these expanded pedestrian areas are needed.

    My question is this: post-project, what becomes the bottleneck or limiting factor on traffic?

    Another way of asking this is: Will the station be rebuilt large enough to accomodate the maximum number of rail passengers that can be brought in by train?

    Another way of asking this is to observe that there appear to be three bottlenecks or constraints upon traffic:

    1) The number of trains that can be brought to/from Union on the Lakeshore rail corridor.

    2) The train loading/unloading capacity due to the number and size of platforms at Union.

    3) The capacity of the Union Station pedestrian areas to get people to/from the platforms.

    This project is greatly increasing 3), but will this be increased enough so that all three constraints are maxed out?

    Steve: Items 2 and 3 depend to some extent on item 1. The more trains per hour we bring into the station, the more all of its passenger handling abilities will be stressed. A gaping hole in the Metrolinx plans and projections was that there was no constraint in the demand model on network capacity, and it was assumed that “express rail” service down to a five minute headway would be provided on Lakeshore, Brampton and Richmond Hill services. That’s a lot of trains and passengers, and the grand total projected by Metrolinx is well above what GO was aiming for in their plans at Union. As many here know, I have little faith in a lot of Metrolinx’ technical work, but they publish nice pictures and maps.

    GO’s improvements to the track and signals will allow far more trains to move through the station. The constraint then becomes how long they stay on the platform, and how often a platform can be recycled for another train. If GO decides to give trains enough layover time to allow a platform to clear and then board new passengers, this will take a bit of time. As the GO network builds up it will start to generate significant counterpeak flow (think of how the subway has evolved), and this will almost certainly dictate loading and unloading simultaneously from both sides of the train. It will also likely not be possible to only move trains when nobody is actually on the platform, and that’s another constraint GO has to deal with.

    The capacity of the station partly depends on how it is used. For example, if the scheme were to hold waiting passengers in the concourse until the last possible moment, then concourse capacity will be exhausted more quickly than if you let people wait on the platforms.

    I know this is sounding a bit evasive, but “it depends” as all of the factors are linked. My suspicion is that the biggest problem will be getting people on and off of the platforms, but even that will be addressed with additional stairways and more exits directly into the teamways (as is now done on Bay Street).

    Maxing out all three constraints is something we really don’t want to do, even if things were so carefully balanced that were possible. If any part of a system is running at max, then it is highly susceptible to failure with only a small extra load. Systems with some headroom can absorb short-term overloads and keep working. This is the same premise as not planning transit service anywhere near crush capacity.


  17. Steve said: “What part of my description that said you can’t get past the convention centre underground, let alone under Union Station itself, did you miss? The area you describe is intended for use by the Waterfront West LRT, but it will approach from the south and won’t bump into the convention centre.”

    Sorry if you misinterpreted what I wrote there, its clearer to understand when visualizing it on a map or satelite photos. I never said that we should go directly underneath the main service area of Union’s building structure (i.e. the moat, concourse areas, or walkways to the elevated train hub) but rather locate the new stop at the extreme back of the property; just 2 levels down from the less trafficked outer platform areas 6-9. And if even that poses a problem there’s still the vacancy right behind the trainshed where the CNR freight tracks are located. Surely what I’m recommending here resolves far more issues than it’d create trying to tunnel the DRL underneath Front, Wellington, King, Adelaide, Richmond or Queen Streets through the Financial District, right? Fortifying the foundation of the railbed where excavation would take place between Union and John St, and then burrowing at a feasible turning radius directly beneath track level would have minimal impact on the surrounding community and result in a subway stop near where there’ll soon be a number of condominiums and other points of interest. Better to get this infrastructure in from now in anticipation of future growth and demand levels.

    As for the Convention Centre, when you said the structure goes deep underground, I assumed you were making reference to its basement levels. Mind you, the alignment I’m prescribing doesn’t even have to touch TCC should engineerial odds be that insurmountable. At the base of John Street there’s a vacant lot (Isabella Valency Crawford Park) which the line could cut through, stretching from the rail corridor to Front Street. Observing this from GO track level one would notice the remnants of a former train station with brick or cobbled stone exteriors, flanked by parking lots on either side. That the groundwork of below grade excavation is already in place and would only need to be retrofitted to accommodate a subway right of-way, locating a station here at a NW-SE orientation could be advantageous. From John Station to Spadina the alignment could also easily take advantage of the empty lots (parking spaces) that conveniently take up the whole city block from Front/Blue Jays Way to Clearence Sq/Spadina. Were the line to take on the Wellington Street alignment this would be the optimal pathway to/from Union from a cost-savings perspective.

    Lastly as the existing subway platform, streetcar terminal and this new station would all be at the same grade level, it could be feasible to have a contiuous walkway linking up all three within the fare-paid zone. And depending what angle the WWLRT is entering the streetcar terminal on, it and the DRL would not necessarily run into conflicting right-of-way issues as to totally negate this proposal option.

    Steve: Sorry for being rather rude in my response, but your comment came in at the same time as a string of emails that left me rather exasperated.

    There are several problems with your proposal. I am not sure what you mean by “the less trafficked outer platform areas 6-9”, but assume that you mean the tracks mainly used by VIA. From a structural point of view, it doesn’t matter which tracks are involved, and in any event as service builds up in future years, all tracks will be busier than they are today. Undermining the railway viaduct (the station is actually one long bridge) would be extraordinarily difficult especially considering that you would be working at least partly below the water table.

    The only place something would fit as a starting assumption would be at the south end of the station, beyond the rail viaduct itself, in the space north of the ACC. Room was left there for the WWLRT, but that only gets you to Lower Simcoe Street. Also, this space is probably not big enough for a station, only for two running tracks connecting into the existing Bay Street tunnel.

    “Two levels down” from the track is the new lower concourse. This is at the same level as the TTC subway mezzanine, one level above the subway tracks and Harbourfront streetcar tunnel.

    Continuing west from the area between the ACC and the rail corridor, the next thing you run into is the convention centre. The parking structure for this extends all the way south to the roundhouse building south of Bremner Boulevard. There are entrance buildings in Roundhouse Park, and the turntable actually sits on top of the parking garage. When I talk about a conflict with the Convention Centre, it is that structure I refer to, not the building which lies north of the rail corridor.

    Turning north through the park would be difficult because of the curve radii involved. Possible, but tricky.

    I wouldn’t make any assumptions about the availability of the parking lots unless we are prepared to expropriate a permanent easment through them for a subway tunnel, and that would complicate future construction above.

    Much of your proposal is, in effect, a Front Street subway, and this idea has been floated before. It’s the process of getting to the south side of the rail corridor that presents so many complications. If the DRL West simply swung north from the rail corridor (where I assume it would be underground) at Bathurst and followed Front Street, it could end in a station west of University Avenue. Walking distance to nearby stations would be shorter than coming north from the ACC site.

    A Front Street alignment is a lot simpler than trying to get under the rail corridor. Although it would probably be impossible to create a fare paid walking path for transfers, this should not be as big an issue by the time the line opens and we would have a fare collection system capable of handling transfers without an army of ticket takers.


  18. Something Robert Wightman wrote caught my attention. I wonder what the feasability of running the comparatively smaller VIA train operation from North Toronto Stn would be. Using that sub, the VIA/Guildwood connection couldn’t be “made” without losing way too much time; however the line would come back in to the Lakeshore corridor at Pickering (which is a slightly more logical station for VIA)

    As for Westbound, using that sub it could reconnect with the Lakeshore West of Kipling/GO station.

    However that would create a good deal of dead-heading to get from their yard to their ‘new’ station.

    Any thoughts?

    Steve: I don’t see North Toronto Station as anything more than a small-scale GO operation, ideally one involving through trains from the Milton corridor to Agincourt, North Pickering and beyond. The absence of a staging yard for equipment anywhere nearby would be a big problem for VIA, not to mention the poor connections with GO which is an important way for people who don’t live downtown to access VIA services.


  19. With the issues of capacity at Union Station now becoming a problem, I can’t help but wonder how much GO Transit is kicking themselves for not incorporating the old CP Express Building’s tracks into the design of the GO bus terminal.

    Steve: That site is now the Metro Hall, Roy Thomson Hall and related buildings. The biggest problem is south of the rail corridor where the CN Tower and surrounding structures are hard against the rail lines in what used to be a large yard.


  20. “That site is now the Metro Hall, Roy Thomson Hall and related buildings.”

    Just to clarify Steve, I was referring to where the GO bus terminal at Union Station was built on the east side of Bay; not the old railway freight sheds.


  21. A proper signaling system is a given, but with headway times in the 120-150 second range and dwell times around 50s, Yonge-University and the DRL could BOTH use the same Union subway station with the DRL obviously traveling down Front. As discussed above, anything below Front is required for GO/VIA.

    Steve: No they couldn’t, but I’m not going to get into that debate here. The issue of how many trains can fit on one piece of track has been done extensively in previous posts.


  22. I must be having an airhead moment but I haven’t looked at anything about where to string up the overhead for the trains in the future.

    Steve: From catenary masts just like on any other electric railway.


  23. In the peak hour of the a.m. rush GO operates 13 trains on the Lakeshore, line, 4 on Milton, 4 on Georgetown, 3 from Barrie, 3 from Richmond Hill, and 2 from Stouffville for a total of 29 trains. They have trouble handling these volumes if any problems occur. The a.m. rush is more closely packed than the p.m. but since most of the trains are running out of service from Union the platform allocation is much more flexible which saves time. If GO gets down to 10 minute or better service on all lines then they will have a minimum of 42 trains but there will probably be closer to 8 or 10 trains on the two Lakeshore lines, Milton and Georgetown.

    GO is going to have to greatly improve its signalling system, which is in the works with electrification as well as rethink their passenger flow in Union, not to mention the poor subway which could end up hauling a higher passenger volume northbound in the morning than southbound. I hope they will provide more details as I would be interested in seeing how this works. DO you know if they are going to put in more stairs to each platform as well as escalators as the biggest problem seems to be getting 2000 + passenger from one train off the platform before the next one arrives.

    Steve: Yes, they intend to add to the stairways but there are constraints based on where these can connect to the station and street (the teamways) below. It’s a major problem.


  24. The plans for Toronto Union Station are grand ones alright but if anybody reading this wants to read about some grand plans elsewhere I recommend they visit the website of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Association. Anyone with any familiarity at all with Chicago’s Union Station will REALLY find the plans for that station to be quite fascinating.


  25. Steve and friends: these discussions are fascinating but in the end, it is all a matter of money and political will.

    If we can summon both, the details of existing uses, water, gradients, alignments, voltage, etc, can be resolved, if not perfectly then at least to the satisfaction of the poor folks who actually need and want to get from a to b.

    If not, then we are the last, most selfish, and self-destructive generation ever to drive on this lovely and fragile planet.

    There is a funny thing about Canadians: we talk as if our problems and technical difficulties are unique. But in fact most seemingly insurmountable problems have long ago been dealt with by people who build (and spend) rather than than debate!

    Paris has metro and RER; and even London, both broke and bereft of imagination for so long, now has the Jubilee line. The latter was impossible: but there it is: beautiful; efficient; an architectural marvel; and it goes under a river … Twice!

    My point is that Toronto is a big city, and Canada is a big country. Only once we decide to imagine ourselves as such will we find the few billion now necessary to avoid a many billion later.

    Ondattje, in the Skin of a Lion, relates the story of the viaduct, designed in the teens for the needs of the 50s, and the century thereafter.

    This is the sort of thinking we need now: big and epic and befitting our vast country and our teeming cities and our future.

    Rights of way, gradients, angles and voltages will only live free once our hearts are free!

    Steve: See the following comment for a more prosaic view of the world. When will this city grow up and start to discuss issues rather than using every possible excuse to attack the Mayor as if everything, even rainy weekends, is his fault.

    By the way, the viaduct was not built for the needs of the 50s, but for a very real proposal to build a subway in Toronto in the 20s. Boston put its streetcars underground in the 1890s because of downtown streetcar traffic congestion, and Toronto was already decades behind.


  26. Can’t wait to see where Miller comes up with $335 million…

    The Feds are in debt to the tune of $85 billion and growing…fast…

    The Province is currently $18 billion in the hole…

    More deficit funding by the city? Or another 407 give-a-way?

    Steve: Actually, a good chunk will come from the long term lease of the retail space. That’s the only thing that makes this project work financially.


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