A Messy “Reset” For Waterfront Transit Planning (Updated)

The first of two public meetings on the City of Toronto’s so-called “reset” of transit plans for the waterfront was held on May 25, and a second is to follow tonight (May 26).

The presentation deck from these meetings is now available online.

Updated May 27, 2016 at 5:30 pm: The preliminary evaluation grids for various routing options have been added to this article following the original discussion of each section of the study. This raises an obvious question of how options can be scored before important factors such as demand projections, design and costing are known, and whether the preliminary scores will bias the discussion and evaluations to occur in Phase 2 of the study. Scroll down to the end of each section for the additional material. (Apologies for the resolution. The grids are not available online, and I am limited by the quality of the paper copies distributed at the meeting.)

There is a lot of material to digest here, and the process is not helped by several factors:

  • Council has imposed a very short timeframe, considerably less than would normally be taken for the scope of work.
  • All proposals that have ever been on the table for the past few decades and a few new schemes are up for discussion, including some that should have been discarded quite early in the process. In part this is due to the many incomplete studies of various sections of the route that never got to the point of killing off the unworkable options.
  • The City and consultant staff presenting this material are not intimately familiar with the details of many proposals, nor with the history of how they came to be part of past studies.
  • Conflicting goals of previous studies, not to mention of today’s Councillors and community groups, make a “one size fits all” solution impossible.
  • Beyond identifying a few locations where GO/Metrolinx might add stations in the Lake Shore corridor, there is little discussion of the role GO/RER can and, equally importantly, cannot play in handling travel.
  • There is very limited origin-destination or demand information with which to validate or compare proposals, or to put them in the wider context of competing demands for transit funding.
  • A vital consideration for any network is the effect on travel times. After spending millions (or even billions), how would the speed and capacity of travel have improved?
  • The real meat of any discussion remains for an as-yet unapproved “Phase 2” study that would include [text taken from the presentation]:
    • Feasibility studies (including but not limited to demand forecasting, operational assessments, further developed cost estimates);
    • Potential Environmental Assessment(s) or amendments to existing Environmental Assessment(s);
    • Pursuing the implementation of short term strategic improvements that minimize long term throwaway costs; and
    • Advancing a Business Case and pursue funding opportunities.

As someone who has worked for years in hopes of better transit service to the waterfront, all of this is quite disheartening. So many competing ideas are on the table, so many competing priorities, and so little desire to spend pervades the discussion. We may end up with nothing at all.

Growth in the Waterfront

The need for better transit to many parts of the waterfront is quite obvious to anyone who looks at the forests of new condo towers along the water and neighbourhood close by to the north. Much of the projected population growth in Toronto is located in the southern part of the city (an area considerably bigger than the traditional “downtown”), but transit improvements there always come second (at best) to proposed expansion elsewhere. Where suburban subway boosters take a “build it and they will come” approach to subway advocacy and treat rapid transit as a trigger that will, they hope, bring new population and jobs, the waterfront already has both, and is growing apace without adequate transit support. Improved transit to the eastern and western waterfront rank in the top five performers of the City’s “Feeling Congested” study.

201605_PopEmpGrowthto2041

201605_PopEmpGrowthto2041_Chart

This growth will not all arrive “tomorrow”, but it certainly will build in over coming decades. Already, access by transit across the waterfront is inadequate, and this will only get worse as time goes on.

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TTC Board Meeting Follow-Up: March 23, 2016

The TTC Board met on March 23. In earlier articles, I have already reviewed the agenda, and discussed ridership statistics.

Arising from the debate on ridership, the Board passed a motion to revisit the whole issue of actively pursuing ridership growth. The motion by Commissioner Shelley Carroll reads:

That TTC staff report back to the Commission by the third quarter of 2016 with a development plan for a comprehensive multi-year strategy to address current ridership stagnation and to achieve a steady rate of ridership growth annually thereafter.

This is particularly important going into the 2017 budget year when there will be pressure to accommodate both the start of new expenses for the Spadina subway extension (TYSSE) and strong growth in the Wheel-Trans budget. Debates and decisions about which options might be pursued to improve transit and attract riders need to have more background than the annual need for politicians to have something to announce. At the very least, changes should be thought out with specific benefits beyond the photo ops.

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UPX Fares are Falling Down, Falling Down

After months of ignoring the obvious, Metrolinx and their Queen’s Park masters will lower fares on the Union Pearson Express.

UPXFares_20160309

Although the Board does not meet to ratify the change until 6:00 pm February 23, 2016 (as I write this), the report has been online for a few hours, and the change was announced by Minister of Transportation Stephen del Duca earlier in the day.

Not shown in the chart above is a reduction in the monthly pass for workers at the airport. It will fall from $300 to $140, according to The Star.

The official story told both in the management report and accompanying presentation is that UPX did everything it set out to do – it was built on time and on budget, it ran (mostly) on time, and its customers were highly satisfied with the service. Only one small problem – not enough customers.

The low ridership is attributed to four problems.

People Don’t Know It’s There

It has been more challenging then expected to reach both local and non-local markets to ensure they are aware of the service. Notwithstanding the significant media focus on the service and the marketing efforts that have been undertaken, more effort is required to build awareness of the service. [p.2]

This is just a tad hard to swallow given the amount of puffery around town about the new service beginning well before the line opened. Metrolinx now talks about a variety of strategies including staff not just at Pearson Airport to lure travellers to their service, but even with marketing further afield including the ability to buy UPX tickets at airports like Montreal that originate a lot of Toronto-bound traffic. One cannot help wondering what the effective cost per passenger will be.

People Use The Service They Know

Second, engrained habits on how people travel between Pearson Airport and downtown Toronto have proven to be difficult to change. Individuals are used to driving, taking a taxi or limousine to the airport, and with the recent rise of car/ride sharing services, more effort is required to incent people to change their past practice and test the new service.

What is completely ignored in this statement is any concept of convenience, the possibility that auto-based travel (shared or otherwise) provides point-to-point service, whereas UPX by definition is a transit service one must access where it actually stops. This is a major impediment. The demand modelling done for Metrolinx included a fairly wide catchment area, but most of the trips from the various modelled zones required a transit journey just to reach a UPX station. If someone is already on transit, especially the Bloor subway, then continuing to Kipling and the 192 Rocket is not a difficult choice. The problem lies in getting an airport traveller onto public transit in the first place.

People Don’t Know How To Find It

Third, there is uncertainty among potential customers about the beginning and end portions of their trip. This includes the “first mile/last mile” topic, in terms of the total trip time experienced by customers, and navigating at Pearson Airport and Union Station, both of which are complex visual environments, and with ongoing construction at Union Station making wayfinding and signage more complex.

That “first mile” also includes getting to the UPX station, never mind navigating through it, and yet Metrolinx looks only at the last leg of such a journey as the source of problems. Without question, Union Station is a challenging place these days for anyone who doesn’t know it well. Regular commuters adjust as the paths change, but for would-be airport travellers, this could be a first journey. As for the airport, bad signage has been an issue since the line opened. Trotting out this among the excuses begs the obvious question of why this had not been fixed months ago.

People Think It Costs Too Much

The fourth barrier to ridership growth has been perceptions about price. The research indicates that there is a view that UP Express is expensive, without knowledge among potential customers what the exact price is.

This is really the most bizarre explanation for corporate failure I have ever seen. It’s like saying that people don’t buy a Rolls Royce because they think it would cost too much, but they’ve never been into a dealership on the off chance of a one-day sale. Instead of just saying “the fares are too high”, Metrolinx proposes to jetison the “business class” fare structure and go after a completely different market.

As evidenced by the large turnout on the recent Family Day Weekend, when more than 43,000 riders waited in line up to 2-3 hours in order to ride for free, there is a great deal of interest in and curiosity about UP Express. Management is proposing a multi-faceted strategy to build on this interest. A key part of this strategy is a new fare structure.

The proposed new fare strategy is designed to attract new riders, change air travellers’ ingrained travel habits around ground transportation, provide a viable new travel option for travel between downtown Toronto and communities served by UP Express, and reinforce UP Express as a high-quality component of the region’s transportation network.

In otherwords, rather like Porter Air, the UPX is going to have a never-ending sale, although whether it will feature daily adverts with cuddly critters exhorting us to fly UPX remains to be seen.

Let us be honest: you can have the greatest engineering and project management and the nicest trains (even with a drab colour scheme), but without customers, you have failed. The new fares will generate more riding, although how much effect they will have on the bottom line is quite another matter. Fares for non-airport trips will sit at the same level as GO Transit which remains uncompetitive, except on speed, for local travel within Toronto.

A huge, obvious, and totally missing part of the equation is fare integration with the TTC. If, like the 192 Rocket, a trip on UPX included free transfer to the TTC for inbound riders, and a discounted outbound fare with the same effect for outbound trips, then UPX would truly be part of the transit system, not a tantalizing, but annoying service that looks nice on the map, but isn’t worth the effort.

After Metrolinx spent months telling us that the line just had to find its market, the market proved Metrolinx wrong. All the brave talk about success on other fronts is a nice show, but it is meaningless because the service was not properly designed from the outset. I wonder how many awards they will collect from the Air Rail Association for that little blunder?

A Rainbow of Rapid Transit

In Toronto’s never-ending fascination with new transit maps, the City Planning department has released a vision for our rapid transit network as it will be in 15 years.

201602_15YrPlan

Despite much talk of “evidence-based” planning, this is a very political map, and I cannot help remembering then-Premier David Peterson’s announcement of 1990 (not long before he lost an election and Bob Rae wound up as his much-surprised replacement) that amounted to a chicken-in-every-pot map.

There is nothing wrong with network-based planning, and indeed I have been beating a well-worn drum on that subject for years. But let us also remember that the Scarborough Subway exists because of the political clout of Brad Duguid, a former City Councillor, now Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development. Mayor John Tory, in Toronto Life, cites Duguid as saying that “if anyone tries to cancel the [Scarborough] subway, they’ll do it over his dead body”. “Evidence” apparently includes having a large cudgel to keep wandering pols in line.

The map also includes the Mayor’s pet project, SmartTrack, and it’s no wonder that he steers clear of the Minister’s position given the need for a provincial agency, Metrolinx, to accommodate SmartTrack on their network.

All of this is part of the “Motherlode” of public consultation sessions now running in various places around the City, and through Metrolinx in the wider GTHA. Background information and links to related material are available at Toronto’s TransitTO web site.

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TTC Budget Meeting: November 9, 2015 (Updated)

Updated November 10, 2015 at 6:00 pm:

The Budget Committee meeting was not the best-organized or well-informed of TTC meetings thanks to a combination of factors. It was held in the boardroom at TTC headquarters which is no longer configured suitably for such events and cannot handle a large presence by the media who were out in force anticipating a story about 2016 fares. Almost all of the material was presented by one person who, unfortunately, trusted to memory rather too often and got the odd fact wrong as the meeting wore on. Moreover, there simply was too much material to absorb in the manner it was presented.

Committee members, for their part, tended to view the situation through their personal lenses of which hobbyhorse needed attention. This did not necessarily make for a broad view of TTC issues, and many erroneous assumptions, often uncorrected, crept into the debate.

We will go through this and much more all over again at the November 23, 2015 meeting of the full Board when we can also expect a very long parade of deputations on the subject of fares.

The entire exercise of having a Budget Committee has been useful, up to a point, in that some Commissioners have been exposed to the gory details, but they remain confused, and we have yet to see an actual philosophical discussion of just what the TTC should be as a basis for the budgets for 2016 and beyond.

The following motions were approved by the Committee:

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A Smarter SmartTrack

The SmartTrack scheme was born of an election campaign, but it was John Tory’s signature project, one he is loathe to relinquish despite its shortcomings.

What’s that you say? I am just being one of those “downers” who cannot see our manifest destiny? What’s that line about patriotism and scoundrels?

At the recent Executive Committee meeting, Tory actually had the gall to say that during the campaign, he didn’t have access to a squad of experts and had to make do with the people he had. Funny that. This is the crowd that estimated construction costs on the back of an envelope, who “surveyed” the line using out of date Google images, who ignored basics of railway engineering and capacity planning to make outrageous claims for their scheme.

When the dust settled and John Tory became Mayor Tory, I thought, ok, he will adapt his plan. Indeed, it didn’t take long for a reversal on TTC bus service and the recognition that Rob Ford had stripped the cupboard bare and then started to burn the lumber at the TTC. A campaign attack on Olivia Chow’s (far too meagre) bus plan changed into championing the restoration of TTC service to the days of the “Ridership Growth Strategy” and beyond. Good on the Mayor, I thought, he can actually change his mind.

SmartTrack is another matter, and what Tory, what Toronto desperately needs is a fresh look at what GO, SmartTrack and the TTC could be if only the fiefdoms and the pettiness of clinging to individual schemes could be unlocked. That would take some leadership. I wonder who has any?

Inevitably comments like this bring out the trolls who say “so what would YOU do” (that’s the polite version). Here’s my response as a scheme that bears at least as much importance as a way of looking at our transit network as the competing visions in the Mayor’s Office, Metrolinx, City Planning and the TTC.

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SmartTrack Update: Many Reports, Many Unanswered Questions (Updated)

Updated October 21, 2015 at 9:30 am:

The Executive Committee spent a few hours discussing this report. As the morning wore on, it was clear that Mayor Tory was becoming unhappy with questions about his scheme. By the end of the debate when he spoke, he said:

I think a number of the questions raised by members of council today are perfectly legitimate questions which I’m sure our staff have taken note of and if they weren’t already being asked and answered, those questions, they will now be.  I just hope and I sense a generally positive sort of sense around here but I hope that we don’t get into being either sort of Douglas or Debbie Downer about these things. [Adapted from a quotation in the Toronto Sun]

Tory went on to say that he had “a mandate” from voters to build SmartTrack in a manner distressingly reminiscent of Rob Ford’s “mandate” to tear up Transit City. The problem with both claims is that voters did not elect Tory or Ford for those specific purposes, but in a reaction against the previous administrations, particularly in Tory’s case. Moreover, that “mandate” does not mean that the platform necessarily made sense as proposed, only that it was an attraction to voters that a candidate had concrete ambitions. We have already seen Tory backtrack on his claims that Toronto did not need more bus service (responding to Olivia Chow’s half-hearted support for transit), and there is no reason for SmartTrack to be treated as a divine plan on stone tablets.

As answers from staff to various questions made abundantly clear, there is a lot of work to do between now and first quarter 2016 when all of the details are supposed to return to Council. Staff went out of their way to avoid giving any indication of the way preliminary work might be headed lest they be drawn into a debate about “conclusions” before the supporting studies are in place.

The Executive Committee made a few amendments to the report’s recommendations:

1.  Requested the City Manager to forward the report (October 15, 2015) from the City Manager for information to the Toronto Transit Commission, the Ministry of Transportation, Metrolinx, the City of Mississauga and York Region.

2.  Requested the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to report to the Planning and Growth Management Committee on the results of the public consultations arising from the Preliminary Assessments of the Smart Track Stations, as set out in Appendix 2 to the report (October 15, 2015) from the City Manager, particularly with respect to the development potential of new stations.

3.  Requested the City Manager to work with Toronto Transit Commission, Metrolinx, and GO Transit, to develop a One Map Strategy where by major intersections and/routes of these transit operators are shown on future hard copy and electronic local and regional transit maps, once SmartTrack routes and stations are established.

The first recommendation is the original staff proposal simply to transmit the update report to other agencies. The second arose from a concern by Councillor Shiner, chair of the Planning & Growth Management Committee, that implications of and potential for redevelopment around SmartTrack stations be understood as soon as possible. During debate, he spoke about the success of development a long the Sheppard line, an ironic stance considering how strongly he had opposed development around Bayview Station when it was at the design stage.

The third recommendation arose from Councillor Pasternak, who never tires of advocating the “North York Relief Line” (otherwise known as the Sheppard West extension to Downsview). His desire is that maps show all of the projects that are in the pipeline during studies, not just the one that happens to be the subject of debate.

A notable absence in the staff presentation was any reference to the Scarborough Subway Extension as an alternative route for travel to downtown. That presentation covered substantially the same information as the background reports, but it included a few new charts about comparative travel times with SmartTrack in place.

STvsTTC_TravelTimes1

The important difference between this map [at p23] and the Tory SmartTracker website (which shows comparative travel times) is that the TTC includes the access and wait times for SmartTrack in its calculations. This reduces the proportionate saving over a trip. Another issue, of course, is that many riders do not work at Union Station, and taking SmartTrack there would be an out-of-the-way trip. This is not to downplay what SmartTrack might do, but to point out that if ST is to be part of a “network”, then advocacy for it must look at how it benefits all of the trips originating in some part of the city (say northeast Scarborough), not just those that conveniently lie on its route. This will be an issue in comparative ridership projections for ST and the Scarborough Subway Extension because those who are bound for midtown will almost certainly have a shorter trip simply by taking the subway rather than ST.

The original article follows below:

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A “Reset” For Waterfront Transit Plans? (Updated)

Updated October 15, 2015 at 10:20 am:

Because the options for the Waterfront West line are not fully explained or explored in the City report, I have added the drawings of the options from the Environmental Assessment to the end of this article.

A few weeks ago, I reported on a presentation at the TTC Board meeting by Deputy City Manager John Livey on the status of various rapid transit plans and studies. This was by way of a preview of reports that were expected at the City’s Executive Committee meeting on October 20, 2015.

One of these reports has now surfaced on the subject of Waterfront Transit, while another on SmartTrack is still in preparation. (Reports on the Relief Line and Scarborough Subway studies are not expected until the new year pending results from the UofT’s new demand model.)

The new report proposes a “reset” in the status of the many waterfront studies and proposals given that many of them are incomplete or out of date. The area of study will be south of Queensway/Queen from Long Branch to Woodbine, although there is passing mention of Scarborough which has its own collection of transit problems in the Kingston Road corridor.

The fundamental problem along the waterfront and areas immediately to the north is that population and plans for development continue with no end in sight, while transit planning, such as it exists at all, looked much further afield for signature projects. Moreover, origins and destinations in the present and future waterfront are not conveniently located along a single line where one scheme will magically solve every problem. Transit “downtown” is not simply a matter of getting to King and Bay. There is a mix of short haul and long haul trips, and a line designed to serve the first group well almost certainly will not attract riders from the second.

There has been significant growth in many precincts along the waterfront, including South Etobicoke, Liberty Village, Fort York, King/Spadina, City Place, South Core, and King/Parliament.  Further, significant growth is planned for emerging precincts, including Lower Yonge, East Bayfront, West Don Lands, North Keating, Port Lands and the First Gulf site.  There is currently a latent demand for transit south of Front Street as witnessed by transit loading on the King and Harbourfront streetcar services.  King Street, for example, represents the most southerly continuous east/west transit line and is regularly experiencing near or at-capacity conditions through much of the weekday peak periods.  The extent of latent and anticipated future demand creates an imperative for defining a long-term transit solution as soon as possible. [pp 1-2]

Better transit on King and Queen, whatever form it might be, will address demand from redevelopment of the “old” city north of the rail corridor, but it cannot touch the “new” city south to the lake. Service on the rail corridors (Lake Shore and Weston) can address some longer trips, but with constraints on both line capacity and service frequency. Despite politically-motivated claims, the GO corridors will not be “surface subways” with service like the Bloor-Danforth line, and GO service is constrained to operate through some areas that are not well placed relative to the local transit system.

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UPX Was Never To Break Even

With all the hoopla surrounding the launch of service on the Union-Pearson Express (aka UPX or UP Express), it was refreshing to learn today from no less than the CEO of Metrolinx, Bruce McCuaig, that the line will never cover its costs.

Cast your mind back to the days of Prime Minister Chrétien and his Transport Minister, David Collonette (1997-2003). They had a dream of an express train from Union Station to Pearson Airport, a service that would be built, owned and operated at no cost to the government through the magic of private enterprise. SNC Lavalin was to be the lucky proprietor.

Things didn’t quite work out. SNC Lavalin discovered that the cost recovery for “Blue 22” as it was called in the early days simply didn’t pan out, and they looked for government support. When the Tories came to power, Ottawa’s love for this project waned, and they dumped it … right into the willing lap of Dalton McGuinty who embraced the scheme as a way for Ontario to show the world what we’re made of. Don’t be the last city without an air rail link! The matter was especially crucial as part of the Pan Am Games bid — there would be an express train to the airport.

Alas, the numbers still didn’t work, and SNC Lavalin looked to Queen’s Park for financial support. McGuinty showed them the door, and that might have been the end of things but for the usual Ontario hubris. The project became a public sector job 100%, but there was still the sense that it wouldn’t be a burden on the taxpayer.

On Friday, June 5, 2015, the Star’s Tess Kalinowski had an online Q&A with Bruce McCuaig, and it was quite revealing.

When will the line be electrified?

“The recent provincial budget set aside funding for Regional Express Rail, which includes electrification of the corridors, including UPX. We are folding the UPX electrification into the electrification of the Kitchener corridor as far as Bramalea, and we expect electrification to start being operational on five of the lines in 2023.”

There was a time when electrification was promised for only a few years after UPX began operation. Clearly, this is not going to happen even on a small scale for 8 years, let alone a full buildout. Whether there will even be a government left in office willing to undertake this project remains to be seen.

Back in September 2014, McCuaig claimed that the government’s promised electrification within 10 years was possible. Hmmm. Maybe a few kilometers here and there, but certainly not the full buildout if they’re only going to start in 2023. After a burst of election fever and enthusiasm for electrified GO services, Queen’s Park is getting cool, if not cold feet.

What about additional stations?

“We are building in plans for a new GO station and UPX station into the construction contract for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. The Crosstown phase 1 ends at Mount Dennis and I think it would be a great place to have an interchange to give people more choice. At Woodbine, we have done what transit planners call “protect” for a potential future station.

“More stations connected in to the subway (like Dundas West/Bloor) and a future location at Mount Dennis means you can access the service at a lower cost. The trip from Dundas West/Bloor to the airport will have a fare of $15.20 if you use your PRESTO card”

It’s nice to know that Metrolinx still implies that the Crosstown will have a “phase 2”, although the almost certainly lower fare on this local transit service would make one wonder why one would choose to transfer off of the Crosstown and onto UPX, especially at a premium fare. As for the fare from Dundas West, it might just be a tolerable alternative to the 192 Airport Rocket from Kipling Station once Metrolinx builds a convenient link from the UPX station to the subway. The current arrangement is not exactly a “first class” link the fare would imply.

How many riders will UPX need to break even, and will it pay off its capital costs?

We plan to have the fare box for UPX cover its operating costs within three to five years. As you would expect, it will take a few years to build the ridership, just like any other system. We are not expecting fares to pay back the capital costs at this time. The province has invested the $456 million in the capital and it would be unusual in a North American context to expect customers to pay back the capital cost through their fares. I don’t know off the top of my head how many riders per day will be needed for cost recovery, but we do expect that level of ridership by year three to five.

So let’s get this straight: what started out as a sure thing for the private sector will take maybe three years just to reach a break-even state on operating costs. This also happens to be the period by which Metrolinx expects ridership to stabilize, and one wonders just how much room for growth in demand and revenue there will be beyond that. As for capital costs, oh we could never expect passengers to pay those. No wonder SNC Lavalin wanted a subsidy.

By the way, remember that phrase the next time someone tries to slip capital-from-current spending into an operating budget as John Tory did this year with the TTC’s bus purchase.

What we don’t know is the amount of subsidy the UPX will divert from other transit needs within GO or other transit systems. There will inevitably be pressure to bring fares on UPX down, especially if service in the corridor is combined with a route like SmartTrack. Then there is the small matter that UPX is a separate division complete with its own president. This is rather like having a President of the Scarborough RT except that Line 3 carries nearly 40,000 riders a day, more than UPX can physically handle if it were packed from 6am to midnight.

I will be magnanimous. Get the line open. Enjoy Balzac’s coffee in the station. Thrill to the glorious view of Toronto’s former industrial might along the rail corridor. Impress the hell out of those Pan Am visitors (although of course the officials and athletes have limos and buses and reserved lanes on expressways for their delicate sensibilities).

Once the games are over, let’s get serious about the money we have invested in the Weston/Georgetown corridor and figure out how to run an actual transit service that caters to more than the well-off who can afford to pay extra for a fast ride downtown.

 

Union Station York Concourse Opens April 27, 2015

The new GO Transit York Concourse at Union Station will open for business on Monday, April 27. After years of construction and an ever-changing maze pf construction hoarding, the new concourse will show off what the Union Station Revitalization project is all about.

Anyone who travels through Union Station knows the old, crowded GO Transit area under the East Wing of the station. Passengers rushing for trains jostle with queues in the fast food court and the ticket area. The York Concourse opens up space under the West Wing that formerly housed baggage services and parking, an area that for most users of the station simply didn’t exist because much of it was off limits to the public.

The new concourse will add about 50% to the available passenger space and will open up circulation between the waiting areas and the tracks above, not to mention adding new ways to get into and out of the station.

Union_EN-1000x800_201504

This map looks north with the existing Bay concourse at the right hand end of the station. On either side of Bay Street are the old freight teamways which are now pedestrian paths under the rail corridor and access to tracks above.

In the middle of the station is the Via concourse which is not affected by this work. To the west (left) is the new York Concourse.

Both the Bay and York concourses will remain open until after the Pan Am Games this summer, and the Bay Concourse will then close for a renovation to match the new York Concourse with a target reopening date early in 2017. Concurrent work will include completion of the new lower level shopping concourse in two stages (under Via in 2016, and under the Bay Concourse in 2017), as well as heritage restoration of the Great Hall and the East Wing of the building.

The goal is to have three times the space GO Transit has today to serve at least twice the passenger volume.

Also opening will be new accesses to the station and tracks including the first phase of the NorthWest PATH link across Front Street (eventually to extend north to Wellington Street) and the York East Teamway providing another set of stairs up to track level and access to the station itself.

The photo gallery below is from a media tour on April 24, 2015.