During the 19th century, rail companies used separate stations located throughout the City of Toronto. However in April 1904, a great fire destroyed much of the existing infrastructure. The rail companies, devastated by the fire, proposed the construction of a single train station that would serve all train companies passing through the city. As a result, the construction of Union Station, which began in 1914, was completed in 1927 (City of Toronto).
Presently, Union Station serves 250,000 passengers a day (City of Toronto). Services connecting into Union Station include Via Train, Go Train and Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) subways.
However, Union Station was not designed for such high capacity. For one, customers are often left to deal with long delays due to bottlenecking of passengers at platform exits (Metro News Article). As a result, the city has embarked on an ambitious plan to revitalize the historic station, bringing it into the 21st century.
The revitalisation, which began in 2009, has three main objectives: to improve the quality and capacity of pedestrian movement; to restore heritage elements; and to transform Union Station into a major destination for shopping and visiting. Once the revitalisation is complete, the overall gross footage of Union Station will be increased by 14 percent (Globe and Mail).
The proposed project will cost almost a billion dollars to complete. The City of Toronto is contributing $640 million to the project, supplemented with investments of $164 million by the Federal government and $172 million by the Provincial government (Urban Toronto).
Improved Train Platforms
The current train platforms do not allow for natural light, creating a rather depressing environment. The new Train Shed, pictured below, will allow natural light to flow onto the platforms and will provide a more aesthetic appeal for Ontario’s main transportation hub.
The roof is to be constructed using three layers of glass. This glass will be specially treated to deflect sunlight, preventing solar heating of the platform. In addition, the side walls are designed to allow air to flow freely through the platform, while preventing rain water from entering (Globe and Mail).
Union Staion’s Iconic Great Hall
The Great Hall, located on the north side of Union Station, is the most iconic and well known part of the building. To preserve the history of this landmark, the hall will only receive small repairs. The historic hall will then be restored to its original grandeur, and shall continue to be the hallmark piece for the station.
New TTC Platform
The TTC subway platform at Union Station is unusually thin, and serves both the Yonge and University subway lines. As a result, a new platform will be added to the south side of the tracks, increasing the stations capacity. This new platform will serve the Yonge bound traffic, while the old platform will serve the University bound traffic (TTC).
The Final Product
In addition to these major improvements, a number of smaller projects will be completed.
VIA rail’s Panorama Lounge has been re-constructed, and is now open to passengers (VIA Rail). The ‘moat’ that currently exists between Union Station and Front St. will receive a glass roof to create a comfortable environment for passengers. The underground PATH system, which consists of 28 km of underground pathways, will be expanded with a new route up York St., connecting with the existing tunnel at Wellington St.. Finally, a lower level shopping centre will be created underneath the central concourse, increasing retail space from 35,000 to 153,000 square feet (Globe and Mail). Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2015, in time for the Pan American games hosted in Toronto.
The revitalised station is the gateway to the heart of Toronto, and will be a major component of improving the cities image on a global scale for years to come.