Though Union Station continues to be swarmed by construction crews, the new York Concourse is ready for its closeup on Monday, when the facility will open to the public. The new facility means a much larger west side concourse for GO Transit passengers compared to the current Bay Concourse on the east side of the station, representing a 50 percent increase in space. Constructed by the City of Toronto, the concourse was turned over to Metrolinx in January, when the installation of furniture, ticketing kiosks, customer service stalls and electronic boards began.
Vice-President of GO Capital Infrastructure Michael Wolczyk and the City of Toronto's Director of Design, Construction & Asset Preservation Robert Coveduck guided the media through the York Concourse ahead of its Monday opening, as the finishing touches are put on a space that Wolcyzk believes will be a "pleasant surprise" for commuters.
While photos tell part of the story, the video above by Craig White captures the concourse in greater detail.
The 62,000 square-foot facility provides a smoother transition between the concourse and GO Transit train platforms. The spacious concourse, previously occupied by a parking garage, is also designed with the increased capacity needed to fully realize the province's plans for Regional Express Rail throughout the region.
Passengers will eventually be able to access the TTC and the PATH network by traveling down a series of escalators leading to a new underground retail level. Currently under construction, the retail concourse is expected to open in 2016 and initially will act mostly as a food court. Reconstruction of the VIA Concourse area and under it will bring in a more diverse variety of retail options, including "market-style" fruit and vegetable outlets. Passengers will also be able to soon take advantage of a Union Station-wide WiFi service, with officials aiming for operation later this year.
Union Station's outdoor connection, known as the "moat" to many, will become a covered walkway as part of the revitalization plans. A glass canopy, to be complete by the end of the project in 2017, will provide shelter from the elements, ensuring a comfortable transition to and from the station's rail services.
Passengers will have the ability to access the concourse and platforms via a new York East Teamway, a covered north-south walkway which hugs the west end of the station. Accessible directly from Front Street, the promenade leading to the teamway has been eyed as a possible restaurant location.
Elevators are fitted throughout the rejuvenated space, including the York East Teamway, as mandated under the regulations outlined in The Accessibility for Ontarios with Disabilities Act.
The York East Teamway spans the west side of the station, providing a route under the rail corridor to Toronto's emerging Southcore neighbourhood alongside the York Street sidewalk.
The north end of the teamway connects to the new Northwest PATH Network tunnel, a new pedestrian walkway that provides underground access across Front Street to the small plaza outside One University Avenue at York Street.
The connection marks the completion of the Northwest PATH extension's first phase, with the second phase travelling underground to the existing network at Wellington Street by mid-2017.
On the opposite end of the station, the Bay Concourse is set to undergo a similar transformation following the culmination of the Pan Am Games. Its current 40,000 square-foot capacity will be expanded by 21,000 square feet. Upon the completion of the Bay Concourse, currently set for 2017, Union Station's concourse area will be triple its pre-renovation size. This is needed for the anticipated doubling of passengers using the station by 2030. Currently only serving the north-end tracks directly, the new Bay Concourse will extend to the south end of the station, better serving the full 10-12 car length of a GO train. Each concourse will be accessible from Union Station's imposing Great Hall.
The $796 million revitalization of Union Station has received funding from all three levels of government. With completion expected in 2017, including a refurbishment of the historic Great Hall, the project will bring an end to years of long-awaited and necessary expansions and renovations. Monday's opening will be a huge step toward the final goal.
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