Union Station gets ready to soon unveil new Bay Concourse
Toronto’s main transit hub will see the opening of an important new section this year. To get an idea of what’s in store, and how far the work has come so far, Metrolinx takes you behind the barriers for Bay Concourse.
The bathroom sinks are in, and so are the customer service windows that will look out on millions of travellers.
Union Station – Toronto’s main transit hub – will see the opening of a new section this year. Once unveiled, Bay Concourse is expected to return to an iconic and important waypoint for travellers, including GO Transit and UP Express customers.
Those who recall the old Bay Concourse - closed since the end of Toronto’s PanAm Games in 2015 for a total overhaul - likely remember the brownish colour scheme and lighting that washed out many brighter tones. It was functional and did valued constant duty for many years.
But it was getting old, and not worthy of a transit gateway for Toronto.
A tour of the work so far shows a modern and bright space that will play host to shops and customers. Getting it to this point has been an engineering and project development master class.
Like the York Concourse that opened in 2015, and much of Union Station, the Bay Concourse has a complicated ownership. Metrolinx is responsible for all work above the track slab - the suspended concrete foundation, which supports the train rails - including platform modifications and stair and elevator enclosures.
The City of Toronto is responsible for building stairs and elevators up to track slab level. In October of 2019, the last of the platform ‘stage changes’ was completed – which means all platforms are open - allowing an unobstructed view through the train shed. Following the opening of the new Bay Concourse, the newly renovated east-end staircases will open and lead into the new space.
For those who recall the details of the opening of the York Concourse, only one constructor could be in the space at one time, and Metrolinx had to wait for our turn. But now, by working collaboratively with the City of Toronto, a shared access agreement was established for the Bay Concourse that allows both the City and Metrolinx to work alongside each other in defined areas of the future concourse.
With the shared access agreement in place, Metrolinx has now started a ‘fit up’. That means adding GO service counters, departure PINs boards – those large displays showing bus and train departures - PRESTO machines, waiting area furniture, directional signage, and more customer amenities.
“We recognize the relief that opening the Bay Concourse will have on our customers, so we’re working together with the city in an effort to get the concourse open as quickly as possible,” said Bill Clowes, Metrolinx vice president of the Union Station Rail Corridor.
The opening of the Bay Concourse represents a major milestone for both GO customers and the Union Station Revitalization project. Union Station is Canada’s busiest transportation hub and was built nearly a century ago.
Over time, the building and its facilities have aged and deteriorated. The building was struggling to meet the growing GO ridership demands and a comprehensive revitalization to transform the building for future generations was put into motion. For GO customers in particular, two full-size concourses will help to make the commuting experience more comfortable and convenient.
Combined, the new concourses will significantly improve passenger access to and from trains as well as through all of Union Station.
The total concourse area will more than triple in size – from 40,000 sq. ft. (the former Bay Concourse) to 123,000 sq. ft. (the total of the new York Concourse, which is 62,000 sq. ft. plus the addition of the revitalized Bay Concourse).
Vertical access – the way you get from one level to another - will also increase. Metrolinx has added 12 new staircases and eight new elevators to better move customers between the concourses and platform level.
New PRESTO and ticket vending machines will make it easier for customers to tap on and off, as well as buy tickets.
New entrances to street level and to the PATH – which links transit to 50 downtown office towers - will move customers smoothly through the station.
Once the Bay Concourse is open this spring, customers will be treated to modern amenities reminiscent of the York Concourse – a worthy space for those in motion at Toronto’s transit hub.