Behind the barriers of Union Station’s new Bay Concourse

Away from public view, the new section of Union Station is fast taking shape. Come this way to see for yourself.

A quarter inch of plywood. That’s what separates today from tomorrow for an important section of Canada’s most vital transit hub.

For customers and travellers who regularly use Union Station, it’s been impossible not to hear the bangs and clatter coming from beyond the construction walls at the east end of the building.

But today, we can lead you past those walls, to show you where construction on the Bay Concourse is today, and where it will head tomorrow.

A worker walks by a fence with a 'Danger' sign attached.

A worker walks by a section of the Bay Concourse on April 30, 2019. (Photo by Matt Llewellyn)

The floors are poured, most of the railings are now being installed and later this year the City of Toronto, and its contractor, will pass over the baton to Metrolinx. At that point, work will begin customizing the space for the needs of the thousands of GO Transit customers who will use Bay Concourse each day.

A cheery-picker hoists a worker toward the ceiling.

Looking up – A construction team member works high up, into what will be ceiling level for the Bay Concourse. (Photo by Matt Llewellyn)

“There is tremendous progress happening behind those construction barriers people walk by every day,” explains Ken Rose, senior manager of the Union Station Rail Corridor. “This space is really starting to take shape.”

Once the City of Toronto finishes their work, which is scheduled to be this upcoming fall, Metrolinx can begin outfitting the Bay Concourse with all fixtures that are needed to operate the busiest transit hub in Canada. That includes building GO customer service counters, hanging departure boards and installing other fixtures such as PRESTO machines. This process is expected to take approximately six months.

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A construction member threads steel pipe for the sprinkler system inside GO Transit’s Bay Concourse. (Photo by Matt Llewellyn)

“We know our customers have been extremely patient with all the construction happening around Union Station, and with the City of Toronto’s revitalization project,” said Rose. “That’s why we are committed to outfitting the Bay Concourse as quickly as possible.”

He says in areas where the City of Toronto’s work is done, and where Metrolinx work will not negatively affect the city’ construction schedule, Metrolinx crews are getting a head start on enclosing some stair wells, outfitting IT hub rooms and installing key components of the HVAC system.

Walls and concrete stairs are shown.

Some of the advance work being done includes outfitting the stairways leading to track level. (Photo by Matt Llewellyn)

Once all the construction is fully complete by the City of Toronto, its contractor, and Metrolinx, Union Station’s total concourse area (York and Bay) will be more than triple the size of the previous concourse. This will make moving around much easier for the 300,000 GO Transit customers who use Union Station every weekday.

Additionally for GO customers, the Bay Concourse will add several more stair wells and elevators to connect passengers to the tracks and platforms. Customers will also be able to make a more seamless connection to the TTC.

The Bay Concourse will also be connected to the new Union Station Bus Terminal, located at 81 Bay Street, thanks to the addition of a pedestrian bridge over Bay. This will make is easy for transit riders to stroll between the two terminals – and make it easier for Union Station customers to transfer between buses and trains. Additionally, the terminal’s new location will also provide the added benefit of giving our GO Buses better access to the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard. The new Union Station Bus Terminal is also slated to open in 2020.

A cameraman and reporter interview two officials amid construction work.

CBC reporter Lorenda Reddekopp and videographer Martin Trainor interview Frank Molinari with the City of Toronto, and Metrolinx senior manager, Ken Rose about the Bay Concourse on April 30, 2019. (Photo by Matt Llewellyn)

While the bulk of the City of Toronto’s revitalization construction at Union Station is scheduled to be complete by the end of this year, work around the station will continue for a number of years to come. This will ensure Union Station, the foundation of our rail network, can accommodate continuing growth in service needs.

“The work underway today is to catch-up after 30 years of under-investment and the projects to come are focused on building the rail network we will need for the next 30 years,” said Metrolinx President and CEO, Phil Verster. “Significant improvements are still needed to meet growing GO ridership demand and support future service increases.”

The downtown Toronto core population is projected to increase more than 80 per cent by 2031 (from 71,000 in 2006 to 130,000 in 2031), with downtown core transit demands/destinations expected to increase more than 50 per cent by 2031 (from 156,000 peak period trips in 2006 to 236,000 peak period trips in 2031).

Concrete steps, with no rails, are shown.

A stairway starting to take shape. It will become a well used passage for GO customers. (Photo by Matt Llewellyn)

Verster believes continued investments in Union Station are part of a critical suite of integrated, regional transportation solutions that will help ease congestion in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. “We know that construction is inconvenient for our customers today,” Verster said. “But this work will make for an easy, seamless and positive experience for all our customers in the future.”

Metrolinx increased rail service by 25 per cent this past year and a half and has committed to bringing incremental increases in service every single year, making it easier than ever to use GO Transit across the entire Greater Golden Horseshoe.

As a final note – want to be reminded what the Bay Concourse area used to look like? These may bring back memories.

Old doors, and brown tile floors, lead to stairs and platforms beyond, in this photo of the old Bay Concourse.

The old Bay Concourse doors leading to platforms above. (Photo by Chris Drew)

Customers walk through the halls of the old Bay Concourse. The ceiling is low and tile is brown.

Brown was the colour of every day in the old version of the Bay Concourse. (Photo by Chris Drew)

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Customers make their way to customer service lines, as well as a shop, in the old Bay Concourse. (Photo by Chris Drew)

Story by Matt Llewellyn, Metrolinx senior advisor – media relations and issues.