Goodbye taupe tile – A sneak peek into Union Station’s new Bay Concourse

Toronto’s main transit hub is about to see the reopening of a whole new section. We take you behind the construction barriers to show you how work is coming – along with some of the new features created – for Bay Concourse.

It was kind of orange, gray, brownish – or maybe taupe.

It was tile. So many tiles – twisted, confusing, and old. The former Bay Concourse, inside Toronto’s Union Station, had a lot in common with your grandmother’s old kitchen.

Image shows the old, brown tiles and green seats of the Old Bay Concourse.

THE OLD – A reminder what Bay Concourse used to look like. (Photo submitted by Chris Drew)

Closed since the end of Toronto’s PanAm Games in 2015 for a total overhaul, the Bay Concourse is scheduled to reopen to customers in spring 2020.

We’ve gone beyond the barriers customers have had to make their way around – that patience is appreciated – and taken new photos of the work beyond to show progress is happening. It includes ticket windows waiting for GO customers, and bathrooms also almost ready for your business.

Image shows escalators installed, as the floor remains covered during construction.

THE NEW – Closed since the end of Toronto’s PanAm Games in 2015 for a total overhaul, the Bay Concourse is scheduled to reopen to customers in spring 2020.

Like the York Concourse that opened in 2015, and much of Union Station, the Bay Concourse has a complicated ownership. But basically, 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 this year, 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.

Crews work on a stretch of the concourse.

While still work to do, the concourse is looking almost ready for business. (Metrolinx photo)

If you recall the details of the opening of the York Concourse, only one constructor could be in the space at one time, and we had to wait 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 our ‘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.

A row of ticket wondows wait for customers.

GO ticket windows await customers. (Metrolinx photo)

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.

Image shows a row of escalators.

Escalators stand ready to get rolling. Some trivia for you to share with fellow travellers when you’re on one – the first escalator was used in 1895 in Coney Island, N.Y. (Metrolinx photo)

Combined, the new concourses will significantly improve passenger access to and from trains as well as through all of Union Station

In fact, here are some stats. 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. We’ve added 12 new staircases and eight new elevators to better move customers between the concourses and platform level.

Image shows a bank of sinks.

Welcome to the new washrooms, with work still to do. Wait – you want more trivia? A 2018 study found that while 65 per cent of women wash their hands after using the bathroom, only 31 per cent of men do the same. (Metrolinx photo)

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

Image shows a large area of flooring, and rails looking down into a lower level.

A view of an upper floor on the concourse. (Metrolinx photo)

Once the Bay Concourse is open early next year, customers will be treated to modern amenities reminiscent of the York Concourse and not that of Granny’s old tiled pantry.

Story by Stacey Kenny, Metrolinx senior advisor, Communications and Stakeholder Relations. Photos by Jason Lee, Metrolinx manager, Corridor Infrastructure, USRC and Metrolinx Marketing Department