The new York Concourse was opened up to the public yesterday. The concourse improves the experience for commuters traveling between the GO platforms and the downtown by establishing more direct access to the station, providing additional space for users and creating an overall enhanced passenger environment. For those of you who were unable to check out the concourse in person, here are some photos of what you will find.
The most visible improvements from the exterior of the station are the two new entrance pavilions located on the northwest corner of York and Front Street. Comprised of fritted glass with black metal framing on a granite base, the pavilions do a good job of marking the access to the concourse below street level (I assume additional signage is to follow) and help to bring light down below.
The entrances lead to a tunnel that runs below the intersection of Front Street, University Avenue and York Street to connect into the moat at the northwest corner of the station. This will help to relieve pedestrian congestion at street level which can be a significant issue during the morning and afternoon peak periods when thousands of people travel to and from the station and can crowd the intersection. Over the next few years the tunnel will link with a PATH connection that extends further north to Wellington.
The interior of the tunnel and finishes throughout the new concourse appear to reflect the new Design Excellence ethos espoused by Metrolinx. Clean lines and a simple aesthetic create an environment that is light and airy with minimal clutter.
The new York Concourse itself is a vast improvement over the old facilities. Dark, claustrophobic staircases have been replaced by glass enclosed staircases that contribute to the sense of openness. At the northeast edge of the concourse the space opens up to the retail level below which gives a sense of some of the grand spaces that are being created. An interesting element is the black striping across the floor of the concourse. These stripes represent the location of the train tracks above.
From the concourse, passengers can take the stairs or elevators north to track level. There the newly installed (though not yet complete) glass roof creates a much brighter environment at track level. To the west of the glass roof the historic train shed roof has been removed so that it can be replaced. It will be interesting to see the quality of space/light that is created once the new roof is back in place and the more compressed space can be juxtaposed against the larger/brighter space beneath the taller glass roof structure.
While I was there I thought I would swing by and take a look at the new UP Express station located along the skywalk just west of the station. It’s clear from what little can be seen these new stations are in keeping with the modern aesthetic of concourse improvements. If only the skyway could be improved around it.
All in all, the new York Concourse looks like a pretty significant improvement to Union Station that should result in a much improved passenger experience. I’m looking forward to future stages of completion.