Working on the railway – or rather, working above it!

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On Jan. 11, a public meeting was held to discuss a re-zoning application for a development at 141 Bay Street, the current site of GO Transit’s Union Station Bus Terminal. The development is called the Bay Park Centre, a two-building project (81 and 141 Bay St. respectfully) on the north and south sides of the Union Station Rail Corridor. 

The key feature of this proposal is Bay Park, a privately-owned, but publicly accessible park, activity, and event space 27 meters above the railway corridor (four stories above ground), with fantastic views of the city in every direction. With new GO bus terminal, streetcar, and pedestrian connections, Bay Park Centre will totally change the way we look at public transit infrastructure, as well as the pedestrian experience in and around Union Station.

81 Bay will contain the new indoor GO Bus Terminal with climate-controlled waiting areas and a new bus management system. Bus movement will be made easier for drivers and it will reduce pollution, waiting time, and congestion inside the terminal and on nearby streets. With 14 bus bays compared to the current seven, there will be space to accommodate more GO buses as well as intercity coaches.

Bay Park Centre will also make the pedestrian and passenger experience around the east side of Union Station much more convenient and pleasant. Bay Park Centre will have PATH connections at Union Station platform level, along with connections to the Bay East Teamway at street level and an extension of the new plaza in front of Union Station, which will connect with The Esplanade. There will also be an underground streetcar stop, connecting to Harbourfront, Fort York, the Exhibition Centre, and the East Bayfront and Port Lands in the future.

The Bay Park Centre will be the first time we see development above an active railway corridor, so close to Canada’s most important transportation hub. The Hudson Yards in New York City, Federation Square in Melbourne, and KL Sentral in Kuala Lumpur show us that it is possible to unlock development above an active railway corridor, while improving transportation connections.

The 81 Bay development has already been approved, and we can only hope that city council will feel the same way about the proposal for 141 Bay. This is an exciting step toward creating a model for smart, sustainable, and sensible growth that successfully integrates development, transportation and infrastructure — and is something our fast growing region desperately needs.

 

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