If you live or work in Toronto, you are probably familiar with Union station—the busiest transportation facility in Canada. Described as the central hub for all inter-city transit in Toronto, Union station now connects patrons to several modes of transit. It has developed into an area of both transportation and shopping, and has overcome several historical setbacks to stand as the exciting station it is today.
History and Development
The construction of Union Station was ordered by the Board of Railway Commissioners in 1905. After a fire in 1904 demolished 14 acres of downtown manufacturing and warehouse district, that land was leased to Grand Trunk Railway by the City of Toronto for the purpose of creating a larger station. With the aid of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Grand Trunk Railway began construction of the station in 1914, nine years after the purchase of the land. Due to material shortages during World War I, and the collapse of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1919, the completion of Union station was delayed significantly.
Although it was finally completed in 1921, legal differences between the Harbour Commission, the City and the railways hindered the use of the station. When a final plan was approved in 1924, the necessary work on the viaduct, bridge, grading, platforms and tracks commenced.
On August 6th, 1927, Prince Edward of Wales, accompanied by the Duke and Duchess of York, the British Prime Minister and the Canadian Prime Minister (William Lyon Mackenzie King), opened Union Station. The Prince was issued the first ticket sold at Union station for a ride to Alberta, at a cost of $71.20 (which would now cost over $1,100), and he was presented with a gold key that unlocked the station.
August 11th, 1927 marked the date in which Union Station received and dispatched its first passenger trains.
Union Station Today
Union station is located in downtown Toronto at 65 Front Street West (west of Bay Street and east of York Street), on the south side of Front Street, just opposite of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. From this one address, patrons can access several modes of transportation including local transit (Toronto Transit Commission, or TTC), the provincial inter-regional transit (GO Transit), and VIA rail, which travels across the country.
Union Station also marks the beginning of the PATH—downtown Toronto’s underground walkway which links 28 kilometers of shopping, services, and entertainment. The PATH actually began with the opening of Union Station in 1927 when an underground tunnel was built to connect the station to the Royal York Hotel (now known as the Fairmont Royal York). Today, patrons can walk from Union station on Front Street all the way up to Dundas Street without stepping outside, and can enjoy 4 million sq. ft of retail space housing over 1,200 shops and services.
One of my favourite connections from Union Station is to the gorgeous Royal Bank Plaza, which has a mini-mall and food court on the main and lower levels. Stores including Mateo (shoes/boots), The Source (electronics), Shoppers Drug Mart, Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Indigo/Chapters, LCBO, Godiva Chocolate, Victoria’s Secret, MAC Cosmetics, and Calvin Klein can all be found in the Royal Bank Plaza, and patrons can also access the subway station right from the Plaza.
Along with close access to retail shopping and entertainment venues (for example, to the Air Canada Centre), Union station also provides a bicycle station, security, and best of all, a free 45-minute tour of Union Station during the annual Door Open Toronto event. Regular monthly tours are also offered for $10, are 2-hours in length, and take place on the last Saturday of every month at 11 A.M.