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Union Station: Big Changes Are Coming

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Big changes are coming to Union Station. In a short interview after Metrolinx’s December 7 board meeting, Phil Verster said that the station’s platforms will need to be substantially rebuilt to accommodate the influx of new passengers that will come with the GO RER program.

It has long been apparent that Union’s century-old platform arrangement—complete with platforms designed for handling mail—is, as Verster said, “not fit” for modern rail operations.

Right now, Union’s platforms are dangerously narrow. They’re also unsuitable for people with disabilities, and the need to climb steps into the trains slows loading and unloading, which limits capacity. Even bigger limits on capacity come from the bottleneck presented by the extremely narrow stairs, where people must file up and down single-file. This means that trains must dwell at the platforms while people slowly unload, and only then can the platform be announced to passengers waiting below and then passengers can climb the stairs up to the platform. The whole process takes a number of minutes. Imagine if each subway train at Yonge-Bloor station had to sit for five minutes or more while people loaded and unloaded. The subway would be completely non-functional.

Union Station Platform (Source: Global News)

That’s what leads to the counter-intuitive but reasonable change that Verster said will need to happen at Union: the number of tracks will be reduced so that platforms can be widened. Right now, Union can handle only a few trains per hour on each track. The subway, for example, can handle around 24 trains per hour on each track. That means that even with fewer tracks, Union could actually handle far more trains and more people if the platform and staircase bottlenecks were solved.

Metrolinx’s GO Expansion Business Case plans for:

  • Ten tracks with wide platforms for twelve car trains. 
  • Additional escalators, elevators, and stairs to platforms. 
  • Provision for additional passengers bridges on the east and west end of the platforms. 
  • Two bay (dead-end) platforms, west-facing, for four-car UP Express and GO trains. 
  • Four bay platforms, east facing, for eight-car VIA trains and GO trains. 

To give an idea of the benefits, Union handles 187,000 passengers per day on 16 tracks. Paris’ Châtelet-Les Halles RER station moves 493,000 on only 6 tracks. Paris’ RER Line A moves 300 million passengers per year on only two tracks. GO Transit’s ridership on all its trains and buses combined is 68.8 million per year. The bottleneck on GO Transit isn’t the number of tracks, it’s the antiquated trains and platforms at Union Station, which make loading and unloading take an unreasonable amount of time.

If GO operated like a normal international regional rail system, and loading and unloading times at Union Station were more like the subway, the station can easily handle all foreseeable traffic.

To give an idea of what Union’s GO platforms can and should look like, there are countless international models. Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof has platforms that are at least 10 metres wide, and they have up and down escalators as well as a wide staircase to easily move arriving and departing passengers. It’s enough capacity to allow people to quickly leave the platform after they get off their train. The platforms are also wide enough to allow people to wait on the platform while people are unloading from trains, which drastically reduces dwell times.

S-Bahn Platform at Berlin Hauptbahnhof, an example of modern regional rail platforms (Source: Wikimedia)

The City of Toronto and Metrolinx have undertaken a major renovation to improve the retail and food amenities of Union Station, and to increase the number of platform access points. Now it’s time to fix the platform level to finally make Union a modern, functional station.

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Jonathan English (@EnglishRail) is a PhD Candidate in Urban Transportation Planning at Columbia University in New York. He lives in Toronto. His blog is Transit Futures.

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The cost of renovating your bathroom in Toronto in 2021

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Home renovations can be a big task, especially bathroom renovations where you have to work with either an awkwardly shaped space, or one with lots of pipework and very little natural light.

Nonetheless, getting a bathroom renovation by Easy Renovation to change your existing bathroom layout, improve the ambience or add more natural skylights can be worth all the trouble. But determining how much a bathroom renovation would cost is important while setting a budget.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things with social distancing rules, working from home, and for some, being made redundant. Therefore, having a complete grasp of the financial implication of a bathroom innovation is very important.

Owning your dream bathroom can be made a reality and the good thing is, regardless of your financial situation, there are always available options. If you also decide to put up your property for sale in the future, a bathroom upgrade would be a great investment—as it would add significant value to the property. Your bathroom renovation project, like every home renovation, can either be very affordable or extravagant, but one thing is certain, you’re bound to have a more refreshed, stylish and modernistic space.  

Looking through detailed sketches of luxurious and expensive bathrooms can be quite tempting, especially when you’re on a budget. However, your bathroom can be equally transformed into something that looks just as modern, stylish and refreshing but without the heavy price tag.

Conducting a partial bathroom renovation means you only have to change a little part of your existing bathroom rather than tearing it down and starting from scratch. If you intend to carry out this type of bathroom renovation in Toronto, depending on the size of your bathroom, you can spend between $1,000 – $5,000. With a partial bathroom renovation, you can save money by tackling smaller problems that exist in your present bathroom—or you can just upgrade a few of its features.

Partial bathroom renovations are quite affordable and would leave your bathroom feeling new and stylish without being time-consuming or a financial burden—which is important considering the economic impact of the pandemic. Repainting the bathroom walls, replacing the tiles on the floor and in the shower area are examples of partial bathroom renovations which is the cheapest to accomplish.

A more expensive and popular bathroom renovation is the standard 3- or 4-piece renovation. This renovation type involves a lot more services that are not covered by a partial renovation budget. To execute a standard bathroom renovation in Toronto you need a budget of about $10,000 – $15,000.

Unlike with a partial renovation, you would have to make a lot more changes to various elements of your bathroom without the hassle of changing the overall design. You can easily restore your current bathroom into a modernistic and classy space that fits your existing style. Making changes to more aspects of your bathroom is quite easy since there is more room in your budget to accommodate it.

A standard 3- or 4-piece renovation includes everything in a partial renovation plus extras such as revamped baseboards, installing a new bathroom mirror, buying new lights, installing a new vanity, changing the toilet, and buying new shower fixtures.

If you’re one of those looking to make a complete overhaul of your existing bathroom, then the option of a complete bathroom remodel is for you.

Unlike a bathroom renovation, remodelling means a complete change of your current bathroom design and layout for one that is newer and completely unrecognizable. The possibilities when remodelling a bathroom are endless especially when you have a large budget of over $15,000. That way, you can get the opportunity to create the perfect bathroom for yourself.

In addition to all that’s available with a standard bathroom renovation, bathroom remodelling allows you to make bathtub to shower conversion, relocation of plumbing, relocation of the toilet, reframing the bathroom and even relocating the shower.

In conclusion, a bathroom renovation can be a very important upgrade to your home and depending on the features that you decide to include, in addition to the size of your bathroom, this would influence the total cost of the project.

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7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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