Union Station

In Transit – The Union-Pearson (UP) Express

On my last trip to Toronto, I actually could see part of the construction of the new express train station at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. It’s due to open in Spring of 2015 in time for the Pan-Am Games. It looks pretty exciting to me. 25 minutes to downtown Toronto would be way better than the current 60 minute ride by the Airport Shuttle Bus.  Add that to my transit checklist. Here are some pictures/renderings from the Union Pearson Express site.

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Toronto 2013 – Around the Royal York

At the end of September, I had the chance to be in Toronto for a work-related meeting.  The weather in Vancouver had already an added crispness while Toronto was still hovering in the low 20’s and high teens for temperature.

It had been at least 4 years since I last visited Toronto itself.  I had flown through Pearson International Airport a few times, but I hadn’t ventured out to the city in a long time.  2013 also marks the 10 year anniversary of my year of life in Toronto.  So it was good to be back at the end of a warm Toronto September.

Royal York clock and lobby

I was lucky enough to be put up in the Fairmont Royal York right downtown along Front Street.  It was the first time I stayed at the grand old dame of all Toronto hotels.  It’s also the first time I’ve ever actually stayed overnight in one of the old Canadian Pacific hotels.

Being an older hotel, the rooms were not all that large. However, no complaint being in a nice hotel like the Royal York.  Meetings also took place here.  So it was quick and convenient to run down, grab a quick breakfast, and then run back up to the conference floor for the meeting. The subterranean shopping arcade had a nice deli that offered decent coffee and hot breakfast bagels.

Inside Union Station

The only issue with the hotel was all the construction happening outside.  Union Station, Toronto’s major rail and subway hub, is under reconstruction.  So most of Front Street just outside the Royal York had been ripped up in order to expand the station.  A friend had come down to pick me up for dinner and got caught with nowhere to turn for about 15 minutes because of the construction.

Excavation and construction at Front Street and University Avenue

The construction also affected me at night.  In order to minimize impact on car traffic, construction was carried out in the middle of the night.  Thankfully, I came prepared and brought ear plugs with me on this trip.  I really needed them as they processed concrete and gravel 5 stories below outside my hotel window.

Union Station construction at midnight

Apart from all the ruckus at night, I was still able to enjoy the immediate vicinity.  I went for drinks at the Jack Astor’s across from the hotel with my old boss in Toronto.  It was a good hour to share a drink and catch up.  We happened to be there as a Blue Jays game finished. So there were baseball fans everywhere on the street and in the bar.

The hotel room view

Toronto has also been busy pumping up more skyscrapers.  Toronto probably has the most planned and/or under construction skyscrapers in North America at the moment. The iconic L Tower could easily be seen a few blocks down from the Royal York.  It’ll be quite the architectural gem from the looks of it.  Skyscraper fans will love to descend upon Toronto in the next few years as more of these buildings are finished.

L Tower under construction

Another big change that I noticed about Toronto was the presence of a bike share program. I had seen the Hubway back in Boston in March 2011.  This is the first bike share that I’ve actually seen in Canada (Montreal had the first major bike share in Canada).  The bikes and payment machines for the Toronto Bixi bike share looked similar to the Boston Hubway system.  The bike share covered most of downtown Toronto and some locations slightly further outside the downtown perimeter.

Toronto’s Bixi Bike Share

Staying down on Front Street was a good place to start my short Toronto weekend work trip.  Lots of stuff around if needed and the accommodation was fancy.  Maybe fancier than it needed to be, but it was still greatly appreciated. And yes, did I mention it was a beautiful end of September?

moment in the sunlight along Wellington St