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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Rain leads to dangerous overcrowding in new tunnel beneath Union Station

Life hacks are necessary for getting around a major city without losing one's cool — especially when a city has such volatile weather conditions as Toronto does.

But, you see, a clever idea is only really clever when it pops into the minds of a select few. When everyone tries to outsmart the system en masse, things just get messy. 

Toronto's Union Station was host to a prime example of this behaviour on Tuesday morning as thousands of commuters made use of a newly-opened pedestrian walkway beneath Front Street in order to avoid the rain.

The underground tunnel, which is comprised of two sides with a column in the middle, opened on July 7 to divert pedestrian traffic away from ongoing construction.

"This change is necessary to improve the flow of pedestrian traffic and to allow construction work on the revitalization project to progress," said the City of Toronto at the time.

City staffers, with help from Metrolinx and the TTC, have been stationed in the area between GO Transit's York Concourse, the Union Pearson Express terminal and the TTC subway station ever since to address questions about the route change.

Aside from some confusion among customers, things have been running relatively smoothly... in fair weather.

This morning, commuters were incensed to find that the City of Toronto-owned space was packed with people using it not to access GO or TTC vehicles, but to avoid the rain.

Some on Twitter said they could barely move through the pathway, prompting concerns about the dangers of overcrowding at Union Station once again.

"Y'all need to do better with crowd control... This is a safety issue. One guy at the end telling people to go down the stairs 'it's only a little bit of rain'" - not great!" complained one person to the TTC and Metrolinx, which operates GO Transit.

"I know we all have a roll to play in moving ourselves along and yes, more people indoors because of rain but it took me nearly 15 minutes to go from train to subway," continued the passenger in another tweet. "Much longer than normal. People clearly need directional help."

Metrolinx responded to several complainants on Twitter to say that Transit Safety had been notified, but stated by email that the path is a City of Toronto space.

"The City is aware of the crowding situation at Union Station caused by the rain this morning," said City of Toronto spokesperson Bruce Hawkins when asked about the complaints on Tuesday.

"To assist commuters this afternoon, should the rain return, the City will have staff on site to ensure pedestrian flow moves in an orderly fashion through the area."

Hawkins notet that The final section of the glass roof over the tunnel will be complete "in about a month's time." Work on that portion of the path is scheduled to begin this Wednesday.

by Lauren O'Neil via blogTO

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