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Old December 20th, 2004, 02:10 AM   #1
The Urban Politician
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Washington DC's Union Station--Chicago's Union Station

Okay, let me tell you guys something. As you know, I live in DC. I drive my car to work (little choice, unfortunately), but other than that I try to use transit/cabs, etc. DC is a great city, and it benefits a lot from being a part of the BosWash corridor.

I have more and more frequently been visiting DC's Union Station these days. Not because I am planning any trips. Actually, because it is so damn awesome. It is humungous, it is classic, and it connects Amtrak to the local Metro. It is has several levels of shops, restaurants, 5-6 bars, usually an artistic presentation in the main hall, movie theatres--and the best feature, a great food court. This food court has all types of quick restaurants, ranging from Sushi, to Thai Food, to German sausages, to coffee and deserts, to Indian food. When I look at DC's Union Station I realize that no single rail depot in America, outside of Grand Central Station, beats it.

Now I think about Chicago's Union Station. Honestly, I have only seen it from the outside. Today, in DC, I sat next to a guy who travels frequently by rail, and I brought up Chicago's Union Station. He said it is a beautiful building with a lot of potential, but said "it's too empty. Plus there are all these weird peddlers always trying to sell you things. There are a few restaurants that have great food, but definitely needs a lot of work. Chicago needs to be more classy--it needs to do more with all of that space!"

Interestingly, he said that DC's Union Station was also a piece of shit until recent city renovations, which were very expensive--but trust me, when I tell you, DC's Union Station is fucking AWESOME. Anybody who likes transit and great rail depots would love this place.

Back to Chicago. The Central Area plan wants to combine Union Station and Ogilvie into a grand West Loop transit center, or whatever. But what about now? Are there any plans to add more amenities--retail shops, a food court, some more activity, etc, to Union Station? After all, it is Chicago's great link between national and regional rail, and I think the city should invest in it more--just like they pour so much into O'Hare.

Final question. Is Union Station connected to the CTA, or the pedway, or does it just connect to Metra?
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Old December 20th, 2004, 03:06 AM   #2
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the Pedway at one time was supposed to connect with Union Station. There were plans that I believe were considered around the time of Sears Towers' construction that would have included an underwater connection from Sears to the station.

Of course, not much has happened with Pedway development as of late (although a very attractive resectioning is going on between Field's and the Grant Pk garage, with space for more stores in a far nicer setting.)

The connection betwen Union Station is very limited other than walking outside. Of course Union Station is not far from the Loop el tracks on Wells. Other than that you can walk indoors from Union Station practically to N'western (Ogilvie) and from there catch the NW Passage to CTA/Green.

The CTA had talked of a subway undernearth both of the stations west of the river; supposedly it would have included a leg on Clinton or Canal that would have been paired off with the Blue Line trackage to complete a second loop. I haven't heard anything about this lately; all the talk has been about the Circle Line....I can't imagine them doing both. Does anyone know?
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Old December 20th, 2004, 03:09 AM   #3
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UP, as much as I'd like to (and expect to) see redevelopment at Chgo's Union Station, wouldn't you agree that DC's Union Station is a much more open, dramatic, and classical site for such a major and attractive shopping complex.

I'm not knocking Chicago's, mind you, but DC's version may well be in a class by itself, especially in its more open setting than Chicago's Union, NY's Grand Central, etc.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 09:37 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25
The CTA had talked of a subway undernearth both of the stations west of the river; supposedly it would have included a leg on Clinton or Canal that would have been paired off with the Blue Line trackage to complete a second loop. I haven't heard anything about this lately; all the talk has been about the Circle Line....I can't imagine them doing both. Does anyone know?
There were plans for a Clinton Street subway that was part of the 2020 Central Area plan. It would form a larger underground loop, that would effectively have the Ohare branch and Congress branch of the Blue Line function as two different lines circling this underground loop. (considering how the Douglas branch of the blue is planned to become the Silver Line with the reconstruction of the Paulina connection, the Blue Line as we know is sure got dissected). There was also to be a busway underneath Monroe St. This would all come together to form a massive Superstation underneath the OTC that would be directly connected to Union Station.

Last i heard, funding has not yet been attained for this project. Im not sure when it will happen, but i do know that it NEEDS to happen. Very badly at that.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 04:01 PM   #5
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Rivernorth, are you saying the Circle Line AND a subway under Clinton are BOTH being planned????????
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Old December 20th, 2004, 06:07 PM   #6
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Here are a couple of images of Chicago's Union Station. There used to be a beautiful Grand Concourse for the station on the east side of Canal Street, and it had curves steel truss supports. It was demolished in the 1960's.

The main building and waiting room.








The old concourse.


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Old December 20th, 2004, 07:17 PM   #7
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Urban Politician,

My undergraduate school (Georgetown) rented out Union Station for an evening for our class's graduation party. As my first trip (despite four years in the DC area) to the building, I was absolutely floored. Since then, I cannot help but compare Chicago's Union Station to the capitol's and, unfortunately, I think ours loses out in every imaginable way.

When leaving college and returning to Chicago, I took a bus across the bridge to the Metro, jumped on a $2.15 (exceptionally clean and devoid of transiants) subway train, hopped off at Union Station, ran to my Amtrak train, fell asleep, and woke up between Southbend and Chicago. Nowadays, when suburban relatives visit they have to taxi it from the train station (if its truly freezing outside) or wander several blocks asking for directions to the nearest subway entrance. We need a direct connection between Metra/Amtrak and the subways.

Anyway, I'm incredibly hungover and my thoughts are less than lucid. Sorry if this is one long ramble.
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Old December 20th, 2004, 08:06 PM   #8
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Do you have pictures of the DC Union Station?
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Old December 20th, 2004, 09:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BVictor1
Here are a couple of images of Chicago's Union Station. There used to be a beautiful Grand Concourse for the station on the east side of Canal Street, and it had curves steel truss supports. It was demolished in the 1960's.
^not a tripod member. Can't see 'um

I don't have pics of DC's Union Station (sorry, no digital camera right now)

BTW, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Union station just a few blocks from an 'L station? I'm surprised, Bobablob, that your relatives have to go so far to get an 'L train
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Old December 21st, 2004, 01:09 AM   #10
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DC's is nice and all, but it doesn't have a 110-story tower 1 block away.
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Old December 21st, 2004, 06:40 AM   #11
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TUP - Union is five very cold blocks from the nearest L stop (Quincy). I completely agree that connections (and the station in general) need serious improvement.
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Old December 21st, 2004, 04:52 PM   #12
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Union Station in DC, IMHO, is the best station around.
There are some pictures of DC's Union Station on Cirrus' (from SSP.com) website BeyondDC (http://www.beyonddc.com). This website gives a great insight on DC (and B-more) and it's neighborhoods.


Goto to the following webpage for Union Station pics.

http://www.beyonddc.com/profiles/capitolhill.html.

Click the Union Station link.

Last edited by jacksom; December 21st, 2004 at 06:03 PM.
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Old December 21st, 2004, 06:24 PM   #13
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^Wow, great pics! That pretty much shows it all. Hate to say it, but for now DC's Union Station puts Chicago's to shame

GD: 5 blocks? That's ridiculous. There should definitely be a connection to the CTA
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Old December 21st, 2004, 06:34 PM   #14
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I don't think there was ever a question about it (DC's Union putting ours to shame). DC's is a classic. In some ways (due to the fact that it didn't have to be shoehorned into the heart of midtown Manhattan), it exceeds Grand Central, a magnificent structure in its own right.

PS, another classic and (like DC's Union) not restricted by tight boundaries is LA's Union Station....a beautiful mix of Spanish colonial with art deco touches from an earlier era.
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Old December 21st, 2004, 06:59 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edsg25
I don't think there was ever a question about it (DC's Union putting ours to shame). DC's is a classic. In some ways (due to the fact that it didn't have to be shoehorned into the heart of midtown Manhattan), it exceeds Grand Central, a magnificent structure in its own right.

PS, another classic and (like DC's Union) not restricted by tight boundaries is LA's Union Station....a beautiful mix of Spanish colonial with art deco touches from an earlier era.
^interesting, but I would have to give the cake over to Grand Central Terminal. That place is unbelievable. It feels like the center of the cosmopolitan universe when you're in that place
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Old December 21st, 2004, 07:44 PM   #16
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For those who are 2 lazy 2 go 2 the link. Courtesy of BeyondDC.

















































Mall inside train station.



















Last edited by jacksom; December 21st, 2004 at 08:18 PM.
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Old December 21st, 2004, 08:09 PM   #17
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It's a shame that Chicago's other train stations were all demolished. Well all except the Dearborn Street Station. But Chicago had a great many impressive train stations that were demolished between 1971-1984. They include Grand Central Terminal, The Illinois Central, The LaSalle Street Station, Chicago Northwestern Train Station and the grand concourse for the present day nion Station.
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Old December 21st, 2004, 09:19 PM   #18
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^ Between 1960 and 1990, people were just plain stupid. They all should have been killed. Luckily we still have the train stations that we do

BTW, if you look at this picture and see the 2-storey wooden structure with the staircase, that is actually a bar/restaurant. The lower level interior is a bar, and that's where I was on Sunday, enjoying my glass of wine and talking to a traveler about Chicago's Union Station (see my first post of this thread)

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Old December 23rd, 2004, 08:44 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geoff_diamond
TUP - Union is five very cold blocks from the nearest L stop (Quincy). I completely agree that connections (and the station in general) need serious improvement.
Union Station is about 2 blocks from the Clinton Blue Line Stop. that is somewhat (not a lot) closer than the Quincy L stop. I actually did the walk from Clinton to Union when i was catching my train up to Milwaukee after thanksgiving. It isnt too far, but not very convenient for commuters. Anyways, the Clinton street subway would be pretty handy for connections to Union and Ogilvie and the West Loop area. I have seen track maps showing a short stub track on the Blue Line under Lake after it turns up Milwaukee, so that is a little bit done right there. My school had a lecture by someone from SOM working on the Central Area Plan, and the Union/Ogilvie superstation and Clinton Street Subway are still "planned" but i wouldn't think they will pushed for any time soon. I think the Circle Line is a higher priority. Chicago Union Station isn't great (i have personally witnessed the grossest bathroom i have aver seen in my life there) but it could be a lot worse, and there is a lot of potential to work with. Come see the Milwaukee Amtrak Station, and you will love Union Station.
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Old December 27th, 2004, 02:35 AM   #20
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That's true... I forgot about the Clinton Stop. But, I think most people, especially tourists, are going to instrinsically walk toward downtown to find public transit, rather than away from; not to mention, I'm not sure that the blue line gives the average joe the transit flexibility he wants.
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