Union Station (Los Angeles)
|Amtrak, Metrolink and LA Metro station|
Main building and gardens
800 North Alameda Street
801 Vignes Street
Los Angeles, California 90012
|Owned by||Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority|
|Platforms||6 island platforms (Amtrak/Metrolink)
1 island platform (Metro Gold Line)
1 island platform (Metro Red/Purple Lines)
1 island platform (Metro Silver Line)
2 (Metro Gold Line)
2 (Metro Red/Purple Lines)
|Bicycle facilities||74 bike rack spaces
20 locker spaces
|Station code||Amtrak code: LAX|
|Opened||May 3, 1939|
|Passengers (2014)||1,551,090 5.63% (Amtrak)|
Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal
|Architect||Parkinson, John & Donald B.|
|Architectural style||Moderne, Art Deco, Mission/Spanish Revival|
|NRHP Reference #||80000811|
|Added to NRHP||November 13, 1980|
|Designated LAHCM||August 2, 1972|
Los Angeles Union Station is the main railway station in Los Angeles, California and the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States. It opened in May 1939 as the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, replacing La Grande Station and Central Station.
Approved in a controversial ballot measure in 1926 and built in the 1930s, it served to consolidate rail services from a number of railroads (the Union Pacific, Santa Fe, and Southern Pacific) into one terminal station. Conceived on a grand scale, Union Station became known as the "Last of the Great Railway Stations" built in the United States. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Today, the station is a major transportation hub for Southern California, providing 60,000 passengers a day access to Amtrak (the National Railroad Passenger Corporation) long distance trains, Amtrak California regional trains, Metrolink commuter trains, and several Metro Rail subway and light rail lines.
- 1 History
- 2 Architecture
- 3 Location
- 4 Services
- 4.1 Amtrak
- 4.2 Metrolink
- 4.3 Metro Rail
- 4.4 Metro Liner
- 4.5 Former train services
- 4.6 Bus and coach services
- 5 Platforms and tracks
- 6 Future expansion
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
In 1926, a measure was placed on the ballot giving Los Angeles voters the choice between the construction of a vast network of elevated railways or the construction of a much smaller Union Station to consolidate different railroad terminals. The election would take on racial connotations and become a defining moment in the development of Los Angeles. The proposed Union Station was located in the heart of what was Los Angeles' original Chinatown. Reflecting the prejudice of the era, the anti-railroad Los Angeles Times, a lead opponent of elevated railways, argued in editorials that Union Station would not be built in the “midst of Chinatown” but rather would “forever do away with Chinatown and its environs.”
Two questions were put to vote in 1926. First, the voters approved Union Station instead of elevated railways by 61.3 to 38.7 percent margin. Second, the electorate voted in favor of the Los Angeles Plaza as the site of the new station but by a much smaller 51.1 to 48.9 percent margin.  Union Station would eventually be built across the street from the Plaza in Chinatown, largely due to the efforts of Preservationist Christine Sterling and Los Angeles Times Publisher Henry Chandler to preserve the Plaza neighborhood.
The station took over service from La Grande Station which had suffered major damage in the Long Beach earthquake of 1933 and Central Station, which had opened to replace Arcade Depot in 1914. Passenger service was provided by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, Southern Pacific Railroad, and Union Pacific Railroad, as well as the Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railway (LARy). Union Station saw heavy use during World War II, but later saw declining patronage due to the growing popularity of air travel and automobiles.
The first commuter rail service to Union Station was the short-lived CalTrain that began operating on October 18, 1982 between Los Angeles and Oxnard. The service faced economic and political problems from the start and was suspended in March 1983.
Metrolink commuter rail service began on October 26, 1992, with Union Station as the terminus for the San Bernardino Line, the Santa Clarita Line (later renamed the Antelope Valley Line) and the Ventura County Line.
In January 1993, Metro's Red Line subway began service to the station, followed by Metrolink's Riverside Line in June. The Orange County Commuter train was discontinued on March 28, 1994 and replaced by Metrolink's Orange County Line.
In May 2002, Metrolink added additional service to stations in Orange and Riverside counties with the opening of the Via Fullerton Line (later renamed the 91 Line).
Light Rail service arrived at Union Station on July 26, 2003 when Metro's Gold Line began operating to Pasadena from tracks 1 and 2. The line was expanded south over US 101 in November 2009 with the opening of the Gold Line Eastside Extension.
In February 2011, the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) approved the purchase of Union Station from Prologis and Catellus Development (a descendant of the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific railroads) for $75 million. The deal was closed on 14 April 2011. Since taking over ownership of the station, Metro has focused on increasing services for passengers at the station. One of the most noticeable changes is the addition of several retail and dining businesses to the concourse.
Amtrak opened a Metropolitan Lounge at Union Station on September 23, 2013. The lounge is open to Amtrak passengers traveling in sleeping car accommodations, business class on the Pacific Surfliner and some Amtrak Guest Rewards members (Select Plus and Select Executive levels only). The lounge features staffed ticket counter, complimentary refreshments, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a conference room. Passengers using the Metropolitan Lounge receive priority boarding.
Union Station was partially designed by John Parkinson and Donald B. Parkinson (the Parkinsons) who had also designed Los Angeles City Hall and other landmark Los Angeles buildings. They were assisted by a group of supporting architects, including Jan van der Linden. The structure combines Dutch Colonial Revival architecture (the suggestion of the Dutch-born Jan von der Linden), Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne style, with architectural details such as eight-pointed stars.
Enclosed garden patios are on either side of the waiting room, and passengers exiting the trains were originally directed through the southern garden. The lower part of the interior walls is covered in travertine marble, and the upper part is covered with an early form of acoustical tile. The floor in the large rooms is terra cotta tile with a central strip of inlaid marble (including travertine, somewhat unusual in floors since it is soft). The ceiling in the waiting room has the appearance of wood, but is actually made of steel.
Attached to the main building to the south is the station restaurant (the last of the "Harvey House" restaurants to be constructed as a part of a passenger terminal) designed by southwestern architect Mary Colter. Although now padlocked and stripped of many interior furnishings, the topology of its rounded central counter, streamlined booths, and inlaid floor patterns remain.
The original ticket concourse has 62-foot (19 m) high ceilings and a 110-foot (34 m) counter. It is now closed to the general public, and, along with the southern garden and Harvey House restaurant area, made available to rent for filming and other special events.
Union Station is located in the northeastern corner of Downtown Los Angeles, on the property bounded by Alameda Street, Cesar Chavez Avenue, Vignes Street, and the Hollywood Freeway. It is across Alameda Street from L.A.'s historic Olvera Street and El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park. The historic Terminal Annex building is on the opposite side of the Chavez Avenue underpass. Chinatown and Civic Center are a short distance away.
The Patsaouras Transit Plaza on the east side of Union Station hosts several connecting bus lines, including Metro Local, Metro Rapid and Metro Express lines, as well as downtown DASH shuttles, many municipal bus lines, FlyAway express bus service to Los Angeles International Airport, and University of Southern California campus shuttles. The Transit Plaza is named after Nick Patsaouras, former RTD board member and advocate for public transportation.
The Gateway Transit Center includes the station itself, Patsaouras Transit Plaza, and the western terminus of the El Monte Busway, as well as Metro's headquarters building.
Amtrak and Metrolink share 12 of Union Station's 14 outdoor tracks, with 90 weekday trains departing (91 on Wednesday, 92 on Friday).
Amtrak long distance routes
Amtrak operates four long distance trains out of Los Angeles:
- Coast Starlight, to Seattle (service began 1971)
- Southwest Chief, to Chicago (service began 1971)
- Sunset Limited, to New Orleans (service began 1971)
- Texas Eagle, to Chicago via San Antonio (service began 1982)
Amtrak California regional routes
Amtrak California operates multiple-times-daily regional rail services to cities across the state:
- Pacific Surfliner, from San Diego to San Luis Obispo via Los Angeles.
- Connections to the San Joaquin train to Oakland or Sacramento are provided through Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach services. (see below)
The station is the hub for Metrolink and six of Metrolink's seven lines serve the station:
- Antelope Valley Line, to Lancaster
- Riverside Line, to Riverside
- Orange County Line, to Oceanside
- San Bernardino Line, to San Bernardino
- Ventura County Line, to East Ventura
- 91 Line, to Riverside via Fullerton
Metro Rail 
Three Metro Rail lines serve the station with about 300 Metro Rail trains departing every weekday.
Metro Red Line/Metro Purple Line
The Metro Red and Metro Purple subway lines have their eastern terminus at Union Station and share two tracks below Union Station. There are two entrances: one is located inside Union Station's main concourse on the west side of the complex, near Alameda Street, and the other is located at the Patsaouras Transit Plaza on the east side of the complex.
Metro Gold Line
The Metro Gold Line is a light-rail line that passes through Union Station as it travels between Pasadena and East Los Angeles. Trains use Tracks 1 and 2 of Union Station's 14 outdoor tracks. The platform is accessible from the main passenger tunnel via staircase and elevator. The platform features an art installation, entitled Images of Commonality/Nature and Movement, created by Beth Thielen.
Metro Silver Line
One Metro Liner bus rapid transit line makes a stop outside Union Station. The Metro Silver Line operates between El Monte Bus Station, Downtown Los Angeles, and Harbor Gateway Transit Center using the El Monte Busway and Harbor Transitway. The Metro Silver Line stops near the southwest corner of the station at the entrance to the El Monte Busway at Alameda Street.
Former train services
|This section requires expansion. (March 2015)|
|Preceding station||Amtrak||Following station|
Discontinued in 1997
|Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe|
toward San Diego
Bus and coach services
Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach
Connections to San Joaquin trains are provided through bus routes 1A & 1B that travel to and from the Bakersfield Amtrak Station (Route 1B also serves the cruise terminals and Catalina Island ferries in Long Beach & San Pedro.):
- Route 1A: Bakersfield - Los Angeles
- Route 1B: Bakersfield - Los Angeles - San Pedro
When trains aren't running during the overnight hours several bus routes provide service along the Pacific Surfliner route (to Santa Barbara, San Diego and select intermediate stations) and the San Joaquin route (to Fresno and select intermediate stations.):
- Route 1A: Bakersfield - Los Angeles - San Diego
- Route 1A: Bakersfield - Los Angeles - Santa Ana
- Route 1B: Fresno - Bakersfield - Los Angeles
- Route 4: Santa Barbara - Los Angeles
Amtrak also offers a Thruway Motorcoach route to Las Vegas from Union Station.
California Shuttle Bus
While it does not stop on the Union Station property, California Shuttle Bus provides service to San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose from a bus stop across from the Patsaouras Transit Plaza at the corner of Vignes and Ramirez streets.
Metro and municipal buses
Bus services using the Patsaouras Transit Plaza:
- Metro Local: 33 (late nights only), 40
- Metro Express: 442, 485
- Metro Rapid: 704, 728, 733, 745
- Antelope Valley Transit Authority: 785*
- Citadel Outlets Express
- City of Santa Clarita Transit: 794*
- Dodger Stadium Express (home games during baseball season only)
- LAX FlyAway
- Foothill Transit: 699*
- LADOT Commuter Express: Bunker Hill Shuttle*, 430*, 534*
- LADOT DASH: D (weekdays only)
- Mount St. Mary's College Shuttle*
- Orange County Transportation Authority: 701*
- University of Southern California Shuttles: UPC, HSC, ICS
Most bus services using the nearby El Monte Busway use the bus stop west of Alameda Street at the entrance to the busway (southwest corner of station):
- Metro Liner: Metro Silver Line
- Metro Express: 487, 489*
- Foothill Transit: Silver Streak, 481*, 493*, 497*, 498*, 499*
Bus services using the bus stop on Cesar Chavez Avenue & Vignes Street (northeast corner of station):
Bus services using the bus stop on Alameda Street & Los Angeles Street (outside western entrance):
- * Indicates commuter service that operates only during weekday rush hours.
Platforms and tracks
New transit station on El Monte Busway
A new transitway station for the Metro Silver Line and other transit buses operating on the El Monte Busway is being built to the south of the Patsaouras Transit Plaza in the median of the El Monte Busway funded by tolls on collected as a part of the Metro ExpressLanes project. It will allow buses traveling in both directions on the bus way to serve the Union station with a minimum of delay for passengers for other destinations. When completed a bridge will allow passengers to walk directly from the Patsaouras Transit Plaza to the busway station, eliminating a long, convoluted walk across the Union Station property to the current stop located on the El Monte Busway at Alameda.
The station was originally expected to be completed in June 2014, but because all bids came in over budget, they were cancelled. After the acceptance of revised bids, and an increase in the project's budget that was adopted by the Metro Board of Directors in January 2014, Metro now expects this project to be open for revenue service in December 2016.
Southern California Regional Interconnect Project
With the number of trains using Union Station expanding, the stub-end layout of trackage is limiting the station's capacity. Trains can only enter or exit from the north side of the station. The configuration forces trains without cab-cars to slowly reverse in or out of the station and trains heading to or from the south to make a near-180 degree turn. Compounding the problem, is that while the station has 14 boarding tracks, multiple trains must squeeze onto just 5 tracks (originally, there were more tracks at "the throat", but Metrolink had some removed to allow for faster speeds along the curves in and out of the station to improve efficiency) as they enter or exit the station. This choke-point can delay arriving trains as they are forced to wait outside of the station to allow a departing train to exit the station (departures are usually given priority, to free up platforms and to keep them from experiencing delays along their route).
Therefore, Metro has proposed the Southern California Regional Interconnect Project (SCRIP) which would extend tracks 3–10 as run-through tracks, which will exit Union Station and cross over US Route 101 on a long, elevated "S-curve" that will tie into the existing tracks along the Los Angeles River. The plan also includes several bridges over the river that would create a "loop" around the station allowing all trains (including those to/from the north or west) to use the run-though tracks.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority authorized preliminary engineering for the project in July 2012. A Request For Proposals (RFP) for the SCRIP was being prepared as of June 2013. The $31-million contract for the engineering work on the project was approved on April 24, 2014. The project’s estimated value is $350 million. Construction on the SCRIP project is anticipated to commence by 2017, and be complete by late 2019.
During construction, several tracks may be taken out of service due to their extension. To make up for the temporary loss of those platforms, track 13 was revitalized for use and tracks 14 & 15 were re-constructed. The project was completed on October 17, 2012. Once the SCRIP project is finished, the run-through tracks and tracks 13–14 will be in regular use (track 15 will be used for storage), resulting in a 40% increase in track capacity.
Former Run-Through Tracks Project
California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Federal Railroad Administration previously drafted a plan to create run-through tracks at Union Station, but the project involved just four tracks and lacked the station "loop" limiting usage of the tracks just to trains heading to or from the south.
California High-Speed Rail
Union Station is planned to be a major hub for the future California High-Speed Rail System. Upon completion, it's projected that passengers will be able to get from Union Station to the planned Transbay Terminal in San Francisco in 2 hours and 40 minutes.
As a part of its Master Plan, Metro is currently studying how to best integrate tracks and platforms for high-speed trains into Union Station. Options include an aerial structure above the existing platforms, an underground structure under Alameda, an underground structure under Vignes and an aerial structure east of Vignes. All plans include a new concourse for high-speed rail passengers and three platforms with six tracks.
In popular culture
The facility served as a backdrop for the 1950 film Union Station, which starred William Holden and Nancy Olson. It has been used in many vintage motion pictures, many of the film noir variety. Movies that have featured Union Station as a filming location include:
- Blade Runner
- Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
- Drag Me to Hell
- Gable and Lombard
- Pearl Harbor
- In the Mood
- Private Eye (1987 TV movie starring Josh Brolin)
- Silver Streak
- The Way We Were
- Under the Rainbow
The station also appears as Unity Station in the 2004 video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Union Station (Los Angeles).|
- Amtrak – Stations – Los Angeles, CA
- Union Station overview (Metrolink)
- LA Metro map of connections in the Union Station area
- LA Metro map of bus services from Union Station
- Great American Stations listing (Amtrak)
- Los Angeles station information (Amtrak Texas Eagle)
- Public Art Works at the Union Station and in El Pueblo
- "Union Station" Visiting... with Huell Howser (Episode 222 - September 26, 1994)