New Concept Considered For Union Station Re-Vamp: Above-Grade Concourse

Metro will study an above-grade concourse as part of its LinkUS project. Image via Metro
Metro will study an above-grade concourse as part of its LinkUS project. Image via Metro

The estimated $2.75 billion LinkUS project is planned to convert Union Station from a stub-end station to a run-through station. Run-through tracks would decrease delays, increase capacity, and get Union Station ready for future West Santa Ana Branch light rail and California high-speed rail. LinkUS would significantly expand today’s current underground concourse hallway that riders use to access the Gold Line, Metrolink, and Amtrak.

In March, the Metro board approved track alignments and a funding increase for LinkUS studies currently underway.

At today’s Metro board Planning and Programming Committee, Metro staff introduced a new concept under consideration: an above-grade concourse. The above-grade concourse would be circular, with escalators and stairs down to train platforms.

In earlier versions of LinkUS and the Union Station Master Plan, the current concourse corridor would have been greatly expanded, but would remain beneath railway tracks. Metro’s LinkUS environmental studies underway will evaluate both above and below-grade concourses.

Metro's preliminary comparison between above- and below-grade concourse for Union Station. Image via Metro staff report
Metro’s preliminary comparison between an above- and below-grade concourse for Union Station. Image via Metro staff report

Preliminarily, the below-ground concourse appears to be advantageous for passenger convenience, transit-oriented development, and operations costs. The above-ground concourse appears better for construction costs, views, and constructability, including minimizing construction impacts to current rail operations.

In addition to the new concourse concepts, Metro staff reported on two additional aspects of the LinkUS project:

  • Transit-Oriented Joint Development: In October 2017, Metro expects to release a Request for Information/Qualifications/Proposals (RFI/Q/P) to clarify how LinkUS could potentially proceed with additional private development onsite at Union Station. Planning station improvements at the same time as new adjacent development would allow for stronger transit connections.
  • Active Transportation: The LinkUS study is evaluating possible bike/walk connections between Union Station and the planned L.A. River multi-use path.

Metro will continue to refine plans for LinkUS via its environmental studies underway. Metro staff expect to finalize the studies and project design through Fall 2018, when the board is expected to approve a preferred project alternative.

Readers, what do you think of the new concourse concept? Would you prefer a cheaper, quicker elevated concourse with great views? Or a larger, more expensive underground concourse, with more convenient transit connections?

  • One would have hoped that Metro staff had taken a trip to Anaheim’s ARTIC to see what a white elephant of poor design looks like. It’s one where you used to walk a short distance under the tracks to the train from the old station, but now you have to go up two floors to go over the tracks and then over and then down to the platform. FYI Metro staff, there are frequent trains leaving for Anaheim just about a 5 minute walk from the lobby on One Gateway via both Metrolink and Amtrak Pacific Surfliner (and BTW Surfliner serves food and booze!) such that you could go down over a long lunch. But no, we’ll be different, ignore world best practices, and too bad for the Red Cap cart system that shuttles older passengers to and from the Amtrak trains.

    P.S. If anyone at Metro is reading this, can you change the label on the Subway station because it also serves the Purple Line, and many of your decision-making Board of Directors won’t know it does unless you include it.

  • DrunkEngineer

    Wow, that above-grade-concourse concept is really horrible. In the comparison chart, it explicitly states that it would increase walking distance, require more vertical travel, have higher operating costs, and reduce square footage available for station amenities So why is it even being considered — for the views!?

  • com63

    There really needs to be more development adjacent and even above the station in the master plan. This whole area should be transformed into a dense walkable mixed use neighborhood rather than an isolated train to subway/light rail/bus transfer point.

  • Richard

    I’m not sure all the board of directors knows there is a purple line.

  • onlinenetizen

    their own chart says that the above grade option is a terrible idea. there is no views in Downtown

  • Vooch

    Agreed – this proposal is horrible. It was conceived by someone who thinks changing planes in O’Hare or Atlanta is easy

    It’s also designed by someone who never commuted by rail. Utterly Clueless how rail commuters travel.

    It’s as if someone wanted to transform Union Station into the least efficient passenger rail station on earth.

  • Joe Linton

    I liked it when I first saw the video – it looks snazzy! Then I thought about when I am hustling up from the subway to catch a train – usually sweating, with a kid, baggage and a bike in tow – and I thought “no thanks”

  • Gary Fox

    How does the above-grade option win out over the at-grade in terms of sustainability? The energy and resulting carbon emissions required to air condition an otherwise hot, glass box alone should preclude such a distinction. Seems like the consultants are tipping the scales to justify a predetermined, desired outcome — note that the final tally, conveniently, is 4 to 3, favoring the above-grade.

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Preliminary rendering of future double-deck light rail tracks at Union Station, with the Gold Line below the future West Santa Ana Branch rail. Image via Metro staff presentation

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