More details and renderings on the evolving Union Station Master Plan

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A rendering of the Union Station property in the future after the Master Plan is implemented. Click above to see larger.

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This rendering shows the new concourse and bus plaza, which would move from the eastern to western side of the station. Click above to see larger.

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Near-term plans involve replacing the parking lot at the front of Union Station with a civic plaza and streetscape improvements along both sides of Alameda Street.

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Far-term plans could include expanding the civic plaza, opening up access to the site along the corner of Cesar Chavez and Alameda and closing part of Los Angeles Street. Click above to see larger.

Progress continues on finalizing the Union Station Master Plan. As you may recall, the Metro Board of Directors last fall approved a basic concept for the station that included a greatly expanded concourse to run under the existing train platforms and both relocating and consolidating the bus plaza to the west side of the current tunnel under the tracks.

Metro provided a media briefing for reporters Monday afternoon that included much of the information that will be provided to the public at a community workshop this Thursday, June 5, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Union Station Board Room. No RSVP is necessary for those who wish to attend. 

First, some basic background: in 2011 Metro purchased the Union Station property, including about 47 acres of land from Catellus, the private firm that owned the facility. With nearly 70,000 people currently using the station on the average weekday — a number expected to grow to 100,000 by 2020 and to 140,000 by 2040 — Metro has been working on a master plan to improve how the station functions as a transit facility. The Master Plan would also expand green space at the station, accommodate potential development that would work alongside a bus and train station, preserve its historic architectural character and make Union Station more of a destination for everyone in our region.

Here are some of the refinements to the Master Plan:

•The new passenger concourse will greatly expand the existing passageway. The concourse will be significantly wider than the existing (and often crowded) pedestrian tunnel and there will be elevators and stairs accessing each of the rail platforms above. Those rail platforms will be spaced out differently and widened from their existing 23 feet to around 30 feet. The location of the current entrance to the Red/Purple Line will remain the same.

Here are three renderings of the new concourse.

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•Metro also plans to eliminate a long-standing bottleneck in a project separate from the Union Station Master Plan but moving forward in coordination with the plan. At present, Union Station is a dead end for Metrolink and Amtrak trains — all trains must enter and exit via tracks on the north side of the facility. Metro’s SCRIP project — now in its environmental and engineering phase — would allow trains to enter and exit the station via its south side by running four tracks over the 101 freeway and connecting to the existing tracks along the Los Angeles River.

The tracks would improve train capacity at Union Station by 40 to 50 percent, according to Metro. The project also gives Metro the chance to make improvements to the rail yard and concourse below.

•The new consolidated bus terminal will be built at the same level as the rail platforms for Amtrak and Metrolink tracks. The bus terminal would be accessed from the concourse below and would allow bus riders to reach their bus bays without having to cross any roads — which remains a problem at the current bus plaza. In order to build the bus plaza, Metro is exploring the acquisition and demolition of the Mozaic Apartments on the north side of the Union Station property.

•The Master Plan process is also exploring the possibility of locating an eventual high-speed rail terminal either below or above Vignes Street on the east side of the Union Station property. The big advantage is that this would allow construction of a high-speed rail facility without interfering with operations at Union Station — but would be adjacent to Union Station and future development there. Such a station, however, would require the city of Los Angeles to relocate its Piper Tech maintenance facility that sits between Vignes Street and the Los Angeles River.

•As the top rendering shows, the Master Plan is including several sites where development is possible. Metro’s purchase of Union Station included the right to develop about six million square feet of property. After further study, the Master Plan is looking at potential development over time of about 3.25 million square feet that could include hotels, office space and retail. The Master Plan will also contemplate partnering with developers to build some of the amenities at the new station.

•Two pedestrian and bicycle bridges would also span the rail yard to better connect the eastern and western sides of the Union Station property. They would provide good views of the property, as well as the downtown Los Angeles skyline.

•In the shorter-term, there are other improvements along the way. A new restaurant is expected to be announced soon for the old Union Bagel location near the front of Union Station. There are also discussions underway for new restaurants in the old ticket room and the Fred Harvey House.

•Another short-term project would involve replacing the parking lot in front of Union Station with a civic plaza that could even include outdoor restaurant seating and a wide esplanade along Alameda Street. Alameda — with approvals from the city of Los Angeles — could potentially be narrowed from six lanes to four lanes, making it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to reach the station from Chinatown and the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument on the western side of Alameda.

•As the Union Station Master Plan is being developed, Metro and the city of Los Angeles are also cooperating on a “linkages” study to better connect Union Station to surrounding neighborhoods via better pedestrian, bicycle and transit connections. As many of you are keenly aware, the streets surrounding Union Station — Alameda, Cesar Chavez, the 101 freeway and Vignes — are not terribly hospitable to pedestrians and cyclists, making Union Station an island of sorts.

•Metro has already finished a signage project to make it easier for people to get around Union Station — a frequently heard complaint.

•And, yes, Metro is seeking LEED ND (neighborhood development) certification for the Master Plan and LEED EBOM (existing building, operations and maintenance) for the historic Union Station. Such certification is provided to buildings that meet thresholds for green building, including lower energy use and the inclusion of sustainable materials.

•In terms of sequencing, Metro would likely build the run-through tracks, then the new concourse and then the new bus plaza. As for cost estimates, Metro staff plans to have those when discussing the project with Metro Board staff at a meeting on June 18 at approximately 3 p.m.. The meeting is open to the public.

 

37 replies

  1. This seems very expensive. Hey have you guys ever heard of, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it? A lot of people would rather see the fares not to be raised vs remodeling union station, and an all new bus fleet.

  2. I don’t see any labels for where the Red Line portals are. Nor do I see any improvements to the Gold Line / Red Line transfer. Anyone else see something?

    Speaking of LAUS changes, why did the new signage invent “Metro Subway” as something different from “Metro Rail”?

  3. @Mark B — I’ve been wondering the same thing! In various places the Red/Purple Lines are labeled “Metro Subway” “Metro Rail” or simply “Metro” with red or purple dots following. The Gold Line, meanwhile, is labeled either “Metro Rail” or “Metro” with a gold dot on the new signage. The look/feel of the new signage is great, but it’s not necessarily simpler or more clear.

    There really should be a uniform naming scheme across not this station but the whole system. Either “Metro Rail” or simply “Metro” to include the Silver and Orange Lines. The Gold Line is, in fact, a subway at some places.

    The best thing is usually the simplest for the end user (rider), and that’s to call the various lines out in a uniform manner, regardless of whether they’re light rail or heavy rail, or below ground, or above ground at a certain spot.

  4. The subway was originally designed and named by the RTD. They called it METRO RAIL. After the merger of the RTD and LACTC forming the MTA someone decided all of the service, rail and buses are called METRO. At one time however all rail was called METRO RAIL. Because of the constant conflict between former RTD and LACTC employees and LACTC former employees desire to separate themselves from a former bus operation a directive came down that those working in the Divisions for instance were not allowed to answer the phone MTA but instead were to use the term METRO. For several years the two former agencies employees had different paid holidays with the former LACTC receiving more holidays paid then former RTD. For instance the Friday after Thanksgiving was paid to LACTC while former RTD were not.

  5. @Steven

    Metro Rail refers to red, purple and gold (ie, all metro rail lines)
    Metro subway refers to red and purple only (ie, only the underground – subway – lines)

  6. A few items:
    1 Better signage to parking. When the old front parking lots were changed, I never saw clear signs to the new parking. I remember the old asphalt out front from when I was a kid, but later when I drove down to catch the Red line, I failed to find the alternate.
    2 Bike and pedestrian bridge over the LA River from the east side. Making US accessible from the east is important. Part of the whole plan for the restoration of the river is to have it accessible from many points and connected to many things.
    3 Realign the Gold Line tracks, elevators, and stairs so there is single shot access to the Red & Purple lines. Having to go down and around the corner and down again is dumb. Improving the foot traffic between these lines will help a lot. Sometime watch the dash that happens.
    4 Make sure the plan works for the possible east side extension of the Red & Purple lines. Hopefully there will be extensions on both. Ideally one up the river and one down the river.
    5 Preserve (or if that is impossible, recreate) the flooring and walls of the existing pedestrian tunnel. But, do get rid of the existing blockage that prevents the traveler from going straight through from the front door. That little bit of left over from the old rail day needs to be moved.
    6 Widen the coverings for the platforms so there is an overhang of at least 1′ over the tracks. Provide more and better seating on the platforms for the Gold line (for the handicap and aged). All roofs should be solar and collect water for appropriate use on site (flushing toilets and landscaping, etc.
    7 Provide full service TVM’s at several locations in the concourse. The traveler should be able to walk up to the machine and get a TAP or ticket for: Metro, Metro Link, Amtrak, FlyAway, CHSR, and all other bus services that serve US. The traveler should be able to go to any machine and from it locate their transportation and buy a fare from the same machine. Ideally the traveler should be able to select a destination by name (for example: The Hollywood Bowl, The Aquarium of the Pacific, LAX, , ONT, The Rose Bowl) or location (including cities served by rail carriers and highway busses), the machine would give the options and guide them through the purchase of their fare, then give them directions (from where they are and the direction they are facing) to the location of their ride.

  7. I think the Metro Rail vs Metro vs Metro Subway thing is a matter of a lack of a clear identity. If you look on Metro’s rail map, the Red/Purple line sits in the same box as the other rail lines, merely identified as “Metro Rail lines and stations.” It’s probably unlikely that this will get changed any time in the immediate future, but, yes, it’d be nice if Metro could simply land on a label and stick with it.

    As for the sheer cost of this proposal, that is definitely the question. Perhaps as part of a Measure R2? It certainly would fit the bill as a capital project worthy of regional interest and support.

  8. Thank you for the great report, Steve. Do you happen to know if anything in the plans includes connecting an LA River bike path to Union Station? Is it planned as a protected lane, or just a share lane on existing roads? (Protected bike lane from the river to the station would be more than incredible!)

    • Hi Robert;

      Good question! I’m not sure; I do know that the linkages study mentioned in the blog post is contemplating bike access to Union Station from the surrounding neighborhoods. I’ll ask around here and know if anyone knows the particulars. The city of Los Angeles does control the surrounding streets, so they would be the lead on any kind of new bike lanes.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  9. @J*5: That’s the “what” but we still don’t know the “why”: why create a distinction without a difference? How does a casual user benefit from slicing the rail system into pieces? Doesn’t it risk a lot of unneeded confusion?

  10. My very first visit, ever, to LA Union Station is coming up! Five weeks from tomorrow, my bedroom aboard the Texas Eagle will be pulling in after two days spent traveling from Little Rock. To say i’m excited about my upcoming trip would be as gross an understatement as saying Disney knows how to be profitable. The fact that this “Grand Lady of Depots” is celebrating her 75th Birthday this year is icing on the cake! I’m positively gobsmacked by the plans I see, to say nothing of the progress already made. To see LAUPT become such a vital, and well-used facility going forward is truly heartening. It is a testament to the vision and rightful pride and joy of the People of the City of Los Angeles, to whom I am grateful.
    Signed,
    A future weary (but happy!) traveler-to-be

    • Hi George;

      No, Metro will most likely have to seek funding in order to fully implement the Master Plan. More details later this month.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  11. Is there any information about the possible residential developments around Union Station? If so, will Metro provide affordable or low-income housing units?

    It looks like they may tear down the Mozaic apartments as well. Will they help relocate those tenants, if there are any?

    • Hi Michael;

      There are no details yet of possible development near the station. The Master Plan is only trying to figure out what-should-go-where in the future. Details on the development, including any housing, will come later if the plan is adopted by the Metro Board, funded and implemented.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  12. So, how many bus lines will have to be sacrificed, and fare increases implemented to get THIS “pie-in-the sky” rendition of a “Master Plan” implemented (and then CONSTRUCTED over the next 20 years!)? Another pathetic BOONDOGGLE, courtesy of the un-audited, over-spending MTA!

  13. @MarkB

    I think it helps the casual user who associated “subway” with red-line style (heavy) transit but not light rail. So when they arrive and say “I need the subway to Hollywood” they can find it.

    @Source
    Wheres the kiss and ride going? It seems to have been replaced by tables and chairs.

  14. Is it possible for Metro to use the profit from the adjacent development to fund the station upgrades?

  15. At least by this plan Metro is learning finally after all these years that long term capitalization of Union Station is at stake and that going after revenues and profits is vital to keep Metro running.

    Had Metro had the brains to construct all our stations this way from the start where Metro acts as the local real estate developer and renter to those who conduct business at the stations themselves, they wouldn’t be in this financial mess today.

    Can’t make money off public transit (even though the Asians figured out a fare model that could), then find ways to make profit elsewhere. There are more to just running things with taxes and bonds.

    If Metro starts making profit out of real estate developments, will they privatize?

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, Metro has to remain public, government isn’t supposed to make money blah-blah-blah. Tell that to the LADWP.

  16. Any plans for a direct connection between the Gold Line and the subway platform? Express elevator?

    • Hi Ray;

      Good question. I’ll try to find out. I suspect it would be tricky.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  17. this is a terrible idea. sorry, unless you are gonna move mens central and twin towers jails, the juxtaposition of high end commercial property and correctional facilities will never work.

  18. SaveWeHo
    Where would suggest they move the massive MTA division to on the Westside? Bus divisions (P. E.) rail yards are strategically located so as bus service in this case can easily and economically be dispatched. In addition, the maintenance part of the division is dispatched numerous times during the day to clear bus break downs which include on street repairs to towing the buses into the yard. Without Division Seven, said breakdowns would have to be dispatched from downtown Los Angeles. Think about a stalled bus blocking a intersection any where in West Hollywood. Division Seven has been at that location since the late 1800’s. Most of the small homes on adjacent streets were originally built for Pacific Electric employees.

  19. Metro has to make money somehow. Sure, it doesn’t sound right that Metro is spending billions for this at the consequence of higher fares or more tax hikes, but the long term gain is that Metro is able to build a property that they fully own that integrates public transit with commercial and residential real estate which is a money maker.

    What Metro needs to do is hire an excellent public relations team who is able to explain to the people why Metro is doing this. You can’t expect the public to agree to something without a proper explanation. In the eyes of the public, they see this as another tax waste. If you explain to them by spending the money in revamping Union Station, it allows Metro to earn long term revenues from commercial and residential real estate to bring down taxes and fares in the future.

    Metro has had a problem in the past of explaining long term visions and tying that with long term revenue goals. This lack of foresight was the root cause of high fare evasion rates under an honor system. This culture of “taking the easy way out and letting the future figure it out” that Metro has been doing has to change.

  20. A lot of things need to be in place for this to make sense:

    #1 the Puple Line needs to be extended to Westwood sometime in the lifetimes of the people born since the turn of the century.

    #2 Jerry Brown’s High Speed train will need to be built to Union Station in the same time frame as #1.

    #3 A lot of new buildings need to be built around Union Station, places people will WALK to from Union Station (other than the previously mentioned twin towers and men’s central)

    #4 Metrolink ridership in and out of Union Station will to be closer to that of Churchgate station on the Mumbai Suburban railway than it’s current ridership.

    Big ridership numbers justify building big new facilities. Will the numbers to justify spending the money be there?

    Angelinos love their cars too much.

  21. Concerning rail to LAX . It’s all very easy with minimal construction. Divert some Blue Line Trains to the Green Line tracks at Imperial Station. Run the Green Line into the airport as planed , not elevated but in a ditch northbound into LAX. The one or two ramps at Imperial Station and the track age N.B. from the current Greenline LAX switch already built. About six months construction time if it’s constructed by a railroad instead on the usual light rail construction companies. No fancy “Bells & Whisles” just basic railroad construction methods.

    Check out BNSF latest Cajon Pass Third Track construction.

  22. I have been exploring future Metrorail connections between LAUPT/Downtown LA and LAX.

    Airport-bound passengers would have to take the Red Line, Expo Line, Crenshaw Line, and some sort of shuttle to the airport. That’s a 4-seat ride and that is ridiculous!