Union Station past and present, in photographs

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been both shooting and collecting photos of Los Angeles Union Station, the best of which I’ve put in the above slideshow; click on the first image to begin the slideshow. You can also watch the slideshow on The Source’s Flickr page or as a video on YouTube.

For those interested in the old ticket room and Harvey House, there are a bunch of photos about halfway through the slideshow. After years of looking through Harvey House through the windows, I finally had a chance to go inside. It’s spectacular.

Some quick background: Metro purchased Union Station for roughly $70 million from Catellus in 2011. The purchase gave Metro direct control over Southern California’s largest rail and bus hub, including  development rights on 40 acres of land. Buying Union Station also prevented the facility from being tied up in a real estate trust that would have kept a very public space in private hands well into the future.

In 2012, Metro hired Gruen Associates in association with Grimshaw Architects of London to develop a master plan for the facility. In March, both a Metro staff report and PowerPoint were released that explained the early findings of the Master Plan process: making Union Station work as a transit hub will be the top priority. I tried to take some of the photos to reflect issues raised thus far by the Master Plan team.

The Master Plan process is important considering the Metro Rail system will be growing in the next three decades because of funding supplied by the Measure R sales tax approved by L.A. County voters in 2008. The California high-speed rail project is slated to arrive at Union Station when funding for that segment is secured. Bottom line: an already busy facility is going to be a lot busier. Here’s the Master Plan home page on metro.net.

10 replies

  1. I’m *just* old enough to remember when the old ticketing hall was still where you bought Amtrak tickets, which I did (or at least, my stepfather did) for me every other weekend when I’d take the train to San Diego to visit my dad. Much like the rest of Union Station, it’s an amazing space.

  2. Interesting that one of the pics. pointed out that the bus stop at Vignes and Cesar Chavez gets MORE TRAFFIC then that transit plaza behind it does. Kinda negates the need FOR a “transit plaza” at Union Station, which every time I have been through it, I NEVER SEE ANY MTA BUSES IN IT! WHY does it exist again? Where does one catch ANY MTA buses IN this Union Station “transit plaza”?

  3. @Rick Beaver

    I concur. With all of the dining options now available downtown, Metro should try to do an outreach to a chef that would like to open a restaurant with some old LA ambiance. But maybe Union Station has not reached that “critical mass” yet to support that restaurant.

  4. Once I went on a tour I actually got to go in the old Harvey House restaurant. It is a shame that the beautiful space that it is can not be used for some thing. Too bad Traxx Restaurant did not go in that space they could have had a restaurant so much more space than what they currently have. I hope some day it is used for some thing; it is too nice to just let it sit there empty like it currently is.

  5. LAUS should never be Transbay; LAUS has charisma and history. There will be high-rises in the rest of downtown that match Transbay. Hopefully the renovations here will preserve the character of LAUS while accommodating the vast increase in usage that is already taking place.

  6. Great pictures. Thanks.

    Union Station will become the Transbay Terminal of Southern California. Some day we will regret the low density housing right next to it.

    • Hi Chaure;

      I wanted to make the point that not all train stations of that era, the 1930s, are still train stations. Whereas Los Angeles Union Station is thriving and busier than ever.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  7. Problems with the captions of 2 of the photos.
    The one that states it was some time in the 1960’s can’t be. The car in the background is a late 1970’s or early 1980’s station wagon.
    The one that states it shows Metrolink locomotives actually shows the ‘cab cars’, which are on the other end from the locos.