When Metro started the Union Station Master Planning process, the agency kicked off with a series of focus groups including many kinds of stakeholders – transit users, transit operators, neighbors and business improvement groups.
One of the themes heard overwhelmingly is that while our stakeholders were excited about the master plan and a future vision for the station, they wanted Metro to make immediate improvements. Which, in fact, Metro plans to do with a signage improvement program as detailed in the document posted above.
Among our stakeholders, it was noted that many people get lost in Union Station. Some of the common complaints: it’s a big place and it’s often hard to know where you are — and where you’re supposed to go to reach buses and trains and places such as Olvera Street, which is only a block away from Union Station’s frontage on Alameda Street.
It’s not surprising that visitors often cannot find their way around. When the station opened in 1939, clarity of circulation was inherent in the design. Street cars, taxis and private cars were funneled to the front side of the station. Once inside, passengers went from the ticket hall in front to the waiting room to the gates that led to platforms. Carefully laid tile in the floors guided arriving and departing passengers to the appropriate locations and it was easy to get around without much thought and without much signage.
After a major decline in rail service that lasted through the 1980s, Union Station is a far different place today. The station is now served by the Red/Purple Line subway and the two segments of the Gold Line — which will one day be linked to the Blue and Expo Lines via the Regional Connector project. There are more than a dozen Metro Bus routes that stop near the station, not to mention stops for other muni buses. Union Station also serves inter-city rail (Amtrak) and commuter rail (Metrolink), the FlyAway bus to Los Angeles International Airport , inter-city buses and various shuttles.
In 1995 Metro opened its headquarters building in the “Gateway Center” area of the station, followed by the opening of Patsaouras Bus Plaza and the East Portal. This represented a fundamental change in the design of the station – we now had an east entrance to the station and the passageway (aka the tunnel) now had two sides to it. Efforts were made to direct transit users and visitors across the station as it grew and changed, but signs were added on a piecemeal basis and there was never a consistent design.
For example, in our study of the existing signage conditions, we identified signs directing customers to “Metro Headquarters,” “Gateway Center,” “MTA Headquarters,” or “Gateway Plaza.” Four different names for the same building!
With Metro’s purchase of the station in April 2011 and commitment to planning for the long term, the new Environmental Graphics and Signage plan (the “Plan”) is a first step in that direction. The Plan brings a deep knowledge of the movement of passengers across the station and provides a plan and design that offers both beauty and consistency. The plan also takes advantage of new technology Metro is testing to make Union Station a pilot site for better incorporating technology into our transit system.
Some highlights of the signage plan are below. Thanks to Selbert Perkins Design for their work on the project and the following renderings:
•Preservation of the four existing historic mounted signs.
With close supervision of our consulting historic architect, ARG, Metro is removing, documenting and storing the last of the concourse gates and the Information cabinet. Other historic signage will remain, as shown in the above slide.
•Opening up the concourse. The Plan aims to create clear sightlines from the passageway to the western (Alameda) entrance to the station and to the South Patio, key travel paths for transit users and visitors. This will be achieved by the removal and storage of the historic signs, coupled with the recent removal of the seating from the concourse area.
•Moving the “queuing” of Amtrak passengers waiting for seat assignments and boarding in the concourse. Many users had their travel path blocked by stanchions and rows of baggage-carrying passengers lined up from the concourse down into the waiting room. These passengers now get their information at the Amtrak service desk and wait in the historic seating in the beautiful waiting room.
•New electronic signage in the waiting room. To reiterate the use of the waiting room as a place to sit and wait, and in close cooperation with Metrolink, two new electronic LED signs will be placed in the waiting room, offering arrival and departure information for both Amtrak and Metrolink services. This data will mirror the data that is currently provided in the information cabinet:
And how the new waiting room signs will look:
•Standard nomenclature. The Plan offers both a new naming convention for general orientation around the station as well as a standardization across the names of various “places” on the station property. The overall site remains Union Station, but we have designated “Union Station East” and “Union Station West” to help general orientation for first time visitors, and we continue this convention on maps and directional signage.
•Perimeter improvements. The Plan includes a series of perimeter wayfinding signs at scales appropriate for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. We are also introducing identity pylons at 3 main corners: Alameda/El Monte Busway, Cesar Chavez/Vignes and the entrance to the Patsaouras Bus Plaza.
The corner of Cesar Chavez/Vignes now:
And how it will look:
•East Portal Pylon and Interactive Help Desk. We will place a new pylon in the East Portal, carefully located outside the path of travel for transit connections, to provide a clear marking point as well as pilot a new interactive “help desk” function. The pylon will include four, 55-inch interactive touch-screens that provide Metro’s trip planner system, web page as well as internet access focused on tourist and destination information.
As it looks now:
As it will look:
•New bus bay markers at Patsaouras Bus Plaza. We will replace the bus bay markers with new markers, equipped with Metro’s real time NextBus system at every marker.
As it looks now:
As it will look:
The removal of some existing signs is set to begin March 11, with the with the complete signage package in place by May 3, when Metro will host a slate of activities honoring the 75th anniversary of Union Station. The first stage of this Plan does not include the Gateway Parking Garage, but this will be re-signed in a subsequent phase and is scheduled to be completed by fall 2014.