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.
•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.