It was officially announced last month that the Los Angeles County transportation agency, Metro, was purchasing the beautiful but underutilized Union Station from a private owner. Even though it is underutilized (ridership could be higher) and has so much more potential (more varied uses on site), Union Station is still the undisputed hub of transit on the entire West Coast (west of Chicago to be exact).
Union Station is sometimes called the “Last Great Railway Station” in the United States as it was built in 1939 (after many of the other great railway stations on the East Coast in cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC). Anyone who visits Union Station and admires architecture will enjoy the cavernous yet intimate style of the grand concourse with its Streamline Moderne Mission Revival design.
One of the most interesting developments that have been taking place in Union Station recently in the past few months is the introduction of more shops that serve transit riders (Amtrak, Metrolink, subway, light-rail, and buses). Stores like the Japanese convenience mart Famima, the aromatic Wetzels Pretzels that greet morning commuters, Subway sandwiches for hungry travelers, and a wi-fi hot spot at Starbucks (opening Friday, March 25). Adding stores reminds me of some of the other train stations I have been to in cities like New York, Washington DC and Taipei where shopping and dining at a rail station is as natural as an Angeleno getting in the car and going to the mall.
That’s why I’m really excited that Metro decided to buy Union Station because that gives us (the transit riders) more control over its destiny. What I would like to see happen at Union Station in the next few years is:
1) Continue with the trend of adding more shops/restaurants and events at Union Station (like the new Union Station flea market Truckit Fest), making Union Station a destination itself and not just a transfer point.
2) Consolidate as much transit services into Union Station as possible including relocating Greyhound’s bus terminal from 7th/Alameda (in the middle of nowhere) to somewhere onsite. And bring back Megabus!
These pictures I took of the expansive (mostly underground) Taipei Railway Main Station on my trip to Taiwan could provide a glimpse of what Union Station could evolve toward as more shops and restaurants are added to accommodate transit riders (and increase revenues for Metro).