Enhance existing passenger station facilities to improve flow
As part of the second stage of the Study, initial concepts for proposed improvements to the current layout of Chicago Union Station developed in the first stage of the Study have been revised based upon an analysis of a pedestrian simulation model of the existing station conditions and further technical refinements. New space planning layouts (in plan view) as well as architectural renderings have been created and are included in Second Stage Technical Memorandum No. 1.
The key strategy that has guided this effort has been to open up the station’s concourse area to improve passenger flows and to make it easier for passengers to navigate through the station. The potential modifications attempt to achieve this goal by relocating some existing station functions away from the most congested parts of the existing station concourse and moving the stairs and escalators that serve the station’s Canal Street entrance. These changes would create a continuous uninterrupted east-west axis through the station, connecting the Great Hall on the west with the entrance to Amtrak’s waiting rooms on the east. North-south movement inside the station would also be greatly enhanced by relocation of the Amtrak ticket office, customer service offices, and newsstand, creating a wide uninterrupted north-south axis connecting the north and south platform areas. A central information counter could be located at the convergence of the new east-west and north-south axes, in the center of this newly opened up concourse. From this central point, which would also be open to the street level and natural light from above, clear and easy directions could be provided to train gates, waiting areas, ticketing, food service, rest rooms, station exits, and connecting transportation. It may be noted that Union Station’s original passenger concourse, demolished in 1968 featured a passenger information counter in nearly the same location.
These potential station concourse modifications would be compatible with Amtrak’s current plans to alleviate crowding in its main waiting room by relocating the Metropolitan Lounge (reserved for premium fare sleeping car passengers) to a new, larger space in a currently unused part of the headhouse building (off of the Great Hall). The existing waiting room could then be expanded to encompass the entire east side of the concourse area, approximately doubling the capacity of the existing space.
The potential station concourse modifications would also complement the creation of another large waiting room by repurposing existing back-of-house space under the station’s former mail platforms. As proposed in the first stage of the Master Plan Study, this below track level waiting room would be used to service the former mail platforms when they are converted for passenger use. The entrance to the underground passageway (a former steam tunnel) connecting the repurposed mail platforms and lower level waiting rooms to the existing station concourse would be located at the highly visible eastern terminus of the new east-west axis through the station concourse.
Finally, several new escalators and/or stairways are proposed to be added to reduce the overcrowding conditions that presently occur during commuter rail peak periods. It is possible that further analysis could recommend even more escalators and stairways than depicted in the attached drawings.
Further modifications to these plans will be proposed based on additional train operations and pedestrian flow simulation modeling to be conducted as the second stage of the Union Station Master Plan Study progresses during the upcoming months. The renderings shown here are preliminary depictions of potential modifications to the station presented at this time to document the current status of this planning exercise and to facilitate additional comment and input from stakeholders.
Rebuild Canal Street viaduct in a manner that improves street access
Key segments of Canal Street are on a viaduct structure over Union Station’s tracks. Constructing station tracks under the viaduct was an original design feature to increase the capacity of Union Station, and in the block between Adams and Jackson, the Canal Street viaduct forms the ceiling over an integral part of Union Station’s passenger concourse. The viaduct was constructed in conjunction with the station, and is at the end of its design life. CDOT is planning to rebuild the viaduct later this decade and the Master Plan Study team has investigated whether some modifications could and should be made to the future replacement viaduct design to help in achieving the study goals, rather than simply replacing the structure exactly as it was originally built. Chief among these ideas would be creating traffic islands in Canal Street to add curb space for pick-up and drop-off traffic. This would be similar to pick up lanes at an airport terminal, with channelized traffic and parallel curbs. As part of the viaduct reconstruction project, direct stairs/escalators could be added between street level along Canal Street and the track/concourse level immediately below.