Amtrak’s 2nd Century Plan Adding “20,000 square feet of new passenger space” at Union Station

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Future Concept: View from Au Bon Pain looking East.

From Amtrak:

“Amtrak is advancing a near-term comprehensive renovation of Washington Union Station’s intercity and commuter rail concourse, which will add approximately 20,000 square feet of new passenger space – nearly doubling the concourse’s current capacity.

Design is underway to upgrade passenger amenities including new restrooms, boarding gates, seating and a ClubAcela lounge. The design will also include new architectural features and natural light elements to enliven the space for travelers. The result will be a vastly reconfigured, modernized and unified concourse that will improve the passenger experience by providing better accessibility, circulation, wayfinding and multimodal connectivity. Amtrak today unveiled two conceptual renderings of the renovation.

While Union Station has served the region well for over a century, it is now operating beyond its capacity, particularly during rush hours and peak travel times. As such, implementing near-term solutions to gain capacity and alleviate congestion is imperative to maintaining safe and efficient station operations.

The Concourse Modernization project will be the first set of improvements to come to life as part of Washington Union Station’s 2nd Century plan, a comprehensive improvement initiative comprised of multiple projects – in coordination with the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and private real estate developer Akridge – which seeks to triple passenger capacity and double train capacity over the next 20 years.

“The advancement of this project is a significant milestone for Union Station’s 2nd Century plan,” said Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s Executive Vice President of Northeast Corridor Business Development. “It will vastly improve passenger comfort and accessibility with a modern and reconfigured concourse area benefiting Amtrak, VRE and MARC passengers. This work and other planned improvements will transform Union Station’s capacity and performance, befitting the vital regional gateway and civic hub the Station has become since its redevelopment in 1988.”

In addition to the modernization of the concourse, planned improvements by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for a new Metrorail staircase and new First Street entrance will bring a consolidated set of passenger improvements to the western portion of the concourse.

“As our busiest Metrorail station, customer-focused improvements, including safety and accessibility upgrades, are critical at Union Station,” said Shyam Kannan, Managing Director of WMATA. “We look forward to working alongside Amtrak to implement these programs.”

Early action construction for Amtrak’s Concourse Modernization project will start spring 2016, including the relocation of heating and ventilation units. Phased construction is anticipated to start in 2017 and will seek to minimize impacts to all station users.

Built in 1907, Union Station is a critical transportation center in the Mid-Atlantic region. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the nation’s capital and serves as a hub for VRE, MARC and Amtrak plus Metrorail and Metrobus. Many tour bus and intercity bus services also use Union Station’s bus facilities. With approximately 37 million people passing through the station annually, planning for the station’s future remains at the forefront for station partners. Separate from the Concourse Modernization Project, FRA is currently leading an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Union Station Expansion Project to review long-term redevelopment alternatives.”

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Future Concept Section: View from Starbucks looking West.

22 Comment

  • I love trains! +1

  • Very happy to hear this. I love Union Station, but it is horribly over-capacity and in desperate need of an upgrade and renovation. Does anyone have any idea when the Burnham Place development over the tracks will finally take off? That’s going to be a game changer for the entire area.

    • The Burnham Place development cannot begin until (1) the city replaces the Hopscotch Bridge behind Union Station, and (2) Amtrak realigns the tracks beneath to prepare for future growth. So no time soon, which is probably why Amtrak is moving forward with the concourse renovations now.

  • canadianexile

    I wonder if they will also start allowing passengers go to the platforms to board the trains (like on the Metro, and at all the other stations in the Northeast Corridor except for Penn Station NY, and at train stations in other places) or if we will still have to line up for no reason at all.

    • passengers line up in philadelphia too.

      • phl2dc

        Part of it (in Philly, at least — haven’t found it to be consistent in DC) is that tickets are checked for each person prior to going down to the platform.

    • Yes! I really hate this. At least people line up nicely, for the most part, at Union Station. At Penn Station you have to join the mob of people running towards the track as soon as it’s announced.

      • Penn Station is really the 7th circle of hell. If there is 1 benefit of traveling enough to get Select Plus or Executive on Amtrak, it’s for the ability to get the gate announcement in Club Acela 5 minutes before the herd waiting outside.

        • Ha, the last time I was there I literally texted the 7th circle comment to my bf. It is the worst.

        • That’s because they tore down the station – so all you have are underground tunnels there.

    • Part of it is that in the smaller NE corridor stations (Wilmington, Newark) there is only 2 tracks – 1 north, 1 south – so there is no question where to go. Usually in NY they don’t know the track assignment until the train is coming through the tunnel.

      • What I don’t get is – why not? Trains all over the world have track information much earlier than NY or DC. and once you’re on the track, the signs will tell you where to line up for which cars. It is all so much easier than having to get in line and go as an immovable mass to the train at the same time.

        • If I have to choose between the DC line-up-and-wait system or the NY mad-dash-to-the-gate, I’ll take the DC system. At least people board the train in the order they arrived at the gate, so if you are like me and want to ensure you get a seat in the quiet car, you show up early so you get a good place in line.

          • Agree on DC vs. NY. But I would prefer the way most European cities do it – post the train & track early and you go there when you’re ready.

    • At NY Penn Station, it helps that I try to select a train that originates in NYC (although that usually means that it will be continuing south after it gets here). It seems that for the train I usually select, it frequently is on the same track, although sometimes they use the east gate, and sometimes the west gate. Then I walk toward the front of the train to get a seat, preferably the quiet car. When I get a train originating in Boston, I usually check the Departures screen to see which track it will come in on. Then I know whether I need to go further south in the waiting area. But with a train originating in NYC, it is cleaner and easier to get a good seat than one originating in Boston.

  • Is that Adrian Fenty?

  • As others have pointed out, Amtrak could increase capacity immediately at zero cost by letting passengers onto the platforms, as is standard practice around the world and at other Amtrak stations. These improvements have more to do with burnishing Amtrak’s headquarters than helping passengers today or in the future. Would you like to have more trains that actually get you places or a shiny new place to waste time in while you’re waiting longer than you should because there is no money for the trains or track improvements?

    Further reading here:

    https://pedestrianobservations.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/washington-union-station/

    • I read that blog. Yes, have fun standing on 7-9 track while the diesel engines are blaring and breathing in all that smoke.

      • Again, this is the practice around the world and seems to work fine for most people. I understand that some people will prefer to stay inside, which they can do in the now mostly-empty concourse. Everyone gets what they want and no expansion necessary.

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