Big Improvements Coming to Chicago’s Union Station.
It’s big news, especially for long-distance train travelers: Amtrak is commiting $12 Million to rehab Union Station in Chicago.
First of all, this is one of our country’s great railway stations and I clearly remember the first time I walked in to the station’s Great Hall, probably 25 years ago. My immediate reaction was, “Wow!”, because it’s nothing short of magnificent. It’s as long as a football field and features a vaulted ceiling – skylights, actually – 115 feet above the polished marble floor.
My second reaction was, “Where the hell IS everybody?” And I almost always have the very same thoughts today. There are benches for people to wait … with very few people using them. Where are all the passengers … the people waiting for dozens of Amtrak trains and Metra commuter trains? They’re all on a lower level, crowded into waiting areas, sitting on chrome and plastic furniture, luggage piled around their feet.
There is a Metropolitan Lounge for Amtrak sleeping car passengers that has a carpeted floor and more comfortable seating, but with several trains departing in the afternoon and early evening, it can also be very crowded.
It’s been reported for months that changes were coming, including the expansion of the Metropolitan Lounge and relocating it just off the Great Hall. That, in turn, would create more waiting rooms for coach passengers and commuters.
In short, and since Chicago is Amtrak’s main hub for long-distance trains, our train travel experience can only be enhanced as a result of these overdue improvements.
But do note, please, that the twelve million bucks are coming from Amtrak. When was the last time you read about an airline picking up the tab for similar improvements at an airport?