Los Angeles Union Station Master Plan Community Meeting

With Metro’s purchase of Union Station the question became how can the transit agency improve and enhance the station’s functionality without ruining the historic station and it’s grand architecture.  I really didn’t have a vision of what Union Station could be, I have always seen the iconic station as a fixed structure that only minor improvements could be made.  Prior to yesterday’s meeting which can been seen archived here, I have not payed much attention to the planning process.  

Metro’s project site does a good job of laying out the project goals and timeline of the current process.  In last night’s meeting metro staff and project consultants highlighted the past milestones of the project and the path forward to finalizing the master plan.  The project presentation worked through some of the alternative options that would improve transit connections, neighborhood connections, public space and programming and streetscape.

My first impression was positive as metro did a good job of outlining these goals and presenting solutions with a vision of a transit hub and community anchor that would be a place of efficient travel connections and destination in of itself.  

The main issue right now is transit connections and their inefficiency.  Metro does a good job in highlighting the problem in this slide:

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As you can see the purple groups are bus connections with all happen at the perimeter of the property where bus stops and streets are dark and uninviting and are far away from other transit connections like rail and subway.  Metro highlighted that Vignes and Ceasar Chavez get as many boardings as Patsaouras transit plaza yet the experience waiting for the bus is far from ideal on that corner.   To improve this they have proposed a central bus terminal that is central to transit connections and is a more inviting space to wait for the bus.  Executing this part of the plan would go a long way in making Union Station a far better transit hub than it is now.

Connections in front, in back and to surrounding neighborhoods is also a priority.  The current access outside the station is far from ideal and metro has addressed this with improved streetscape to Olvera street and improving the space in front by removing parking and making better use of open space.  Again a move that would connect the station better for pedestrians is good for everyone.  In addition, they talked about programming these public spaces to make Union Station more of a community hub.  I liken this to what Grand Park is doing by adding value with events and programs that appeal to the area.  Using Union station for other than just a place to get a train or bus is a great idea.  

The major component to the plan is the improved passenger concourse which is the heart of the connections to transit, retail and public space.  Right now the concourse is narrow and dark running under the existing tracks.  Metro has 2 visions of improvement.  One is a North/South concourse located between the historic station and the current alignment of tracks with a bus terminal to the north along Ceasar Chavez.  The other is a East alignment that would wither go over/under that tracks with the bus terminal in a more central location.  Both approaches seem to make vast improvements, however from a connection standpoint the east/west concourse makes the most sense.  In either option the idea is an open concept with natural light and good flow for pedestrians and transit connections.

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Overall I think metro has done a good job in taking broad brush strokes for the master plan.  Certainly they have done the work by studying usage and travel patterns and have envision plans that will certainly improve Union Station without harming the historic character.  Of course with Metro there is always the caveat.  No mention of funding or cost was presented with these initial offerings.  Certainly this early it is hard to knock out a budget, but the master plan will require the proper execution if they want to make this a world class transit hub and destination.  It is a long process so we will have to see if Metro and its partners can deliver.

I would encourage everyone to take a look at the presentation and website. 

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