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Union Station (Los Angeles)

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3 May 1939

Union Station (Los Angeles)

Amtrak/Metrolink 800 North Alameda Street Metro 801 Vignes Street Los Angeles, California 90012 United States

Owned by
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

6 island platforms (Amtrak/Metrolink) 1 island platform (Metro Gold Line) 1 island platform (Metro Red/Purple Lines) 1 island platform (Metro Silver Line)

12 (Amtrak/Metrolink) 2 (Metro Gold Line) 2 (Metro Red/Purple Lines)

Bicycle facilities
74 bike rack spaces 20 locker spaces

800 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA

Architectural styles
Streamline Moderne, Art Deco, Mission Revival architecture

John Parkinson, Frank Donald D. Parkinson

7th Street/Metro Center st, Expo Line, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles City Hall, Bradbury Building

Los Angeles Union Station (LAUS) is the main railway station in Los Angeles, California, and the largest railroad passenger terminal in the Western United States. It opened in May 1939 as the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, replacing La Grande Station and Central Station.


Approved in a controversial ballot measure in 1926 and built in the 1930s, it served to consolidate rail services from a number of railroads (the Union Pacific, Santa Fe, and Southern Pacific) into one terminal station. Conceived on a grand scale, Union Station became known as the "Last of the Great Railway Stations" built in the United States. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Today, the station is a major transportation hub for Southern California, serving almost 110,000 passengers a day. Three of Amtrak's long distance trains originate and terminate here: the Coast Starlight to Seattle, the Southwest Chief and "Texas Eagle" to Chicago, and the Sunset Limited to New Orleans. The state-supported Amtrak California Pacific Surfliner regional trains run frequently to San Diego and also to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. The station is the hub of the Metrolink commuter trains, and several Metro Rail subway and light rail lines serve it as well, with more in construction or planning.

The Patsaouras Transit Plaza, on the east side of the station, serves dozens of bus lines operated by Metro and several other municipal carriers.


In 1926, a measure was placed on the ballot giving Los Angeles voters the choice between the construction of a vast network of elevated railways or the construction of a much smaller Union Station to consolidate different railroad terminals. The election would take on racial connotations and become a defining moment in the development of Los Angeles. The proposed Union Station was located in the heart of what was Los Angeles' original Chinatown. Reflecting the prejudice of the time, the anti-railroad Los Angeles Times, a lead opponent of elevated railways, argued in editorials that Union Station would not be built in the “midst of Chinatown” but rather would “forever do away with Chinatown and its environs.” The Times also attacked the elevateds for blocking out the California sun and in general being antithetical to the ethos of Los Angeles.

Two questions were put to vote in 1926. First, the voters approved Union Station instead of elevated railways by 61.3 to 38.7 percent margin. Second, the electorate voted in favor of the Los Angeles Plaza as the site of the new station but by a much smaller 51.1 to 48.9 percent margin. Union Station would eventually be built across the street from the Plaza in Chinatown, largely due to the efforts of Preservationist Christine Sterling and Los Angeles Times Publisher Harry Chandler to preserve the Plaza neighborhood.

The glamorous new station took over from La Grande Station which had suffered major damage in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake and Central Station, which had itself replaced the Arcade Depot in 1914.

Passenger service was provided by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, Southern Pacific Railroad, and Union Pacific Railroad, as well as the Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railway (LARy). The famed Super Chief luxury train carried Hollywood stars and others to Chicago and thence the East Coast. Union Station saw heavy use during World War II, but later saw declining patronage due to the growing popularity of air travel and automobiles.

In 1948 the Santa Fe Railroad's Super Chief lost its brakes coming into the station, smashed through a steel bumper and concrete wall, and stopped with one third of the front of the locomotive dangling over Aliso St. No one was killed or injured, but the engineer lost his job.

The station was designated as a Los Angeles Historic–Cultural Monument No. 101 on August 2, 1972 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

The first commuter rail service to Union Station was the short-lived CalTrain that began operating on October 18, 1982 between Los Angeles and Oxnard. The service faced economic and political problems from the start and was suspended in March 1983.

The next attempt at commuter rail came in 1990 with the launch of the Amtrak-operated Orange County Commuter. The once-daily round-trip served stations between Los Angeles and San Juan Capistrano.

Metrolink commuter rail service began on October 26, 1992, with Union Station as the terminus for the San Bernardino Line, the Santa Clarita Line (later renamed the Antelope Valley Line) and the Ventura County Line.

In January 1993, Metro's Red Line subway began service to the station, followed by Metrolink's Riverside Line in June. The Orange County Commuter train was discontinued on March 28, 1994 and replaced by Metrolink's Orange County Line.

In May 2002, Metrolink added additional service to stations in Orange and Riverside counties with the opening of the Via Fullerton Line (later renamed the 91 Line).

Light Rail service arrived at Union Station on July 26, 2003 when Metro's Gold Line began operating to Pasadena from tracks 1 and 2. The line was expanded south over US 101 in November 2009 with the opening of the Gold Line Eastside Extension.

In February 2011, the board of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) approved the purchase of Union Station from Prologis and Catellus Development (a descendant of the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific railroads) for $75 million. The deal was closed on 14 April 2011. Since taking over ownership of the station, Metro has focused on increasing services for passengers at the station. One of the most noticeable changes is the addition of several retail and dining businesses to the concourse.

Amtrak opened a Metropolitan Lounge at Union Station on September 23, 2013. The lounge is open to Amtrak passengers traveling in sleeping car accommodations or business class as well as some Amtrak Guest Rewards members (Select Plus and Select Executive levels only). The lounge features a staffed ticket counter, complimentary refreshments, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a conference room. Passengers using the Metropolitan Lounge receive priority boarding.

Metro plans to install Bluetooth beacons in Union Station to enable sending text messages to travelers' smartphones.


Union Station was partially designed by John Parkinson and Donald B. Parkinson (the Parkinsons) who had also designed Los Angeles City Hall and other landmark Los Angeles buildings. They were assisted by a group of supporting architects, including Jan van der Linden. The structure combines Art Deco, Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne style, with architectural details such as eight-pointed stars, and even elements of Dutch Colonial Revival architecture (the suggestion of the Dutch-born Jan von der Linden).

Enclosed garden patios are on either side of the waiting room, and passengers exiting the trains were originally directed through the southern garden. The lower parts of the interior walls are covered in travertine marble; the upper parts have an early form of acoustical tile. The floor in the large rooms is terra cotta with a central strip of inlaid marble (including travertine, somewhat unusual in floors since it is soft). The ceiling in the waiting room has the appearance of wood, but is actually made of steel.

Attached to the main building to the south is the station restaurant designed by the famed Southwestern architect Mary Colter. It was the last of the "Harvey House" restaurants to be constructed as a part of a passenger terminal. Although padlocked and stripped of many interior furnishings, the topology of its vast rectangular space, rounded central counter, and streamlined booths remains. The spectacular inlaid cement tile floor reproduces the pattern of a Navajo blanket. Colter also designed a sleek, Streamline Moderne cocktail lounge, which is closed now as well. In October 2014, the Harvey House space was leased to leading local restaurateurs for a gastropub.

The original ticket concourse has 62-foot (19 m) high ceilings and a 110-foot (34 m) counter. Like the southern garden and Harvey House space, it is closed, but rented for filming and special events.

Even with its grand scale, Union Station is still considered small in comparison to other union stations.


Union Station is located in the northeastern corner of Downtown Los Angeles, on the property bounded by Alameda Street, Cesar Chavez Avenue, Vignes Street, and the Hollywood Freeway. It is across Alameda Street from L.A.'s historic Olvera Street and El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park. The historic Terminal Annex building is on the opposite side of the Chavez Avenue underpass. Chinatown and Civic Center are a short distance away.

The Patsaouras Transit Plaza on the east side of Union Station hosts several connecting bus lines, including Metro Local, Metro Rapid and Metro Express lines, as well as downtown DASH shuttles, many municipal bus lines, FlyAway express bus service to Los Angeles International Airport, and University of Southern California campus shuttles. The Transit Plaza is named after Nick Patsaouras, former RTD board member and advocate for public transportation.

The Gateway Transit Center includes the station itself, Patsaouras Transit Plaza, and the western terminus of the El Monte Busway, as well as Metro's headquarters building.

Amtrak and Metrolink share 12 of Union Station's 14 outdoor tracks, with 90 weekday trains departing (91 on Wednesday, 92 on Friday).

Amtrak long-distance routes

Amtrak operates four long-distance trains out of Los Angeles:

  • Coast Starlight, to Seattle (service began 1971)
  • Southwest Chief, to Chicago (service began 1971)
  • Sunset Limited, to New Orleans (service began 1971)
  • Texas Eagle, to Chicago via San Antonio (service began 1982) Cars bound for Chicago are part of the Sunset Limited to San Antonio, where the train is split.
  • Amtrak California regional routes

    Amtrak California operates multiple-times-daily regional rail services to cities across the state:

  • Pacific Surfliner, from San Diego to San Luis Obispo via Los Angeles.
  • Connections to the San Joaquin train to Oakland or Sacramento are provided through Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach services. (see below)
  • The station is the hub for Metrolink and six of Metrolink's seven lines serve the station:

  • Antelope Valley Line, to Lancaster
  • Riverside Line, to Riverside
  • Orange County Line, to Oceanside
  • San Bernardino Line, to San Bernardino
  • Ventura County Line, to East Ventura
  • 91 Line, to Riverside via Fullerton
  • Metro Rail

    Three Metro Rail lines serve the station with about 300 Metro Rail trains departing every weekday.

    Metro Red Line/Metro Purple Line

    The Metro Red and Metro Purple subway lines have their eastern terminus at Union Station and share two tracks below Union Station. There are two entrances: one is located inside Union Station's main concourse on the west side of the complex, near Alameda Street, and the other is located at the Patsaouras Transit Plaza on the east side of the complex.

    Metro Gold Line

    The Metro Gold Line is a light-rail line that passes through Union Station as it travels between Azusa and East Los Angeles. Trains use Tracks 1 and 2 of Union Station's 14 outdoor tracks. The platform is accessible from the main passenger tunnel via staircase and elevator. The platform features an art installation, entitled Images of Commonality/Nature and Movement, created by Beth Thielen.

    Metro Silver Line

    One Metro Liner bus rapid transit line makes a stop outside Union Station. The Metro Silver Line operates between El Monte Bus Station, Downtown Los Angeles, Harbor Gateway Transit Center and select trips to San Pedro using the El Monte Busway and Harbor Transitway. The Metro Silver Line stops near the southwest corner of the station at the entrance to the El Monte Busway at Alameda Street.

    Long-distance motorcoach

    Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach

    Amtrak California operates several routes under the Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach brand from Union Station using dedicated bus bays at the north side of the station.

    Connections to San Joaquin trains are provided through bus routes 1A & 1B that travel to and from the Bakersfield Amtrak Station (Route 1B also serves the cruise terminals and Catalina Island ferries in Long Beach & San Pedro.):

  • Route 1A: Bakersfield – Los Angeles
  • Route 1B: Bakersfield – Los Angeles – San Pedro
  • When trains aren't running during the overnight hours several bus routes provide service along the Pacific Surfliner route (to Santa Barbara, San Diego and select intermediate stations) and the San Joaquin route (to Fresno and select intermediate stations.):

  • Route 1A: Bakersfield – Los Angeles – San Diego
  • Route 1A: Bakersfield – Los Angeles – Santa Ana
  • Route 1B: Fresno – Bakersfield – Los Angeles
  • Route 4: Santa Barbara – Los Angeles
  • Amtrak also offers a Thruway Motorcoach route to Las Vegas from Union Station.


    BoltBus operates two long-distance motorcoach routes from a bus stop at on the western side of Union Station (near the Mozaic apartment complex):

  • Los Angeles – San Jose – San Francisco – Oakland
  • Los Angeles – Las Vegas
  • California Shuttle Bus

    While it does not stop on the Union Station property, California Shuttle Bus provides service to San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose from a bus stop across from the Patsaouras Transit Plaza at the corner of Vignes and Ramirez streets.


    Megabus operates three long-distance motorcoach routes from Berth 1 at the Patsaouras Transit Plaza:

  • M10 to Las Vegas
  • M11 to San Francisco via Oakland
  • M12 to San Francisco via San Jose
  • Metro and municipal buses

    Bus services using the Patsaouras Transit Plaza:

  • Metro Local: 33 (late nights only), 40
  • Metro Express: 442
  • Metro Rapid: 704, 728, 733, 745
  • Antelope Valley Transit Authority: 785*
  • City of Commerce Municipal Bus Lines: Citadel Outlets Express
  • City of Santa Clarita Transit: 794*
  • LAX FlyAway
  • Foothill Transit: 699*
  • LADOT Commuter Express: Bunker Hill Shuttle*, 430*, 534*
  • LADOT DASH: D (weekdays only)
  • Mount St. Mary's College Shuttle*
  • Orange County Transportation Authority: 701*
  • University of Southern California Shuttles: UPC, HSC, ICS
  • Bus services using the bus stop at the entrance to the El Monte Busway, west of Alameda Street (southwest corner of the Union Station property):

  • Metro Liner: Metro Silver Line
  • Metro Express: 487, 489*
  • Foothill Transit: Silver Streak, 481*, 493*, 497*, 498*, 499*
  • Bus services using the bus stop on Cesar Chavez Avenue & Vignes Street (northeast corner of station):

  • Metro Local: 68, 70, 71, 78, 79, 378*
  • Metro Rapid: 770
  • LADOT DASH: Lincoln Heights/Chinatown
  • Bus services using the bus stop on Alameda Street & Los Angeles Street (outside western entrance):

  • Big Blue Bus: Rapid 10
  • LADOT DASH: B (weekdays only)
  • Torrance Transit: 4*
  • Bus service using the bus stop on the west side of Union Station (near the taxi stand and the Mozaic Apartments):

  • Dodger Stadium Express (home games during baseball season only)
  • * Indicates commuter service that operates only during weekday rush hours.

    New transit station on El Monte Busway

    A new transitway station for the Metro Silver Line and other transit buses operating on the El Monte Busway is planned to the south of the Patsaouras Transit Plaza, in the median of the El Monte Busway, funded by tolls collected as a part of the Metro ExpressLanes project. It will allow buses traveling in both directions on the busway to serve Union Station while minimizing dwell time, according to Metro.

    The station was originally expected to be completed in June 2014, but because all bids came in over budget, they were cancelled. After the acceptance of revised bids, and an increase in the project's budget that was adopted by the Metro Board of Directors in January 2014, Metro expected this project to be open for revenue service in December 2016. As of October 2015, the project was delayed, with the groundbreaking planned for January 2016.

    With the number of trains using Union Station expanding, the stub-end layout of trackage is limiting the station's capacity. Trains can only enter or exit from the north side of the station. The configuration forces trains without cab-cars to slowly reverse in or out of the station and trains heading to or from the south to make a near-180 degree turn. Compounding the problem, is that while the station has 14 boarding tracks, multiple trains must squeeze onto just 5 tracks (originally, there were more tracks at "the throat", but Metrolink had some removed to allow for faster speeds along the curves in and out of the station to improve efficiency) as they enter or exit the station. This choke-point can delay arriving trains as they are forced to wait outside of the station to allow a departing train to exit the station (departures are usually given priority, to free up platforms and to keep them from experiencing delays along their route).

    Therefore, Metro has proposed the Link Union Station (formerly titled the Southern California Regional Interconnector Project) which would extend tracks 3–10 as run-through tracks, which will exit Union Station and cross over US Route 101 on a long, elevated "S-curve" that will tie into the existing tracks along the Los Angeles River. The plan also includes tracks along the river that would create a "loop" around the station allowing all trains (including those to/from the north or west) to use the run-though tracks.

    Metro authorized preliminary engineering for the project in July 2012. A Request For Proposals (RFP) for Link Union Station was being prepared as of June 2013. The $31-million contract for the engineering work on the project was approved on April 24, 2014. The project’s estimated value is $350 million. A draft environmental impact report on Link Union Station is expected in 2017

    During construction, several tracks may be taken out of service due to their extension. To make up for the temporary loss of those platforms, track 13 was revitalized for use and tracks 14 & 15 were re-constructed. The project was completed on October 17, 2012. Once the SCRIP project is finished, the run-through tracks and tracks 13–14 will be in regular use (track 15 will be used for storage), resulting in a 40% increase in track capacity.

    Former Run-Through Tracks Project

    California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Federal Railroad Administration previously drafted a plan to create run-through tracks at Union Station, but the project involved just four tracks and lacked the station "loop" limiting usage of the tracks just to trains heading to or from the south.

    The final environmental impact report for the "Los Angeles Union Station Run-Through Tracks Project" was published by the FRA in November 2005.

    California High-Speed Rail

    Union Station is planned to be a major hub for the future California High-Speed Rail System. Upon completion, it's projected that passengers will be able to get from Union Station to the under-construction Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco in 2 hours and 40 minutes.

    As a part of its Master Plan, Metro is currently studying how to best integrate tracks and platforms for high-speed trains into Union Station. Options include an aerial structure above the existing platforms, an underground structure under Alameda, an underground structure under Vignes and an aerial structure east of Vignes. All plans include a new concourse for high-speed rail passengers and three platforms with six tracks.

    The facility served as a backdrop for the 1950 film Union Station, which starred William Holden and Nancy Olson. It has been used in many vintage motion pictures, many of the film noir variety. Movies that have featured Union Station as a filming location include:

  • Blade Runner
  • Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
  • Drag Me to Hell
  • Gable and Lombard
  • Bugsy
  • Pearl Harbor
  • Chandler (film)
  • In the Mood
  • Private Eye (1987 TV movie starring Josh Brolin)
  • Silver Streak
  • The Way We Were
  • Trancers II: The Return of Jack Deth
  • Under the Rainbow
  • To Live and Die in L.A.
  • Muppets Most Wanted
  • Garfield: The Movie
  • The station also appears in the 2004 video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (as Unity Station) and in the 2011 video game L.A. Noire. It also is featured prominently in Pharrell Williams's video "Happy".

    Saxophonist Tom Scott took photos in this station for his 1975 album "New York Connection". lifehouse music video for you and me


    Union Station (Los Angeles) Wikipedia