In its full glory, Union Station was an Art Deco gem of Los Angeles. It was THE transportation hub of the city, the scene of many movies depicting the time periods in the 1920s, 30s and 40s and even hosted a Roaring Twenties New Year’s Eve party.
One could easily picture the scene and the conversations that took place during its prime and envision it as a welcoming center to L.A.
But, like a fading starlet who has not had a hit movie in several decades or an aging rock band that is now playing local festivals instead of big concerts, it has lost its luster. Union Station is now an unofficial homeless shelter with faded tiles, a dimly-lit hallway to the trains and unsightly bathrooms. Even security guards have said in several LA Times articles that they don’t feel safe there anymore.
And so it is time to close Union Station and move into the future. Amtrak needs to relocate to LAX.
Many Of The World’s Top Cities Have Train Stations In Airports So Why Not L.A.?
Among many positive factors, this would put Los Angeles on par virtually every other major city in the world, which has a train station inside the airport. Union Station is at best a 45-minute drive from LAX and no trains trains connect the two.
For reasons I have never been ably to comprehend, there is a Metro line that stops a mile short of the airport. Another one is nearing completion which also stops short of the airport. I sure would like to meet the people that think up these things.
Yes, Metro is building a “people mover” from that point to the airport terminals but in the “they can’t get anything right” world of L.A. public transportation, the new line can’t be completed until the people mover is finished, and that will not be until the end of the year for Phase 1 and two years for Phase 2. So people on the new line will have to take a bus to get moving to LAX.
Yes, the odds of building a train station at LAX are even less than UCLA winning college football’s National Championship the next 10 years but maybe officials can do the next-best thing and build one at the people mover location. Anything would be a major improvement over Union Station.
Have you been to Union Station lately? I go once every few weeks to take the train between San Diego and L.A. It’s a very nice ride, at least when the Pacific Surfliner runs along the coast. When it turns inland and rolls close to Union Station the scenery goes from blissful to blah. Union Station is in a rundown industrial neighborhood and things don’t get much better from there.
L.A. Deserves Better Than Union Station Today
Inside the building, it too, looks rundown. Aged. The bathrooms are terrible; they are small and are often overflowing with homeless people at the sinks taking birdbaths and in the stalls to do, well, I would rather not know.
Outside, there are homeless people all over the place and on one recent trip I sat at a bench to eat a sandwich when people walked up and did a drug deal. Right next to me! I do not want to be there after dark. If security guards feel threatened then what chance do I and other passengers have there?
L.A., deserves better.
Yeah, yeah, in order to for Amtrak to relocate a new track will need to be built, right-of-ways purchased, environmental surveys completed, etc. Government bureaucracy will bog it down to a crawl. To site a current example, a bullet train to Sacramento is so far behind schedule that a not single mile of track has yet to be laid despite 14 years and $5 billion spent on it. So far. Then there will be the inevitable protests as is the case with all projects.
So it would take a minor miracle for this transportation vision of mine to become reality but now is the time to act. Start the planning process (please, tho, don’t invite the Metro people to the meetings; heck it might wind up on Compton) and secure funding. The latter should not be all that difficult considering Amtrak is soon getting $66 billion in government funding. There is also $2.2 billion of government funding for from the U.S. Department of Transportation as part of a $1 trillion infrastructure project backed by President Biden
Maybe some of that money could make its way to Los Angeles.
It sure would be money more wisely spent than trying to further restore Union Station. An eight-year, $4.1-million project ended in 2021 and other than restore a ceiling did little else to improve it. Forget that, just move forward with relocating Amtrak to LAX. Or as close to it as Los Angeles planners can get to it.