Thursday, April 03, 2008

"The last of America's great rail stations"

Metro Red Line – Union Station

If you are going to travel through downtown Los Angeles without a car, you will inevitably end up at Union Station. The MTA Red/Purple Line and Gold Line converge here, sandwiched between Amtrak and Amtrak’s Metrolink trains, and topped with a connection to almost every major bus line in the Los Angeles area.

It is all covered by a beautiful, Dutch Colonial Revival Style/Streamline Moderne/Mission Revival style station (translation: Danish Steampunk Pueblo), also known as the last of America's great rail stations. The building screams Welcome to LA from the bottom of its terra cotta tile to the tips of its towering palm trees.

Built in 1939, Union Station has seen its way through the heyday of the Santa Fe Railroad, and managed to survive the advent of the freeways, when many Los Angeles rail lines and public transportation resources were paved over to make way for the automobile. But when the Red Line came, passengers began to outnumber pigeons once again.

As a traveler, there are two very good things to know when you arrive:
  1. When you come, give yourself some extra time. While smaller than its fellow Union Stations, Los Angeles Union Station is still quite daunting, with lots to see, inside and out.

  2. The trains here really do leave on time. To help you remember this, the entrance provides your choice of timepiece: Sundial or Clocktower.

When waiting for your ride, you can take shelter in the large waiting room, or walk outside to one of the two enclosed garden patios. The building is beautiful, but the atmosphere is often subdued once you leave the platforms. Venture outside and across the street, and you can even enjoy Olvera Street’s shopping, history and culture.

At Union Station you can ride:

Metrolink, Pacific Surfliner, Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle…and connections to other lines (via bus) on Amtrak’s Thruway Motorcoach Service

91 Line, Orange County Line, Riverside Line, San Bernardino Line, Antelope Valley Line, Ventura County Line

Red Line (subway), Purple Line (subway), Gold Line (light rail)

Gateway Transit Center (Patsaouras Transit Plaza)
FlyAway Bus (direct route to LAX!), Metro Local: 33, 333, Metro Express: 439, 442, 444, 445, 446, 447, Metro Rapid: 704, 728, 740, 745, 940, Antelope Valley Transit Authority: 785, City of Santa Clarita Transit: 794, LADOT DASH: D (Weekdays Only), Bunker Hill Shuttle, LADOT Commuter Express: 430, 534, Orange County Transportation Authority: 701, Santa Monica Big Blue Bus: 10, Torrance Transit: 1, 2, Metro Local: 40, 42, 68, 70, 71, 78, 79, 92, 94, 378, Metro Rapid: 704, 728, 770, 794, LADOT DASH: Lincoln Heights / Chinatown, LADOT DASH: B (Weekdays Only), DD (Weekends Only)

El Monte Busway
Foothill Transit: 481, 493, 497, 498, 499, 699, Silver Streak, Metro Express: 484, 485, 487, 489, 490

It is a bit complicated. There are many reasons for these separate transportation resources, but the biggest and best reason is: Los Angeles is large and, largely, flat. Different counties, cities, and jurisdictions often have different bus lines and transportation interests. The land of freeways is fragmented, even when it comes to our public transportation.

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