BigMediaMatt has a good tick-tock about The Logic Behind The $7 Billion Washington Union Station Renovation Proposal prepared by Parsons Brinckerhoff | HOK (Union Station Master Plan Executive Summary):
The plan comes essentially from the conjunction of two separate issues. One is that way back in 2002, Akridge paid a considerable amount of money for the right to build a platform over a lot of these Union Station tracks. Atop the platform will sit a bunch of buildings, as well as a reconnection of the currently disrupted street grid. That will include a renovation of the existing H Street Bridge, which is currently quite old and in need of some form of replacement.
The money for all this work is separate from the Master Plan proposal and would all come from Akridge. But once this is done, it will become practically impossible to ever move the Union Station tracks.
Amtrak/MARC/VRE’s contention, however, is that moving the tracks would be highly desirable. Why? Because they want to make the platforms wider. Why do they want to do that? For starters, they say the existing 18 foot platforms aren’t compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act and National Fire Protection Association guidelines for safety. New train stations are normally constructed with platforms in the 25-30 foot width range. The practical transportation capacity issue here is that the current platforms are allegedly too narrow to let passengers be getting on/off of the tracks on both sides of the platform simultaneously. Wider platforms allow for simultaneous boarding allow for greater capacity.
Contra to Kevin Drum, this isn’t necessarily just about widening the platforms for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is certainly part of the project’s goals:
Queues of departing Amtrak passengers form a halfhour before boarding begins and routinely extend into the public concourse, blocking flows. Additionally, the tracks and platforms do not comply with modern design standards, including the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the emergency egress standards of life safety codes. The mixing of train servicing activities with passengers – both concentrated at the same end of the platforms – creates circulation bottlenecks that will worsen as passenger volumes increase.
The project’s goals are to increase capacity and reconnect the station with the surrounding neighborhood. Done correctly, and you get Grand Central Terminal, poorly and you get Penn Station. The estimated $7 billion (2012 dollars) is steep for what seems to be a project designed to allow a private developer to maximize profits and to increase capacity. I don’t see why the developer can’t chip in some of the cost of the overall project, as they are the ones who will reap the single biggest reward.
The biggest problem with this project is that for $7 billion you don’t get any additional capacity and speed between city pairs (DC-Baltimore, DC-Philadelphia, DC-NYC) isn’t increased at all. If I was king, I would spend that money on upgrading the Northeast Corridor in order to increase the overall train speed, including improving regional and commuter rail. This is also the problem withe Penn Station renovation plans: they are undoubtably very pretty, but ultimately less useful than making trains go fast.
As previously reported, the The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors voted to approve a contract with Los Angeles-based Gruen Associates in association with Grimshaw Architects of London for the creation of a master plan for the historic Union Station and its surrounding 40 acres.
Metro anticipates signing the contract this summer with the goal of having the master plan completed within 18 to 24 months, or summer 2014. Gruen/Grimshaw has broughttogether a large team of specialist firms from preservation experts to sustainability and technicalconsultants to collaborate on the plan which will be adopted after an approval from the MetroBoard.
The above “vision board” – a requirement of the RFP created by six different architecture firms – shouldn’t be taken seriously, as LA Metro’s own release states that “while there will be no detailed architectural design involved with this master plan, Grimshaw is expected to bring architectural vision to the process.” Hopefully this won’t turn into another World Trade moment where the master planner is kicked off the project. I have great respect for Grimshaw and their work, and hope they can help knit the center of Los Angeles back together.
In 1964 the Design Research Unit—Britain’s first multi-disciplinary design agency founded in 1943 by Misha Black, Milner Gray and Herbert Read—was commissioned to breathe new life into the nation’s neglected railway industry, the corporate image of which had remained largely unchanged after its nationalisation in 1948, a reflection of a largely disjointed and out-of-date transport system. The company name was shortened to British Rail and Gerry Barney of the Design Rearch Unit conceived the famous ‘double-arrow’, a remarkably robust and memorable icon that has far outlasted British Rail itself and continues to be used on traffic signs throughout the United Kingdom as the symbol for the national rail network and more specifically railway stations on that network. The new corporate identity programme was launched in January 1965 with an exhibition at the Design Council, London. The corporate identity consisted of four basic elements: the new symbol, the British Rail logotype, the Rail Alphabet typeface and the house colours.
Built in 1913 for the Michigan Central Railroad, Michigan Central Station (also known as Michigan Central Depot or MCS), was Detroit’s passenger rail depot from its opening in 1913, until the cessation of Amtrak service on January 6, 1988. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest rail station in the world.
In April 2011, Metro completed the acquisition of Union Station and the approximately 40 acres surrounding the historic rail passenger terminal. As part of the Los Angeles Union Station Master Plan, the six short-listed teams were required to submit one Vision Board showing a high-concept vision for Union Station in the year 2050. The Vision Boards are not part of the formal evaluation process, but rather a means to begin the public engagement process and ignite inspiration about Union Station as a multi-modal regional transportation hub. The Vision Boards were presented to the public at a viewing event on April 25th, 2012.
The short listed teams all include multiple firms, and are led by the following prime contractors:
All six teams are required to do the following during the master planning phase:
Metro is in the evaluation process and will bring a recommendation for the USMP consultant team to the Board of Directors on June 28th, 2012 with public announcement on or around June 17th.
Below are the Vision Boards: