Chicago Union Station experiences

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
11
Good evening, has anyone ever ridden or worked Amtrak into and around Chicago or other big cities during big events such as Lollapalooza? If so how was it? Many of the Metra conductors I've talked to say they can't stand Lolla, any Amtrak workers share those vibes about Lolla or other similar events? Thanks.
 

Trogdor

BURNiNATOR
Joined
Aug 3, 2004
Messages
6,007
Location
Here
Other than Union Station being busier than usual with Metra passengers, it’s really a non-event for Amtrak. Even if something was a big draw for out-of-town folks, you’re still not carrying more than the sellout capacity of the train. Thanksgiving is a crazier time for Amtrak than Chicago festivals would be.
 

NorthShore

Conductor
Joined
Sep 3, 2013
Messages
1,304
Location
Chicago
I think the challenge for Metra with Lolla is tons of teenagers. Though taking the train from other festivals, even just after a major Ravinia concert, can be pretty crazy, too.
 
Joined
Sep 1, 2020
Messages
11
During Lolla it's not uncommon for the Amtrak cops at Union Station to make arrests for disorderly conduct, they also hold the afternoon shift over until the final trains have departed
 

OlympianHiawatha

Engineer
Joined
Feb 7, 2008
Messages
4,367
Location
Norman, OK
Several years ago I had a busted connection between the Cal Zephyr and Texas Eagle (Galesburg shuttle) and rode on into Chicago for an Amtrak sponsored overnight; the Lolla was going on and cops along with station security were busy turning away attendees who somehow had lost their pants and had only underwear left. It provided good entertainment while we waited for the bus to fill and take us out to a suburban hotel for the night.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
1,122
Location
Lubec, ME
I don't think Chicago Union Station is particularly convenient to downtown attractions. Having walked a few times between it and the Loop I would say ok if the weather is good and you don't have a lot of luggage. Ditto for 30th st. Philadelphia although at least there is the option of a free ride to Suburban Station at least I think that is still available.
 

mackinaw chief

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 15, 2023
Messages
31
Location
Cheboygan
Chicago what do I say about union station. 1 quit torturing me with the TRACK NUMBER 15 TRACK NUMBER 17 TRACK NUMBER 19 and so on. I know it's for the ADA for a first time rider it makes you think you are in some torture movie chamber. However I do have to say my favorite Chicago restaurant is now Robinsons ribs your pulled pork sandwich is awesome. The Dunkin donuts coffee shop is a plus. I have to say careful what taxi you get out by the taxi stand.
 

ashleyryan15

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 30, 2022
Messages
15
Location
Philadelphia, PA
I don't think Chicago Union Station is particularly convenient to downtown attractions. Having walked a few times between it and the Loop I would say ok if the weather is good and you don't have a lot of luggage. Ditto for 30th st. Philadelphia although at least there is the option of a free ride to Suburban Station at least I think that is still available.
The free ride to Suburban and Market East (or Jefferson, as it's now known) is still available, though they actually enforce the rule about having an Amtrak ticket now.
 

rs9

Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 26, 2021
Messages
219
Location
Chicago
One thing I've been critical of is Amtrak's signage, or lack thereof, at Chicago Union Station. I was pleased to see large signs are now posted that indicate which trains board from the Great Hall and which trains board from the gate areas, since passengers were previously just supposed to guess or somehow know this.

It does seem like a small investment could really make the gate seating areas a more inviting place. I can only describe the space as a decrepit airport gate waiting area.

Finally, it seems Amtrak and its employees could save everyone involved unending grief by lining up passengers in smaller groups by destination/car to board, rather than having one attendant ask literally every passenger for their destination.
 
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
2,908
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
Finally, it seems Amtrak and its employees could save everyone involved unending grief by lining up passengers in smaller groups by destination/car to board, rather than having one attendant ask literally every passenger for their destination.
They just need to have more than one person doing the directing. And they might also post the platform location numbers by sleeping car number and coach destination for passengers who prefer to find their own way.
 
Joined
Mar 8, 2022
Messages
8
Location
Chicago, IL
One thing I've been critical of is Amtrak's signage, or lack thereof, at Chicago Union Station. I was pleased to see large signs are now posted that indicate which trains board from the Great Hall and which trains board from the gate areas, since passengers were previously just supposed to guess or somehow know this.

It does seem like a small investment could really make the gate seating areas a more inviting place. I can only describe the space as a decrepit airport gate waiting area.

Finally, it seems Amtrak and its employees could save everyone involved unending grief by lining up passengers in smaller groups by destination/car to board, rather than having one attendant ask literally every passenger for their destination.
Last week I rode the Texas Eagle on a short trip in coach from Chicago to Bloomington/Normal. The TV Monitor listed general boarding from the Great Hall, yet I saw passengers in the South gate waiting area too. I asked an employee where I should wait. He stated that >general boarding" is in the Great Hall (actually the corridor in front of the Metropolitan Lounge). Military, seniors, those needing assistance, etc. wait in the gate area. Since I am a senior, I waited in the gate area -with a lot of other non-seniors, military, etc.

It is currently not clear who is supposed to wait where.
 

mackinaw chief

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 15, 2023
Messages
31
Location
Cheboygan
Last week I rode the Texas Eagle on a short trip in coach from Chicago to Bloomington/Normal. The TV Monitor listed general boarding from the Great Hall, yet I saw passengers in the South gate waiting area too. I asked an employee where I should wait. He stated that >general boarding" is in the Great Hall (actually the corridor in front of the Metropolitan Lounge). Military, seniors, those needing assistance, etc. wait in the gate area. Since I am a senior, I waited in the gate area -with a lot of other non-seniors, military, etc.

It is currently not clear who is supposed to wait where.
From what I can tell if you are on a south and east bound train you wait in the south hold area... Only west and north train (builder and Hiawatha) board from the north hold area. As Far As I am concerned sit where you please just know doors close 5 minutes before departure. Boarding up to 4 long distance trains in a span of 45 minutes can be chaotic and a mess. You have lines for the Zephyr the southwest chief the Eagle and the builder all yving for real estate. Just be glad you are Chicago. NYP is a mess sign wise. Furthermore try boarding trains from escalators in 2 separate locations the old Penn station and new monyhian terminal. You got the fish bowl or random seats called waiting area's. I pick Chicago over NYP any day of the week
 

NES28

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2019
Messages
136
The best way to avoid having long lines of people standing for a long time waiting for trains to board would be to have actual seat assignments. The current situation reminds me of how Southwest Airlines used to work, before the current ABC system was adopted years ago. Going to the current Southwest system of having boarding groups, and numbers within the groups would be my second choice. This issue needs to be resolved all over the Amtrak system.
 
Joined
Jan 15, 2023
Messages
8
Location
United States
I go thru Chi all the time so know Union's layout like the back of my hand, but my partner was also lost trying to find where to wait.

There is new signage for the Amtrak gates now but the layout of that station is the problem.

And Union Station has a lot of Metra trains going through it so that creates "noise" for finding waiting areas (and chaos when travelling during rush hours).

Metro Lounge perks are my savior. The Lounge attendant knows where I need to go, and for full trains I've been escorted from the Lounge direct to the gate. Metro Loung perk is worth it for these busy / chaotic stations.
 

zephyr17

Engineer
Joined
Jul 23, 2009
Messages
7,130
Location
Washington State
Last time I was in CUS (November 2022), they were not escorting passengers to the tracks from the Metropolitan Lounge like they always had before. They just called the train and gave directions to the gate over the PA for those not using Red Caps.

That may have been part of the reason one of the posters did not get priority coach boarding despite having come from the lounge. Without the escort, how do they know?

No escort was no problem for me, I know CUS well. And the Builder almost always leaves from Track 19 anyway.
 

daybeers

Conductor
Joined
Jan 6, 2016
Messages
1,730
Location
NHV
quit torturing me with the TRACK NUMBER 15 TRACK NUMBER 17 TRACK NUMBER 19 and so on. I know it's for the ADA for a first time rider it makes you think you are in some torture movie chamber.
Is this really an ADA requirement? Moynihan, which is far newer, doesn't have it, and AFAIK neither do any of the other stations anywhere in the country.

The handful of times I've been to CUS, it's been very confusing to me. The wayfinding is much too small and there are too few signs. Like Grand Central, the main hall is gorgeous, but the actual train areas are dilapidated, cramped, devoid of light, stinky, and very loud, especially in CHI with all-diesel services. I don't understand what's so difficult about having a complete ceiling with no holes, a welcoming waiting area that doesn't look like a Greyhound terminal from the 80s, and employees that don't bark at you right and left.

It seems everything in CUS is a mess, from the boarding process to the waiting area to the incompetent maintenance facilities. I just don't get it; it's one of the most important rail facilities in the country.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporting Member
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
25,407
Location
Austin Texas
Is this really an ADA requirement? Moynihan, which is far newer, doesn't have it, and AFAIK neither do any of the other stations anywhere in the country.

The handful of times I've been to CUS, it's been very confusing to me. The wayfinding is much too small and there are too few signs. Like Grand Central, the main hall is gorgeous, but the actual train areas are dilapidated, cramped, devoid of light, stinky, and very loud, especially in CHI with all-diesel services. I don't understand what's so difficult about having a complete ceiling with no holes, a welcoming waiting area that doesn't look like a Greyhound terminal from the 80s, and employees that don't bark at you right and left.

It seems everything in CUS is a mess, from the boarding process to the waiting area to the incompetent maintenance facilities. I just don't get it; it's one of the most important rail facilities in the country.
It didn't get that way quickly, it took years of Incompetence,Neglect,Graft,and Uncaring Enployees and Politicians.
 

mackinaw chief

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 15, 2023
Messages
31
Location
Cheboygan
Is this really an ADA requirement? Moynihan, which is far newer, doesn't have it, and AFAIK neither do any of the other stations anywhere in the country.

The handful of times I've been to CUS, it's been very confusing to me. The wayfinding is much too small and there are too few signs. Like Grand Central, the main hall is gorgeous, but the actual train areas are dilapidated, cramped, devoid of light, stinky, and very loud, especially in CHI with all-diesel services. I don't understand what's so difficult about having a complete ceiling with no holes, a welcoming waiting area that doesn't look like a Greyhound terminal from the 80s, and employees that don't bark at you right and left.

It seems everything in CUS is a mess, from the boarding process to the waiting area to the incompetent maintenance facilities. I just don't get it; it's one of the most important rail facilities in the country.
From what I've been told by station staff it's a local thing. Stay tuned improvements to union station chicago are coming soon.
 

NorthShore

Conductor
Joined
Sep 3, 2013
Messages
1,304
Location
Chicago
About 1200'. Be ready to climb stairs at Blue Line Clinton Station. It is not an ADA accessible station IIRC.

I always tell people to take the bus (which stops right across the street on Jackson) to Dearborn or State (where there are also elevators.) I'm not sure why everyone on this site always recommends the subway station at Clinton, inferior as it is. Heading towards Union Station, head west on Adams from the L, as the streets downtown are one way.
 

mgkeihl

Train Attendant
Joined
Feb 15, 2020
Messages
30
On my round trip from Rochester to Seattle, I was pan handled in Rochester and Chicago! I am a poor traveler and basically said I'd be happy to take something from them!! Also in Chicago (though not in station but on train) had the police search my bags! I'm a retired grandmother so not sure if random or targeted.
 
Top