Washington DC Union Station facilities, convenience and experiences

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

Ryan

Court Jester
Joined
Apr 14, 2008
Messages
18,004
Location
Off looking for his sense of humor
My opinion was based on my tolerance for walking which is much lower than most people. This is entirely my own fault for not keeping my health up. I’m improving and maybe my outlook will improve as I get healthier. B
I get that, and can completely respect it. But that boils down to the particular places that you're interested in going, which isn't going to the same for everyone. My particular complaint is with people that make factually inaccurate statements like:

between Union Station and the Capitol is just a 20 minute walk among uninviting office buildings and an unremarkable, if pretty, park

The walk is less than a half mile, easily done sub-10 minutes and entirely in the park except for the block along Russell, which is actually kind of nice:1668975233617.png
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
AU Supporting Member
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
34,419
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
I get that, and can completely respect it. But that boils down to the particular places that you're interested in going, which isn't going to the same for everyone. My particular complaint is with people that make factually inaccurate statements like:



The walk is less than a half mile, easily done sub-10 minutes and entirely in the park except for the block along Russell, which is actually kind of nice:View attachment 30475
I agree. Russell is an impressive Beaux-Arts architectural style building both outside and inside. Before COVID we used to go in there to meet various Senators during the RPA Day on the Hill in Spring every year.

I have done that walk to/from the Senate and House Office Buildings countless number of times from Union Station.

Of course it is kind of interesting to go further along 1St St. and past the Capitol South WMATA Station to New Jersey Ave. and D St. near which is the tunnel mouth where the 1st St. tunnel from Union Station emerges to continue on to CP Virginia to connect up with CSX and proceed towards the L'Enfant VRE Station.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 27, 2002
Messages
6,651
Location
Chicago
I agree. Russell is an impressive Beaux-Arts architectural style building both outside and inside. Before COVID we used to go in there to meet various Senators during the RPA Day on the Hill in Spring every year.

I have done that walk to/from the Senate and House Office Buildings countless number of times from Union Station.

Of course it is kind of interesting to go further along 1St St. and past the Capitol South WMATA Station to New Jersey Ave. and D St. near which the tunnel mouth where the 1st St. tunnel from Union Station emerges to continue on to CP Virginia to connect up with CSX and proceed towards the L'Enfant VRE Station.
That would be an interesting place to train watch. Year's ago I had drafted by the staff at my teacher led school to take students to Washington for the close-up convention. They thought they were giving me the short end the stick. Once I got them to Washington I discovered that adults from Close-up monitored the students azz and teachers had there own workshops.

On one day we got to take out own kids on a day trip around Washington. My 3 students as and I ended up at the L’Enfant metro stop and came above ground as one of the silver service trains rolled by. I stopped to admire the train from street level. One of my students opted for a sneak feel of a female student who the turned and slapped him hard enough to be heard as the markers of the Silver service train rolled by. I pondered if this was an “amslap” since I had been distracted.
 
Joined
Dec 20, 2014
Messages
35
Location
Phoenix
Really? There are several Metro stations within 4 blocks of the Mall/Museum. At least 2 are on the Red Line. The others are easy transfers from the Red Line.
And, my favorite museum is on the Red Line: the National Building Museum. Get off at Judiciary Square and it's literally across the street. And within a few blocks from there is the Nat'l Portrait Gallery/Museum of American Art ( and nearby Chinatown).
 

AmtrakBlue

Engineer
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
14,415
Location
Delaware
And, my favorite museum is on the Red Line: the National Building Museum. Get off at Judiciary Square and it's literally across the street. And within a few blocks from there is the Nat'l Portrait Gallery/Museum of American Art ( and nearby Chinatown).
My sister and I went to the National Building Museum a few years ago (before COVID) to see an exhibit about Hanford, WA. My parents lived there for a time during the war and my oldest brother was born there.
 

Ryan

Court Jester
Joined
Apr 14, 2008
Messages
18,004
Location
Off looking for his sense of humor
I agree. Russell is an impressive Beaux-Arts architectural style building both outside and inside. Before COVID we used to go in there to meet various Senators during the RPA Day on the Hill in Spring every year.

I have done that walk to/from the Senate and House Office Buildings countless number of times from Union Station.

Of course it is kind of interesting to go further along 1St St. and past the Capitol South WMATA Station to New Jersey Ave. and D St. near which the tunnel mouth where the 1st St. tunnel from Union Station emerges to continue on to CP Virginia to connect up with CSX and proceed towards the L'Enfant VRE Station.
My first job when I got out of the Navy was at 1100 NJ Ave SE, so I would frequently do that exact walk, and extend down over the portal of the Virginia Ave tunnel as well before arriving at the office. This was also right about the same time as I got my first DSLR, so I would frequently carry the camera with me and take pictures of interesting things as I walked over Capitol Hill (this is also when I learned that the “hill” part wasn’t just a name :D).

Some VRE action at the First St. tunnel ends:
VRE Meet by Ryan Stavely, on Flickr

My favorite from back in those days though was this one - my wife worked at the Capitol, where I learned that one could tour the dome. They’re tough tours to get, as the actual Member sponsoring you needs to accompany you on the tour, but the highlight is getting this view from the top (I have a nice print of this one that hangs in the office):
E PL by Ryan Stavely, on Flickr
 

Anderson

Engineer
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,850
Location
Virginia
I think a lot of the convenience of the location of Union Station depends on (1) your tolerance for walking, (2) where you need to go, and (3) the weather. Washington is a pretty decent town for walking, with nice wide sidewalks in the downtown and motorists who (usually) obey the traffic laws. On my trip last week to see the doctor, I took the Red Line, a one-seat ride to Farragut Square and the K Street lobbyists corridor. I did have to walk a block to the doctor's office on Eye St. (The Red Line, by the way, also gives a one-seat ride from Union Station to the Zoo.)

After I finished with the doctor, I took the Blue line from Farragut West to L'Enfant Plaza and walked 2 blocks to the American Indian Museum. After I was done with my visit, I walked back to Union Station. It was a nice day, and a pleasant walk, all of the crossing of major streets had perfectly good traffic signals.

The Red Line to Blue/Orange/Silver at Metro Center to get to Smithsonian Station works perfectly well and lets you look at the intersecting barrel vaulted Metro Center Station. However, it's also not much of a walk down 12th St. to get to the Mall if you don't want to change trains.

It's also important to remember that the system was designed primarily to get people to and from work, and, as someone who used the Metro to get from Union Station to my office, it worked pretty well for that. I usually just walked two blocks down 13th St., but if the weather was bad (and I mean icy sidewalks or a real downpour), I could transfer trains and get off at Federal Triangle, right at my front door.
So were you going to see your eye doctor?

...I'll see myself out.
 
Joined
Aug 27, 2002
Messages
6,651
Location
Chicago
My first job when I got out of the Navy was at 1100 NJ Ave SE, so I would frequently do that exact walk, and extend down over the portal of the Virginia Ave tunnel as well before arriving at the office. This was also right about the same time as I got my first DSLR, so I would frequently carry the camera with me and take pictures of interesting things as I walked over Capitol Hill (this is also when I learned that the “hill” part wasn’t just a name :D).

Some VRE action at the First St. tunnel ends:
VRE Meet by Ryan Stavely, on Flickr

My favorite from back in those days though was this one - my wife worked at the Capitol, where I learned that one could tour the dome. They’re tough tours to get, as the actual Member sponsoring you needs to accompany you on the tour, but the highlight is getting this view from the top (I have a nice print of this one that hangs in the office):
E PL by Ryan Stavely, on Flickr
Ryan, that was a cool shot of the two trains.
 
Joined
Sep 2, 2021
Messages
1,009
Location
Lubec, ME
My sister and I went to the National Building Museum a few years ago (before COVID) to see an exhibit about Hanford, WA. My parents lived there for a time during the war and my oldest brother was born there.
Interesting, I will have to check that out if I ever get to Washington again. Back in the 1980s my father in law was working on the Washington Public Power Supply System which was an ambitious plan to build 5 nuclear power stations at the Hanford site. After 3 Mile Island pulled the rug out from the nuclear power industry it was scaled back to I think just 2 reactors. We did get to tour some of the facility there. I think the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder was still operating and maybe the N reactor, I know the latter was shut down when people realized the inherent instability of graphite moderated cores - see Chernobyl.
 

AmtrakBlue

Engineer
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
14,415
Location
Delaware
Interesting, I will have to check that out if I ever get to Washington again. Back in the 1980s my father in law was working on the Washington Public Power Supply System which was an ambitious plan to build 5 nuclear power stations at the Hanford site. After 3 Mile Island pulled the rug out from the nuclear power industry it was scaled back to I think just 2 reactors. We did get to tour some of the facility there. I think the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder was still operating and maybe the N reactor, I know the latter was shut down when people realized the inherent instability of graphite moderated cores - see Chernobyl.
The Hanford exhibit at the museum was a limited time one, as I recall.

@AmtrakMaineiac, here's the info for the exhibit. It was in 2018-2019.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Nov 7, 2021
Messages
217
Location
Rhode Island and Philadelphia
The location of Washington Union Station is central as others have pointed out, but the thoroughfares surrounding it are incredibly hostile. Wide, fast car sewers as we say in the urbanism biz. It's psychological as well as physical. Pedestrian crossing buttons are obviously helpful but it's still a barrier to casual visiting for retail. And parks, beautiful as they are (the one between the station and the Capitol is gorgeous), are separators from residential and mixed-use areas.

Union Station in Chicago is much better, you just step out onto a mixed use pedestrian-friendly street.

For eating in WAS, we have been happy at the Au Bon Pain. Nice people work there. For waiting, we've had passes to the Metro Lounge, which is great. Not Moynihan quality (no bar) but very spacious and comfortable. Last visit was a year ago.
 

Trollopian

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
Messages
377
Location
Washington, DC and Pittsburgh, PA
The location of Washington Union Station is central as others have pointed out, but the thoroughfares surrounding it are incredibly hostile. Wide, fast car sewers as we say in the urbanism biz. It's psychological as well as physical. Pedestrian crossing buttons are obviously helpful but it's still a barrier to casual visiting for retail. And parks, beautiful as they are (the one between the station and the Capitol is gorgeous), are separators from residential and mixed-use areas.

Thank you for raising this, B. Zephyr. Union Station's location at the confluence of a street grid and diagonal avenues and a traffic circle makes for a lovely setting and a pedestrian nightmare. Especially because it increases the number of intersections pedestrians must cross to reach any of the employment centers (Capitol and Senate office buildings, SEC, Thurgood Marshall Building, National Governors Association, news networks and think tanks, etc.) nearby.

DC's mayor has a much-hyped "Vision Zero" plan supposedly meant to achieve zero pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in traffic. But it's more like Vision "Zero Enforcement." DC's police are busy fighting crime, and traffic enforcement is a low priority, not to mention that traffic stops are fraught for both driver and officer(s). Automated enforcement (red-light cameras, speed cameras) is vigorously opposed by many though not by me. It's anarchy out there, I can attest. Safety needs to be baked into road design, not achieved by after-the-fact enforcement. Narrow lanes and raised crosswalks that purposely inconvenience drivers. Yeah, that's the idea.
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
AU Supporting Member
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
34,419
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
Thank you for raising this, B. Zephyr. Union Station's location at the confluence of a street grid and diagonal avenues and a traffic circle makes for a lovely setting and a pedestrian nightmare. Especially because it increases the number of intersections pedestrians must cross to reach any of the employment centers (Capitol and Senate office buildings, SEC, Thurgood Marshall Building, National Governors Association, news networks and think tanks, etc.) nearby.

DC's mayor has a much-hyped "Vision Zero" plan supposedly meant to achieve zero pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in traffic. But it's more like Vision "Zero Enforcement." DC's police are busy fighting crime, and traffic enforcement is a low priority, not to mention that traffic stops are fraught for both driver and officer(s). Automated enforcement (red-light cameras, speed cameras) is vigorously opposed by many though not by me. It's anarchy out there, I can attest. Safety needs to be baked into road design, not achieved by after-the-fact enforcement. Narrow lanes and raised crosswalks that purposely inconvenience drivers. Yeah, that's the idea.
Best thing that they could do, even in a very aesthetic fashion, as has been done in many cities is to build an elevated pedestrian walkway around the circle in front of Union Station with drops at Union Station and the major thoroughfares emanating from the circle that are fully ADA accessible. Yeah it will cost some, but it will eliminate the whole pedestrian issue in front of Union Station for good in a very user friendly way.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Dec 26, 2014
Messages
3,692
May I put in a plug for the Postal Museum? Someone mentioned it earlier and that it was not a major tourist attraction. That, to me, is part of its charm. When I went, at least, there were no long lines and no security theater — just a couple of very friendly security guards who checked my pocketbook and had a nice conversation with me as I walked through the scanner.

Very interesting and peaceful —even a train or two.

The worst part was walking across the street to it without getting run over.

I think a very nice day trip might be to stay at a hotel in Alexandria, come in on VRE, go to the postal museum, have lunch maybe at that nice pub we went to for the Gathering, walk around the station a bit, then take VRE back to Alexandria.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jul 13, 2022
Messages
7
Location
DC
May I put in a plug for the Postal Museum? Someone mentioned it earlier and that it was not a major tourist attraction. That, to me, is part of its charm. When I went, at least, there were no long lines and no security theater — just a couple of very friendly security guards who checked my pocketbook and had a nice conversation with me as I walked through the scanner.

Very interesting and peaceful —even a train or two.

The worst part was walking across the street to it without getting run over.

I think a very nice day trip might be to stay at a hotel in Alexandria, come in on VRE, go to the postal museum, have lunch maybe at that nice pub we went to for the Gathering, walk around the station a bit, then take VRE back to Alexandria.
I'm a philatelist so I seriously enjoy having that wonderful museum close to home. It is never crowded, and one of the few groups of people who spend time there are people killing time before their train from Union Station.
 
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
1,262
Location
Central Florida
My sister and I went to the National Building Museum a few years ago (before COVID) to see an exhibit about Hanford, WA. My parents lived there for a time during the war and my oldest brother was born there.
Interesting - sorry I missed it. My mother took my brother and I to Hanford at age 6mos to be with our father. He was with DuPont working on a government project there. We all returned home to Wilmington a year later. Our trip out was from Nashville on the L&N and UP’s City of Portland.
 

MARC Rider

Engineer
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
5,216
Location
Baltimore. MD
People should remember that there's a whole new neighborhood that's been built north of the station over the past 20 years or so. This is the area that extends between First Street NE and North Capitol St., and extending up to at least the NoMa Metro station and possibly up to New York Avenue. There's also a whole lot of new stuff on the east side of the tracks, too. All of this stuff is certainly within walking distance of Union Station, except that all of the exits from the station are facing south. I'm not sure about the detailed plans of the station redevelopment, but I hope they include more north-facing entrances to encourage pedestrian access to those neighborhoods. I think they're also taking about selling air rights over the tracks, so there may be even more stuff built right up close to the station.
 

jis

Chief Dispatcher
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
AU Supporting Member
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
34,419
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
People should remember that there's a whole new neighborhood that's been built north of the station over the past 20 years or so. This is the area that extends between First Street NE and North Capitol St., and extending up to at least the NoMa Metro station and possibly up to New York Avenue. There's also a whole lot of new stuff on the east side of the tracks, too. All of this stuff is certainly within walking distance of Union Station, except that all of the exits from the station are facing south. I'm not sure about the detailed plans of the station redevelopment, but I hope they include more north-facing entrances to encourage pedestrian access to those neighborhoods. I think they're also taking about selling air rights over the tracks, so there may be even more stuff built right up close to the station.
Lots of hotels, some even affordable in the NoMa WMATA station area. The Courtyard almost adjacent to the NoMa WMATA station is my favorite since I can always get a room overlooking the neck approaching Union Station from the North. But it can be pricey. I have walked from that to Union Station, but typically entered it from the west, and not through the north exit.

There is at least one exit to the north which one takes to get to the Streetcar.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
2,711
Location
12 miles from Walt Disney World
People should remember that there's a whole new neighborhood that's been built north of the station over the past 20 years or so. This is the area that extends between First Street NE and North Capitol St., and extending up to at least the NoMa Metro station and possibly up to New York Avenue. There's also a whole lot of new stuff on the east side of the tracks, too. All of this stuff is certainly within walking distance of Union Station, except that all of the exits from the station are facing south. I'm not sure about the detailed plans of the station redevelopment, but I hope they include more north-facing entrances to encourage pedestrian access to those neighborhoods. I think they're also taking about selling air rights over the tracks, so there may be even more stuff built right up close to the station.
Not sure exactly what area you're talking about, but there is an exit on the north side through the bus terminal. Follow signs "To Streetcars".

You can also exit to the west thru the Metro station.
 

Manny T

OBS Chief
Joined
Jun 7, 2015
Messages
564
Location
Chicago IL
Union Station is physically located in an out-of-the-way area
Maybe, maybe not. Any hip folks here, ever heard of the H Street Corridor? "A dynamic one-and-a-half mile corridor, this neighborhood promises a memorable night out, funky shops and chill cafés....The neighborhood’s largest event is the annual H Street Festival, which spans 10 blocks...As far as restaurants go, expect a multitude of delectable options." washington.org/dc-neighborhoods/h-street-ne#

On this map, notice proximity of H Street Corridor to Union Station, a distance of 2-3 blocks: H Street Corridor · Washington, DC 20002
 

Manny T

OBS Chief
Joined
Jun 7, 2015
Messages
564
Location
Chicago IL
The connection between H Street, the Streetcar, and Union Station is the opposite of seamless.
I wonder if you could expand on this. From my map reading, it seems like the end of the Streetcar route is Union Station, not inside but at the intersection of H Street and Capitol Street, which google maps says is a 9 minute (1/2 mile) walk from the exit of Union Station. Once aboard the Streetcar, your ride to the H Street Coridor would be direct and take a couple of minutes.
 

Trollopian

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporting Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
Messages
377
Location
Washington, DC and Pittsburgh, PA
I wonder if you could expand on this. From my map reading, it seems like the end of the Streetcar route is Union Station, not inside but at the intersection of H Street and Capitol Street, which google maps says is a 9 minute (1/2 mile) walk from the exit of Union Station. Once aboard the Streetcar, your ride to the H Street Coridor would be direct and take a couple of minutes.
Not only that, but the H St. trolley (which is undeniably a fun ride) doesn't have its own right-of-way and is slowed down, sometimes blocked, by DC's corps of kamikaze drivers and double-parkers and whatnot. The link at DC Streetcar - Wikipedia lists the most serious accidents, but there are many more incidents that fall short of serious injury.

I don't want to call it a toy, because it runs 2.2 miles along a busy corridor that's ill-served by Metro. But it's an anomaly in a city that otherwise relies on buses and subway. Oh, yeah, I forgot the gondola advocates. (Rosslyn to Georgetown.) Dream on.
 
Top