Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Union Station’

Amtrak Takes CUS Dispute to STB (Again)

May 29, 2020

For the third time a dispute between Amtrak and Chicago commuter railroad operator Metra has landed before the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

Amtrak has asked the agency to settle a dispute between the two over terms and compensation for Metra’s use of Chicago Union Station, which Amtrak owns.

The STB in 2018 turned aside a request from Metra to settle dispute, calling Metra’s request premature.

The agency has yet to act on a 2019 request by Amtrak to help settle the dispute.

Amtrak’s latest STB petition is seeking more than $17 million annually from Metra and includes a list of 17 terms that the intercity passenger carrier wants to impose on Metra in a contract that would last 10 years.

A Metra spokesman said his agency will have a response to the Amtrak petition by late June and that discussions between the two sides are ongoing.

Amtrak contends that Metra should be paying $15.3 million under its allocation formula for operating costs, including maintenance of way, dispatching, station operation and maintenance, and policing.

Another $1.7 million would be Metra’s fee for “tier 1” capital expenditures with an amount to be determined for “tier 2” expenditures.

Amtrak has long argued that Metra is “drastically under contributing” to the station complex’s capital costs.

Although Amtrak provided an exact dollar figures of how much it argues that Metra should be paying, it along with other information was redacted from the petition.

As recently as 2018, Metra paid Amtrak $9.66 million to use CUS.

Among the terms that Amtrak wants the STB to impose upon Metra are providing a written request to increase or modify service levels.

Currently Metra can add service at its discretion but Amtrak wants the two sides to evaluate the station’s ability to accommodate service changes before they are made.

Other conditions sought by Amtrak include basing Metra’s annual fee on the operation of 111,497 trains annually with with additional fees for each additional train, including specials and test trains.

Amtrak is seeking the right to remove from service any Metra equipment “that does not meet Amtrak’s written safety or operation standards, or legal or regulatory requirements.”

The copy of the petition available to the public redacted such information as the percentage of trains using the station by each carrier.

It is widely believed that Metra accounts for 90 percent of that total.

Also redacted is the percentage of passengers for each carrier who use the station, the portion of the station’s 489,555 square feet used by each carrier and the number of Amtrak police offices assigned to CUS.

Firm to Help Amtrak Find CUS Food Hall Operator

December 16, 2019

Amtrak has hired a real estate firm to find an operator for a food hall that it is creating at Chicago Union Station.

The firm of Cushman & Wakefield will market the food hall, which will be located in 21,000 square feet of space that largely has been closed since a fire in 1980.

Greg Kirsch, the Midwest regional lead for the retail firm, said that the food hall will offer a curated selection of vendors, which is unlike how other retail space in the station is leased.

As part of the creation of the food hall, Amtrak will restore windows that overlook Clinton Street and the station’s Great Hall.

In the past the space to be used by the food hall was used by a Fred Harvey Lunch Room.

Kirsch said the food hall will be designed to encourage people to linger.

It will be leased to a single operator who will expected to license space to 10 to 15 vendors chosen for their quality and variety of their offerings.

The food hall could begin operations by spring 2021.

Promotional materials brochure created by Cushman & Wakefield note that 140,000 rail passengers, mostly Metra riders, pass through Union Station each weekday and the daytime population nearby exceeds 160,000.

“You know how many people are walking through that space every day, and it kind of doesn’t change,” Kirsch said. “We’re very optimistic that this will be well received.”

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said construction of the food hall is expected to be finished by mid-2020.

Thus far Amtrak has restored the skylight in the Great Hall and has plans in the works to renovate the building’s office space.

Amtrak also is planning a one-story addition to the eight floors that surround the Great Hall and use that space for two hotels with a combined 400 rooms.

 

CUS Station Project Nets Amtrak 6 Awards

December 13, 2019

Amtrak has won six awards for its $22 million project to restore the Great Hall of Chicago Union Station.

The awards were presented by architectural, engineering, construction and real estate organizations or publications and include:

• 2019 Interior Architecture Award – American Institute of Architects, Chicago Chapter

• 2019 Overall Transformation of the Year – GlobeSt Real Estate Forum Magazine

• 2019 Silver Reconstruction Award – Building Design & Construction Magazine

• 2019 Best Project, Government/Public Building – ENR Midwest Magazine

•2019 Best Renovation/Retrofit Project – Structural Engineers Association of Illinois

•2019 Metamorphosis Award, Whole Building – Retrofit Magazine

“We appreciate the awards to our team from our industry colleagues. But most rewarding to us is the constantly positive comments from those who use our station,” said David Handera, Amtrak’s vice president of stations properties and accessibility, in a news release.

Renovation work at the station continues, including the construction of a new Clinton Street entrance to improve station accessibility with an elevator from street level.

Amtrak also said it is creating a two-tier food hall that is expected to open next fall.

Congressman Wants Metra to Control Chicago Station

November 19, 2019

A Chicago area congressman may introduce legislation to force Amtrak to turn over control of Chicago Union Station to commuter rail operator Metra.,

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski said he will introduce that legislation unless Amtrak voluntarily gives up control of the station.

Lipinski, who had unsuccessfully sought earlier this year to prod Amtrak into giving up control of Union Station, noted that 90 percent of the depot’s passengers are Metra passengers.

A computer failure in February in an Amtrak control center brought rail traffic to a near halt causing major delays for thousands of Metra passengers over the course of a day.

The legislation would be a clause inserted into the 2020 Amtrak reauthorization bill that Congress has just started to work on.

Before introducing the legislation, Lipkinski’s office said the congressman wanted to consult with outside experts on whether Metra has the technical ability to operate Union Station, which is owned by Amtrak.

Lipinski also wants to ascertain if there are any national implications to a Metra takeover of the station.

As chairman of House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, Lipinski has been using his bully pulpit to pressure on Amtrak.

At a minimum, he has argued that the national passenger carrier needs to make improvements to the station, although he said he now thinks the best way to achieve those would be for Amtrak to give up operational control of Union Station.

Amtrak has said in response that it is committed to keeping control of Union Station ownership or operations.

During a hearing last week before Lipinski’s committee, Amtrak President Richard Anderson said Amtrak dispatches Metra trains with a 99 percent on-time rate.

Metra CEO Jim Derwinski had said previously that Metra believes it needs to “have control over our own destiny” at Union Station.

The rail commuter carrier said it wants to own or control the station’s  transportation assets, but not its commercial space.

Metra and Amtrak have also been involved in contentious negotiations over a new lease that both sides have asked the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to help resolve.

No. 29 Had Locomotive No. 1

November 8, 2019

The westbound Capitol Limited has reached the end of the line at Chicago Union Station.

Passengers and disembarking and the crew is looking forward to going off the clock.

As I made my way toward the station head house I turned to make a photograph of the lead locomotive of No. 29, which on this day was P42DC No. 1.

Not many railroads have a locomotive No. 1 but I have photos of Amtrak No. 1 and CSX No. 1.

On an adjacent track is a Metra commuter train.

Last Outbound Amtrak Train of the Day

October 9, 2019

Boarding of the outbound Lake Shore Limited has begun on Track 26 at Chicago Union Station.

The sleeper class passengers are the first to board and I was near the head of the line in that group.

Actually, I wasn’t riding in a sleeper. But if you buy a day pass to the lounge at Union Station you get to board your train along with the sleeper passengers.

Train No. 48 will be the last Amtrak train to depart from the South concourse of Union Station today.

But other trains will be arriving over the next couple of hours including a Wolverine Service train, the Illini, a Lincoln Service train, the Carl Sanburg and an extraordinarily late California Zephyr.

These platforms won’t be empty for long.

Chicago Union Station Parking Structure to Close

September 20, 2019

The Chicago Union Station self park structure will close on Sept. 30 Amtrak said in a service advisory.

The facility is located at 210 S. Canal St. Amtrak said overnight parking at the station is limited and passengers are being encouraged to use public transit, taxis, ride share services or having family or friends drop them off at the station.

Underground and above-ground public parking facilities that are available within two blocks of the station include:

  • 565 Quincy St. (550 W. Jackson Building) — valet service, weekdays only: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • 225 S. Desplaines St. (625 W. Adams Building) — self park, Monday to Saturday, closed Sunday.
  • 113 S. Clinton St. (525 W. Monroe Building) — self park, 24-hours.
  • 500 W. Monroe St. — self park, 24-hours.

 

Amtrak Seeks Food Hall for Chicago Union Station

August 7, 2019

Amtrak has issued a request for proposals to develop a food hall at Chicago Union Station.

It would be located between the Great Hall and on the Clinton Street side of the terminal, which has been closed to the public ever since a 1980 fire.

The proposed food hall is expected to draw customers from among nearby office workers and residents in addition to rail passengers.

“With all the development that is going on around Union Station, we think a food hall is just a natural for this space,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

What Amtrak has in mind is not a collection of fast food outlets, but rather something featuring a little style and higher prices.

Although the requests for proposals has a deadline of Oct. 4, Magliari said that could be extended.

The passenger carrier is eyeing a late 2020 opening date for the food hall.

Magliari said Amtrak will use $10 million, part of the proceeds from its sale of a parking garage immediately south of Union Station, to fund the food hall work.

The site of the food hall would be what there once was a Fred Harvey Lunch Room.

In the meantime, workers continue to renovate the west wall area of Union Station, which hasn’t had an entrance since the 1980s fire.

Following the fire, the wall’s soaring windows and the space covered with bricks.

The renovation will involve replacing the 8-by-17-foot windows and three 9-by-30-foot windows that once overlooked the Great Hall.

Hanging With the Hoosier State in Its Final Week

August 4, 2019

Boarding has begun for the Chicago-bound Hoosier State on June 25 at Indianapolis Union Station.

By the time I arrived in Indianapolis Amtrak’s Hoosier State had just one week left to live.

I would experience No. 851 three times before it made its final trip on June 30, riding it once and photographing it trackside twice.

I have ridden the Hoosier State several times but not since August 1991.

Interestingly, my purpose for riding the Hoosier State nearly 28 years later would be the same as why I rode it in 1991.

I was moving and needed to go back to my former hometown to pick up a car and drive it to my new hometown.

In 1991 I had driven from Indianapolis to State College, Pennsylvania. In 2019 I drove from Cleveland to Indianapolis.

Boarding of No. 851 began shortly after I arrived at Indianapolis Union Station on the morning of June 25.

I was the second passenger to board the Horizon fleet coach to which most Indy passengers were assigned. The car was about two-thirds full.

The consist also included an Amfleet coach, an Amfleet food service car and two P42DC locomotives, Nos. 77 and 55.

We departed on time but a few minutes later received a penalty application near CP Holt that required a conversation with the CSX PTC desk.

We would later encounter a delay between Crawfordsville and Lafayette due to signal issues.

Yet there was no freight train interference en route that I observed. We stopped briefly in Chicago so a Metra train could go around us.

That was probably because we were early. We halted at Chicago Union Station 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

I had heard the former Monon can be rough riding, but I didn’t think it was any worse than other Amtrak routes I’ve ridden.

There wasn’t any of the abrupt sideways jerking that I’ve experienced on other Amtrak trains.

The journey did seem to be slow going at times, particularly through the CSX yard in Lafayette; on the former Grand Trunk Western west of Munster, Indiana; through the Union Pacific yard on the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois; and within Chicago.

Overall, the experience was much the same as riding any other Amtrak Midwest corridor train although it featured an entrance into Chicago that I had not experienced before in daylight.

The crew said nothing about it being the last week of operation for Nos. 850 and 851.

My next encounter with the Hoosier State came in Lafayette on June 28.

No. 851 arrived on time with a more typical consist that included cars being ferried from Beach Grove shops to Chicago.

These included a Superliner sleeping car, a Viewliner baggage car, a Horizon food service car, and a Heritage baggage car in addition to the standard Hoosier State consist of three cars. On the point was P42DC No. 99.

I was positioned next to the former Big Four station at Riehle Plaza so I could photograph above the train.

Although a sunny morning, the tracks were more in shadows than I would have liked. Nonetheless I was pleased, overall, with what I came away with.

After No 851 departed – it operates on CSX as P317, an original Hoosier State number – I went over to Fifth Street to photograph it sans railroad tracks.

One stretch of rails has been left in the street in front of the former Monon passenger station.

My last encounter with the Hoosier State would be my briefest.

I drove to Linden to photograph the last northbound run at the railroad museum at the former joint Monon-Nickel Plate depot.

No. 851 was 24 minutes late leaving Indianapolis Union Station and about that late at Crawfordsville.

It had a consist similar to what I had seen in Lafayette two days earlier. P42DC No. 160 had a battered nose with some of its silver paint peeling away.

I wasn’t aware until I saw them that two former Pennsylvania Railroad cars had been chartered to operate on the rear of the last Hoosier State.

They were Colonial Crafts and Frank Thomson. The latter carried a Pennsy keystone tail sign on its observation end emblazoned with the Hoosier State name.

It was a nice touch and after those cars charged past the Hoosier State was gone in more ways than one.

 

That’s my Horizon coach reflected in the lower level of the Lafayette station.

 

Watching the countryside slide by west of Monon, Indiana.

The Hoosier State has come to a halt on Track 16 at Chicago Union Station. That’s the inbound City of New Orleans to the left.

A crowd lines the platform in Lafayette as the Hoosier State arrives en route to Chicago.

The former Big Four station in Lafayette was moved to its current location to serve Amtrak. At one time it also served intercity buses.

Pulling out of Lafayette on the penultimate northbound trip to Chicago.

P42DC No. 160, which pulled the last northbound Amtrak Train No. 851 had a well-worn nose.

Two former Pennsylvania Railroad passenger cars brought up the rear of the last northbound Hoosier State.

STB Asked to Allow Metra to Continue Use of CUS

July 26, 2019

Amtrak has asked the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to allow Chicago commuter rail agency Metra to continue using Chicago Union Station as the two sides continue to haggle over lease payments.

Declaring that more than a year of negotiations has yet to yield an agreement to extend Metra’s lease, which expires on July 29, Amtrak has asked the STB to issue an interim order enabling Metra to continue using the station.

Metra and Amtrak officials have said that no disruption of service or other operational changes will occur despite the lack of a lease extension.

Instead, Metra will continue to use the station under a 1984 agreement that has been amended several times.

Amtrak said the two sides have a “significant, material gap between our respective views of ‘fair share’” costs at the station, and there are “methodological and philosophical differences between us on how that fair share should be calculated.”

Metra said in a statement that it “is seeking the best deal for its customers and for the taxpayers of northeastern Illinois. We agree that requesting the involvement of the Surface Transportation Board at this juncture is appropriate and we look forward to making our case there.”

Union Station serves 41 percent of Metra’s passengers traveling to or from downtown Chicago.

It has 286 weekly trains using six routes from Union Station that average 109,520 passengers.

In fiscal year 2018, Metra paid Amtrak $9.66 million to use Union Station. Amtrak reportedly is seeking to raise the rent by several million dollars.

It has justified its demands for higher rent by saying Metra’s use of the depot has increased significantly over the years. Amtrak is also seeking to recoup some of the costs of capital investments it has made at Union Station.

Amtrak contends that Metra has benefited from an outdated and inadequate 1984 contract that has failed to account for significant increases in its rail traffic and passenger counts at CUS.

The national passenger carrier is also reported to be seeking a firm commitment by Metra to contribute to upgrading the station facilities.

However, Metra is seeking to reduce its rent to less than $7 million a year. Earlier this year, Metra even suggested that it take control of Union Station because it accounts for 90 percent of the trains using the facility. Amtrak rejected that idea.

A consulting firm hired by Metra suggested the commuter rail agency pay costs for dispatching and maintenance that are similar to those Amtrak is seeking.

“But there is still a gap between Amtrak’s proposals in these areas and Metra’s counter-proposal, and more significant gaps in other cost categories, including operating expenses, policing, liability and overall capital investment,” Amtrak has said.