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Published on : Monday, June 27, 2016
Amtrak has more than doubled the space and added many new amenities at Chicago Union Station for customers who are traveling in Sleeping cars or in Business class, as well as Select Plus and Select Executive Amtrak Guest Rewards members, with this morning’s opening of a new “Metropolitan Lounge.”
Located behind and above one of the two grand staircases off the Great Hall, the lounge has two entrances. The primary access is located inside the station between the Great Hall and the Concourse, with a red carpet exterior entrance near the taxi stand on the west side of Canal Street. These premium customers are welcomed arriving in or departing from Chicago.
Once inside, customers are greeted by Amtrak customer service representatives who will check their baggage. After stowing their carry-on bags, they can relax, work or even take a shower. These customers will be pre-boarded from the lounge to their Amtrak trains.
Customers can enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages in the lounge. For the rail enthusiast, there is a Pennsylvania Room located in the former Pennsylvania Railroad Passenger Department space on the upper level. An elevator and staircase connect both floors of the lounge, which meets the latest Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
For travelers “living online,” AmtrakConnect(r) Wi-Fi covers both levels of the lounge, with powered furniture in place so they can charge their devices while meeting and mingling and making preparations for their upcoming journeys. Table tops and individual work stations are also available.
With many families traveling with young children choosing Amtrak trains in Sleeping cars or Business class for their “traincations,” there is also an area in the lounge designed for children.
“Not only does this project greatly improve the Amtrak experience for these customers, it also clears the way for changes at the Concourse Level that will improve those boarding areas,” said Mark Murphy, Chicago-based Amtrak Senior Vice President & General Manager, who announced the initiation of the nearly $7 million lounge project at a news conference last fall with federal, state and local officials.
At 13,500 square-feet and with seating for 360, the new lounge replaces one opened in 1991 in the station’s Concourse and later enlarged to 6,475 square-feet and 90 seats, too few for today’s Amtrak ridership.
At an open house event last week, representatives of the project’s architect and general contractor previewed the space to the news media and other invitees, with Tom Carper, Director and Immediate Past Chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors.
“Since the last major improvements 25 years ago, Amtrak Chicago Union Station customer counts have grown by nearly 40 percent,” said Carper. “The board and Amtrak management are taking additional steps to improve the station in order to both welcome additional Amtrak and Metra customers and to further develop this landmark as a revenue source to support our core business as America’s Railroad(r).”
“We are honored to assist Amtrak in the stewardship of the historic Chicago Union Station. Revitalizations and restoration projects both celebrate this iconic Chicago building and provide greater services and amenities for the growing number of Amtrak customers.” said architect Leonard Koroski, FAIA, LEED AP – Principal, Goettsch Partners.
“As a Chicago-based company, the Chicago Union Station has always been a historic icon to our employees,” said Bill Abromitis, Clune Construction CEO. “We were honored to be brought in as the general contractor for this project in the early stages to assist with the design development. It was our goal to work with the Amtrak project team to preserve the history and romance of Union Station while constructing a world-class lounge for a world-class client.”
Since 2010, Amtrak has primarily used its own funds from customer ticket revenue and federal capital grants to make nearly $60 million in investments in the station. In addition to the new Metropolitan Lounge, this work includes the Szabo Control Center, regional offices, reinstituting air conditioning in the Great Hall and surrounding spaces, restoration of the grand staircases and establishment of a service center in the Great Hall, remediation and life-safety and facade repairs (all in the Headhouse); supplemental heating, refreshing of furniture and carpeting and new door systems leading to and from the concourse and the boarding platforms (all in the Concourse).
About 125,000 Metra commuter rail and Amtrak passengers use the station daily, with Chicago’s 3.2 million annual Amtrak passengers ranking in the top four of all Amtrak stations. More than 165,000 Amtrak passengers were ticketed to originate in Chicago in Sleeping cars or Business class last year.