Union Station: LA's Historic Transportation Hub

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    Union Station

    Union Station in Los Angeles
    Photo © 2008 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Located at the edge of LA's Downtown Civic Center, Union Station connects Downtown Los Angeles to the rest of LA and connects Los Angeles to the rest of the US, via a network of long distance, commuter and Metro trains, shuttles, buses and taxis.

    The historic Union Station, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1939 in a mix of architectural styles including Spanish Colonial, Mission Revival, Art Deco and Streamline Moderne. When built, it displaced much of the original Chinatown, which is why some older Angelenos still refer to the current Chinatown a few blocks over as New Chinatown.

    When it opened, it consolidated services for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, Southern Pacific Railroad, and Union Pacific Railroad, as well as the Pacific Electric Railway and Los Angeles Railway. Those names have been replaced in modern times by Amtrak, MetroLink and LA Metro.

    Visiting Union Station

    Address: 800 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
    Cost: Free to visit
    Parking: Long Term and Short Term for a fee. There is NO free parking at Union Station.
    Metro: Metro Red, Purple and Gold lines stop at Union Station
    LAX Flyaway: Direct shuttle service between LAX and Union Station
    Buses: Most LA area transit companies have buses to Union Station.

    Even if you're not going anywhere, Union Station is worth a visit. Beautiful waiting areas with custom seating, inlaid floors, dark beamed and patterned ceilings and tile work are just a few details to be admired. You'll most likely recognize it from the many movies and TV shows that have been filmed here. The newer tunnels and platforms of the LA Metro have also incorporated multiple public art installations into the station.

    Union Station has numerous garden courtyards and fountains, including one tucked behind the new Metro building behind the station. It's such a stunning setting that parts of it are even rented out for weddings and other events.

    Union Station Tours are offered on the 3rd Saturday of the Month by the LA Conservancy.

    Traxx Bar and Restaurant is available to serve hungry and thirsty travelers and visitors.

    If you have a long layover of 4 hours or more at LAX, taking the LAX Flyaway service to Union Station is an inexpensive way to get away from the airport and see Union Station and a bit of Downtown LA. Be sure to allow at least an hour travel in each direction.

    Current Services at Union Station

    AMTRAK
    Cross-country passenger train service to US and Canadian destinations is provided by Amtrak, which can get you from LA to NYC in 3 days. Some Amtrak segments are provided by bus. There are direct trains from LA to Seattle, New Orleans and two different routes to Chicago, one via Albuquerque and one via San Antonio. Union Station is also a stop on the Pacific Surfliner Train between San Diego and San Luis Obispo.

    MetroLink
    MetroLink offers regional commuter train service to points in Orange County, San Diego County, Riverside County, Ventura County and the Antelope Valley.

    MTA Metro Trains
    LA County's Metropolitan Transit Authority, which has its offices in the MTA building just behind Union Station, operates six Metro rail lines, three of which intersect at Union Station. Read: How to Ride the LA Metro

    MTA Metro Buses
    MTA also has a dozen different bus lines that stop at Union Station including the Metro Liner Silver Line, a rapid transit commuter bus line that runs from El Monte, East of Downtown LA, through Union Station via special Freeway bus lanes and south to the Artesia Transit Center, connecting the USC Medical Center Campus with the main USC Exposition Park Campus in between. There are also Metro Rapid, Metro Express and Metro Local lines. Metro buses stop at the Patsaouras Transit Plaza on the east side of Union Station off of Vignes.

    City Buses
    In addition to the Metro buses and LA Department of Transportation (LADOT) buses, every smaller city and all the surrounding counties have bus service into Downtown Los Angeles and most of those buses stop at the Patsaouras Transit Plaza Union Station, with some stopping on other streets adjacent to the station. Full List of LA Area Public Transit Companies.

    LAX Flyaway Service
    A direct shuttle to Los Angeles International Airport from Union Station. Read more about LAX Flyaway Service.

    Both Google Maps and Bing Maps incorporate most of the LA public transit information, so you can let them choose the bus companies for you, but they disagree and there are some gaps. If the route they give you doesn't look logical, call the relevant company's service number in the area where you're departing from or going to, or if you're at Union Station, ask at the Information Desk in the main hall.

    Nearby:

    More Things to Do in Downtown LA

    Click through the slides to get a peek inside Union Station Los Angeles.

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    Inside LA Union Station

    The great arch inside Union Station in Los Angeles
    Photo © 2005 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    Some areas of Union Station can only be seen during special events or on tours, but the great hall and waiting room are still in use by train and Metro travelers every day. The ceiling in the waiting room, seen through the archway here, looks like wood, but is actually made of steel.

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    The Waiting Room at La Union Station

    The waiting area inside Union Station in Los Angeles
    Photo © 2005 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The waiting room at the Union Station in Los Angeles has large leather seats and floors of terra cotta with inlaid marble and travertine tiles. 

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    The Old Ticket Lobby at LA Union Station

    Inside Union Station in Los Angeles
    Photo © 2005 Kayte Deioma, licensed to About.com

    The original ticket lobby at Union Station in Los Angeles has 62-foot ceilings. The carved bank of wooden ticket windows is 100 feet long. It is usually closed, but can be seen on tours and is rented out for special events.