Union Station feels a little brighter

January 4, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I haven’t taken a train to or from Union Station in Chicago for a few months, but today I noticed that many of the lights in the station felt a little brighter.


North concourse of Union Station, Chicago. Credit: Shaun Jacobsen.


According to the Union Station website, many of the station’s lightbulbs were changed recently. As a result, there is an annual savings of 3,142,932 kWh, or $336,402 in energy costs, annually.

Union Station always felt a little dreary (the Great Hall notwithstanding), if not because of the lightbulbs, because of the low ceilings or pollution from the diesel trains on the tracks. It feels a little brighter now.

Chicago Union Station’s unfortunately underused Great Hall. Credit: Wikipedia.

It would take some high ceilings and natural light for Union Station to feel like a more “European” station. That’s not to say that we should be building stations modeled after European stations, but most of them do feel airier and brighter. Most trains in Europe are also electrified, meaning no local pollution.

Gare du Nord in Paris

Gare du Nord in Paris. The regional/international station is also connected to Metro lines 4 and 5, and RER lines B and D. Credit: Wikipedia.

It’s worth noting different train station designs around the world. I haven’t visited many stations in America outside Europe, since we don’t have a very decent regional train network in the U.S., but I do know that there are some gems. I have visited Grand Central in New York, whose concourse is very open (the tracks are not). I’ve also heard that Union Station in Washington, D.C. is very nice. It would be nice if the Great Hall in Union Station could see more “life” like Grand Central.

If you’ve seen “airier” and “brighter” train stations here in the States, where are they?