One aspect of the HSR project that we have so far paid little attention to on this blog is how the new service will be integrated with the existing Los Angeles Union Station. This terminal station with its iconic waiting room was built on a spur off the main line along the Los Angeles river before the war and is today a multimodal hub served by Amtrak, Metrolink, two Metro subway lines, Metro Gold Line light rail and multiple buses, including the FlyAway to LAX.
Union Station waiting room:
View from street level:
Note the ramp for two light rail run-through tracks under construction for the Metro Gold Line Eastside extension. Separately, FRA published the final EIR/EIS for four heavy rail run-through tracks back in 2005. These would veer east to join up with the BNSF main line along the west bank of the Los Angeles river. These tracks would primarily be used by Amtrak Pacific Surfliner and presuambly, modified Metrolink lines.
Rumor has it CHSRA plans to add a second level of tracks dedicated to HSR, stacked on top of the existing ones. H/t to Michael for this video edit:
This would have the advantage of linking HSR directly to growing network of local and regional transit services in the LA basin, east into the Inland Empire and south into Orange County and to San Diego. Unfortunately, it would also have severe disadvantages:
- The HSR level would itself be a terminus station without run-through tracks. Trains between San Francisco/Sacramento and Anaheim-Irvine/San Diego would have to reverse direction, as would trains between Anaheim-Irvine and San Diego.
- Diesel trains serving a covered grade level would create an air quality problem for passengers and staff. This will become less severe if and when Amtrak and Metrolink receive funds to switch to Tier 4 locomotives, but dirty legacy locomotives will probably remain in service through a long transition period. Significant forced ventilation may be needed mitigate the issue in the interim.
- Without an additional mezzanine level, pedestrian flow capacity could be severely restricted at the stub end. HSR trains can be 1320's feet (~400m) long and support over 1000 seats with bi-level cars.
- Construction of a second story capable of supporting multiple HSR trains weighing 400-600 metric tons each will cause significant disruption to passengers of the existing heavy rail services. Along with the ramp for the approach tracks, this will also be rather expensive.
It may therefore make sense to consider an alternative involving the construction of a new Alameda Station, located about half a mile north of Union Station. A large area there is currently being
In theory, it could support an at-grade station plus rail yard (e.g. for high-speed cargo trains at night) plus a number of transit-oriented commercial buildings. The new station would be linked to Union Station via the existing Metro Gold Line, supplemented by a new courtesy Metro Black Shuttle funded by a small surcharge on HSR tickets to and from Los Angeles. This would leverage the Gold Line tracks and Chinatown station but use new, private single-track stub spurs at either end. These stub tracks would have platforms to either side, one for level boarding and the other for level alighting, to facilitate rapid turnaround. The two drivers sitting in the cabs at either end would alternate to secure high service frequency. At peak times, two Black Shuttle trains would be in service, otherwise just one. Their schedule would have to be integrated with that of the Gold Line.
The following map shows the location of the HSR station with its 10 platforms tracks and access connectors. These would permit run-through service north-to-south, north-to-north and south-to-south. Also note that HSR tracks would have to cross legacy tracks in one location. This can be implemented at grade with appropriate signaling to ensure FRA-mandated time separation in mixed traffic situations.
UPDATE: an alternate location next to the Los Angeles river east of Union Station is now also indicated on the map. This would avoid the loss of the aforementioned State Historical Park. See also UPDATE 2 at the end of this post.
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- blue = section of proposed HSR tracks for non-compliant bullet trains
- red = section of legacy + run-through tracks for FRA-compliant trains
- yellow = section Metro Gold Line + Eastside extension
- black = proposed Metro Black Shuttle
- pink = alternate station location, connection via unmanned people mover
To illustrate the concept, 10 HSR tracks are shown at the station. It would be possible implement fewer HSR tracks and add some run-through tracks and platforms for FRA-compliant trains (e.g. Amtrak Pacific Surfliner) instead. This option is not shown on the map. Neither is the option of transit-oriented office tower development north-east and south of the new station.
Prior to station construction, a section of N Alameda street would need to be moved underground. Along with N Spring, Sotello and N Main Streets, this would afford vehicle access to the main station hall located east of the tracks. This corner of the station footprint could itself be a high-rise with office suites or a business hotel/conference center on the upper floors. There is room for an adjoining bus terminal.
The mezzanine level above the tracks would provide generous pedestrian flow capacity, with multiple descents to each island and side platform plus paths to the Black Shuttle and Gold Line stations. Optionally, the mezzanine could house a shopping mall. If desired, one or more levels of for-fee public parking could be implemented on top of this, accessible from N Broadway via a flyover at the north end of the station.
The loss of the existing public park at what would become Alameda Station could be compensated by adding a green roof park to the structure, supported by recycled water. This could include bleacher structures for open-air concerts and/or al fresco restaurants. For reference, here's a picture of the "living roof" on top of the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco:
UPDATE 2: In response to comments from bafg and others regarding the State Historical Park, I've fleshed out the alternative of a new East Terminal for Union Station featuring ten run-through HSR tracks at grade, i.e. underneath E Ceasar E Chavez Ave next to the river. The HSR terminal would be connected to the main terminal via a short unmanned people mover running above street level. The new terminal has a mezzanine level, but only north of the people mover station. A green roof would still be useful in that it eliminates an air conditioning requirement.
Optionally, the Metro subway lines could be extended one stop to provide direct service to the new terminal.
Note that in this alternative, the diesel tracks have been relocated to near where the road begins to rise to bridge level. It may be necessary to create a slight dip for them to achieve adequate vertical clearance. Doing it this way minimizes the number of grade crossings between legacy and HSR tracks. The large building north-west of Keller Street need not be torn down.
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UPDATE 3: If CHSRA is forced to use the I-10 median for the Inland Empire/San Diego spur in phase II because UPRR refuses to offer its ROW, then the plan to build run-through tracks for HSR at the existing Union Station terminal would run into problems. A modified version of my original proposal that skirts the new State Historical Park would solve that. The northern approach tracks would run on an aerial structure above N Spring St, with a transparent sound wall to avoid impacting visitors to the park. The mezzanine at the station would then be at street level, the platforms above severely curved. I'm not entirely sure of the vertical configuration of the existing tracks in the "throat" into Union Station, but perhaps the ones for HSR could run above them to separate grades and avoid capacity constraints. Note that the Metrolink San Bernardino line already runs along in the I-10 median between the 716 Junction and El Monte. Also note that an HSR station in the I-10 median at Ontario airport would require an additional people mover to be of much use.
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