By Paul Tooher
Chicagoland commuters hustling through Union Station may not realize it, but they are passing through one of the 23 best Amtrak train stations in America, according to Skift, a travel site.
Best known for its majestic Great Hall, often bathed in soft light, the building served more than 3.5 million passengers in 2013. It’s the third busiest rail terminal in the United States, handling approximately 120,000 passengers on an average weekday.
In addition to being the city’s only intercity rail terminal, it’s also the city’s primary terminal for commuter trains.
The building, which has undergone extensive renovations since it first opened in 1925, remains a major hub for Amtrak’s western long-distance trains and mid-western corridor services.
Much of the facility remains invisible to the public. Including approach and storage tracks, Union Station takes up about nine and a half city blocks. Much of it, however, is underground, buried almost entirely beneath streets and skyscrapers.
The American Planning Association designated the station as one of America’s “Great Places” in 2012.
It continues to be the starting point for some of Amtrak’s longest and most popular services, including the California Zephyr, the Empire Builder, the City of New Orleans and the Lake Shore Limited.
Other Amtrak stations considered the best in the nation include Los Angeles Union Station; Cincinnati Union Terminal; Union Station, Washington, D.C.; Union Station, Kansas City; Union Station, Utica, N.Y.; 30th Street Station, Philadelphia; Santa Fe Depot, San Diego; Union Station, Denver; Union Station, New Haven, Conn.; Union Station, Worcester, Mass.; Union Station, Portland, Ore.; Amtrak Station, Greensboro, N.C.; Main Street Station, Richmond, Va.; Baltimore Penn Station; Amtrak Train Station, Barstow, Calif.; Fort Worth, Texas, Intermodal Transportation Center; Hamlet Passenger Depot, Hamlet, N.C.; Alvarado Transportation Center, Albuquerque, N.M.; Texas and Pacific Railroad Depot, Marshall, Texas; and King Street Station, Seattle.