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Fri Dec 23, 2011, 09:06 PM

D.C.'s train station is a mess. Again.

from the Washington City Paper:

A More Perfect Union Station
D.C.'s train station is a mess. Again.

By Lydia DePillis • December 9, 2011

There are essentially two routes into Union Station by foot: The bad way, and the worse way.

The bad way starts in the Metro station, or along First Street NE, where the subway entrance is chiseled into a massive stone wall abutting a narrow sidewalk. Push your way through the commuters and tourists pouring on and off the Red line and shove yourself up whichever escalator to the main floor is in service when you happen to arrive. The first thing you see when you get into the train station proper is probably a line. It might be for the post office. Or maybe it’s for the train departing Gate A. Or for Sbarro. There’s no way to know, really, until you squeeze your way past it to see where it ends.

But you don’t have time for a prolonged investigation. You’ve got to hunt down a working ticket machine so you don’t miss your train. There are a few in the middle of the station, nestled between more lines, and some a longer walk away, past the shops by the Amtrak ticketing counter. So you keep pushing through the crowd. It’s loud, and getting louder; the next MARC train is boarding, so the PA system is blaring about stopping in “Savage”—which sounds about right. The lighting is of an institutional fluorescent variety that seems designed to stress you out, especially as you squint to see arrivals and departures on faraway monitors.

Finally, you stumble out into the historic section of the building, and the drab tile floors give way to shiny marble. Things might be looking up. But all you see are tour bus kiosks and tchotchke shops. Freestanding blue signs offer no direction. You spot a line ending by the stairway down to the food court, though, and sure enough, there’s the Quik-Trak unit you’ve been looking for. You print your ticket and look for your train. If you’re leaving from Gate K, way over at the eastern end of the station by McDonald’s, you’ve got to struggle your way through the fluorescent lights, the noise, and the crowds—all over again. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/articles/41832/a-more-perfect-union-station/

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