Thursday, July 10, 2008

Central Station

Berlin HauptbahnhofImage via WikipediaImagine getting of a train whether it be Front Runner or the California Zephyr (or any other long distance train that should service Salt Lake City), and arriving at a beautiful station mixing classic architecture with state of the art facilities. You have shopping, hotels, motels, and entertainment just a few steps away. Well, that dream died many years ago when Boyer was allowed to develop the Gateway center and those non-essential trains were moved several blocks away were no one will notice them.

Today we do have a nice intermodal depot but at the present time it is a shadow of what it could have been and can be in the future. The danger of the present station is that it will become a place that people get off Front Runner as quickly as possible, run over to TRAX and avoid the neighborhood completely. Instead to become a true Central Station, the station needs to be not only a station but a destination.

I posted a video back in December about the Berlin Hauptbahnhof station. Take a look at their website and see what is provided. Now they have substantially more trains than Salt Lake probably will ever have, but it gives you a good idea about the range of facilities to be found in great stations.

While there is at least one hotel planned across the street from Central Station, more needs to be done to truly make it a world class station. Here are some suggestions to take it to the next level:
-Make 100 South and 600 West a predestrian and transit corridor from the Gateway area to Central Station. While there is currently one building under redevelopment in the corridor, the rest of the area is pretty vacant and could easily be redeveloped. Then UTA can route a majority of the buses via 300 West/100 South/600 West to access the station. There is already a plan to turn 300 South into a pedestrian corridor but this will only link the station to the back side of the former Rio Grande Station and do little to connect the station with the main downtown core. A side benefit of creating this corridor along 100 South is that it is farther away from the homeless shelter that leaves a stigma (right or wrong) on 200 South at 400 West.

-Finish the second phase of Central Station that includes the parking garage along 200 South, and the building extending toward the current Amshack at the south end of the property.

-Insure that a lower priced motel is located near the station, possibly near the proposed higher end hotel to ensure that all travelers have a choice of accommodations.

-UTA should develop plans to either move their central garage or possible place it underground with development such as offices and restaurants above it. As developments moves toward the station, the present location of the garage will become a hindrance.

-Since there is little chance of attracting major retailers to the area with both the City Creek Center and Gateway trying to attract them, there is a great opportunity to build a center dedicated to locally owned stores and restaurants. There was talk of turning the old warehouse into a farmers market. This is an excellent idea to focus on the local culture. The Central Station could become Salt Lake version of the Pike Street Market giving new opportunities to locally owned retailers that get shut out by other places either by tax incentives, subsidies to big box retailers, and the false stigma of locally owned retailers.

We do have an opportunity to create a grand Central Station, but it will take a lot of effort, some create thinking, and a group of planners and city councilman that don't give into to special interest.

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theorris said...

Well Amtrak, until they decided to move it, used to board at the Rio Grande station. I'm not really sure why it was decided not to make that station the central hub. No doubt the railroads wouldn't go for it, and, as in all their 19th and early 20th century glory, they are very powerful when it comes to those government subsidized rail corridors. Too bad. The Union Pacific (aka the Gateway) wasn't been viable since the 50s when air/car travel killed the inter-continetal rail travel.

The Rio Grande, however, held on due to subsidized Amtrak. I remember getting off there in the dead of winter from an east coast train in the 80s. While the station was a bit shabby (nothing like the Union Pacific station) it still was a heck of a lot better than the shack that Amtrak has at the Intermodal Hub.

I guess there is one consolation: they didn't tear either the Union Pacific or the Rio Grande stations down. It still would have been nice to arrive in style in SLC on Frontrunner and on Amtrak. SLC's stations were much like the glorious rail stations still found in Chicago and Grand Central Station in NYC.

Those cities also lost some stations, however: Penn Station in NYC is a good example. As that famous architect noted when they tore down old Penn Station to make way for the horrible Madison Square Garden/Penn Station complex of the 60s: "You used to arrive in Manhattan in style. Now you arrive like a sewer rat."

As for our Intermodal Hub (what an appropriate ugly suburbanite name) you now arrive in SLC like it is some blase sterile shopping mall, where, as you note, you rush off to some other blase sterile shopping mall.

Sewer rat, in other words, looking for your next fix of soggy Fruit Loops.


JMD said...

In 1983 when the Rio Grande announced it was planning on joining Amtrak, I took the Desert Wind and then rode the Rio Grande Zephyr (fortunately missing the run with Amtrak equipment).

Having only been to Salt Lake once before and that was on a student tour three years earlier I had no idea about the area. Amtrak said the stations were only four blocks apart so no big deal. I walked from the UP station over to the Rio Grande Station at 5:00AM. Knowing Salt Lake as I do know I be hesitant to do it now.

Your right the Rio Grande station was much better than today's Amshack trailers. Not very inviting place when your catching a train at 4:00AM.

Anonymous said...

The Salt Lake Central Station is a horrible excuse for an integrated station. It is anything but integrated. Nice for Grayhound, but not for train passengers. Tracks should be side by side. Instead you have to walk 200 yards from one service to another. No parking, no customer assistance. who designed this mess?

JMD said...

The original concept drawings did show TRAX on the same side as commuter rail bus obviously that changed.

There is a parking garage planned for the sight and the station overall will improve with the construction of the second part of the building that will include Amtrak hopefully.

Timmy said...

Good Job! :)

Ryan said...

IIRC, Amtrak had to move out of Rio Grande Depot because Union Pacific realigned the tracks nearby around 2000. The new alignment cut off access to the depot.

It will be interesting to see what becomes of the area around SLC Central Station. I haven't spent much time in the area, but it definitely seems disconnected from other areas of downtown.