Here’s an idea: No more water on our heads at Union Station

SHARE Here’s an idea: No more water on our heads at Union Station


Hmm, that really doesn’t work, does it? Too piratey. It’s supposed to be the visceral cry of dismay that welled up inside me Thursday reading Sandra Guy’s piece in the Sun-Times about the Metropolitan Planning Council, which “invited people to submit ideas” to improve Union Station.

Maybe, “ayiiiiieeee!!!” No, that’s something a peon screams as he falls off a fort wall in an old Sunday afternoon action flick.

The ideas the council is exploring are widening commuter platforms, more off-street parking for buses, plus tether ball and yoga in the Great Hall. They want Union Station to be a “destination, rather than just a place people pass through.”

Have these guys been to Union Station? How many ideas for its improvement did they receive? Because I have a few, and these are just the ones that occurred to me in the five minutes between when I got off the 7:54 a.m. Milwaukee North line train and the time I finally shuffled my way to air and daylight through the Madison entrance:

1) Instead of trying to make Union Station “a destination,” try to make it a place people can get out of quickly. How about reconfiguring the platforms so people who get off trains can actually exit in real time? So they aren’t forced to wait in enormous, legion-of-the-damned lines next to the ear-splitting, soot-belching train engines? How about a thick concrete wall for aforementioned engines to tuck behind upon arrival so that the passengers a yard away will have some protection from the noise, heat and smoke?

2) How about signs, telling Ma and Pa Kettle, arriving from Booneville with Pete, their pet chicken, that Madison Street is one way and the station is the other? Not the dark placards tucked under the ceiling where they can barely be seen. Put them on the pillars. And paint those pillars a color that isn’t the current gray canvas for filth.

3) How about cleaning the place? How about finding a way to keep the cataracts of sewer water from dumping on the heads of people on the platforms? Or does that represent suggestions so subtle and unattainable they’re beyond the long-range vision of the MPC? Did nobody mention them? Did anybody suggest perhaps the whole urban transit experience might be enhanced if, every time it rains, Union Station didn’t start peeing on our heads as we wade our way across these Stygian platforms? Nobody?


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