Union Station’s Great Hall may be one of Chicago’s architectural wonders — but if you’re waiting hours for a train, its unforgiving wooden benches, bustling crowds and intercom announcements can grate.
So Amtrak is betting that passengers will be willing to hand over $10 for some comfortable seclusion.
The Legacy Club, a luxury waiting room the train service has installed, complete with sofas, snacks, wifi, cell phone chargers and flat screen TVs, got its first weekday customers Monday morning.
And while $10 might sound steep to Metra commuters who typically rush through the station to and from work, some were willing to set themselves apart from the crowd and give it a try on Monday.
“It’s more comfortable especially if you’re going to be waiting for quite a while — it’s much quieter and the wifi is nice,” said Dan Brown, who commutes downtown daily from the Western suburbs.
“I just wanted to check it out rather than sitting outside with all the traffic.”
Still, vacationers and long-distance business travelers are likely to make up the majority of users.
“I like that its not as noisy,” said Lisa Nelson, 50, of Wisconsin, who was returning from a vacation in New York. “It’s a bit of peace of quiet.”
The entrance to the Legacy Club | (Jordyn Holman)
The $10 entrance ticket — available to anyone who wants to visit, including coach passengers — comes with an upgrade to priority boarding on Amtrak.
Amtrak officials said they have seen a steady growth in customers, but were not able to provide exact numbers.
Amtrak rider Carolyn Graves, whose train to Philadelphia was delayed a few hours, said she paid for the Legacy Club’s convenience. She said the Legacy Club showed her “when you get to Chicago you have a place to stay.”
The 48-year-old, who was traveling from California, added, “I’m glad that they gave it just to the people that don’t have the sleeper car.”
Amtrak anticipates coach riders will use the Legacy Club the most because Amtrak already has a lounge for first-class riders. Sleeper cars are also an option, with a going rate for an upgrade around $150 to travel cross-country.
Marc Magliari, a spokesperson for Amtrak, said the rest area, a renovated room that has long sat unused, is busiest in the afternoon rush hour. Nearly 20 people were using it Monday lunchtime.
Arturo Hernandez, who was traveling to Los Angeles, said the promise of priority boarding made the price worthwhile. “The only reason I got it was the idea of getting a window seat,” Hernandez said.
Magliari said the train company already has plans for expanding the Legacy Club. They are looking for vendors to provide more food and drink opens to passengers.
Riders can buy a daily pass from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Magliari said the company is considering rising the price to $20 beginning Aug. 1.