How Did It Get This Bad? | Curbside | Passenger Facilities | Track Capacity
Chicago Union Station is in fact, not a station (like Penn Station, New York or 30th St. Station, Philadelphia,) but two stub end terminals back-to-back. The lack of through tracks reduces capacity and makes it difficult to schedule the through trains the region needs.
On the passenger side, a major change in design really messed the place up.
When the station opened in 1925 there were two connected buildings designed to process large crowds efficiently.
The headhouse, on the west side of Canal Street held the main waiting room, ticket counters, customer service and retail.
The concourse, on the east side of Canal Street, was dedicated to getting people to their trains efficiently. It had an open floor plan so passengers could quickly identify and move to their gate and queue up for their train.
Then in 1968, the Concourse was demolished. A new concourse was constructed in the basement of a new high-rise office building. The supporting columns of the buildings above severely limited space in the concourse. Then in 1990, the ticket counters, waiting rooms and other passenger related functions were moved into the concourse.
Now, Amtrak, Metra and the City of Chicago are working to correct those mistakes.