Amtrak Opens a Business Class Style Lounge in Chicago
By Robert Kingett
Things are hopping at Chicago Union station this morning because of a new opening. The station has opened a new lounge area for customers who are traveling in Sleeping cars or in Business class, as well as Select Plus and Select Executive Amtrak Guest Rewards members.
An Added Bonus
The lounge is meant to be an added bonus to the traveling experience so it has a lot of elegance in aesthetics. The entrance alone is visually inspiring. The primary access is located inside the station between the Great Hall and the Concourse, with a red carpet exterior entrance near the taxi stand on the west side of Canal Street. Customers can enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages in the lounge. For the rail enthusiast, there is a Pennsylvania Room located in the former Pennsylvania Railroad Passenger Department space on the upper level. An elevator and staircase connect both floors of the lounge, which meets the latest Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Workers and otherwise who need Wi-Fi won’t have to worry about coverage because both floors, the lower and upper floor, are equipped for Wi-Fi. Powered furniture, furniture with outlets embedded into the design is among the various tabletops and workstations present, so customers won’t have to worry about planning meetings or checking their email.
Amtrak customers who arrive at the lounge can partake in showering and sleeping. It even has a dedicated children's area for families who are taking a vacation by rail journey.
"Not only does this project greatly improve the Amtrak experience for these customers, it also clears the way for changes at the Concourse Level that will improve those boarding areas," said Mark Murphy, Chicago-based Amtrak Senior Vice President & General Manager, who announced the initiation of the nearly $7 million lounge project at a news conference last fall with federal, state and local officials.
"As a Chicago-based company, the Chicago Union Station has always been a historic icon to our employees," said Bill Abromitis, Clune Construction CEO. "We were honored to be brought in as the general contractor for this project in the early stages to assist with the design development. It was our goal to work with the Amtrak project team to preserve the history and romance of Union Station while constructing a world-class lounge for a world-class client.”
This addition is a significant upgrade that Amtrak has not had in Chicago for quite some time. Since 2010, Amtrak has primarily used its own funds from customer ticket revenue and federal capital grants to make nearly $60 million in investments in the station.
In addition to the new Metropolitan Lounge, this work includes the Szabo Control Center, regional offices, reinstituting air conditioning in the Great Hall and surrounding spaces, restoration of the grand staircases and establishment of a service center in the Great Hall, remediation and life-safety and facade repairs (all in the Head house); supplemental heating, refreshing of furniture and carpeting and new door systems leading to and from the concourse and the boarding platforms (all in the Concourse).
Robert Kingett is a journalist and author who writes about everything from Travel to LGBT issues. He is a syndicated columnist and has been featured on NPR for his advocacy to make digital media accessible. Visit him online at www.blindjournalist.wordpress.com