In the Plan of Chicago’s chapter on transportation, the authors spoke firmly against any “haphazard” form of urban organization or growth. With full awareness of the economic imperatives that concerned prominent figures in the city, they characterized improved and centralized organization as essential to Chicago’s continued commercial success; otherwise “the parks will become pastures, and the boulevards will be deserted”. The Plan called for freight hubs to be relocated to the “center of gravity” of the city’s industrial zones—a location that would ensure the shortest trip possible for goods and avoid unnecessary congestion in the city center. Burnham and Bennett applied the same logic, pushing against the seemingly organic agglomeration of stations in the geographic center of the city, to his plans for passenger transit.

In an effort to eliminate confusion and congestion created by the multiplicity of mainline railroad stations reaching into the city, the Plan called for the consolidation of railway passenger stations to the west and south of the Loop. (The existing Illinois Central station just east of Michigan Avenue would remain where it was.) The plans for the new stations drew inspiration from Burnham’s recent designs for union stations in Pittsburgh and Washington, which in the spirit of the City Beautiful hid platforms and lines below street level, topping them with monumental structures. In Chicago, however, the proposed massive station south of 12th Street was never built, and the plan for Union Station, to the west, while implemented, was extensively modified due to pressure from the railroads.



Barrett, Paul. The Automobile and Urban Transit: The Formation of Public Policy in Chicago, 1900-1930. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983.

Cudahy, Brian J, Destination Loop: The Story of Rapid Transit Railroading in and around Chicago. Brattleboro, VT: S. Green Press, 1982.

DeRouin, Edward M. Chicago Union Station: A Look at Its History and Operations before Amtrak. Elmhurst, IL: Pixels Pub., 2003.

Halberstadt, Hans, and April Halberstadt. Great American Train Stations: Classic Terminals and Depots. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1997.

Mayer, Harold M. “The Railway Terminal Problem of Central Chicago.” Economic Geography 21.1 (1945): 62–76.



Amtrak. “Chicago, IL (CHI).”

The Art Institute of Chicago. “Images of the Plan.”

Great American Stations. “Pittsburgh, PA (PGH).”

Great American Stations. “Washington - Union Station, DC (WAS).”

Union Station Master Plan. “History.”

Lacher, Walter S. “Noteworthy Passenger Station Completed at Chicago.” Railway Age 79 (July 4, 1925): 7-28.