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Washington Union Station
Photograph: Shutterstock/Lewis Tse

These are Amtrak's busiest train stations in the U.S.

Expect crowds when you head off from these busy Amtrak stations, filled with folks who love riding the rails

Erika Mailman
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Erika Mailman
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If you love being in the hubbub of train travel, with the excitement of trains pulling up and departing, you know that these stations are filled with the exhilaration of travel underway. And while you can cross the country aboard these trains, they’re more comfortable than an airplane: no middle seats and no need to go through security. It’s easier to get up to stretch your legs and walk around. And if your train has one, you can visit the observation car with glass walls to view the scenery. If you’re departing out of one of these stations, arrive early so you can admire the architecture—and so you can get ahead of the crowd. Our passenger ridership numbers are based on the most recent figures (fiscal year 2022) for the U.S. only although some lines extend into Canada, and they encompass only passenger travel, not cargo or commuter rail travel.

Busiest train stations in the U.S.

Penn Station | New York, NY
Photograph: Shutterstock/littlenySTOCK

1. Penn Station | New York, NY

This historic station sits under Madison Square Garden and boasts 21 tracks and seven tunnels. The “Penn” stands for Pennsylvania Railroad, and the destruction of its original 1910 Beaux Arts station in 1963 was a crime—today’s station maintains the same rail infrastructure but is now a low-ceilinged subterranean space without the lofty glass and steel of its predecessor. If you want pretty, check across the street for the Moynihan Train Hall which expanded Penn’s reach, but if you want an expeditious station: this is it!

Passengers: 8,008,700

Washington Union Station | Washington, D.C.
Photograph: Shutterstock/Lewis Tse

2. Washington Union Station | Washington, D.C.

Now here’s a gorgeous station, which was designed by famed architect and planner Daniel Burnham (the guy from Devil in the White City!). This Beaux Arts building was part of the City Beautiful plan to organize an aesthetic approach to the nation's capital, and it opened in 1907. At the time, it was the largest train station in the world. Believe it or not, it was nearly bulldozed in the 1980s when rail travel declined and toadstools were growing inside, but luckily it was saved for us to gawk at while we run for the train.

Passengers: 3,631,677

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30th Street Station | Philadephia, PA
Photograph: Shutterstock/Joaquin Ossorio Castillo

3. 30th Street Station | Philadephia, PA

Make sure to check out the two massive porticoes (roof structures held up by columns) and the cool statues you’ll find inside this Art Deco masterpiece. It opened in 1933 and you can still find the clicking Solari board inside, which shows you the trains’ arrival and departure times. A 1991 renovation restored it to a state of confident passenger luxury.
Passengers:3,058,329

 

Chicago Union Station | Chicago, IL
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Chicago Union Station | Chicago, IL

Surprise—it’s another Daniel Burnham station. Lucky us! The Great Hall earns its name with its cream and gold arches, statues, columns and impressive arched skylight. It was renovated in 2019 for $22 million. Make sure to take time to cock your head back and look even if the station’s busy.

Passengers: 2,359,084

 

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South Station | Boston, MA
Photograph: Shutterstock/Marcio Jose Bastos Silva

5. South Station | Boston, MA

The oldest station on our list, South Station opened in 1898, originally built for five different rail systems which are now either defunct or swallowed by other rail lines. The beautiful façade curves up to the clock at the top, where the carved eagle perched upon it is just unfolding its wings.

Passengers: 1,216,560

Union Station | Los Angeles, CA
Photograph: Flickr/John Bauder/CC

6. Union Station | Los Angeles, CA

This station opened in 1939 with a huge Hollywood-style launch: three days of celebration attended by half a million happy Angelenos. It cost $11 million at the time and its style is Mission Moderne, a mishmash of Spanish Colonial, Mission Revival and our favorite, Art Deco. It once conveyed trains from the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe lines.

Passengers: 928,558

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Penn Station | Baltimore, MD
Photograph: Shutterstock/f11photo

7. Penn Station | Baltimore, MD

Built in 1911, this lovely station of classic beauty is due for a facelift and is going to get it. Plans are in the works for restoring the station as a mixed-use development. It’ll be cool when you can book a hotel room at the station, shop there, have an office there or even...gasp...live there. Along with all the cosmetic and infrastructure fixes, the station will be outfitted for high-speed rail.

Passengers: 838,591

Albany-Rensselaer | Rensselaer, NY
Photograph: Marc Glucksman

8. Albany-Rensselaer | Rensselaer, NY

It may not be easy to spell, but this train station sits across the Hudson River from Albany and helps New Yorkers commute to work. This is the newest station on our list, built in 2002 (the third on the site; the first was built in 1968). There’s a large main lobby with a chance to get coffee or a newspaper before you board, and while the station may not have the glamour of some of the older stations, it’s an efficient and necessary station.

Passengers: 640,353

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Union Station | New Haven, CT
Photograph: Shutterstock/Rachel Rose Boucher

9. Union Station | New Haven, CT

Designed by architect Cass Gilbert (who also designed the U.S. Supreme Court Building), this Beaux Arts station opened in 1920 and, like other stations, fell into disuse after World War II and faced possible demolition. Thanks to extensive renovations in the mid-1980s, it’s again spiffy and ornate. The waiting room has 35-foot ceilings, and there are stainless steel arched tunnels to the trains.

Passengers: 617,119

Back Bay Station | Boston, MA
Photograph: Shutterstock/EQRoy

10. Back Bay Station | Boston, MA

It’s cool that Boston’s the only city with two stations on this “busiest” list; Bostonians like their trains! A modern station built in 1987, the Back Bay station includes art installations—look for the nine-foot bronze statue of A. Philip Randolph, who helped organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, an important Black union, and worked with the Civil Rights movement. Interesting note: the station was unstaffed for years because of its terrible ventilation and air quality issues.

Passengers: 606,967

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