WBEZ | L http://www.wbez.org/tags/l Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Final phase of Ventra rollout suspended, developer apologizes http://www.wbez.org/news/final-phase-ventra-rollout-suspended-developer-apologizes-109094 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Ventra.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago commuters will be able to hold on to those old Chicago Cards and magnetic strip cards for a little while longer. Chicago Transit Authority officials announced the the final phase of the new <a href="http://ventrachicago.com/">Ventra </a>system&rsquo;s rollout will be suspended until a few of its problems are fixed. Chicago Cards and Chicago Card Plus were supposed to be phased out by November 15.</p><p dir="ltr">CTA President Forrest Claypool also said the agency won&rsquo;t pay the developer, Cubic Transportation Systems, any of the $454 million, 12-year contract, until the company meets three criterion: customer service wait times must be five minutes or less, processing times for the tap-and-go function of a Ventra card must be under two and a half seconds--99 percent of the time--and all readers and vending machines must be operational 99 percent of the time.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The bottom line is that too many of our customers are confused and frustrated and that&rsquo;s our fault,&rdquo; Claypool told members of the City Club at a luncheon Tuesday.</p><p dir="ltr">Cubic&rsquo;s head of North American operations, Richard Wunderle, was on hand to answer some questions as well.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This transition period wasn&rsquo;t our shining light, and for that I want to apologize to the riders of CTA,&rdquo; said Wunderle. &ldquo;It wasn&rsquo;t our best effort but it will get better, so I apologize for that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Cubic isn&rsquo;t new to the public transit game: They&rsquo;ve got 400 fare-collection projects in operation across the world, including systems in Sydney, London and Washington, D.C. But the Ventra system marks the first time the company&rsquo;s tackled an open-fare, contactless card system; and officials say it&rsquo;s the first of its kind in North America.</p><p dir="ltr">Wunderle said Cubic engineers are already at work on a number of fixes to get things up to speed.</p><p dir="ltr">One issue that&rsquo;s drawn many complaints from CTA riders is being charged for multiple taps of their Ventra card at the turnstile. Officials say customers would tap their card, and after not immediately seeing a green &ldquo;Go&rdquo; signal, they&rsquo;d tap multiple times or move to a different lane. As of Tuesday, Cubic said they added a new &ldquo;processing&rdquo; screen to show riders the system is working before it lets them through. Engineers will also be upgrading the Ventra software over the weekend to try and bring processing times down on card readers to two-and-a-half seconds or less. CTA officials said that&rsquo;s happening 95 percent of the time--but the other 5 percent of the time, processing times varied from three to 10 seconds, sometimes more.</p><p dir="ltr">Claypool said the issue that&rsquo;s upset him the most is the long wait times for callers trying to reach a customer service agent, calling it a &ldquo;self-inflicted wound.&rdquo; The CTA chief said on one day last month, the center was overwhelmed with 20,000 calls. Some customers couldn&rsquo;t get through to an agent at all, while others waited, and waited - in some cases, for more than 30 minutes. Cubic has hired more customer service agents since then, and plans to expand further.</p><p dir="ltr">No timeline has been set for when the Ventra rollout will continue. Wunderle said he can&rsquo;t really give a &ldquo;best guess&rdquo; how long it will take the company to address the CTA&rsquo;s three benchmarks, only estimating &ldquo;weeks&rdquo; when pressed by a reporter.</p><p dir="ltr">Other interesting Ventra facts:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">The entire Ventra contract lasts 12 years: The two years allotted for engineering the system are almost up. The next 10 years of the contract will be for the service.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Cubic paid $92 million up front toward the transition: installing card readers, vending machines, call center operations, etc.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">CTA lawyers will be looking into how many fares they&rsquo;ve missed because of bus drivers waving people through when there seemed to be problems with the Ventra card</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">50 percent of CTA riders are now using Ventra cards</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Card readers will now display a &ldquo;low balance&rdquo; screen that lets customers know their Ventra card balance is under $10</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr"><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Nov 2013 13:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/final-phase-ventra-rollout-suspended-developer-apologizes-109094 The CTA we didn't get, Part 4 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/cta-we-didnt-get-part-4-102261 <p><p>Today, we take a final look at some of the proposals in CTA&#39;s 1958 publication &quot;New Horizons.&quot; Daniel Burnham told Chicagoans to &quot;make no little plans.&quot; As we&#39;ve found out, implementing such plans is the tricky part.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/01--Congress Four Tracks.jpg" title="Four Tracks on Congress Median ('New Horizons')" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">From Halsted west to Kedzie, the median of the Congress (Eisenhower) Expressway was to have four tracks, the outer pair for the Chicago, Aurora &amp; Elgin interurban railroad. CA&amp;E folded in 1957, so &quot;New Horizons&quot; proposed adding the outer tracks to accommodate CTA express trains. Today the median strip still has only two tracks, and lots of empty space.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/01--Douglas%20Park%20Cut.jpg" title="Douglas Park Line Improvement at Cicero ('New Horizons')" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">CTA planned to replace ground-running on the west end of the Douglas Park (Pink) Line with an open cut. The tracks in the cut would be extended west to a new terminal at Harlem Avenue. This is another improvement that was never implemented.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/01--Englewood%20Extension.jpg" title="Englewood Line Extension ('New Horizons')" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In 1958 Englewood service stopped at Loomis Boulevard. CTA proposed continuing the line west to Midway Airport, using both elevated structure and open cut. The &quot;L&quot; was eventually extended two blocks to its present terminal at Ashland Avenue. The Orange Line now provides access to Midway.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/01--Lake%20Street%20Elevation.jpg" title="Lake Street Track Elevation ('New Horizons')" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Lake Street &quot;L&quot; trains ran at grade-level west of Laramie. The CTA&#39;s plan was to move its service onto the parallel Chicago &amp; North Western Railroad embankment. This is one of the few &quot;New Horizons&quot; proposals that actually became reality.</div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 14 Sep 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/cta-we-didnt-get-part-4-102261 The CTA we didn't get, Part 3 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/cta-we-didnt-get-part-3-102175 <p><p>In 1958 CTA published an illustrated catalogue of future service improvements titled &quot;New Horizons.&quot; Most of these proposals were never adopted. Here&#39;s a look at some of the plans for the Northwest Branch of the Blue Line.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-10-01--Edens%20Park-n-Ride_0.jpg" title="Edens Junction Park 'n' Ride ('New Horizons')" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">One of CTA&#39;s more audacious ideas was to construct a multi-story parking garage &mdash; on air rights over the Kennedy-Edens expressway junction! The view here is south from Wilson Avenue. Considering the current traffic congestion in the area, this is one plan that was best left on the drawing board.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-10-02--NW%20Expy-Central.jpg" title="Foster-Central Park 'n' Ride ('New Horizons')" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">This parking garage was to be located on Northwest Highway, close by the Foster-Central &quot;L&quot; station. CTA eventually decided to put its station a few blocks south instead, at Jefferson Park. No garage has been built there.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-10-03--NW%20Expy-Diversey_0.jpg" title="Crosstown Expressway Connector at Diversey ('New Horizons')" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">In 1958 the Crosstown Expressway was planned for a location just east of California Avenue. When the Crosstown was finished, CTA trains on the Northwest (Kennedy) Expressway were going to use its median to connect with the existing &quot;L&quot; along Milwaukee Avenue. The route of the Crosstown was later changed, so CTA substituted a subway under Kimball Avenue as the connector.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-10-04--Logan%20Square%20Improvement.jpg" title="Logan Square Terminal Improvement ('New Horizons')" /></p><p>Under the Crosstown Connector proposal, there would be no &quot;L&quot; terminal at Logan Square, so installing escalators and renovating the bus bays there was a questionable use of funds. These improvements were never made. In 1970 the &quot;L&quot; terminal was replaced by the current Logan Square subway station.&nbsp;</p></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 10 Sep 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/cta-we-didnt-get-part-3-102175 The CTA we didn't get, Part 2 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/cta-we-didnt-get-part-two-102130 <p><p>In 1958 CTA was just over ten years old. The new agency was modernizing Chicago&#39;s transit system, and was confidently planning for the future. Here&#39;s another look at some of CTA&#39;s visionary proposals from a half-century ago, as outlined in the booklet &quot;New Horizons.&quot;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-07-01--Ravenswood-Kedzie.jpg" title="Ravenswood Line Improvement at Kedzie ('New Horizons')" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The last mile of the Ravenswood (Brown) Line operated at grade-level through one of the city&#39;s densest neighborhoods. CTA proposed lowering the tracks into an open cut. The plan was never implemented, and trains still run on the ground, like a child&#39;s toy circling a Christmas tree.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-07-02--Wells%20St%20Subway.jpg" title="Wells Street Subway ('New Horizons')" /></div></div><p>In the 1950s the Loop &quot;L&quot; was called an &quot;iron girdle&quot; retarding the expansion of the central business district. CTA wanted to tear down the whole thing. The Wells Street subway would carry trains from the North Side, and was under serious consideration into the 1970s. Today the Loop &quot;L&quot; is as sacrosanct to Chicago as the cable cars are to San Francisco.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-07-03--Lake-Congress%20Kenton%20Connector.jpg" title="Lake-Congress Connector ('New Horizons')" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Since CTA hoped to tear down the Loop, Lake Street trains would need a different route into downtown. One solution was to run the Lake trains only as far east as Kenton Avenue, then have them turn south on the Belt Line Railroad tracks to a junction with the new &quot;L&quot; line in the median of the Congress (Eisenhower) Expressway. The Lake trains would use the expressway median the rest of the way, and the &quot;L&quot; over most of Lake Street could be removed.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-07-04--Jackson%20Blvd%20Subway.jpg" title="Jackson Boulevard Subway ('New Horizons')" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Jackson Boulevard subway was proposed as a streetcar tunnel as long ago as 1939. Later it was going to be used by the interurban trains of the Chicago, Aurora &amp; Elgin. &quot;New Horizons&quot; saw the subway as a downtown entry for Lake Street and Douglas Park trains. The two portals for the never-built Jackson subway are still visible next to the Congress portals, just east of Halsted.</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 07 Sep 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/cta-we-didnt-get-part-two-102130 The CTA we didn't get http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/cta-we-didnt-get-102083 <p><p>A few weeks ago I mentioned the Silver Line, an &quot;L&quot;-subway proposed by CTA. Last time I checked, the line had not advanced beyond the talking stage. &nbsp;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s transit planners have never been afraid of making big plans. In 1958 CTA issued a detailed wish-list for the future titled &ldquo;New Horizons.&rdquo; Most of these proposals were never implemented, probably because of cost. Still, it is interesting to consider the transport system we might have had.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-06-01--Washington%20St%20Subway_0.jpg" title="Washington Street Subway ('New Horizons')" /></p><p>Streetcars on Washington Street crossed the Chicago River in a tunnel. During the 1930s the city proposed extending the tunnel all the way to Michigan Avenue, to ease congestion in the Loop. This was an update of the plan, featuring 1950s Twin Coach propane buses. It was never built.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-06-02--SW%20Expy-Calif_1.jpg" title="Southwest Expressway at California Avenue ('New Horizons')" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Though the city had proposed a subway for Archer Avenue in the 1930s, CTA&#39;s plan substituted a busway in the median of the Southwest (Stevenson) Expressway. The Orange Line was built instead, using existing railroad right-of-way. However, there&#39;s not a station at California Avenue.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-06-03--North-Halsted%20Improvement.jpg" title="North-Halsted Improvement ('New Horizons')" /></div></div><p>This drawing was titled &quot;Easing Sharp Curves.&quot; It&#39;s clearly the Brown Line at North-Halsted (with a bus running on Clybourn, BTW). CTA later straightened some sharp curves at Kinzie-Franklin and Harrison-Wabash. But at this location, the tracks still snake around in their original route.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/09-06-04--South Expy 103rd-Doty_0.jpg" title="103rd-Stony Island Park 'n' Ride ('New Horizons')" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">CTA planned to have the east leg of its Dan Ryan (Red Line) service extend to 103rd-Stony Island, with a multi-story parking garage linked to the terminal. The west leg to 119th Street was supposed to be built later. Today 95th Street remains the end of the line.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Tomorrow on the blog, John Schmidt looks at more never-built CTA plans.&nbsp;</em></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 06 Sep 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/cta-we-didnt-get-102083 The 'L' in the CTA era http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-06/l-cta-era-99669 <p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s first subway opened in 1943. The project was funded by the city, with help from the feds. Chicago Rapid Transit, the private company that operated the trains, was on its last legs.</p><p>Government control of mass transit came in 1947, when the new Chicago Transit Authority bought out CRT. The agency then set out to modernize the system.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/00--abandoned%20Westchester%20branch%2C%201946.jpg" title="Little 'L' on the Prairie: Westchester Branch, 1947 (CTA photo)" /></div><p>Dozens of little-used stations were closed. Money-losing branch lines were abandoned. Modern &quot;L&quot; cars were put into service, using components from scrapped surface streetcars.</p><p>In 1951 the long-delayed Dearborn-Lake-Milwaukee subway was completed. At the time CTA also had plans for a short downtown subway under Jackson Boulevard, the first step in replacing the Loop &quot;L.&quot; This project never got off the drawing board.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/00--Congress%20median%20line.jpg" title="Median service on the Eisenhower Expressway, 1978" /></div><p>CTA did pioneer the use of expressway medians for rapid transit lines. In 1958 trains began running on the Congress (Eisenhower) Expressway. The Dan Ryan line followed in 1969, and the Kennedy line in 1970. Though CTA intended to extend Kennedy service all the way to O&rsquo;Hare Airport, that was not accomplished until 1983.</p><p>CTA had discontinued its ground-level Niles Center &quot;L&quot; line to Skokie in 1948. Then came the postwar suburban boom. The old line was reborn as the Skokie Swift in 1964, and did quite well.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/00--WB%20%40%20Niles%20Center%20Rd%20%281975%29.jpg" title="Skokie Swift, 1975" /></div><p>The one part of the city that had never gotten &quot;L&quot; service was the Southwest Side. In the 1940s the city had floated plans for a subway under Archer Avenue to Midway Airport. Later, when the Stevenson Expressway opened, there was talk about putting an &quot;L&quot; line on its median. The current Orange Line to Midway finally opened in 1993.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/00--1970--Chinatown.jpg" title="Chinatown connector to new Dan Ryan Line, 1970 (CTA photo)" /></div><p>In recent decades CTA has also done some major cost-cutting. Train conductors were phased out. The introduction of fare cards meant that station agents were also eliminated. Service schedules were slashed&mdash;which led to greater headway between trains, and the end of &ldquo;A&rdquo; and &ldquo;B&rdquo; expresses.</p><p>As the system approached its 100<sup>th</sup> birthday, many of the older &quot;L&quot; structures were deteriorating. The Lake Street and Douglas Park lines underwent major rebuilding. The historic line to Jackson Park was cut back to a new terminal at Cottage Grove.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/00--Jackson%20Park%20terminal%2C%201978.jpg" title="63rd-Stony Island terminal, 1978" /></div><p>So here we are after 120 years. We now use colors instead of names for the &quot;L&quot; lines, and some outer neighborhoods are still without service. Yet after decades of decline, ridership has been going up. And each day the trains move thousands of people, and do put a dent in traffic congestion. What would Chicago be without the &quot;L&quot;?</p><p>It would be Los Angeles&mdash;with snow.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 07 Jun 2012 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-06/l-cta-era-99669 How the Chicago 'L' grew http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-06/how-chicago-l-grew-99584 <p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s first &quot;L&quot;&mdash;today&rsquo;s South Side Green Line&mdash;began operating between Congress and 39th Street (Pershing Road) on June 6, 1892. By the next May, service had been extended to the Columbian Exposition fairgrounds at 63rd and Stony Island.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/01--Before the Mart (1900) - Copy.jpg" title="Before the Mart: The 'L' at Wells-Kinzie, 1900 (CTA photo)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Business on the &quot;L&quot; boomed. But once the fair closed, ridership shrank. The original company went bankrupt and was reorganized as the South Side Elevated Railroad. This new company later built an Englewood line and short feeder branches to Normal Park, Kenwood and the Stock Yards.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Meanwhile, political kingpin Mike McDonald launched the Lake Street Elevated Railroad in 1893. Unlike most of the other lines, McDonald&rsquo;s &quot;L&quot; ran directly over city streets. The original route went from Market (Wacker) to Homan, with later extensions stretching the line to Harlem Avenue.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/01--Stock Yards, 1911 - Copy.jpg" title="Stock Yards Branch of South Side 'L', 1911 (CTA photo)" /></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad opened in 1895. The Met&#39;s downtown terminus was at Franklin near Quincy, and within a few years it expanded rapidly through the West Side. The Garfield Park main line eventually reached Forest Park. There were also branches to Logan Square, Humboldt Park, and Douglas Park.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The earliest &quot;L&quot; trains were powered by steam locomotives. The South Side line converted to electricity in 1898. The other companies soon followed.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/01--Lake-Wells (1920s).jpg" title="Lake-Wells junction, 1920s (CTA photo)" /></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">These first three &quot;L&quot; companies all had stub terminals on the fringe of downtown. Many people talked about building a common &ldquo;Union Loop&rdquo; to link the various lines. Enter Charles Tyson Yerkes.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Yerkes has an unsavory reputation&mdash;say &ldquo;robber baron&rdquo; to a historian, and the historian will often respond &ldquo;Yerkes.&rdquo; Still, Yerkes got things done. In 1897 he completed the Loop over Lake, Wabash, Van Buren, and Wells. All three &quot;L&quot; companies started using the Yerkes track, though patrons still had to pay another full fare when they changed lines--a free transfer system was not adopted until many years later.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/00--1941--Garfield%20Park.jpg" title="Garfield Park train near Union Station, 1941 (CTA photo)" /></div></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In 1900 a fourth company &ndash; the Northwestern Elevated &ndash; began operating from the Loop to Wilson Avenue. The main line was later extended to Howard Street, and a Ravenswood branch was built. There was also a line through Evanston to a terminal just over the Wilmette border.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The four &quot;L&quot; companies merged as the Chicago Rapid Transit in 1924. During the next few years, CRT extended service to Niles Center (Skokie) and Westchester. Total trackage reached 83 miles, and the system&#39;s annual ridership peaked at 225 million. The company boasted that Lake and Wells was &ldquo;the busiest railroad junction in the world.&rdquo;</div><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/%27L%27%20map%2C%201940%20-%20Copy.jpg" title="Chicago 'L' map, 1940 (author's collection)" /></div></div><p>Then the Depression hit. Revenue fell off and service became shoddy. CRT was placed in receivership. Many Chicagoans believed it was time for government to take over the city&#39;s mass transit system.</p></p> Wed, 06 Jun 2012 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-06/how-chicago-l-grew-99584 120 years ago: Chicago's first 'L' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-05/120-years-ago-chicagos-first-l-99583 <p><p>This week Chicago celebrates the 120<sup>th</sup> birthday of our beloved &quot;L.&quot; The first trains began running on June 6, 1892.</p><p>In 1888 a group of private investors secured a franchise for the Chicago &amp; South Side Rapid Transit. New York was already operating elevated trains over its avenues, but the Chicago group proposed to build their line along the property paralleling alleys. They figured that would be cheaper. The project was soon nicknamed The Alley &quot;L.&quot;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/01--Congress%20terminal.jpg" title="A South Side Rapid Transit coach arrives at the Congress terminal. (Author's collection)" /></div><p>Construction began in February 1890. The initial line was to run from Congress Street to 39<sup>th</sup> Street (Pershing Road), along the alley between State and Wabash. But when Chicago won the right to host the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the franchise was revised to extend the line to the fair site in Jackson Park.</p><p>There were a few major differences in how the &quot;L&quot; operated in 1892. For one thing, the trains were pulled by steam locomotives. Patrons bought a &cent;5 ticket from an agent in the ground-floor station, then climbed the forty feet to the platform, where the ticket was surrendered to the gatekeeper. The platforms themselves had iron railings trackside, to prevent passengers from falling onto the tracks.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/01--trains from Philly.jpg" title="Steam locomotives for the South Side 'L' arriving in Chicago. (Author's collection)" /></div></div></div><p>The original segment of the South Side line was ready in the spring of 1892. After a few test runs, revenue service started at 7 a.m. June 6th, when the first northbound train left 39th Street. On board the four coaches were 30 passengers. After stopping at eight intermediate stations, Chicago&rsquo;s first Monday rush hour train pulled into Congress terminal at 7:14&mdash;right on time.</p><p>It took a while for some people to get used to the &quot;L.&quot; A teacher at Haven School complained that the noise of the trains made it difficult to conduct class. Others didn&rsquo;t like the smoke from the coal-burning locomotives. Apartment-dwellers now had to keep their shades down in they wanted any privacy&mdash;young women were warned to be careful of roving Peeping Toms.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/01--Lake-Oakley%2C%201893.jpg" title="An early 'L' train on Lake Street (CTA)" /></div><p>But it sure was exciting for the city to have this new kind of rapid transit! The <em>Tribune</em> reported that &ldquo;servant girls, cooks, and chambermaids left their work to watch from back porches the fast-flying trains as they went by.&rdquo; Within weeks of the first run, Chicagoans were already debating about where to put new &quot;L&quot; lines.</p></p> Tue, 05 Jun 2012 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-05/120-years-ago-chicagos-first-l-99583 Before the ā€˜Lā€™ Chicago ran on cable cars http://www.wbez.org/content/%E2%80%98l%E2%80%99-chicago-ran-cable-cars <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-05/Chicago Cable Car - LOC American Memory.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/130852932&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-05/Chicago Cable Car - LOC American Memory.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 429px;" title="A photo from 1903 shows a cable car bound for Jackson Park making its way down South Cottage Grove Avenue below 39th Street. On this particular day the cable had broken, so the cars had to be pulled by horses. (Chicago Daily News/Library of Congress)" /></p><p>Before Chicago inaugurated its famed elevated train system in 1892, the second city was home to the world&rsquo;s largest and most profitable network of cable cars.</p><p>That&#39;s right, San Francisco. How you like us now?</p><p>The first street cars were pulled by horses. Cable cars were the next iteration, powered by a single, continuous cable that ran the length of the route. Cars propelled and stopped themselves by attaching and detaching from the moving line.</p><p>In Chicago, cable cars ran at the same speed as their horse drawn counterparts. But an 1882 article cites the superintendent one of Chicago&rsquo;s lines boasting this way: &ldquo;When we get rid of the horse-cars we expect to make eight miles an hour with ease.&rdquo;</p><p>According to Joe Thompson, who runs the site <a href="http://www.cable-car-guy.com/html/ccchi.html#ccry">Cable-Car-Guy.com</a>, the cable car lines spanned the length of what was then the city. The South Side serving Chicago City Railway had two lines that both originated in one of the earliest versions of the Loop: The State Street line ran down to 39th Street and was extended to 63rd Street in 1887.</p><p>The Wabash/Cottage Grove line ran down Wabash to 22nd, then down Cottage Grove to 55th. It was extended to 71st in 1891.</p><p>The West Chicago Street Railroad ran a Milwaukee line up to Armitage, a Madison line to 40th Avenue, a Blue Island line to Western, and a Halsted line to O&rsquo;Neil.</p><p>The North Chicago Street Railroad ran lines on Clark Street up to Diversey, on Wells up to Wisconsin, Lincoln up to Wrightwood, and Clybourn up to Cooper (300 ft. southeast of Ashland).</p><p>An<a href="http://www.cable-car-guy.com/html/ccchi.html#ccry"> 1898 City Council committee report</a> on &ldquo;Street Railway Franchises and Operations&rdquo; gives another sense of the overall scale: In 1888 the Chicago City Railway alone provided over 52 million individual rides. It&rsquo;s a fraction of what, say, the CTA provided in 2009 with 521.1 million rides, but it was done at a time when Chicago&rsquo;s population was less than half of what it is now.</p><p>Like today&rsquo;s CTA however, the city&rsquo;s earlier form of public transit was not free from problems: Thompson describes the entire system as &ldquo;undependable and prone to breakdown.&rdquo; Then there was the occasional terrifying accident, like this one <a href="http://www.cable-car-guy.com/html/ccmiscnpart.html#ccr18820904">described in the Saint Paul <em>Daily Globe</em></a> in 1882:</p><p style="margin-left: 40px;"><em>While selling the evening papers on State street, Abe Rohmer, a little fellow scarcely ten years of age, boarded a cable car near Fourteenth street, rode a short distance, and then, having finished his business, made an attempt to jump off. As he did so his clothing caught on the seat, and he was thrown under the car and dreadfully mangled under the wheels. His death must have been instantaneous, as one of the wheels passed over his head, crushing the skull in a sickening manner. Nearly every bone in the unfortunate boy&#39;s body was broken.</em></p><p>Yikes.</p><p>At a recent talk in Chicago, author Greg Borzo argued that the time when cable cars ran across Chicago streets represented a decade of innovation and creativity in transportation that culminated in the development of the &ldquo;L&rdquo; in 1892. By 1913 Chicago&rsquo;s system of cable cars was gradually overtaken by a sexier and more efficient system of electric trolleys. The network of cable car companies was replaced by Chicago Surface Lines, predecessor to the CTA.</p><p>You can hear Borzo&rsquo;s fascinating description of riding the rails in 19th century Chicago in the audio above. And if you&rsquo;re feeling nostalgic, you can check out the remnants of the old cable car infrastructure still kicking around town: The Hyde Park Historical Society&rsquo;s building at 5529 S. Lake Park Avenue used to be a cable car waiting room. And Lalo&rsquo;s in River North (the former Michael Jordan&rsquo;s restaurant) was once a cable car power station.</p><p><a href="../../series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range </a><em>showcases hidden gems unearthed from </em>Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s<em> vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Greg Borzo spoke at an event presented by the <a href="http://www.midlandauthors.com/">Society of Midland Authors</a> in November, 2011. Click <a href="../../story/greg-borzo-tells-story-chicago-l-94575">here </a>to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p></p> Sat, 07 Jan 2012 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/%E2%80%98l%E2%80%99-chicago-ran-cable-cars Photos: Chicago's trains get an upgrade; Check out CTA's new 'L' cars http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-11-09/photos-chicagos-trains-get-upgrade-check-out-ctas-new-l-cars-93906 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-November/2011-11-09/6327130654_9ab20bf058_b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On Tuesday, the Chicago Transit Authority says more than 700 new rail cars are being added to the city's "L" trains.</p><p>WBEZ's <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/cta-start-installing-new-rail-cars-el-trains-93871">Michell Elloy reported </a>on Wednesday, that the new, more energy-efficient 5000 series rail cars will have wider aisle, sideways seating and LED maps.&nbsp;The new cars will also be equipped with security cameras that will transmit video to CTA's control center, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications and the Chicago Police Department.</p><p>The CTA <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ctaweb/">posted photos</a> of the new 5000 series rail cars that commuters can look forward to.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6211/6327129938_9342999d0f_z.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 334px;" title="(Flickr/cta web)"></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6106/6327128684_2e7e142d92_z.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 401px;" title="(Flickr/cta web)"></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6040/6327130654_9ab20bf058_z.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 400px;" title="(Flickr/cta web)"></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6240/6327127180_1386e30059_z.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 401px;" title="(Flickr/cta web)"></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6057/6327126482_cab71dcb54_z.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 403px;" title="(Flickr/cta wb)"></p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6105/6326374121_a2c6442791_z.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 401px;" title="(Flickr/cta web)"></p></p> Wed, 09 Nov 2011 18:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-11-09/photos-chicagos-trains-get-upgrade-check-out-ctas-new-l-cars-93906