WBEZ | public transit http://www.wbez.org/tags/public-transit Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago's unwritten rules http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-06/chicagos-unwritten-rules-107481 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Flickr%3AKevin%20Zolkiewicz.jpg" title="CTA passengers board the Pink and Green Line trains at Morgan. (Flickr/Kevin Zolkiewicz)" /></p><div class="image-insert-image ">A recent <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/daves4/unwritten-rules-everyone-needs-to-follow" target="_blank">Buzzfeed</a>&nbsp;article, &quot;33 Unwritten Rules Everyone Needs to Follow,&quot; reads like the internal dialogue that causes many of us to roll our eyes and shake our fists at the sky on a daily basis.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">For example, Rule 15: &quot;Put things back where you found them,&quot; a common courtesy that I found woefully lacking when I was restocking bookshelves at Borders every night until the break of dawn.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Also, Rule 19: &quot;Hold the door when you walk in after someone,&quot; which surprisingly few people bother to do.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Now that I live in Chicago (and no longer <a href="http://www.city-data.com/forum/shopping-consumer-products/640193-share-your-stories-nightmare-customers.html" target="_blank">work in retail</a>,&nbsp;hallelujah!) I have noticed a particular set of &quot;rules&quot; to city life that most people follow without thinking, such as sitting in the window seat of a train or bus during peak travel times and calling out &quot;On your left!&quot; before passing other cyclists on the lakefront path.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">However, an aggravating few remain&mdash;like the guy who stands on the left side of the escalator when you&#39;re already late for work, or the woman who rolls her shopping cart full of groceries into the express lane&mdash;to blatantly defy such rules whenever they can.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p>So without further ado, here is my list of Chicago&#39;s unwritten rules (some inspired by the comments on a Facebook status from WBEZ <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift" target="_blank">Afternoon Shift</a>&nbsp;producer Justin Kaufmann in relation to this article, and others drawn from my own experiences as a city-dweller):&nbsp;</p><ul><li><a href="http://www.styleforum.net/t/275016/subway-and-public-transportation-etiquette-the-people-we-encounter" target="_blank">Let people off the train</a> before you get on, keep your bags off the seats and move to the back of the bus <em>before</em> the driver has to yell at you. &nbsp;</li><li>Do not talk on your phone or listen to music&nbsp;on full-blast while taking public transit. Everyone will hate you.</li></ul><p><em>&nbsp; Note: The <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130121/chicago-citywide/voice-of-cta-actor-from-milwaukee-chicago-legend" target="_blank">CTA voice</a>&nbsp;tells us many of these things; but apparently, people do not listen to him.&nbsp;</em></p><ul><li>Walk with a purpose. Getting stuck behind a <a href="http://jezebel.com/5967553/fuck-you-slow-walkers" target="_blank">slow walker</a> is the worst. Also, do not take up the whole sidewalk by linking arms with your friends. This isn&#39;t the Yellow Brick Road.&nbsp;</li><li>Look out for bikes before opening your car door.</li><li>If you <a href="http://peopletakingpictureswithipads.tumblr.com" target="_blank">hold up your iPad</a>&nbsp;to take a picture, expect another person to take a picture of you on their phone and then post it on Instagram to make fun of you.&nbsp;</li><li><a href="http://chicagoist.com/2012/11/26/video_why_you_dont_put_ketchup_on_c.php" target="_blank">Never ask for ketchup</a> on your Chicago-style hotdog.</li><li>Pick a team. You can&#39;t root for the White Sox and the Cubs. You must choose.&nbsp;</li><li>Remember that the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.billygoattavern.com/legend/our-history/" target="_blank">Original Billy Goat</a> is hallowed ground. They will never serve fries there, so please stop complaining about it.&nbsp;</li><li>Do not ask for a &quot;tall&quot; at an <a href="http://dannierae.hubpages.com/hub/Coffee-Shop-Controversy-Starbucks-vs-Indie-Shops" target="_blank">indie coffeeshop</a>. The baristas will know that you meant &quot;small,&quot; but they will still judge you.&nbsp;</li><li>Tip your bartenders well on the first round. They will remember you.</li><li>If you secretly like LeBron James and the Miami Heat, do not say so in public.&nbsp;</li><li>It&#39;s called the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/12/sears-tower-to-be-renamed_n_174258.html" target="_blank">Sears Tower</a>.&nbsp;</li></ul><p>What are some other &quot;unwritten rules&quot; that you believe every Chicagoan should follow?</p><p><em>Leah Pickett writes about popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" target="_blank">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett">Twitter</a> or <a href="http://hermionehall.tumblr.com" target="_blank">Tumblr</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 03 Jun 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-06/chicagos-unwritten-rules-107481 When you could ride an ā€˜Lā€™ train to your grave http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-you-could-ride-%E2%80%98l%E2%80%99-train-your-grave-105712 <p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/60300683" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500"></iframe></p><p>What&rsquo;s the history behind the &ldquo;L&rdquo; funeral train cars, and which cemeteries did they go to?</p><p>Stephen Libbin of Highland Park says he asked this question out of a basic love of trains and their history. He&rsquo;s a lifelong railfan, and at age 70, he&rsquo;s got a model train set in his basement. He recently read a book about the &ldquo;L&rdquo; that mentioned funeral cars, and he wanted to know more. So he called us. &nbsp;</p><p>Fair enough. But lots of other people were interested too. We put this up for a vote, against questions about training for Zamboni drivers and definitions for hipsters, and this &mdash; the most macabre choice &mdash; <a href="#ReportersNotebook">won by a landslide</a>.</p><p>That&rsquo;s probably because to most of us, the question itself presents kind of a mystery: The idea of riding the &ldquo;L&rdquo; to your funeral sounds surreal.</p><p>To get at that mystery, the biggest clue is this: We&rsquo;re talking about a hundred-some years ago. &nbsp;</p><p>At that point, mass transit was a cool, ultra-modern luxury. Think: Your iPhone. It connects you to everything, allows you to be everywhere at once, if not instantly, pretty darned close. The technology&rsquo;s basic function is <em>connection</em>, and in almost any situation, there&rsquo;s an app for that.</p><p>Which pretty much describes trains &mdash; especially the &ldquo;L&rdquo; and streetcars &mdash; a hundred years ago. The roads sucked, and practically nobody used them. Owning a horse &mdash; never mind a car &mdash; was kind of like owning a jet.</p><p>The &ldquo;L&rdquo; &mdash; and streetcars, and other urban trains &mdash; made it possible to get from here to there without literally taking all day to do it.</p><p>And it was a huge business. &nbsp;</p><p>Which is the other thing about the train as iPhone: We think of mass transit as a public utility, run and supported by the government, but back then, trains of all kinds constituted a high-tech industry that made every other business work.</p><p>So the train operators were competitors looking to make a buck any way they could by offering something the other guy didn&#39;t.</p><p>So, funerals? Yeah, there&#39;s an app for that. Or, there was.</p><p><strong>When mourners and the deceased rode together ... in style</strong></p><p>Before I deliver the nitty-gritty about the funeral cars themselves, though, you should know about the role trains played in the development of the city&rsquo;s neighborhoods and suburbs. According to historian Ann Durkin Keating, the best way to describe that role would be: Central. Huge. &nbsp;</p><p>As the co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Chicago, Durkin edited close to 300 entries on Chicago neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs, and she noticed a pattern in how these places got developed: &nbsp;Trains. (That observation became the topic of her next book, <em>Chicagoland: City and Suburbs in the Railroad Age</em>.) &ldquo;Most of our neighborhoods and suburbs really go back to a rail stop,&rdquo; she says.</p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagopublicradio/sets/72157632829451629/show/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8498090167_64d48fae06_b.jpg" style="border-width: 1px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px; float: left; height: 358px; width: 235px;" title="A collection of images we collected about funeral 'L' cars and public transit and life's end. (Courtesy of Bruce Moffat) " /></a>And so did a lot of cemeteries. As the city got bigger, and land in the neighborhoods where a lot of people lived got harder to come by, cemeteries got pushed farther out. And that meant you needed a train to get to them. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;The cemeteries that are going to emerge in the late 19th- or early 20th century are going to be on the outskirts of the city,&rdquo; Keating says, &ldquo;and they&rsquo;re going to wind up along rail lines or rapid-transit lines because that&rsquo;s how people are going to get to them.&rdquo; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>And not just for funerals. Back in the day, going to visit the graves of your loved ones who had passed was a regular thing, especially on holidays like Decoration Day (now called Memorial Day).</p><p>And so, cemeteries had their own railway stations. Which is kind of cool. And they had amenities.</p><p>The railroad stop at Mt. Carmel Cemetery in the western suburbs, for example, actually had a restaurant built in.</p><p>At Calvary Cemetery, which sits along the lakefront just north of Howard Street between Chicago and Evanston, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad built a special elevator to lower caskets down from the platform. Railfans also showed us diagrams from when the company added flush toilets to that station, around the turn of the 20th century. &nbsp;</p><p>So, the novelty about funeral cars wasn&rsquo;t riding a train to the funeral. That&rsquo;s just how people &mdash; living and dead &mdash; got to the cemetery; mourners rode in coaches, while the corpse hitched a ride in a baggage car.</p><p>The big innovation, and what relates directly to our question, was the design of special cars that had room for both mourners and the deceased to ride in style.</p><p>The innovator here was the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railway, which survives today as the Blue Line. In 1905 the company put out a brochure offering this new service to Concordia and Waldheim cemeteries in the western suburbs.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s a quote: &ldquo;We believe that this saving in time and the comfort and elegance offered by the rapid, smooth running of a high-class electric car ... will appeal to those now accustomed to the tedious and uncomfortable method of reaching these cemeteries by carriage.&rdquo;</p><p>As the language here suggests, this kind of elegance didn&rsquo;t come cheap. It cost 30 bucks, which translates to almost $700 in today&rsquo;s dollars, <a href="http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=300&amp;year1=1913&amp;year2=2013">according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics</a>.</p><p>From the outside the car itself looked a lot like a regular train car, with wood paneling painted brown. But it had a special door to slide the casket in, stained glass windows, and, on the inside, dark green carpet on the floor, with seats for 34 mourners. (Another 11 could strap-hang, or you could hire a second coach for another ten bucks.)</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AEC%20109%20at%20Wells%20Terminal%201907%20%20Bruce%20MOffat%20Collection%20WEB%20%282%29.jpg" title="This was once a normal passenger car. The railroad company added a special door for the corpse, painted the outside black, and BAM! Funeral car. (Courtesy of Bruce Moffat, from his book, 'The 'L.'')" /></div></div><p>The next year, a neighboring competitor &mdash; the Aurora Chicago and Elgin Railway &mdash; created a copycat service to nearby Mt. Carmel Cemetery.</p><p>And then the two companies actually teamed up, sharing cars and equipment. Eventually, they had four or more cars running.</p><p>I mean, this was a hit. Local railroad historian Bruce Moffat says that by 1907 the two companies were serving an average of 22 funerals a week. That&rsquo;s just over 1,200 funerals a year. &nbsp;</p><p>By the 1930s, things had changed. Henry Ford&rsquo;s Model T made cars more affordable, roads got better, and even if the mourners were going to ride a train to the cemetery, they could put the body in a hearse. Funeral cars had just 28 gigs in 1932, and just 11 the following year. The last funeral car ran in 1934.</p><p><strong>Railroad history, preserved: Lovingly &mdash; but not quite perfectly.</strong></p><p>Now, there&rsquo;s a question of how we can possibly know all this, and it&rsquo;s thanks to Bruce Moffat and his brethren, the railfans. They keep these unbelievably detailed and loving archives of how the railroads used to be, including all kinds of original artifacts and records from the files of the railway companies themselves.</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/2756%20Funeral%20Car%20at%20Laramie%20Yard%20%282%29%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 290px; width: 400px; float: right;" title="A funeral car at Laramie Yard. (Courtesy of Bruce Moffat)" /></div><p>It&rsquo;s like: Imagine if in a hundred years, we&rsquo;re all communicating by telepathy, but a few people like remembering how people lived back in the early 21st century, when we carried these iPhone things in our pockets &mdash; and there&rsquo;s this band of people keeping meticulous files, with copies of the users guide from the first iPhone, and photographs from the opening day of the store at North and Clybourn in Chicago, and archived blog posts showing how the very first version of Angry Birds might have differed from what came later.</p><p>And that describes railfans who keep these wonderfully obsessive records of everything they can find about the history of railroads. It reminds me a little of medieval monks who preserved the remnants of Western Civilization, copying out scripture and Aristotle and whatever fell to them to preserve, for a thousand years.</p><p>And each order had its own very specific archive that it maintained. And some things did get lost.</p><p>So, for instance, when I took this assignment, I got interested in what looks like it used to be a rail stop at Graceland Cemetery, along the &ldquo;L.&rdquo; Just north of Montrose, you can see some tracks that look like they used to go there, and they just <em>end</em>. &nbsp;</p><p><object height="220" style="float: left; margin: 5px;" width="220"><param name="movie" value="https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F74408241&amp;color=ff5700&amp;auto_play=false&amp;player_type=artwork" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed allowscriptaccess="always" height="220" src="https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F74408241&amp;color=ff5700&amp;auto_play=false&amp;player_type=artwork" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="220"></embed></object></p><p>I showed it to my son &mdash; he&rsquo;s four, he loves trains &mdash; and told him I was going to find out what happened to the tracks. He loved the idea.</p><p>But I never did find out.</p><p>Bruce Moffat spent and hour with me and showed me all these incredible pictures, and the facsimile of the original brochure for funeral-car service. And at the end of the hour, I asked, &ldquo;Well, hey, what about those tracks on the North Side?&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>And he said he really didn&rsquo;t know. Not his area. Literally.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a Chicago and North Western Historical Society,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;You could ask them.&rdquo;</p><p>And I did. Curious City&rsquo;s Logan Jaffe and I went out to visit their headquarters in Berwyn, which is this incredible warren of activity. And stuff. There are thousands upon thousands of maps, and file cards, and records of all kinds. People write to them all the time with questions like, &ldquo;My grandpa worked on the railroad. Can you tell me about what he did?&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>And they can. And they do.</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/laflin sta metrop 1905 web.jpg" style="height: 265px; width: 400px; float: left;" title="A funeral car at the Laflin station of The Metropolitan West Side Elevated, a predecessor to the CTA. Taken in 1905. (Courtesy of Bruce Moffat)" /></div></div></div><p>You have to look at Logan&rsquo;s video here, to appreciate what goes on.</p><p>They showed us all these artifacts of the rail stops at Calvary Cemetery and Rose Hill Cemetery &mdash; including maps that no one had touched for a hundred years &mdash; and they made us the gift of a timetable from the 1950s, showing that even as late as the 1950s, the train was still stopping at Rose Hill Cemetery, and Calvary Cemetery, and Culyer Cemetery. They didn&rsquo;t stop until 1959.</p><p>And I said, &ldquo;Great, thank you so much. And what about Graceland Cemetery?&rdquo;</p><p>And they said they really didn&rsquo;t know. Just not their area. Literally.</p><p>Turns out, what&rsquo;s now the Red Line was a different railroad. There is a separate society that tracks the line it was on, but nobody there seems to have taken this question up.</p><p>So, Stephen Libbin, I hope we&rsquo;ve answered your question about the funeral cars on the &ldquo;L&rdquo; trains.</p><p>But, to my four year-old: I&rsquo;m sorry, son. I came up empty.</p><p><em>Correction: This story originally misstated how much a funeral car would cost in today&#39;s (2013) dollars. The correct figure amounts to nearly $700.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><strong>How we reported this story: Dan Weissmann&#39;s notebook</strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"><a name="ReportersNotebook"></a><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="750" scrolling="no" src="http://embed.verite.co/timeline/?source=0An_OJm0YASWadHlzVEpHUzVuNTNNWW4ydklwV05ranc&amp;font=PTSerif-PTSans&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en&amp;hash_bookmark=true&amp;width=620&amp;height=750" width="620"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 22 Feb 2013 18:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-you-could-ride-%E2%80%98l%E2%80%99-train-your-grave-105712 The last years of Chicago streetcars http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/last-years-chicago-streetcars-102649 <p><p>In 1930 the electric streetcar ruled Chicago. Though most people didn&rsquo;t realize it, Chicago Surface Lines&#39; old reliable red cars were already on their way out.</p><p>A streetcar line is basically an urban street railway, tied to tracks. That was good enough in the early years on the 20th Century. But now the automobile was becoming popular. If people were going to keep riding public transit, they needed more flexible service.</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/10-04--1947--Milwaukee-Erie%20%28CTA%29_0.jpg" title="Streetcars caught in Milwaukee Avenue traffic, 1947 (CTA photo)" /></div></div><p>CSL tried to adapt. A rival company was already operating a few gasoline coaches on the city&rsquo;s boulevards. CSL started its own bus lines. Since CSL had a heavy investment in electric power plants, it also introduced a bus that drew power from overhead wires, but was not tied to tracks &mdash; the trolley bus.</p><p>These two types of buses were used as extensions and supplements to existing CSL lines. The company remained committed to the streetcar. With the Depression deepening and CSL plunged into receivership, there wasn&rsquo;t money around for radical conversion.</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/10-04--Chicago%20Avenue%20%281949%29_0.jpg" title="When Chicago Avenue had streetcars, 1949 (CTA photo)" /></div></div><p>Meanwhile, manufacturers had developed a streetcar known as the PCC car. The new cars had a sleek Art Deco design, were comfortable, quiet, and fast. In 1936 CSL purchased 83 PCCs for the busy Madison Street line.</p><p>The public loved the new cars. More than a few people would pass up boarding an old streetcar, to wait for a PCC to come along. Because of their blue color, they soon were nicknamed &ldquo;The Blue Geese.&rdquo;</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/10-04--Blue%20Goose%20on%20Madison%20%281936%29_0.jpg" title="A West Side welcome for the new PCC streetcars, 1936 (CTA photo)" /></div></div><p>The U.S. entered World War II in 1941. With gas rationed and rubber tires in short supply, CSL ridership increased. But when the war ended, the company faced the same old problems. In 1947 CSL was bought out by a new government agency, the Chicago Transit Authority.</p><p>CTA executives considered streetcars old-fashioned. The agency did accept delivery of 600 newer-model PCC cars (&ldquo;Green Hornets&rdquo;) that had already been ordered. However, the older cars had to go.</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/10-04--1953--IC%20trestle_0.jpg" title="Museum shuttle crossing the IC tracks, 1953 (author's collection)" /></div></div><p>Beginning in 1948, CTA started replacing its streetcars with buses and trolley buses. The pioneer line on 93<sup>rd</sup> Street was abandoned in 1951. By 1954 only PCC cars were left, operating on just four lines&mdash;Cottage Grove, Western, Broadway-State, and Clark-Wentworth.</p><p>One by one, these lines were converted, until only the Wentworth portion of Clark-Wentworth was left.&nbsp; On June 21, 1958 PCC car #7213 pulled into the 77th-Vincennes car barn, ending 68 years of Chicago streetcars, and 99 years of Chicago street railways.</p><p>Today many cities recognize that electric transit is green, and are rebuilding their streetcar systems. Chicago has no plans to do this.</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/10-04--Green%20Hornet%20Madison_0.JPG" title="Green Hornet streetcar at Madison-Austin terminal, 1953 (author's collection)" /></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 05 Oct 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/last-years-chicago-streetcars-102649 The great years of Chicago streetcars http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/great-years-chicago-streetcars-102633 <p><p>First let&rsquo;s get the terminology straight. We&rsquo;re talking here about a local street railway, drawing power from overhead electric wires, by means of a trolley pole. Other cities called these vehicles &ldquo;trolley cars.&rdquo; In Chicago they were always known as &ldquo;streetcars.&rdquo;</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/10-03--State-Madison_1.jpg" title="Streetcars at State and Madison, late 1920s (CTA photo)" /></div><p>In 1906 the last horse cars and cable cars were banished from the city&rsquo;s streets. Meanwhile, the various privately-owned street railways had been consolidating. The final merger took place in 1914, with the creation of a company called Chicago Surface Lines.</p><p>CSL operated mainly within the Chicago city limits. A few of the lines crossed into the suburbs, and there was even an interstate route that extended into Hammond and Whiting. But the suburbs were still tiny, and CSL didn&#39;t bother with them. Larger towns, like Evanston and Oak Park, had to depend on their own transit carriers.</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/10-03--Clark%20Street_0.jpg" title="Waiting for the Wrigley Field crowd, about 1930 (CTA photo)" /></div><p>A Chicago streetcar was a two-man operation &mdash; &ldquo;man&rdquo; is appropriate here, since CSL crews were all male. The motorman was the driver. He operated from a standing position at the front of the car. Since his vehicle was on tracks, he didn&rsquo;t have to worry about steering.</p><p>Fares were collected by the conductor. Passengers entered at the rear doors, paid the conductor, and passed into the car. When everyone was aboard, the conductor signaled the motorman by clanging a bell, and off they&rsquo;d go. Exit doors were in the front.</p><p>Car stops were indicated by a white band painted around the black pole that supported the trolley wire (<em>see picture below</em>). Passengers waited on the curb, then walked into the street to board the car when it stopped. Wide streets, like Western Avenue, had safety islands located in the street next to the track.</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/10-03--Milwaukee-Halsted%201930.jpg" title="Milwaukee-Halsted-Grand, 1929 (CTA photo)" /></div><p>When CSL was founded in 1914, fares were five cents &mdash; equivalent to about $1.10 in today&rsquo;s money. Payment was in cash. Boarding passengers could request a free paper transfer, which allowed them to ride on other lines for a two-hour maximum. &nbsp;</p><p>Service was frequent. In rush hour you seldom had to wait more than a minute for a streetcar. Even in the middle of the day, five or six minutes was the norm. Many of the lines had all-night &ldquo;owl&rdquo; cars operating on a headway of about fifteen minutes.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><br /><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10-03--U.S.%20Mail%20car%20at%20Broadway%20Car%20House.jpg" title="U.S. Mail streetcar at Broadway carbarn (author's collection)" /></div></div><p>In an era before automobiles and trucks, streetcars were used for other jobs besides public transit. They hauled mail, took prisoners to jail, plowed snow, and shuttled patients between hospitals. There were even funeral cars.</p><p>By the 1920s CSL operated a fleet of over 3,000 cars on 172 routes over 1,060 miles of track. With 3.6 million fares collected each day, it was the largest city transit system on earth.</p><p><em>Friday--a final look at Chicago streetcars!</em></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/10-03--two-car%20train.jpg" title="Two-car streetcar train, 1927 (CTA photo)" /></div></p> Wed, 03 Oct 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/great-years-chicago-streetcars-102633 Chicago's first streetcars http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/chicagos-first-streetcars-102615 <p><p>&ldquo;Modern&rdquo; mass transit came to Chicago on October 2, 1890. On this day 122 years ago, an electric streetcar line began operating on the South Side.</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/10-02--103rd-Parnell%20view%20east.jpg" title="One of the first electric streetcars, 103rd Street at Parnell (author's collection)" /></div><p>Back in 1859, the city had gotten its first street railway. Rails were sunk in the middle of State Street, between Randolph and 12th Street (Roosevelt Road), and horses pulled iron-wheel carriages along the track at three miles-per-hour. It wasn&rsquo;t any faster than walking, but why walk when you could ride?</p><p>The State Street horsecars proved popular, and the line was soon extended. Service was also added on other major streets.</p><p>Cable cars came to Chicago in 1882. First developed in San Francisco, the idea involved having a continuously-moving cable sunk in a slot between the tracks, pulling the car along with it. Within a few years, Chicago had the largest cable car system in the country.</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/10-02--Cable%20Cars-State%26Madison%20%28CTA-c1900%29.jpg" title="Cable cars at State and Madison, 1900 (CTA photo)" /></div><p>The later 19th Century was the age of electricity. Cities were beginning to string overhead wire for street lights and telephones. Naturally there was talk of running street railway cars using electric power. After a few false starts, a successful electric car line was launched in Richmond in 1888.</p><p>A live electric wire was strung over each set of tracks. A pole on top of the car connected to the wire, gathering power to run the car&rsquo;s electric motor. The pole was known as a &ldquo;trolley,&rdquo; so the new vehicles were often called trolley cars.</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/10-02--Wabash%20%40%20Cermak%20%28CTA-1893%29.jpg" title="On route to the World's Columbian Exposition, 1893 (CTA photo)" /></div><p>Chicago had many privately-owned transit carriers in 1890. The bigger companies seemed satisfied with horses and cables. It took a scrappy little outfit called the Calumet Electric Street Railway to bring in the new technology.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s first electric streetcar line ran on 93<sup>rd</sup> Street between Stony Island and South Chicago avenues, in the Calumet Heights neighborhood. In 1890 this was a sparsely-settled district that had been part of Chicago for only a year. There was hesitation about bringing the new trolley cars into the denser parts of the city.</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/10-02--cable-streetcar%20loop%2C%20Halsted-22nd%20Place.jpg" title="Transfer point between cable and electric cars, Halsted-22nd Place (author's collection)" /></div><p>Safety was the concern. What if the overhead wires started a fire? Rival railways spread dark rumor about passengers being accidentally electrocuted while riding the &ldquo;death cars.&rdquo;</p><p>But the trolley cars were triumphant. They were cleaner, faster, and cheaper to run. In 1893 the larger companies began converting to electric power.</p><p>The transition took some time. Until overhead trolley wire was allowed in the Loop, the electric cars had to towed through downtown by horses. Finally, in 1906, Chicago&rsquo;s last horse and cable railways were converted to electric power.</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/10-02--open%20car%20Roosevelt%20%40%20Western.jpg" title="Early open streetcar on 12th Street near Western (author's collection)" /></div></p> Tue, 02 Oct 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-09/chicagos-first-streetcars-102615 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 Illinois notifies seniors eligible for free rides http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-notifies-seniors-eligible-free-rides-90120 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-04/2958985486_e47fee480b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Postcards are in the mail to Illinois low-income senior citizens eligible to ride free on public transit.</p><p>The Department on Aging announced Wednesday the postcards went to seniors enrolled in the Circuit Breaker program.&nbsp;</p><p>Those seniors remain eligible for free rides on public buses and trains.</p><p>Free rides are ending for other seniors, although they'll still get reduced fares. Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation in February to limit the "Seniors Ride Free" program to low-income seniors.</p><p>Seniors in the Circuit Breaker program may need to contact their local public transit agency for a free ride card.</p><p>To qualify for Circuit Breaker assistance, an applicant's total income for 2010 must be less than $27,610 for a household size of one.</p></p> Thu, 04 Aug 2011 14:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-notifies-seniors-eligible-free-rides-90120