WBEZ | mass transit http://www.wbez.org/tags/mass-transit Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en In search of Chicago’s abandoned cable car tunnels http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/search-chicago%E2%80%99s-abandoned-cable-car-tunnels-107715 <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/lasalle%20street%20cable%20car%20tunnel%20NYPL%20circa%201900%20small.jpg" style="height: 313px; width: 620px;" title="This stereoscopic photo, which dates from around the turn of the last century, shows the entrance to LaSalle Street cable car tunnel under the Chicago River. Chicago’s cable car tunnels were the first in the country used for mass transit. (New York Public Library/Robert N. Dennis Collection)" /></div><p>I&rsquo;ve been spending a lot of time underground the past few weeks.</p><p>Like, literally. I&rsquo;ve been trying to answer a question Rogers Park resident Karri DeSelm submitted to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city">Curious City</a>:</p><blockquote><p>I have heard there is a network of layered tunnels under the city. Is this true, and if so, what was the purpose of the tunnels when they were designed and built?</p></blockquote><p>Next week I&rsquo;ll have a full answer for Karri, exploring what turns out to be the <em>many different kinds of tunnels </em>hidden under Chicago&rsquo;s downtown<em>.</em></p><p>In the meantime, here&rsquo;s a kind of preview: a look at one particular set of historic tunnels &ndash; and a search for what&rsquo;s left of them.</p><p><strong>The past</strong></p><p>You may not know it, but before Chicago had the &ldquo;L&rdquo; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/%E2%80%98l%E2%80%99-chicago-ran-cable-cars">the city ran on cable cars</a>. In fact, Chicago was once home to the world&rsquo;s largest and most profitable network of cable cars.</p><p>And, just as city planners built bridges to take traffic of all kinds over the Chicago River, they also built tunnels under the river, first for pedestrians and wagon traffic and later for street cars.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1877%20LaSalle%20tunnel.jpg" style="float: left; height: 281px; width: 300px;" title="An 1877 illustration from a popular Chicago guidebook called ‘Seven Days in Chicago’ depicts the earliest version of the LaSalle Street tunnel. (JM Wing/Public domain)" />In the mid-1800s, before Chicago built its famous bascule draw bridges, &ldquo;bridges used to be on a central pivot, so they were often open,&rdquo; says Northwestern University&rsquo;s Carl Smith, who has written extensively about Chicago&rsquo;s infrastructural history. &ldquo;People on horse-drawn carriages would have to wait to cross.&rdquo;</p><p>So the city dug two tunnels to alleviate traffic, one under the river at Washington Street that opened in 1869, and another at LaSalle Street that opened on July 4, 1871. An illustration of the LaSalle Street tunnel from an 1877 guidebook depicts a series of three brick-lined archways: two one-way passages for wagon traffic and a third for pedestrian use. <a href="http://www.greatchicagofire.org/landmarks/lasalle-street-tunnel">According to Carl Smith</a>, one reporter noted the following about the LaSalle Street tunnel on the day of its grand opening:&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>It was &ldquo;well lighted with gas, and admirably ventilated, and as neat, clean, and free from dampness as could be desired. In all respects it seemed to be a model tunnel,&rdquo; especially when compared to the damp and &ldquo;unpleasant&rdquo; Washington Street Tunnel. . .&nbsp;</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>One speaker noted that the choice of Independence Day for the opening was especially fitting, &ldquo;since the completion of the tunnel was the beginning of an era of independence from bridge-tenders, railway companies, and lazy lake captains.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1908 lasalle street tunnel.jpg" style="float: right; height: 192px; width: 300px;" title="A 1908 color postcard shows the LaSalle Street tunnel after it was converted for electric street car use. The elevated train tracks that run along Lake Street are visible on the far left. (Wikicommons)" />The opening date of the LaSalle Street tunnel was also a lucky break for thousands of Chicago residents who used it to flee from the Great Chicago Fire only a few months later.</p><p>When cable cars and then street cars came to Chicago in 1882, the tunnels had to be dug deeper underground. &ldquo;They were very shallow,&rdquo; says CTA transit historian Bruce Moffat. &ldquo;As ships got bigger they started worried about hulls of ships running into them.&rdquo;</p><p>The refurbished tunnels were approximately 60 feet underground, as deep as the deepest portions of today&rsquo;s CTA tunnels. But their entryways were much steeper: they rose and fell at a 12 percent grade, according to Moffat.</p><p>&ldquo;The steepest grade or ramp an &lsquo;L&rsquo; train has now is in the order of four percent,&rdquo; Moffat said. &ldquo;So they had to be going actually at a pretty good clip at the bottom.&rdquo;</p><p>The West Chicago Street Railroad, a private cable car company, dug a third tunnel under the Chicago River between Van Buren and Jackson Streets in 1894. But as the city moved on from cable cars to electric streetcars, and from electric street cars to elevated trains (and diesel busses and cars), the older means of transit faded away and the companies that ran them gradually went out of business.</p><p>All three cable and streetcar tunnels were eventually shut down and sealed off, and Moffat says they are not incorporated into existing CTA infrastructure.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;ve long since been decked over at both ends,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><strong>The present</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cable car manhole cover patrick steffes.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="An unmarked manhole cover on LaSalle Street might be an entrance to the abandoned cable car tunnel below. (Patrick Steffes) " />There&rsquo;s a ramp on LaSalle Street just south of Kinzie, which many people think is a remnant of the old cable car tunnel. It&rsquo;s not &ndash; that ramp leads down to a loading dock on Carroll Street, which is adjacent to the river and the buildings on either side of LaSalle.</p><p>But during my conversation with Bruce Moffat, he left me with this one tantalizing tidbit: &ldquo;If you go to the corner of LaSalle and Kinzie,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;you&rsquo;ll find a manhole cover that leads down into the tunnels.&rdquo;</p><p>Really? That sounded like a dare to me.</p><p>I called up my go-to guys for checking out historic urban remnants: Dan Pogorzelski, Jacob Kaplan and Patrick Steffes. They run the website <a href="http://forgottenchicago.com/">Forgotten Chicago</a>, which chronicles strange and delightful bits of the city&rsquo;s built ephemera. They also offer <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-06-29/goose-island-remnants-%E2%80%98forgotten%E2%80%99-chicago-88518">walking and biking tours</a>, such as their upcoming <a href="http://forgottenchicago.com/events/june-23-avondale-bike-tour/">bike tour of Chicago&rsquo;s Avondale neighborhood</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>I convinced Dan, Jacob and Patrick to help me look for signs of the old tunnels &mdash;and, if possible, to help me find a way inside.</p><p>We met up at the corner of LaSalle and Kinzie on a Saturday morning, in search of Moffat&rsquo;s manhole cover. But a cursory look reveals that this particular intersection is lousy with manhole covers, most stamped with the names of various utility companies.</p><p>We skulk around for a while counting. Finally Patrick returns with a tally, an astonishing 57 manhole covers.</p><p>&ldquo;Counting side streets but not counting square covers or storm sewers,&rdquo; Patrick says.</p><p>Dan asks whether this might merit an honorary street sign.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cable%20car%20tunnel%20bus%20pad%20patrick%20steffes.jpg" style="float: right; height: 400px; width: 300px;" title="A steam between the asphalt paving and concrete pad on Washington Street suggests another cable car remnant. (Patrick Steffes) " />After more scouting (and a little jaywalking) we amble over to the landscaped median running through LaSalle Street. There, just north of Kinzie we spotted an unusually large and unmarked manhole. It was almost a manhole cover within a manhole cover &ndash; and it was locked.</p><p>&ldquo;This would be at the point where the tunnel would be coming in,&rdquo; Dan said, peering down, and reminding us that the tunnel&rsquo;s termination point was actually closer to Hubbard Street.</p><p>He wriggled onto his belly and lay down in the street to see if he could peer inside, as cars honked and changed lanes to avoid him. But the hole was too small for him to make out anything below the surface.</p><p>We found a matching manhole cover on the other side of the river, just north of Lake Street and again, just east of the median on LaSalle. We were foiled here, too, as this one was not just locked but cemented shut.</p><p>We had better luck finding tunnel remnants on Washington Street. On the west side of the river, Washington passes under the Ogilvie Transportation Center. There&rsquo;s an eastbound lane of traffic, a westbound lane, and curiously, a center lane, too.</p><p>Jacob, who wrote the introduction to <a href="http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/1609493273">Greg Borzo&rsquo;s book on the history of Chicago&rsquo;s cable cars</a>, pointed out a metal seam running through the street. Whereas the outside lanes of traffic were paved with asphalt, this center lane was covered in a concrete pad.</p><p>&ldquo;This is definitely a remnant,&rdquo; Jacob said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m almost 100 percent sure this is the cable car tunnel under here. This is actually a concrete pad. This supposedly covers up the portal.&rdquo;</p><p>Unfortunately, this pad-covered portal was not going to take us anywhere deeper than street level. There would be no tunnel access for us, at least not on this trip. But the Forgotten Chicago crew did help me catch sight of interesting, overlooked elements in the built environment I would have otherwise missed. In other words, they did what they do best.</p><p>If you want more historic cable car remnants still and can&rsquo;t wait until next week, check out Greg Borzo describe what else is left of that old school transit system in the audio above.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range">Dynamic Range</a> showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified&rsquo;s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Greg Borzo spoke at an event presented by Chicago Public Library in January of 2013. Click <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/greg-borzo-105697">here</a> to hear the event in its entirety.</em></p><p><em>Robin Amer is a producer on WBEZ&rsquo;s digital team. Follow her on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/rsamer">@rsamer</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 14 Jun 2013 17:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/search-chicago%E2%80%99s-abandoned-cable-car-tunnels-107715 Chicago's bridge to nowhere: Another view http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/chicagos-bridge-nowhere-another-view-101600 <p><p>This past Tuesday, I ran a post on Chicago&#39;s Bridge to Nowhere &mdash; the former &quot;L&quot; bridge crossing the West Side Metra tracks near Paulina and Carroll. Since then, I&#39;ve come across another photo which gives a clearer picture of how the bridge was once linked to our transit system.</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/08-17--Bridge to Nowhere view.jpg" title=" 'L' crossing near Lake-Paulina, 1954 (CTA photo)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">The view here is north across Lake Street, with The Bridge in the distance. The track running north has been abandoned since the opening of the Milwaukee Avenue subway in 1951. However, at the right of the photo, we note that CTA is building a new connector track so that Douglas Park trains can access the Loop via Lake Street.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Douglas Park trains used Lake Street until 1958. At that time they were rerouted down a ramp into the median of the Congress (Eisenhower) Expressway, through the subway, then out along the &quot;L&quot; to a terminal at Logan Square. CTA called this service the West-Northwest Line. It was later extended to O&#39;Hare Airport, and became known as the Blue Line.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In 2006 CTA again routed trains from the onetime Douglas Park branch to the Loop via Lake Street, creating today&#39;s Pink Line.</div></p> Fri, 10 Aug 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/chicagos-bridge-nowhere-another-view-101600 Chicago's bridge to nowhere http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/chicagos-bridge-nowhere-101364 <p><p>You&#39;ve probably seen it if you travel around the near West Side. It looks like something from a giant&rsquo;s Erector Set.</p><p>An iron bridge crosses over the West Side Metra tracks a block west of Ashland Avenue. The bridge isn&rsquo;t connected to anything else. Perhaps the giant plopped it down, got bored, and wandered away.</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/Metropolitan%20%27L%27%20over%20CNW%20RR.JPG" title="The Bridge to Nowhere" /></div><p>The bridge is actually a remnant of the &quot;L.&quot; It was built in 1895 by the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad Company, as part of the company&rsquo;s Logan Square branch.</p><p>The Met&#39;s terminal was on Franklin near Quincy. Trains ran west to just past Ashland, then hung a right to go north along Paulina, over the bridge, and up to Milwaukee Avenue. Then a soft left turn along Milwaukee, northwest to the terminal at Logan Square.</p><p>Obviously, this wasn&rsquo;t a very direct route. In 1938 the city began digging a subway straight out Milwaukee Avenue. World War II delayed the project, but it was finally completed in 1951.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><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/LAK--EB%20%40%20Paulina_1.jpg" title="Just south of The Bridge, the Logan Square branch crossed over the Lake Street 'L'. (CTA photo)" /></div></div></div></div></div></div><p>The new subway made the &quot;L&quot; along Paulina redundant. For some reason &mdash; probably money &mdash; CTA didn&rsquo;t get around to tearing down the unused &quot;L&quot; structure until 1964. The bridge over the railroad was kept in place because dismantling it would disrupt the train service crossing under it.</p><p>To recap &mdash; Chicago&rsquo;s Bridge to Nowhere carried trains for about 56 years. It has been standing idle now for over 60.</p><p>A few years ago CTA floated the idea of building a new rapid transit route called the Silver Line. The service would run in a semi-circle about two miles out from downtown, connecting all the existing lines. If the Silver Line ever does become reality, then our lonesome bridge might be put back in use.</p></p> Tue, 07 Aug 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-08/chicagos-bridge-nowhere-101364 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 Chicago gets a subway http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-10-17/chicago-gets-subway-92157 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-17/subway_Schmidt.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In October 1943 Chicagoans took time off from World War II to enjoy a grand weekend celebration. After 40 years of talk, the city was opening its first subway.</p><p>Construction had taken five years. Though Chicago's transit lines were still privately-owned, the subway had been built by the city, with some help from the federal government. The price tag was $46 million--the equivalent of $720 million today.</p><p>On the new route, southbound trains left the "L" structure near Armitage and Sheffield. They then ran in the 4.9-mile-long tunnel under Clybourn, Division, and State, re-emerging at 15th and Wabash. Travel time through downtown was cut by a full 25 minutes.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-19/10-17--State St subway.jpg" style="width: 450px; height: 409px;" title="Cutaway drawing of State-Adams station"></p><p>Chicago had actually started building two subways, with another tunnel following Milwaukee-Lake-Dearborn. Then the war came, and construction materials became scarce. The second subway would not be completed until 1951.</p><p>But on this glorious Saturday morning--October 16, 1943--the city was ready for a party.</p><p>Starting at 9:15, ten special trains were dispatched from ten different outer terminals along the "L" system. They carried various dignitaries to a rendevouz in the subway at State and Madison. When the lead train passed through the first underground station at North-Clybourn, it was saluted by the Lake View High School band, blasting out "El Capitan" from the platform.</p><p>One by one, the ten specials converged at State and Madison. The dignitaries got out, shook hands all around, and made a few speeches. At 10:47 Mayor Edward J. Kelly cut a ribbon strung across the northbound track. As the newsreel cameras whirled, the trains rumbled down the tracks. "This is the most significant event in Chicago history to date," the mayor declared.</p><p>Kelly and his cohort then marched upstairs to review a parade along State Street. Meanwhile, curious Chicagoans were invited to inspect the new tunnel. All that day they came, and looked, and swelled with pride at their city's latest wonder. At midnight, as Saturday became Sunday, regular subway service officially began.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="299" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-September/2011-09-19/10-17--new subways.jpg" title="Chicago's 1941 Subway Master Plan" width="495"></p><p>City officials had ambitious plans for more subways. Existing "L" routes would get underground extentions. A line under Archer Avenue would link Municipal Airport with downtown. The ugly Loop elevated was going to be torn down, replaced by subways. Also on the drawing-board was an open-air line in the median of the planned Congress Expressway.</p><p>Only one of these lines was built--the Congress (now called the Eisenhower Blue Line). Opened in 1958, it became the prototype for other routes in other expressways. And since the Loop "L" has become a tourist attraction, any future subway construction now appears doubtful.</p><p>Here's a video from the archives that the City of Chicago produced in 1940 to demonstrate how the subway was dug:</p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="225" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/30568829?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="400"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 17 Oct 2011 12:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-10-17/chicago-gets-subway-92157 Rahm vows bus rapid transit, but can he deliver? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/rahm-promises-brt-can-he-deliver-90926 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-August/2011-08-23/Transmilenio.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>All this week, WBEZ is looking at <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/first-100-rahm-emanuels-first-100-days-chicago-mayor" target="_blank">Rahm Emanuel’s first 100 days as Chicago mayor</a>.</p><p>One of Emanuel’s pledges is to push for the creation of the city’s first bus-rapid-transit line. The idea behind BRT is to deliver the benefits of rail at a fraction of the cost. BRT shortens travel times through dedicated bus lanes, pre-paid boarding that’s level with station platforms, and traffic signals that favor the buses.</p><p>WBEZ’s West Side bureau reporter <a href="http://www.wbez.org/staff/chip-mitchell" target="_blank">Chip Mitchell</a> gives us a progress report on Emanuel’s ambitious plan.<br> &nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 23 Aug 2011 16:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-23/rahm-promises-brt-can-he-deliver-90926