Peanut Butter Knife

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hi-ho Silver Line

My screenname comes from the name of a branch of the CTA elevated rail system. I lived in Chicago for almost 4 years and I was enamored with public transportation the whole time I was there. Chicago is a city that bleeds history around every corner, and the "L" is part of the fabric that links you to the millions of people who called the city home over the past century plus.

The 54/Cermak branch was my favorite for numerous reasons. Until recently, it was the branch that had the fewest renovations. Traveling the Douglas in 2000 was probably a lot like riding it in 1900. The 54/Cermak winds its way through many long-neglected west side neighborhoods and one of the most intriguing aspects about Chicago was how a 3-flat in Douglas Park looks about the same as one in Lincoln Park. Looking out the window of the rail car you could imagine the vitality of those neighborhoods and the untapped potential for them to bloom again one day.

The 54/Cermak was the black sheep of the CTA system. It didn't run on weekends or very late at night. After the medical professionals exited at Polk, it served residents of these outlying neighborhoods almost exclusively. Surviving as their only link to the rest of the city. My stop for work was one after Polk, at 18th, although I did ride the length of the line a few times in something I hope to blog about later. Since the renovation, the 54/Cermak seems to be undergoing a renaissance with weekend service restored and now today's news that it will be severed from its longtime partner, the Blue Line to become it's own branch, the Silver Line. Perhaps most exciting about this news is that the new Silver Line will utilize the long-abandoned Paulina Connector. If you've ever driven around the United Center, you might have noticed a set of tracks that seemingly went nowhere and never carried any traffic. This is the Paulina Connector which fell out of favor once the CTA was rerouted to run down the middle of the Eisenhower Expressway. My first thought was that I must get back to Chicago just so I can ride on the Connector.

Fun fact: Anton Cermak was mayor of Chicago during the 1930s and died taking a bullet for FDR.

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