Chicago Examiner April 24, 1917
A CITY-WIDE, municipally owned and constructed subway system was advocated by Mayor Thompson last night in a special message to the City Council.
The message pointed out that the Council has rejected the $250,000 report of the Chicago tractionand subway commission and that the city should start at once withits traction mnd and special assessment levy to build a city-wide subway.
The commission’s report recommended unification of the surface and elevated lines, a downtown subway
system, general extension and rerouting of the surface and elevated tines, an indeterminate franchise for the usiified systems and the expenditure of approximately $270,000,000 by the consolidated companies and the city to carry out the completed plan.
M. J. Faherty, president of the board of local improvements, was the first to suggest construction of a municipally owned subway system by means of special assessments.
City Does Not Want a “Dinky” Subway.
It was pointed out in the message mat the city does not want a “dinky” subway.
The Mayor said the absence of subways has caused many Chicagoans to move to suburbs, because they could get adequate steam car transportation to such places. He pointed out the consequent loss of revenue for the city.
The Mayor wrote:
For the last two years, I have left the solution of the traction question entirely in the hands of the City Council. An appropriation of $250,000 was made out of the traction fund, and most of this amount has been expended in the employment of experts, who made an exhaustive study of all phases of the traction question.
The result of their study is found in the “Report of the Chicago Traction and Subway Commission on a
United System of Surface, Elevated and Subway Lines.
Efforts to Get Long a Franchise Cited.
This report was made to the transportation committee, and public hearings have been held by it
upon the matters covered therein. Subsequently the committee recommended to Council the adoption of a report looking toward the final accomplishment of the plan recommended by the experts.
At the recent meeting of your honorable body the report of the committee and its recommendations were referred back to the committee for further consideration. Since that time a municipal election has been held and a new council is convened, I deem it my duty, therefore, to apprise you at
once of any views and to suggest to you what seems to me a practical solution of a vexed problem.
The plan of the transportation committee recently rejected by your honorable body was complicated.
It contained many distinct issues, each of which was in itself a separate problem calling for special treatment and determination. It is true that the merger of the various transportation lines and the extension of the franchise period and the financing of the new plan and the construction of subways are related to each other.
On the other hand, they are not all necessarily dependent upon each other, and, in my judgment, subway construction is a distinct problem and will not be solved until it is simplified and divorced from all unnecessary features.
The t!me is now ripe for a constructive policy in transportation matters which will achieve a result
beneficial to all the interests of the city.
The traction fund was created and is being accumulated under the traction ordinances of February
11, 1907, and the amendments thereto. In a general way the purpose of the fund is twofold:
DIRECT OBJECTS OF FUND.
First, to enable the municipality to take over the traction properties and to conduct and operate them under municipal ownership;
Second, to facilitate the construction of subways as an additional means of transportation.
The traction companies paid into the city treasury $2,800,000 as the city’s share of the net receipts for 1916. As Iunderstand it, the companies advance the money for the cost of constructing- and extending their lines, which cost is added to their capital valuation, and upon which they are allowed 5 per cent annual return.
All operating, and other expenses are deducted from the total gross receipts and the balance is divided between the city and the companies in the ratio of 55 per cent and 45 per cent.
OWNERSHIP FURTHER AWAY.
The city annually orders extensions of the various surface lines. The cost of such extensions is thus added to the investment. The annual extensions cost more than the city’s share of the net receipts. The result is that the purchase price of the traction properties increases faster than the city’s ability to purchase. Municipal ownership, therefore, is further off now than it was in 1907, when the ordinances were adopted.
I conclude, therefore, that the only practical use to be made of the traction fund is to employ it at once in the development of a system of subways, rather than to let it accumulate for the purchase of properties which the fund will never be large enough to buy.
The Subway of the Central District
Showing present street level, pedestrian street and four-track subway
SUBWAY IS NECESSITY.
All are agreed that subways in a large city like Chicago are indispensable. They offer rapid transit to the outlying districts which are more dependent upon transportation than other sections of the city. It is also a matter of experience that subways specially enhance the value of the land adjacent thereto.
Increased …. buildings and a more intensive development of all property in the vicinity of the subway immediately follows. This has been the experience of every large municipality, notably New York and Boston. Good transportation is an important element in land values.
The capacity of surface lines and elevated roads is now overtaxed, and it seems impossible for the transportation companies with their present facilities to meet the demands of our steadily increasing population.
THE REASONABLE SOLUTION
What, then, is a simple and reasonable solution of this problem? Under its charter the city has the power to lay out, establish, open, widen and otherwise improve public streets. The power to open a new surface street or to widen an existing surface street is exercised frequently and is not questioned. The power to build an upper or lower level street, as well as a surface street,proceeds from the same course and is clearly conferred. In fact, the city is building an upper and a lower level thoroughfare in the widening and improvement of Michigan avenue. Pine street and Lincoln parkway fipm Randolph street to Chicago avenue.
In that proceeding a new lower level street will be constructed between Lake street and Grand avenue,
and a new upper level street will be constructed between Randolph street and Ohio street. In the widening of Twelfth street, from Michigan avenue to Ashland avenue, the city has successfully
exercised its power to widen aa existing street and to improve the street as widened, partly on tha surface and party by a viaduct.
TWO PLANS OF FINANCE.
There are two methods of financing such an improvement, one out of the corporate fund, by taxation or bond issue, the other by special assessment against property benefited. It will be conceded that it is impracticable .to build a lower level thoroughfare out of the general or corporate fund.
The demands upon this fund are already too severe. It is not believed that the public would approve a bond issue for the construction of an improvement which would primarily benefit property in its immediate locality.
The method of raising the neces- sary funds by special assessment, is, therefore, tbs only practical way of financing a lower level thoroughfare.
I am informed by the law de- partment and other lawyers who have given this matter careful study, that a lower level street for general street purposes is unquestionably a local improvement. The test of a local improvement is this:
What is the primary purpose and object of the proposed improvement? If its primary purpose is to benefit a locality, it is a local improvement, and may be paid for by special assessment. If its primary object is to benefit the city at large, it is a general improve of the general fund of the city government, and must be paid for out.
It is clear that the primary purpose of a lower level street would be to serve a certain locality, and
would, therefore, constitute a local improvement to be paid for by special assessment. The locality of
proposed improvement would be peculiarly benefited thereby.
Land values along the line of the lower level street and in its immediate vicinity would be enormously increased. Within the zone of the improvement there would be practically no vacancies in flats or business houses.
The advantages of paying for a lower level thoroughfare by special assessment upon property specially
benefited are manifestly obvious. The improvement wnen completed would belong to the city, like other public streets. Its construction would create no bonded indebtedness. There would be no entangled alliances with public service corporations.
The property specially benefited ought to pay for the improvement, aided by a public benefit fairly representing the city’s share of the cost. The city would control the lower level street in the same way that it ttow controls its surface and elevated streets. The new improvement would be devoted to the same general street uses to which the surface and elevated streets are now put.
The city could grant such privileges in the lower level street to the surface lines and the elevated
railroads as it saw fit. Sidewalks, pavements, galleries for underground improvements and conduits for public utilities could be constructed in the lower level streets.
PUT UTILITIES -UNDERGROUND.
By installing the sewers, water, gas, electric light and power, telephone lines and all other utilities
in the lower level streets, the upper level streets when paved would remain undisturbed for all time. This would insure the permanent good condition of pavements, eliminate street obstructions and save the city and property owners hundreds of thousands of dollars in future special assessments.
Fortunately, the procedure for making such an improvement has been provided by the local improvement act of 1897. The Council can at once order the board of local improvements to take the necessary steps to construct lower level streets where needed.
The board of local improvements could order its engineer to make a survey and prepare plans for the
proposed improvement and to estimate its probable cost. Upon receipt of the engineer’s report and estimate, the board of local improvements would adopt a first 3-esolution, describing the improvement
in general terms and fixing a time and place for a public hearing thereon.
The issues at the public hearing would include the nature, necessity and estimated cost of the proposed
improvement, and the number of installments into which the assessment should be divided. At the public hearing the matter would be fully discussed by property owners to be affected.
ALLOWS PUBLIC HEARINGS.
When the board decides upon the final form of the improvement, an ordinance therefor is drafted and
sent to the Council with the recommendation of the board and the engineer’s estimate of cost. The ordinance is then referred to the proper committee of the Council and a further hearing is given before the committee to the property owners interested.
The committee then reports on the ordinance to the Council, which either rejects or passes it: If the
ordinance is passed the city files a petition in court for the confirmation of an assessment to pay the cost of the improvement.
A special assessment is levied against property benefited and against the City of Chicago for public benefits.
Notice of the assessment is given to property owners and they are allowed to file objections and to contest the legality of the ordinance and the assessment. Tihs gives them another day in court. A test case could be sitade up and the matter submitted to the Supreme Court for final decision.
I have repeatedly promised the voters of this city a referendum on any proposed solution of the traction question. In my opiitlon the opportunities to be heard before the board of local Improvements and the committee of the Council and in court equal the advantages of a referendum and afford much better protection.
These three hearings would give interested parties the best possible opportunity to express their views.
CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION.
I, therefore, recommend that your honorable body at once order the board of local improvements to take the necessary steps to construct a lower level street in each of the three divisions of the city, to wit: the West Side, the North Side and the South Side, the nature of the improvement, questions of size, depth and other details of construction to be worked out by the board of local improvements and the property owners to be affected.
Since the traction fund has come from the pockets of the users of the surface lines it seems only fair
that the fund should be used in the development of a better system of transportation.
The fund is the property of the public and in my opinion may well be used to pay the city’s share of the cost of constructing the various lower levej,streets. This fund would supplement the funds to be
raised by special assessment. As the street car lines are extended from year to year the traction fund
will be replenished from the use by the companies of the surface and lower level streets and the annual
increment to the fund should be used each year to pay the public benefits accruing to the city by such extensions.
EVADE BONDED DEBTS.
Under this plan the city would gradually acquire a new series of lower level streets and an adequate system of transportation without incurring the bonded indebtedness contemplated by the report and recommendation of the transportation committee. The improvements will be made at the expense of land directly benefited thereby.
I submit this plan for your careful consideration. It does not interfere with the settlement of the
problem of merging the surface and elevated lines, aud can be carried out without waiting for the
determination .of the question of franchise extension.
The public needs and is entitled to immediate relief from the present intolerable traction situation, and I am convinced that the method proposed offers a speedy and practical way to build the desired subways.
Chicago Tribune August 31, 1925
Chicago Tribune May 12 1938
The three subways would be the initial construction in the Chicago transit modernization program prepared last fall by Philip Harringtony city traction engineer.
The plan provides for two track subways in Jackson boulevard and Washington street, which would per- mit the removal from the surface of all east-west street car lines in the loop. Both would have eastern terminals under Grant park. The western terminal of the Jackson boulevard tube would be at Clinton street and that of the Washington street at Desplaines street,
The third subway would be a two track tunnel under State street for north and south elevated trains. This subway would extend from 14th street north to Chicago avenue and west under Chicago avenue to Franklin street to a connection with the north side elevated.
Must Be Finished in Two Years.
Mayor Kelly told the council that under pending federal legislation for public grants no project will be ap- proved unless it can be completed in two years or less. City traction en- gineers, he said, have assured him that the three subways can be com- pleted in that time.
The mayor said he hopes to get a 45 per cent grant which would reduce the cost to the city of the 28 million dollar improvement to $15,400,000 the federal government contributing $12,600,000. He urged the city council to prepare a financial plan which would permit the city to use securities in the city traction fund to defray the city s share o0 the expenditure.
The city s share, it was explained later, could be obtained either as a loan from the federal government against which the city could pledge securities now in the traction fund or, defray the sale of the securities in the fund.
Plans for Three Loop Subways
Mayor Kelly told the city council yesterday that construction work can be started soon on three downtown subways if a federal grant for part of the total cost of 28 million dollars is obtained. The Jackson and Washington street subways would be for street cars and the State street tunnel tor north and south side elevated trains.
Invested in Tax Warants.
The 67-million dollar traction fund, according to a recent analysis, Is almost entirely invested in tax anticipation warants, about 25 million dollars of which could be converted quickly into cash. Another 25 to 30 millions is in slow moving paper which may ultimately pay out, but for which there is no ready market. The balance is of doubtful value.
It is believed that the city first will try to get a PWA loan on the slow, moving paper, saving the readily marketable securities to finance other parts of the city traction plan.
Aid. James R. Quinn LSOthi, chairman of the local transportation committee, said the committee would meet tomorrow to consider the mayor’s request and make plans for holding public hearings on the proposed: ordinances. He invited all aldermen to attend.
Sees No Reason to Delay.
Mayor Kelly said:
While substantial progress is being made toward an early solution of all phases of our age old traction problem,” “there is no reason apparent to me why the construction of these subways should not proceed at once. This is particularly true in view of the probability that a substantial part of their cost. If built now, will be borne by federal funds.
The proposed subways have been the subject of crItIcal study and up proval by the transportation companIes and by Waiter A. Shaw. adviser to the federal court on traction.
So far as I know, no serious criticism of either the proposed loca. tions, the designs, or the capacity of these initial subways has been offered.
Teamwork Will Bo Necessary,
To draft the necessary ordinances, prepare contract drawings and specifications and complete the construction of these three subways in such a short time (two years) will require close teamwork by all interests. .
While It may appear hasty to proceed before federal legislation actually has been approved, the amount of work necessary to com- plete these projects within the short time specified seems to warant im. mediate consideration and disposal of every preliminary matter which does not involve an actual or substantial financial commitment.
Cross-Section Rendering of State St. Subway
This 1941 sketch was one of the images published and is an artist’s rendering of what the State Street Subway, still under construction, might look like once opened. The view depicts a cross-section of the street, mezzanine and subway platforms and tubes with crowds of people filling sidewalks on State Street above as well as taking advantage of direct retail connections from the station complex.
The specific location depicted here (one can deduce the location easily, with the flagship The Fair store on the left and The Palmer House on the right) is a view looking north on State from Adams. The subway mezzanine in view is the Monroe-Adams mezzanine (still today an entrance to the Monroe station on the Red Line) and the train in the tunnel is drawn as a Shoppers’ Special–the name for certain express services run from several ‘L’ branches to the Loop, catering to mid-day shopping trips to downtown during that era.
Map showing the proposed pattern of citywide subways, the same system proposed in 1939.
Presented by the City of Chicago Department of Subways and Superhighways
Burton Holmes Films, Inc.
Map of Initial System of Subways with the State Street Subway completed and the Dearborn Subway partially completed.
Chicago Tribune March 29, 1943.
Run First Train Thru Subway But Regular Service Is Far Off
Chicago yesterday became a city with a subway.
At 3:18 p. m. a three car train headed by Car No. 4429 crept from its usual elevated tracks south of the Armitage avenue station and eased into the Clybourn-Division State street tube,
The train, made up of two passenger cars with a work car sandwiched between In case of trouble, carried newspaper men and about 150 men of the subway department and the Rapid Transit lines.
Before it came out of the ground one hour and 56 minutes later after a return trip to Jackson street, the train had proved that subway trains will be smooth riding and cool; the air will be only slightly damp, and passengers will be able to carry on conversations without shouting.
The night before the “Opening” of the State Street Subway at the Jackson-Van Buren stop. This test run was staged by Mayor Edward Kelly on March 28, 1943, just four days before the mayoral election.
Speedy Service Indicated,
A second trip indicated the subway will be speedy. The train crept along on its first trip, paced by engineers on foot who checked clearances. On the second it reached a speed of 30 miles an hour, going from Fullerton to Jackson in 14 minutes. That time, however, could be cut about a third because the subway expects to operate trains at 45 miles an hour.
Bernard J. Fallon, operating manager and trustee for the elevated lines, said the subway trip was a “nice ride” and that he was “very pleased,” but he declined to predict when subway trains would become a regular thing. The subway department said service would begin “shortly,” but declined to say if that meant one, two months or more.
The subway will be officially opened Friday and war bond buyers will get free rides Saturday between 1 and 11 p. m.
Electric current was turned Into the Clybourn.Division-State street subway at 12:45 p. in. yesterday.
The Subway Special.
March 28, 1943
No Champagne for Christening.
At 3:05 a conductors corps, dressed In their best, shouted “all aboard, subway special,” anti the three car train pulled out of the Wilson ave- nue elevated station. At the controls was Charles Blade, 1127 Newport avenue, an elevated lines motorman 29 years. Because Blade had never seen the inside of the subway, C. J. Beck, 4506 North Ashland avenue, who has spent much of the last two and a half years underground as a subway department electrical engi. neer, stood at Blade’s shoulder.
Women standing in their backyards waved as the train dipped into the ground. Kids lined the railings, A passenger shouted for a bottle of champagne to christen the subway but only a cask of drinking water had been brought along.
A few hundred feet inside the entrance, after reaching its normal depth of 40 feet, the subway tunnel splits Into two round bores dotted with lights their entire length. An occasional water seepage streak marred the white concrete lining.
Stations In Blue and Cream.
The south bound bore is complete as far as Jackson, except for stations and circular emergency stairways to be Installed In ventilation wells, Some track is still to be laid In the north-bound bore.
The stations, vith their light blue and cream tile walls, still lack some lighting fixtures and other equipment. In some stations escalators have been Installed but are not yet in operation.
A catwalk two feet wide parallels the track most of the way for emergency use and tube walls are dotted with signs pointing to nearest exits. Five-foot blowers guarantee fresh air. Automatic louvres keep out cold air in winter time. Heat will be provided only by train operations. The temperature yesterday was near freezing.
Three-quarter inch reclaimed rubber pads under the rails reduce vibration and noise, but when yesterday’s train hit 30 miles an hour it could be heard half a mile away.
The State Street Subway opened on October 17, 1943.
The first test run thru the State street subway. A stop at the Clark and Division street station. An escalator is visible at the right.
State Street Subway
Proposed Subway System