The Damen entrance to Illinois Medical District station, looking northeast in August 2001. Although the building largely conforms to its original design, the front facade was remodeled in 1998 and the bay window -- part of the Customer Assistant booth -- was added. Unfortunately, there is a terrible glare from the sun into the booth, hence the use of CTA maps to cover the windows and block the glare. Note the view of the Sears Tower on the right. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Illinois Medical District

(2000W/430S) Damen

(1830W/430S) Ogden

(1700W/430S) Paulina

Between Damen Avenue and Paulina Street at the Eisenhower Expressway, Near West Side

Service Notes:

Blue Line: Forest Park

Accessible Station

Owl Service

Quick Facts:

Address:

430 S. Damen Avenue (Damen entrance)

1841 W. Ogden Avenue (Ogden entrance)

431 S. Paulina Avenue (Paulina entrance)

Established: June 22, 1958
Original Line: West-Northwest Route, Congress branch
Previous Names: Medical Center

Skip-Stop Type:

Station

Rebuilt: 1998
(Damen entrance renovated)
Status: In Use

History:

Medical Center station's Ogden entrance is seen looking east on September 21, 1958, just a few months after opening. The station house's design was typical of those built for the Congress Line, including the glazed brick sides and glass and aluminum storefront, and the unique bright red, neon-lit sign over the entrance and cast metal CTA logo door handles. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by George Krambles, courtesy of the Krambles-Peterson Archive)

The Illinois Medical District station -- originally called Medical Center station until 2006 -- was built as part of the Congress Line to replace the Garfield Park elevated and took the place of two old Garfield elevated stations. The Ogden entrance is located about where the Ogden station of the Metropolitan West Side "L" was, in what would now probably be the westbound lane of the Eisenhower Expressway. The Paulina entrance is only a half block east of the location of the former Marshfield station, an important junction and transfer point of the Metropolitan Elevated. One might even argue that the Damen entrance is a substitute for a third Met station, at Hoyne Street, one block west of Damen.

Built as part of the Met's main line in 1895, Ogden, Marshfield, and Hoyne stations, as well as the rest of the main line and Garfield Park branch, were demolished in the mid-1950s when the Congress Street Superhighway (later renamed the Eisenhower Expressway) was constructed. The plan included a novel concept: a rapid transit line in the median of an expressway, making a sort of transit corridor. The "new" Congress Line thus provided no net gain for the "L" system.

Illinois Medical District is nearly identical to every other station built in the Eisenhower Expressway, including an island platform, a small station house on crossing overpasses containing only a ticket booth and turnstiles and a long, enclosed, sloping passageway/ramp connecting the two. A brochure, published by the City of Chicago to commemorate the initiation of service June 22, 1958, describes the stations this way:

Each station platform in the expressway right-of-way is the island type, 600 feet long and canopied throughout its entire length. Supported by structural aluminum columns, the canopy extends beyond the platform edge and over the roofs of cars....

The fare collection building is about 42 ft x 21 ft. The more important stops are located between two cross bridges separated by about 1/4 mile and there is a station house and access ramp at each end. Medical Center, however, was the only station constructed with three entrances on different cross-bridges. (A third entrance was later added t o UofI-Halsted at Peoria, but was not part of the original design.) This makes for a very long station platform and an unusually long ramp between the Paulina station house and the east end of the platform. Near the east end is also the Ogden station house, more or less the primary entrance, which is unusual for having access via stairs rather than a ramp. At the west end is the Damen entrance.

Part of the result of having so many entrances -- all of which were designed to be manned by a station agent -- was that the station became less economical to operate as traffic levels fell. At the same time, the numerous colleges and institutions in the immediate area often warranted the extra entrances and often demanded their maintenance, despite the lack of revenue justification to the CTA . This resulted in a long history of tug-of-war over openings, closings, and partial hours at these entrances. On February 5, 1973, the Damen station was closed as an entrance, but retained as an exit. In a second swift economy move that year (the CTA made sweeping service revisions in '73, closing many stations and station entrances), the Paulina station was closed as an entrance on July 16th, but retained as an exit. This left only Ogden as an entrance. On February 1, 1988, the Paulina entrance was reopened as an entrance from 1500-1810 hours Monday-Friday only, as a result of pressure from the Medical Center. This lasted only four years, however, as it was again closed as an entrance on February 10, 1992 as part of another set of CTA cuts.

 

The Medical Center station's Ogden entrance, looking northwest from Harrison Street, in March 1998. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Entrance Reopenings, Improvements and Accessibility

In 1998, the Damen entrance underwent renovation, becoming the prototype for a new type of design update later implemented at several Congress station entrances like Homan, Kedzie, and Morgan. Elements of it's CA booth were also used in a new type of booth used at most new station renovations and constructions since 1999. The interior of the Damen entrance got new flooring and wall treatments. New TransitCard turnstiles and TCVMs were installed and a new CA booth was built into the southwest corner of the interior. This booth was against the front of the building, with a large picture window looking out onto the street. It reopened as a full-time manned entrance/exit to Medical Center on December 6, 1998. The reopening increased access to Malcolm X College and the United Center.

At the same time, the Paulina entrance was retrofitted with new high barrier gates (HBGs), which are fully automated turnstiles and reach from floor to ceiling to prevent fare evasion while reducing the number of employees needed. Paulina once again became an entrance, albeit an unstaffed one only for customers already holding farecards. The north half of the station house interior was blocked off with high gates -- so that entering customers only access a passageway to the high-barrier gates -- thus negating the need for maintenance in this part of the interior (and, as of August 2001, the lack of maintenance shows...). For the first time on 25 years, all three of Medical Center's entrances were open to the public again.

This station platform contained an original station sign from 1958, displaying the station's name in black on a white background, with a red arrow pointing east toward the Paulina (1700W) exit, until 2000, when the Smithsonian Institute was granted permission by the CTA to remove it for an exhibit on 1950s transit the opened in 2003.

 

Station Name Change

Illinois Medical District station (along with Polk on the 54th/Cermak branch) serves the Illinois Medical District and its associated hospitals and medical training schools. In 2005, the Illinois Medical District requested that the CTA change the name of the Medical Center station to "Illinois Medical District" to more accurately reflect the proper name of the district. (The Illinois Medical District [IMD] is a special-use zoning district. It was designated by an act of the Illinois General Assembly in 1941. The name of the district was originally "Illinois Medical Center", making the "L" station's original name accurate. However, in 1995, the District's name was changed from the Illinois Medical Center to the "Illinois Medical District" to recognize that the "District" now contained various individual "medical centers." The IMD is guided by the Illinois Medical District Commission, a seven-member panel appointed by State of Illinois, Cook County, and City of Chicago leadership.) Thus, on February 15, 2006, the Chicago Transit Board of the Chicago Transit Authority voted to change the name of Medical Center station to Illinois Medical District station. The name was changed on maps and railcar car card maps in June 2006 (the next editions published), but the station's signage was not projected to be updated until 2007.

 

Station Renovation

On January 7, 2014, the Chicago Transit Board approved a $23 million plan to rehabilitate and improve the accessibility of the Illinois Medical District station by making all three station entrances accessible to customers with disabilities. The project, which will use $23 million of city tax-increment financing (TIF) funds made available through Mayor Rahm Emanuel's "Chicago Neighborhoods Now" program, includes additional upgrades to the station entrances and platforms as well.

The project will make improvements to all three entrances of the IMD station. These include rebuilding the main station house on Ogden Avenue to make it accessible to customers with disabilities by adding an elevator and new stairs. The project also includes the reconstruction of two station-to-platform ramps at the Damen Avenue and Paulina Street entrances to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines.

Additionally, the project includes improving station and platform lighting; installing additional security cameras and CTA Bus and Train Tracker displays, and making repairs to the station platform canopy. The Damen entrance and the Paulina auxiliary entrance will also be refurbished with new flooring, wall and ceiling finishes, fare-payment equipment and customer assistant kiosks.1

From 2009 to 2014, ridership at the IMD Blue Line station increased by 53 percent, to nearly 1.1 million station entries in 2013, making IMD the third-busiest station on the Blue Line's Forest Park branch.2

The project is planned to launch in mid-2015, a timeframe selected because it will take time to finalize the inter-governmental agreement between the CTA and City Hall and to receive City Council approval for using TIF funds. The project is planned to be completed in 2016.3

 

The Medical Center island platform, looking east from the Damen end in August 2001. The station name signs were installed during at time at which the Damen entrance/exit was closed, thus it is not listed as an exit. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)


medicalcenter01.jpg (47k)
The Ogden entrance to the Medical Center station, looking east in 1999. (Photo from the CTA Collection)

Notes:

1. "CTA Illinois Medical District Blue Line Station to Undergo $23 Million Renovation." CTA press release. January 7, 2014.
2. Ibid.
3. Hilkevitch, Jon. "CTA plans to rebuild Medical District Blue Line station in 2015." Chicago Tribune. January 7, 2014