The Western Avenue station, looking northeast from the corner of Western and Eastwood Avenues on December 27, 2002. Next to the station house is a covered bus bay and turnaround. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

Western (2400W/4700N)
Western Avenue, Lincoln Avenue and Leland Street, Lincoln Square

Service Notes:

Brown Line: Ravenswood

Accessible Station

Quick Facts:

Address: 4645-49 N. Western Avenue
Established: May 18, 1907
Original Line: Northwestern Elevated Railroad, Ravenswood branch
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:

Station

Rebuilt: late-1920s, 1979-81
Status: In Use

History:

Car 6045 leads a 2-car Ravenswood All-Stop at Western/Lincoln on October 2, 1972. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Steve Zabel, Collection of Joe Testagrose)

After the initial construction of the Ravenswood branch of the Northwestern Elevated to Western Avenue was placed into service May 18, 1907. A center track (visible in the picture above) was installed for car storage and an interlocking plant to control train movements was another feature of this station, which served as the terminal for the Ravenswood branch for seven months. The grade level extension to Kimball was put into service on December 14.

The initial station facility at Western probably included a brick station house with glazed brick interior, which remains today at many other Ravenswood branch stations like Southport and Addison. The exterior was simple with little decoration and few materials other than brick. The smooth exterior was broken only by a few windows, a double-door entrance, and some simple brick decorations along the cornice line and at the belt rail level. Along with the vintage station house, the platform had steel and tin canopies and cast metal railings, which included a flower pattern set in a square along the railing lattice.

In the late-1920s, the CRT improved a number of stations, including this one, with new, larger station houses. This structure was of the white terra cotta and brick beaux-arts variety, with a grand front entrance with storefronts on Western, designed by company architect Arthur Gerber similar to those built at Logan Square and Halsted (Englewood) at the same time. Trademark Gerber details include the laurel-framed cartouches, pairs of Greek-revival Doric columns and the words "Rapid Transit" above the door in Terra Cotta.

In 1949, the Western station received some modernizations, including a new bus turnaround around the sides and back of the station allowing for easier "L"-to-bus transfers.

 

Station Renovation, Accessibility

The interior of the current Western station house on October 8, 2002. Large amounts of stainless steel give the station a decidedly "modern" look. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

In the late 1970s, the CTA undertook a station modernization program in which they rebuilt or significantly renovated five stations around the system to modern standards and styles. The work tended to include either enlargement of the facilities, or renovations that resulted in improved circulation and capacity. These stations also represented the first modern CTA stations to be equipped with elevators and thus some of the first to be designed to accommodate customers with disabilities, aside from a couple at-grade stations rebuilt with ramps earlier in the 1970s. The CTA 1980 Historical Calendar described the station modernization program and its goals:

Featuring an open-plan design concept, the CTA is rebuilding five major rapid transit stations which will have escalators and elevators for the convenience particularly of the elderly and handicapped. The design provides maximum visibility, easy movement of people through fare control areas, and a high level of illumination. Under construction are a new terminal at Desplaines Avenue, Forest Park, for service in the Eisenhower Expressway, an enlarged station at 79th Street on the Dan Ryan expressway route, elevated stations at Loyola and Granville on the North (Howard) route, and an elevated station at Western Avenue on the Ravenswood route.

The new Western station was designed by the architectural firm of Vickrey-Ovreset-Awsumb Associates. The design was coordinated with the Lincoln Square Mall project -- a project to create a pedestrian mall out of the block of Lincoln Avenue between Leland and Lawrence north of the station, and to generally revitalize the business district around the station -- which was a joint development of the City and the local business community. The new station was built of tan brick, white-painted steel, and expanses of glass, and featured two elevators and two escalators. The facility includes a bus turnaround and three-lane bus terminal on the south side of the station. Entrance doors are located on the south side in the bus terminal, on the north facing Western Avenue, and on the north side facing a plaza on the corner of Western and Leland; a rotogate-controlled exit on the east side of the station allows customers to exit directly from the paid area to a walkway under the "L" structure leading to Lincoln Avenue.

The dual platforms feature concrete floors and a full-width canopy covering approximately half the length of the platform.

CTA awarded a $2.13 million contract for the construction of the new Western station to the Ross, Lynn and Norman Construction Company of Skokie on June 6, 1979. Ross, Lynn and Norman also reconstructed the Loyola and Granville stations on the North-South Route around the same time.

A temporary station house and center platform were opened at Western in 1979 during the duration of the station reconstruction. The new Western station complex opened in 1981.

The station serves the Chicago Public Library, Conrad Sulzer Public Library at 4455 N. Lincoln Avenue.

 

Recent Developments

Western is one of five Chicago Transit Authority sites that are planned to provide access to vehicles belonging to I-GO, a car-sharing program. At their August 11, 2004 meeting, the Chicago Transit Board approved the agreement between the CTA , the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and its affiliate I-GO Car Sharing (I-GO) to promote the use of public transportation by providing additional options for public transit users. The agreement establishes a yearlong pilot program where members can access I-GO vehicles at locations adjacent to or near public transportation.

In September 2004, Dunkin' Donuts, the coffee and baked goods chain, opened five new concessions in CTA stations around the "L" system. One such new concession was located at Western station. "This is the first major concerted effort to open a significant number of Dunkin' Donuts stores in CTA stations," said Mike Lavigne, director of development for Dunkin' Donuts. All new Dunkin' Donuts /CTA station stores were scheduled to be full-service.

 

Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project

By 2004, ridership had exploded on the Brown Line -- an 79% increase since 1979 and a 27% increase since 1998 -- that during peak periods many trains were at crush-loaded, resulting in commuters left standing on platforms unable to board the loaded trains, sometimes waiting as one or two trains passed before they were physically able to board. The problem in large part was that all Brown Line stations could only accommodate six-car trains (with the exception of Merchandise Mart, Chicago, Fullerton and Belmont, which could already hold eight-car trains), which, along with the limitations of the cab signal system, limited the line's capacity.

As a result, the CTA decided to plan for the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project, the largest capital improvement project undertaken by the CTA at the time (surpassing even the Douglas Renovation Project, which was the largest up to that point). The main objectives of the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project are to expand the line's overall ridership capacity by lengthening station platforms to accommodate eight rather than six-car trains, rehabilitate rail infrastructure and stations, provide for station enhancements to meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and upgrade or replace traction power, signal and communication equipment. By far, the largest part of the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project was the station renovations. Of the Brown Line's 19 stations, only one (Merchandise Mart) was not touched at all due to its modern construction (1988) and ability to berth eight-car trains.

Platform extensions are seen under construction at the east end of both platforms, looking east on August 16, 2006. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

On April 13, 2004, the CTA announced that it had officially received a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). However, in May 2004, CTA received construction bids for the project that substantially exceeded the budget. As such, the Chicago Transit Board voted on June 9, 2004 to reorganize the project into several discrete pieces to help attract more competitive construction bids. Station renovation work was modified and grouped into five separate packages according to location to help reduce the overall cost of station construction. Western station was grouped with Kimball, Kedzie, Francisco, and Rockwell in a bid package, all of which were designed by the same consultant, Muller & Muller. Station designs were also revised to reduce costs, although few changes were made to the already-modest changes planned for Western station.

The Kimball/Kedzie/Francisco/Rockwell/Western contract -- sometimes referred to as "the at-grades", although Western is actually elevated, unlike the other four stations in the group -- was the third of the reorganized station packages to be bid out. At the September 14, 2005 board meeting, a $19.9 million contract for the renovation of these stations was awarded to FHP Tectonics Corporation.

At Western, the modifications to the station are relatively simple, since the station was reconstructed relatively recently (1981) and was already ADA accessible. The platforms are simply being extended -- 70 feet to the west and 40 feet to the east on the outbound side and 100 feet to the east on the inbound platform -- to accommodate the extra two cars of future 8-car trains. New auxiliary exit stairs will be provided at the east end of both platforms on the new extensions to provide more convenient egress options.

The Western station did not experience any temporary station closures. The project's Full Funding Grant Agreement with the federal government requires that the CTA complete the project by the end of 2009.

 

The side platforms at Western, looking west on the inbound platform on September 10, 2003. The square white steel railings and light posts and full-width canopy with an open center are typical of "open plan" "L" construction of the period. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)


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Car 4138, in its orange and brown livery, stops at Western while leading a Ravenswood Local in the 1940s. (Photo from the Jeff Obarek Collection)

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Cars 6129-6130, with their distinctive maroon and gray paint-job and unique designs on the lower portion, stops at Western on June 24, 1961. (Photo by Roy G. Benedict)

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Car 4401 leads a CTA Training Train (evidenced by the front destination sign) passes through Western on August 21, 1970. Passing in the opposite direction is a Ravenswood "A" train of various PCC cars, including a 6000 (center) and 1-50 series car 12 (right). The Western center track is also evident. (Photo by Joe Testagrose)

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A 6000-series Ravenswood A Train stops at the original Western station on August 21, 1970. (Photos by Joe Testagrose)

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The front entrance to the current Western station, looking east across Western Avenue in 1999. The concessions inside the station have windows out onto the street. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

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Car 3355 leads a four-car 3200-series Brown Line train, running southbound toward the Loop, stopped at the Western station on December 11, 1999. Car 3385, wrapped in the Old Navy ad wrap, brings up the rear. (Photo by Sean Gash)

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The platforms at Western, looking east on September 10, 2003. The side platforms have a full-width canopy, but only the platforms are actually covered with roof decking. The signage, both illuminated and non-illuminated, is integrated into the platform canopy and railing design. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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The 40-foot extension -- just under one car long -- at the east end of the outbound Western station platform is seen looking northeast on August 16, 2006. The steel stringers are installed and the prefabricated concrete decking laid, but railings, lights, and the tactile edge have not yet been added. (Photo by Graham Garfield)