Howard El Plans Unveiled by CTA

Glass elevators, large windows part of $50 million renovation; residents say crime a concern


By Jackie Mah

Date of Publication: October 18, 2002
Source: Daily Northwestern


Plans to overhaul the Howard Street El station are one-third complete, a representative of the engineering firm leading the $50 million project said at a meeting Wednesday.

The crime problem at Howard, where riders can transfer from Evanston to the Chicago-bound Red Line, is a major concern that the Chicago Transit Authority's plans must address, residents and planners agreed.

The design presentation at the Gale School in Rogers Park was a follow-up to the initial kick-off meeting held June 5. Plans originally were announced in April.

The use of clear elevators and large windows in the design of the new three-story main station should increase visibility and lessen the crime problem, said architect Thomas Lassin of Architrave.

But the residents at the meeting said those measures might not be enough, and they pushed for the installation of security cameras, which planners had not included in the original plan due to budget constraints.

"No one is going to use that station if they don't feel safe," said Luticia Whyte-Barge, a Rogers Park resident. "Safety first, aesthetics later."

Residents suggested planners seek additional federal funding. A "large portion" of the project's total cost is already federally funded, said Alaaeldien Waziry, a CTA consultant.

In addition to the increased visibility, the renovations will include the construction of a three-story main station that will house CTA offices, new fare-purchasing stations and concession stands.

Other features will include a south entrance to the station, a new canopy covering the tracks and platforms, a pedestrian bridge connecting the station to adjacent shops and three handicap-accessible elevators.

Planners hope the renovations will serve the community with its improved appearance, expanded retail center and increased passenger convenience.

"We anticipate heavy community input throughout the process," Belser said.

A station task force of area residents, led by Chicago Ald. Joe Moore (49th), will continue to meet with and advise CTA officials.

At the next general meeting, to be held in January, planners will present a design that is 60 percent complete. Contract bidding should be under way by next November, and the whole project is slated to be finished by November 2006.

Renovations to the station have been a long time coming, said David Phillips, a CTA consultant with TranSystems Corp. He said talk about renovating Howard has gone on for decades. The platforms at Howard are about 75 years old, and its fare stations were last renovated in the 1960s, Phillips said.

"It is certainly not up to current standards," he said.

According to Phillips, only two of the El stations in Rogers Park, Loyola and Granville, have been renovated, and those were done several decades ago.

The Howard Street station, located just south of the Evanston-Chicago border, is the transfer point for the red, purple and yellow lines, which bring travelers north to Evanston and Skokie, and south to downtown.

Phillips said the progress, although slow, is still happening faster than he expected.

"I actually did see (the Howard renovations) once scheduled for 2020," he said.

Phillips and several other residents voiced complaints over the design's structure. The design forces riders entering at the new south entrance to go up two flights of stairs and down another before reaching the platform. Planners said the design, although inconvenient, was the only way to access the platform without the expensive process of tunneling below the tracks.

The next stage of the process will include developing design details, selecting materials, determining sign content and planning out construction stages.

The exact time and date of the meeting in January is to be announced. Questions can be sent to