The entrance to the renovated 79th station is seen looking southwest on December 24, 2006. Improvements to the entrance include refurbishment of the structure, new paint, a new "eyebrow canopy" over the entrance to protect waiting bus passengers, and identification signage. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

79th (7900S/1W)
79th Street and Dan Ryan Expressway, Chatham

Service Notes:

Red Line: Dan Ryan

Accessible Station

Owl Service

Quick Facts:

Address: 15 W. 79th Street
Established: September 28, 1969
Original Line: West-South Route, Dan Ryan branch
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:


Rebuilt: 1977-80
(new entrance, elevator added), 2005-06 (renovation), 2013 (refurbished)
Status: In Use


Open less than a year at the time of this 1970 view, a Lake-Dan Ryan "L" train pulls into 79th station. 79th proved itself early on to be a busy station with high ridership, as the crowded platform demonstrates. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from CTA Collection)

The design of 79th and the other eight stations of the Dan Ryan line were carried out by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill under the direction of Myron Goldsmith, who developed a modern, functional form in the late International style popular at the time. Improved visibility and security, ease of cleaning and more comfortable working conditions for CTA employee were design goals. Skidmore took the Kennedy-Dan Ryan ("KDR") project in a unique direction, designing all aspects of the new lines to harmonize in both shapes and materials. All windbreaks, dividers, and ticket booths were stainless steel. The supports of the transparent platform canopies and the structures of the station enclosures are white-painted steel frames, and the enclosures themselves are glass. The formal and functional criteria were expressed in several ways: open, uncluttered, brightly lit interior spaces; durability, safety, maximum efficiency of movement; lightness and purity of structure. The shape of everything, from the buildings to the agents' booths, to the trashcans, followed together into a seamless design philosophy, which perfectly captured the boxy, purely functional International Modern style for which Skidmore is so well known.

The commemorative brochure published for the event describes the stations this way:

"Nine stations serve the Dan Ryan Line... Wide visibility and a high level of illumination are characteristic features in all areas. Fare collection equipment and turnstiles are stainless steel and... escalators supplement stairs for movement between station levels. Stations in the expressway medians are constructed of steel and glass providing maximum visibility from adjacent streets and highways. The boarding platforms are long enough to accommodate 8-car trains... Steel framed canopies of translucent plastic [extend] beyond the center line of the tracks. Self-service infrared radiant heaters are located at windbreaks on the platforms."

In terms of interior arrangement and design for the passenger, Skidmore generally followed the edict of modernist pioneer Mies van der Rohe that ‚ "less is more." Except for at a few locations (most notably 95th Street terminal), there were no concessions provided for passengers. Air conditioning and a compact washroom with a toilet were provided in the agents' booths. Restrooms were for employees only, though payphones were provided. Stainless steel turnstiles, now an industry standard, were first used here. The amenities and traffic circulation fit with the architectural design of the station: efficient but purely functional. Stations were designed with wide walkways and no blind corners, with turnstiles and agents booths arranged for maximum queuing and circulation effectiveness.

The stations' design even formed a harmony with the 150 rapid transit cars that were ordered to serve the new Kennedy and Dan Ryan lines, which used the same design philosophies and basic shapes, and an entirely new system of signage with a redesigned typeface and clean graphic style (still used by CTA today, in a modified form), making a fully integrated design throughout the entire project.

Stations were spaced at between half-mile and one-mile intervals, reflecting an increasing spacing of stations prominent in the postwar period, with bus lines acting as feeders to the rapid transit line. The Dan Ryan and Kennedy stations were also set up to allow Pay On Train operation, though without all of the complicated gates and rearrangement built into the Congress stations. The translucent skin of the headhouse exteriors made this type of operation more safe than before, though not necessarily making it more aesthetically desirable for the customer. The result was a utilitarian white steel and glass station that is functional but not particularly ornate.


Renovation and Expansion

Work on the new, expanded, two-level station house on the south side of 79th Street is well underway in this December 16, 1977 view looking south. The new station house extends over the original platform canopy. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from CTA Collection)

As part of a general station modernization program, the CTA augmented the 79th station with a second entrance opposite the original station house on 79th Street. Featuring an open-plan design concept of the original headhouse, the five rapid transit stations rebuilt under the program included escalators and elevators for the convenience particularly of the elderly and handicapped.

In 1977, the CTA opened the new auxiliary entrance/exit building on the north side of 79th Street. At the same time, the original entrance on the south side of 79th closed for reconstruction. The original south entrance, which was of comparable size and design to the original 87th station, was vastly expanded into a two-level headhouse. The new second level extended south over the original canopy and the station gained a second set of fare controls and another agent's booth at street level to augment the original platform-level fare controls that were vastly inadequate for the station's high ridership. The new station house was built in the same style as the original station, with a white steel frame and large floor-to-ceiling windows to give a transparent open plan feel. An elevator was also added as part of the new, expanded station house.

The south side entrance reopened in 1980. In the summer of 1981, a new elevator was put into service, making 79th the first Dan Ryan station to become handicap accessible.


Go Lane Pilot

On June 6, 2005, the CTA launched a pilot program at eight rail stations (as well as on 10 of its wide-door Nova buses) to help speed boarding for customers by dedicating one turnstile as an express fare payment lane (called a "Go Lane") for those paying with either Chicago Card (regular or Plus) smartcard fare media. The dedicated lanes are identified by signs over the turnstile and on the floor in front of it. The eight selected rail stations in addition to 79th were Howard, Chicago, and 95th/Dan Ryan on the Red Line; Jefferson Park on the Blue Line; and both the Thompson Center and 203 N. LaSalle entrances to Clark/Lake, the Randolph-Washington mezzanine of Washington/State, and the Randolph-Washington mezzanine of Washington/Dearborn downtown. CTA chose these stations because they are geographically balanced and serve a high volume of customers who transfer between bus and rail.

The pilot was conducted to determine if providing a dedicated turnstile at stations would help to speed boarding and, therefore, speed service. The pilot also provided an additional incentive for customers to switch to Chicago Card fare options. The faster and easier the boarding process, the more the transit experience is improved for existing customers. Faster boarding also helps to attract new customers.

CTA monitored the Go Lane boarding times during morning and evening rush periods to measure time saved during boarding, as well as the ratio of customers using electronic fare media compared to cash or transit cards. Customer reaction and ease of use were also evaluated as part of the pilot to determine whether use of Go Lanes should expand.


Dan Ryan Red Line Rehabilitation Project

With few major improvements (though with a lot of patching) over its thirty year life, by the early 21st century the Dan Ryan Line was in need of a major overhaul. On April 3, 2003, the Chicago Transit Board approved a $4.5 million contract to renovate the 69th and 95/Dan Ryan bus bridges as well as the bus turnaround at 95th Street, signaling the beginning of the rehabilitation of the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line. The Dan Ryan renovation project entailed upgrading the infrastructure of the line, including improving power reliability and delivery of that power, and providing station improvements to the seven stations on the branch north of the terminal.

On October 7, 2003, the Chicago Transit Board approved a $192.5 million contract to rehabilitate the Dan Ryan branch, with Kiewit/Reyes, AJV (A Joint Venture) awarded the construction contract as part of a competitive bid process. The total cost of the Dan Ryan rehabilitation program was to be $282.6 million.

The project was executed in three phases. During the first phase of the project, which extended from March 2004 to May 2005, CTA replaced crossover track, installed a temporary signal system to support the track work and began third rail replacement from Cermak-Chinatown to 95th. As part of Phase II, which ran through early 2006, the CTA constructed two new substations and upgraded two existing substations, installed a permanent signal system and replaced third rail.

Phase III improvements, which began at the end of June 2005, consisted primarily of station renovations. Work at the seven stations located between Sox-35th and 87th included refurbishing platform canopies, architectural components, escalators, the existing station house, and new platform floor finishes, enhanced lighting, new customer assistant kiosks and improved signs. Eight escalators along the branch were replaced and new elevators were installed at 47th and 69th, making those stations accessible to customers with disabilities. There were also enhancements to improve bus connections, such as curb cuts, canopies over station entrances and improved lighting on the approach to each station.

79th station remained open throughout the renovation project. Much of the work was done under single track operations during midday, owl, and other off-peak hours to allow contractors Kiewit/Reyes, Aldridge Electric, and others to undertake renovation work. On many days, it was also common for half of the platform at a time to be taken out of service at certain stations during owl hours to provide unobstructed access to the contractors. During some periods, trains in excess of four cars in length were prohibited from stopping at certain stations also to provide contractor access.

During Autumn 2005, the original terrazzo platform flooring was removed from the remaining station platform. By the end of Fall, the new concrete flooring was completed. Bases and supports for new steel windbreaks were set in the new platform flooring; the framework for the new enclosures installed by the end of 2005. In the meantime, temporary wooden windbreaks were installed to provide some shielding from the winter winds.

By the end of 2005, the original agents' booth had been removed and the fare controls had been moved to allow work to continue in the fare control area. By the end of December 2005 all of the canopy roofing "bubbles" had been removed, leaving the canopy structural framework but little actual protection except for small a area the platform where a tarpaulin had been stretched over a small portion of the canopy to provide a moderate level of protection from inclement weather. Work was undertaken at this time to refurbish the canopy structure.

The refurbished 79th north auxiliary station house, seen looking northwest on December 24, 2006, incorporated a number of identification elements, including red banding to aid in line identification and large CTA logos mounted along the cornice of the station house, with half of the shield extending above the roofline. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

On December 9, 2005, the elevator at 79th station was taken out of service through Fall 2006 due to renovation work there.

Work continued at 79th throughout Spring 2006. The second of two linecuts was performed over Memorial Day 2006 weekend, when service was temporarily suspended in both directions between 95th/Dan Ryan and 63rd stations from midnight Friday, May 26 until midday Monday, May 29, with a shuttle bus in between. Work included painting the canopy columns and station exteriors at the 79th and 87th stations, extension of the 79th platform, and track and tie renewal at several locations. During both linecuts, stations were covered with large tent-like enclosures to protect workers and keep materials and dust contained.

Over the weekend of July 22-23, 2006, the north auxiliary entrance at 79th station was temporarily closed while contractor Kiewit/Reyes installed new concrete.

By August 2006, new skylight canopy domes were being installed at all stations from Sox-35th to 87th. The station's canopy coverings were installed by the end of summer.

By mid-November 2006, installation of new station platform canopy skylight "bubbles" was substantially complete at all stations in the project zone, from Sox-35th to 87th, inclusive. Installation of new escalators was continuing at 79th station. Work also continued on renovating the existing elevator at 79th. During November 2006, work also continued on the installation of platform amenities at all stations, painting station house exteriors and platforms, installation of new light fixtures on platforms, installation of new lighting and ceilings in station houses, and installation of new signage. The new escalators at 79th station entered service on Thursday, December 28, 2006.

By the end of 2006, the renovation of 79th station was substantially complete with only punchlist work remaining. The finished station included the improvements listed above and, much like the original Kennedy-Dan Ryan project design by Skidmore, introduced several elements now standard at Dan Ryan stations (minus 95th/Dan Ryan and Cermak-Chinatown, which were not part of the project) including a new type of Customer Assistant booth (now also used in the renovated Brown Line stations), windbreak, and combination bench/sandbox. The station house and platform canopy received red bands as part of its new paint scheme, providing some color to the facility's exterior as well as line identification.

The entrance on the south side of 79th Street received a new white-painted steel "eyebrow canopy" over the front of the station house to protect passengers waiting to transfer to eastbound #79 79th buses. The canopy, a modern design somewhat reminiscent of a scaled-down version of the crosswalk covering installed at Sox-35th in 2002-03, includes 10 art glass panels in its roofing. The red-tinted images are of the original construction of the 79th station canopy and platform and nearby track circa 1969. The images are installed at one of four different angles arranged randomly.

Also included as part of the graphics package were station name signs mounted outside the tracks on the expressway sidewall, facing the platform. These types of "outside" station name signs were previous seen primarily at ADA-accessible stations, although they were installed at all renovated Dan Ryan stations including those without elevators. The frames on which these signs were mounted included a feature unseen before: a stainless steel panel between the posts on the back of which was mounted an extruded resin CTA logo facing the expressway. This was one of several ways the new (as of 2004) CTA logo was incorporated into the renovated Dan Ryan stations. The logo was also mounted along the cornice of all the station houses (typically at the rear end of the side elevation with with half of the shield extending above the roofline) and was applied as a hanging station "identifier" underneath the eyebrow canopy as the stations that received these coverings.


Red Line South Reconstruction Project

In 2013, the CTA launched the Red Line South Reconstruction Project, a track renewal project to rebuild the Dan Ryan branch tracks from the bottom up, excavating down to the bottom of the trackbed to rebuild the underground drainage system then installing new ballast, ties, and tracks.

In order to perform the work more quickly and cost-effectively, the CTA closed the Dan Ryan branch for five months while work was performed. During that time, there was no 'L' service on the Dan Ryan branch south of Roosevelt station. Red Line trains were rerouted via the old 13th Street Incline from the State Street Subway to the South Side Elevated, where they operated to Ashland/63rd via the South Side Elevated tracks in a pattern reminiscent of the old Howard-Englewood "A" trains of the North-South Route days. Red Line service to Ashland/63rd began on Sunday, May 19, 2013. Following the five-month track reconstruction and renovation work on the Dan Ryan, Red Line service to 95th resumed at 4am, Sunday, October 20, 2013.

The five-month construction option saved $75 million over an option to perform work on weekends only. CTA invested that $75 million savings into station upgrades along the south Red Line, including lighting improvements, painting, new roofs and canopies at some stations, electrical substation work, and other improvements. In addition, elevators were added to the 87th, 63rd, and Garfield stations, making the whole Dan Ryan branch, and indeed all "L" stations on the whole South Side, accessible.


This view of the renovated 79th station looking south from the 79th Street bridge over the Dan Ryan Expressway on December 24, 2006 shows several elements from the rehabilitation project, including new canopy skylights, new signage, and the refurbished, repainted station house and canopy. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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This view of 79th station in 1969 shortly before the Dan Ryan Line opened demonstrates Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's design for the Dan Ryan and Kennedy stations. Designed in the International style, the stations have a rectilinear shape with a formal and functional arrangement expressed in an open floorplan allowing for maximum efficiency, light, and purity of structure. This photo shows 79th as it was originally designed -- very similar to the adjacent 87th station -- before it was expanded and renovated in the late 1970s. (CTA Photo, Graham Garfield Collection)

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The 79th station, looking northeast from the Dan Ryan Expressway on July 28, 2001. Although the design of the station is typical of Dan Ryan facilities, the station house is a bit larger to handle to higher passenger count. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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A 79th Street KDR-type station column sign. (Sign from the collection of Graham Garfield)