The Cumberland station house circa 1985, with its circular central pavilion, glazed dome, and bus terminal. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Olga Stefanos)

Cumberland (5700N/8400W)
Cumberland Avenue and the Kennedy Expressway, O'Hare

Service Notes:

Blue Line: O'Hare

Accessible Station

Park'n'Ride: 1633 spaces

Owl Service

Quick Facts:

Address: 5800 N. Cumberland Avenue
Established: February 27, 1983
Original Line: West-Northwest Route, O'Hare branch
Previous Names: none

Skip-Stop Type:


Rebuilt: 2016
(platform renovation)
Status: In Use


The fare controls in the Cumberland station house over the expressway, looking east in the unpaid area on August 9, 2002. With the exception of the new turnstiles, the interior has changed little since opening day (including still calling the Blue Line to "West-Northwest Route"). For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

This station on the O'Hare Extension of the Milwaukee Line was designed by Voy Madeyski of the architectural firm of Perkins and Will and was completed in 1983.

The station employs a system of enclosed, elevated walkways to make the station (which is located in the expressway median) accessible to pedestrians from many locations on either side of the highway. The platform is in the median, with the fare controls in a building suspended over the tracks and median at the west end of the platform. Two elevated walkways extend from here to both sides of Interstate 90. The one heading north simply leads to a stairway to the ground. The south walkway, however, leads to a central pavilion, bus terminal, parking garage, and a couple different exits and entrances.

Designed to take advantage of natural sunlight and ventilation, the glazed dome and barrel vaulted skylights employed in the station flood the public spaces with daylight. The design features common materials: poured-in-place concrete, terrazzo floors, painted white steel (very common in new "L" stations), ceramic tiles and an acoustical metal deck. Ceramic white, green, and blue tiles adorn many of the walls in intricate geometrical designs.

As with the other two O'Hare Extension stations that opened in 1983, the station included specially-designed artwork for the facility, an early example of an art component being included in a transit infrastructure project. Under the dome of the central pavilion is a sculpture by Charles Ross, with a contrasting stone base and tall crystalline prism, specially commissioned for this space. Titled Rock Bow, the sculpture is aligned so that at certain times of the year, during the early morning and late afternoon, direct sunlight strikes the prisms that cast large bands of spectrum color onto the walls and floor of the station. Looking directly through the prisms, one sees the surrounding environment bathed in rainbow color. The quality of this color is ever-changing, depending on the light of the station. The light-altering prisms sit upon three brushed stainless steel legs that create the support of a tripod. The prisms not only cast bands of spectrum but also project bands of white light. These lines continuously change their geometry as they move through the space with the passage of the sun.

A new ATSS sign on the island platform on August 9, 2002, before activation. The sign will display the number of minutes until the next train arrives in each direction. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

The concrete and steel island platform includes a canopy that spans both tracks with a convex roof. The station achieves a column-free platform by placing them on the outside of the tracks, between them and the inner expressway lanes. The station name signs were suspended above the platform, hung from crossbeams on narrow metal brackets. The symbol signs were attached to the outer canopy columns. Unfortunately, few of either are still extant, as the corrosion of the metal from the elements and road salt have taken their toll.

In 2002, Cumberland became part of the RTA's Active Transit Station Signs (ATSS) project, becoming one of four project test sites. The ATSS signs provide real-time transit and traffic information on a demonstration basis. They display a countdown of the minutes until the next departing train, travel times to downtown and O'Hare Airport via the Blue Line, fare information, service disruption or delay messages or any other number of messages the CTA chooses to program into the signs.

By Monday, August 12, 2002, Divane Brothers had made significant progress on the installation of the ATSS signs at Cumberland. ATSS signs have been located at the entrances to the stairs from the parking lots on either side of the Kennedy Expressway, at the entrance to and from the bus bay, over the escalators from the park'n'ride and bus terminal, in the paid area over the stairs to the platform, and in two places along the island platform. The backside of the ATSS signs in the bus terminal (facing into the station as one exits into the bus terminal) display bus information on which Pace and CTA bus routes are operating at that time. All other signs have countdowns until the next train arrival, giving information on one train in each direction (Cermak and Forest Park branch trains will not be differentiated). When a train is close to the station, the time is replaced by "Train Arriving". When the train enters the station, the signs will change to read "Boarding". When the train leaves the station, the next scheduled train is shown. The signs were activated during the week of August 19, 2002.

During Autumn 2004 and Spring 2005, several "L" stations got new station name signs. As part of a multi-station program, twelve facilities in all on the Blue, Purple, Red, Orange, and Green lines received new, Green Line Graphic Standard station name signs, replacing older KDR-type signs that used an outdated graphic scheme that was inconsistent with the colored line names. The new signs not only replaced old ones in existing locations at these island platform stations, but were added at additional locations outside the tracks, facing to the platform, for ADA compliance. The new additional station name signs at Cumberland are hung off the overhead beams outside the tracks, over the jersey barriers between the "L" right-of-way and the expressway shoulder. Over the platforms, new overhead brackets were installed to hold new signs there. Installation at all stations was complete by the end of November 2004. Fabrication and installation of the signs was performed by contractor Western Remac.


Your New Blue: Station Improvements

On December 5, 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn announced a comprehensive improvement plan for the Blue Line O'Hare Branch (including the northern portion of the Dearborn Subway), an overhaul that will provide faster travel times and updated stations while creating more than 1,300 jobs.

The $492 million plan, called Your New Blue, includes several track and station improvement projects along a 12.5-mile stretch of the Blue Line between the Grand and Cumberland stations, as well as upgrades to the signal system between the Jefferson Park and O'Hare stations. The overall Your New Blue program, beginning construction in 2014 and planned to last four years, is a package of several discrete projects ranging from station improvements to track renewal, signal replacement, traction power upgrades, and subway tunnel water mitigation efforts.

Cumberland is one of 13 stations planned to receive improvements under the program, with Cumberland to receive improvements more modest in scope. Addison, Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland stations were packaged as a group for design and construction, and all five stations had significant deterioration to their island platform decks and particularly the edges cantilevered toward the tracks. To address this, the stations received new platform edge and topping replacement. In addition, walkway railings and platform furniture such as benches, windbreaks and trash cans was rehabilitated or replaced as needed. Light fixtures were provided with new lamps and ballasts, and all five stations were repainted. The work at Cumberland also included replacement of station house curtain walls, which had deteriorated in places.

On March 11, 2015, the Chicago Transit Board approved the award of a $25.6 million contract to F.H. Paschen and S.N. Nielsen for the renovation of five O'Hare branch stations, including Addison. Design work began in spring 2015, with rehabilitation work at the Addison, Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland stations to begin in fall 2015. All stations remained open during the construction period, except for a small number of weekend-only closures at Addison and Montrose. In addition, in order to carry out the platform renewal work, each station's platform was closed half at a time, longitudinally down the middle. Trains bypassed the side of the platform being worked on, which was barricaded from passenger access to allow the deck topping to be removed and replaced. Each half-closure and bypass period lasted three weeks (except at Harlem and Cumberland, which were shorter), during which passengers had to "back-ride" (riding to the next stop, exiting and boarding a train back in the opposite direction) or use alternate existing bus or rail services. While inconvenient, the partial station closures allowed the CTA to keep the stations open for customers at all times during platform work.

Because of the station's high ridership and relatively poor alternate service options connecting to other Blue Line stations, the renovation of the Cumberland station's platform was performed in five one-week phases, three of which did not affect customers' ability to board or exit a train in both directions.

The first one-week phase, beginning October 4, 2016, replaced the platform flooring at the far east end of the platform, where trains do not stop. The second and third one-week phases, occurring October 11-25, replaced the flooring on just over 100 feet of the west end of the platform. However, this work was done on half of the platform at a time, and during this period trains simply stopped farther down the platform but continued to stop in both directions. A walkway was provided around the work area.

To complete the renovation of the middle section of the station's platform, it was necessary to close half of the station platform for a one-week period for each side. Forest Park-bound trains bypassed the station from October 25 to November 1, while O'Hare-bound trains bypassed the station from November 1 through 8.

To complete replacement of the flooring and renovate the window walls around the stairs, escalators and elevator, these vertical access paths were temporarily closed during certain hours. At least one path between the platform and mezzanine was available at all times.

Renovation work at Cumberland was substantially completed by the end of 2016.


Cumberland's island platform, with its full-width canopy and convex skylight roof, looking east. For a larger view, click here. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)


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The interior atrium of the central pavilion circa 2000. The glass walls and dome let in plenty of natural light. The sculpture in the center, with its rugged stone base and crystalline prism, were designed by Charles Ross. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

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Looking out from the central pavilion toward the Cumberland bus bay, which served not only local CTA and Pace buses, but also intercity Greyhound buses. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

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This view looks up in the central glass pavilion at the glazed dome that casts natural light on Charles Ross' prism and stone sculpture circa 2000. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

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Looking east on Cumberland's island platform circa 2000. The station;s park'n'ride garage can be been on the right. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

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There are several access points to the station house from outside. This one is behind the bus terminal, with two narrow escalators and a staircase. An elevator is also provided inside. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

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The west end of the island platform is loaded with many amenities, including benches, windbreaks, and heaters, along with the backlit directional signs and station name signs found along the rest of the platform. Three paths are provided from the platform to the station house: in front are the escalators, with stairs provided behind them (not visible) and an elevator in the back. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

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Looking west on the island platform circa 2000, with the convex glass skylight providing natural illumination. The elevated walkway leading from the fare controls to both sides of the expressway is visible in the background. (Photo from the Chicago Transit Authority Collection)

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A new Active Transit Station Signs (ATSS) at the entrance stairs from a parking lot on the north side of the Kennedy Expressway (I-90) looking southwest on August 9, 2002. When activated, the sign will list the time until the next train in each direction. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Rock Bow seen from the upper level of the Cumberland atrium. (Photo by Graham Garfield)

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Rock Bow seen from the ground level of the Cumberland atrium. (Photo by Graham Garfield)