This view of the Midway terminal from August 1997 shows cars 3263-3264 and 3239-3240 loading passengers for the trip to the Loop. As the overhead sign denotes, trains load for the city on the east side and trains unload from the city on the west. (This sign and another identical one were removed in 2002 and replaced with prototype ATSS signs.) As this is the end of the Orange Line (for now), obviously you may not board the trains on the west side. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Jon Bell).
59th Street and Kilpatrick Avenue, West Elsdon
Orange Line: Midway
Park'n'Ride: 299 spaces
Address: 4612 W. 59th Street
Established: October 31, 1993
Original Line: n/a
Previous Names: none
Status: In Use
Passengers figure out how to purchase their TransitCards (the Orange Line was the first to utilize these) inside the Midway Terminal in August 1997. Although AVMs have been installed, note that there is a customer service counter under the awning. Today, the overhead sign remains, but with the removal of the information desk the "?" on it is an anachronism. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Jon Bell)
Unfortunately, the citizens of this area would have to wait another fifty years before rapid transit would reach them, and then was on an "L", not in a subway. In 1993, the CTA completed the new Orange Line, built inexpensively (about $500 million) using old abandoned railroad rights-of-ways, including those previously used by the Illinois Central Railroad, Santa Fe Railway and the Belt Railway of Chicago. Interestingly, the CTA chose not to utilize the median of the Stevenson Expressway to carry the "L", built wide like the Congress, Dan Ryan and Kennedy Expressways specifically to carry rapid transit lines. This may have been for the best: putting an "L" line in the median of an expressway isolates it from the neighborhood it's supposed to serve.
Ground was broken for the Midway station during a ceremony at the station site on January 22, 1990 attended by Mayor Daley, and CTA Acting Executive Director Bernard Ford, Chicago public works commissioner David Williams, U.S. Rep. William Lipinski (D-Chicago), other public officials. Designed under the auspices of the City, the architects were encouraged to use distinctive styles for the stations while conforming to a basic uniform layout and footprint. The three-track Midway terminal is laid out to accommodate interchange with several bus routes, a complete yard and a car maintenance facility. The station features one island platform on the east and an additional side platform on the west. Both lead to an overhead sidewalk via elevators, escalators and stairs that goes west to the fare control area and was connected to the airport terminal by a 1,200-foot moving walkway.
The interior of Midway station is open and spacious, as seen looking southeast at the fare controls on April 18, 2003. The long row of turnstiles can handle a large volume of passengers and several of the turnstiles (like a couple in the middle) have wider clearances for easier navigation of luggage. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)
The Midway station serves its namesake airport, originally connected by a long elevated, enclosed skywalk with moving walkways in both directions. Although this was a somewhat long walk, it was safe and protected from the elements, and the moving belts made the trip a bit less onerous. Chicago is the only city in the United States to have more than one airport connected to rapid transit. The station is situated outside of the airport structure and the platform is depressed below grade purposely to facilitate the planned extension of this line south to the Ford City Shopping Center at 76th and Cicero. (Interestingly, the vinyl roller sheet that the trains' destination signs are printed on already include one for Ford City, sometimes visible when a motorman puts on the wrong sign or the sign mechanism malfunctions.)
The new 3200-series cars were ordered in conjunction with this project, most of which are assigned to this line. The Orange Line the first to use single-crewman operations, now standard on the whole "L" system.
Changes and Improvements, Early 2000s
In 2002, Midway 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 the Loop, fare information, service disruption or delay messages or any other number of messages the CTA chooses to program into the signs.
One of the interesting aspects of the O'Hare and Midway ATSS signs is that the ones in the transit station look like those at the other two test stations. But the signs in the airport are designed to harmonize with the existing signage already in the airport (which, coincidentally, are of a completely different design at the two airports). The signs on the platforms are not currently programmed to display the time until next train like the other stations' signs, since the airport stations are at the end of the line and there is usually a train waiting to depart. As programmed, these merely take the place of the LED "Next Train" signs that they replaced (seen in the photo at the top of the page), with one side saying "Do No Board" and the other "Next Train" with arrows pointing to the appropriate tracks. (Only the island platform at Midway has ATSS signs, since the lay-up track platform doesn't usually have put-outs.) At the station house, there is a two-sided sign is positioned over the entrance from the bus terminal. The side facing outward from the entrance will display the time until the next departure, while the side facing toward the entrance will display which bus routes are operating at the time.
At Midway station, two women prepare to board an inbound Orange Line train with their baggage, guided to the correct train by the overhead ATSS sign on October 25, 2002. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)
In Fall 2002, the Chicago Department of Aviation (DOA) solving a long-standing problem at Midway station, caused when the new airport terminal and parking garage were built on the east side of Cicero and the original elevated walkway that connected the station and the airport was bisected. As originally built, the CTA station was connected to the airport terminal on the west side of Cicero Avenue by a long, enclosed, elevated 1,200-foot skywalk. However, when the new airport terminal and parking garage were built on the east side of Cicero, the elevated walkway was cut off. As a result, only a short stretch of the walkway remained and it fed directly into the parking garage, which in turn fed into the new terminal. This was not, in and of itself, a problem except that no provision was made in the parking garage for a protected walkway for passengers walking between the airport and the transit station. As a result, these luggage-toting travelers were subjected to a confusing, poorly-marked walkway and had to mingle dangerously with traffic in the garage. In Fall 2002, the city DOA built an enclosed walkway between the terminal and where the old walkway connects to the garage. Although travelers still have to cross traffic lanes in 2-3 places (depending on which path you take), the rest of the trip is now made in well-marked walkways enclosed with clear, corrugated plexiglas partitions. Metal bumpers protect the partitions from the outside in case an auto hits the wall by accident. This provides a much more hospitable, friendly connection between the airport and the transit station, making the trip both safer and more inviting.
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 signs facing the east island platform were mounted on new steel brackets that are supported and project from the ground below. Installation at all stations was complete by the end of November 2004. Fabrication and installation of the signs was performed by contractor Western Remac.
Likewise, the original Modified KDR graphics of the station's backlit entrance signs were replaced with the newest Green Line Graphic Standard variety, listing the station's name, in January 2006.
Kiss & Ride Closure, Reconstruction
In 2017, the City announced plans to expand the terminal garage, located immediately west of Midway Yard, as part of its Midway Modernization Program. The $143 million project included other improvements such as a new payment system, more automated gates, brighter LED lighting, new paint, and upgraded security cameras, elevators and directional signage. The expanded garage, adding 1,500 new parking spaces, would have been over a portion of the rail yard. The expansion plan required the demolition of the Midway station kiss & ride lot and temporary removal of tracks in Midway Yard. Construction began in July 2018.1
The kiss & ride drop-off/pick-up lot, adjacent to the stationhouse and bus terminal, temporarily closed at 7am, Saturday, August 4, 2018. A temporary kiss & ride lot was provided in the northeast corner of the park & ride lot, across the bus terminal from the station house.
However, although work had been underway for over a year, in fall 2019, the City cancelled the garage expansion plan. The project was shelved after the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) received updated cost projections that would have increased the price tag by at least $15 million. "After careful consideration of costs as well as industry trends, CDA determined the expansion was no longer viable, and the project was officially terminated in September, 2019," Aviation spokesman Matt McGrath said in a statement emailed to the Chicago Tribune. McGrath said the growth of ride-share services like Uber and Lyft meant fewer people were parking at the airport, adding that Midway terminal parking use fell by about 3.2% in 2018.2
By this time, however, the kiss & ride lot had been demolished and the yard tracks had been out of service for over a year. The community also expressed some concerns with the temporary kiss & ride setup, including during busy periods cars could not get into the shared park & ride/kiss & ride lot and would instead drop off their passengers along busy 59th Street, causing traffic backups and safety hazards; and some drivers exiting the lot onto 59th Street the wrong way, and then making U-turns. There were also complaints that it took an overly long time for the kiss & ride lot to be rebuilt and reopened after the garage project was cancelled.3
The rebuilt Midway kiss & ride lot reopened on Monday, January 6, 2020. According to CDA, the new kiss & ride area is an improvement over the old facility, using more durable concrete instead of asphalt, and with improved drainage.4
In Summer 2006, Urban Gateways: Center for Arts Education, a non-profit organization that provides multicultural performing, visual and literary arts programs for children, teachers and parents in the Chicago area, adopted the Midway station under the CTA's Adopt-a-Station program. As part of the adoption, artwork created by Chicago-area junior and senior high school students was installed in the station mezzanine. The artwork -- paintings which follow a time-focused theme and include images of the Chicago skyline, jazz performers, dancers and children next to clocks and use the airport as a backdrop for people measuring their life by its arrivals and departures -- was created in the summer of 2005 by junior high and high school students involved in "Art Options", an Urban Gateways mentorship program designed to enhance their professional art career development. The artwork consists of 30 pieces, each painted on wood and mounted directly on the station's orange ceiling beams in the mezzanine area over the platforms. Each painting is approximately 24" x 34". Chicago Transit Authority officials and Urban Gateways student artists and staff dedicated the art on July 27, 2006 and recognized Urban Gateways for their adoption of the Midway station.
Space Junction of Energy, CTA's first commissioned art piece which was relocated to Midway in 2023, is seen on the station's mezzanine over the tracks on January 29, 2024. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)
In August 2023, a sculptural art installation was added to Midway station. Located in the paid area of the station on the mezzanine over the Orange Line tracks, the sculpture is new to Midway but not new to the CTA -- in fact, it was CTA's first permanent art installation.
The sculpture-in-steel artwork, titled Space Junction of Energy, was created by Jerald Jacquard, who was an associate professor of art at the Chicago Circle campus of the University of Illinois. The piece was originally installed at Kimball in 1974 as part of the station's reconstruction, and provided the theme for CTA's modernization of the terminal. The sculpture was designed at the time with the specific site in mind, integrated with the system of ramps and stairs that linked the station house with the platforms, and was an excellent example of the successful integration of public art with the design of a transit space. Said Jacquard at the opening ceremony, "It represents a paradox -- cubes through space. As one walks around the work, it becomes an energizer for the mind." Space Junction of Energy was the first specially-created artwork designed for and installed in a CTA rail station.
A subsequent renovation of Kimball station in 2006-07 required relocation of the Space Junction of Energy art sculpture. CTA officials worked with Jacquard to relocate the artwork on CTA property. The artwork was reinstalled at Belmont, in a small plaza to the east of the historic station house at the north auxiliary entrance, circa 2009. The sculpture was removed from Belmont in 2022, again due to renovation construction work, this time for the Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) Phase One project.
Space Junction of Energy was moved to Midway by work train overnight August 1-2, 2023. The sculpture was lifted directly off the flatcar it arrived on using a crane; after a section of railing was temporarily removed, it was hoisted up to the mezzanine over the tracks. Once on the mezzanine, a mobile hoist was used to move it into place in the center the large open mezzanine over the tracks. After it was placed, a railing was installed around the sculpture to keep passengers from touching it, and an informational plaque provided.
The Midway Terminal is an intermodal complex in every sense of the word. This view looks northeast on April 18, 2003 from Kilpatrick Avenue (less a street than a service drive). Visible on the right is the bus terminal that no less than nine CTA and Pace bus routes serve. The canopy on the left covers a walkway to a kiss'n'ride and bike racks. Behind these canopies is the rapid transit station. And above it all on the left is the elevated walkway to the airport, where passengers can transfer to points nationally and beyond! For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)
Car 2636 is on the rear of an Orange Line train awaiting its departure time from Midway on July 2, 2014. A number of 2400-series cars have been assigned to Midway Yard since late 2012, both to support Orange Line trips added at that time as well as some Brown Line trips that are dispatched from Midway Yard. But as the 2400s were retired and more 5000-series cars were delivered, the 2600-series cars were displaced from the Red Line and reassigned to backfill the retired 2400s at Midway. (Photo by Corey Ellison)
The CTA Holiday Train provides a decidedly more festive appearance than its regular-service counterpart while both await their next departures at Midway in early December 2014. (Photo by Corey Ellison)
CTA's festively-decorated Christmas-season train sits on the side track at Midway terminal between trips on December 3, 2015. As the train was corporately-sponsored for the first time in 2015, the train was officially the "Sprint CTA Holiday Train" -- note the Sprint logo on the side under the center window, and the message along the letterboard over the windows. CTA received $300,000 from Sprint, one of the nation's largest mobile carriers. The sponsorship not only covered all of the 2015 operational costs for the train (and its counterpart, the Holiday Bus), it allowed CTA to add an extra day of service for the holiday train. (Photo by Corey Ellison)
The Holiday Train sits next to car 2880 on the end of an Orange Line road train at Midway station on December 3, 2015. Although their commonalities are somewhat disguised by the graphically-intense wrap and bright lights festooned on the exterior, the Holiday Train cars and car 2880 are identical, both being 2600-series cars. Although long associated with the 3200-series cars, which opened the line in 1993 and were exclusively outfitted the line for many years, the Orange Line began to also run 2600s in 2012 when additional cars were needed to operate additional service that was added. (Photo by Corey Ellison)
On a brief layover during a charter trip, car 5303 is at one end of the four-car Cubs World Series-wrapped train on the side (layup) track at Midway station on April 23, 2017. (Photo by David Harrison)
1. Wisniewski, Mary. "The Midway Airport kiss and ride lot has reopened -- 18 months after it was demolished for a garage expansion that never happened." Chicago Tribune, January 6, 2020.