Western Avenue and 49th Street, Brighton Park
Orange Line: Midway
Park'n'Ride: 200 spaces
Address: 4901 S. Western Avenue
Established: October 31, 1993
Original Line: n/a
Status: In Use
Following decades of planning, work began on the new Southwest Rapid Transit line in 1987, connecting the Southwest Side, the only part of the city then without an "L" line, with downtown. The line was built relatively 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. Ground was broken for the Western station in 1990. The line entered service as the Orange Line, following the CTA's® then-newly adopted color-naming convention, on October 31, 1993.
One of seven stations on the line, Western is typical of the facilities designed and built for the Southwest Rapid Transit line. The stations, designed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, are typical of urban design in general and transit planning in particular during that period. The stations are designed to be intermodal and encourage rail-bus transferring, with off-street bus terminals connected to them. Most stations, like Western, were also designed with park'n'ride lots, owing to transit's postwar philosophy of sometimes trying to cooperate with the automobile to generate traffic rather than always trying to rival it.
Design of the station facility was overseen by the City, who encouraged the architects to use distinctive styles for the stations while conforming to a basic uniform layout and footprint. In front of the station is a large bus terminal and driveway, with the boarding and aligning bays covered by a box canopy. The station house has a long facade of glass windows framed by steel panels and mullions facing the bus terminal. On the corner, a tall blue identification pylon denoting the presence of the station was installed. This type of pylon was used at all Orange Line stations and was to become standard for the CTA®, but with the exception of one installed (and since removed) at Dempster/Skokie they never proliferated and have since fallen into disuse.
The interior of the station house is simple and typical of all Orange Line stations. The floors are concrete and the ceilings are made up of metal strip panels. The walls that do not have large picture windows are clad with simple, utilitarian tile. As in most Orange Line stations, the tile is white except for a very simple pattern that is unique to each station. In the case of Western, the walls are clad in a buff/medium gray tile with thin bands of orange near the floor and ceiling. Finishes in the building, such as the grilles, sign boxes, and the agent's booth, are stainless steel and tend to rectilinear in design. The original turnstiles, replaced in 1997 with AFC Cubic-made TransitCard turnstiles, were also very rectilinear. The booths are significant in that they were the first specifically designed not to primarily function as fare collection facilities. Although there were still ticket agents at the time (called "Transit Assistants" on the Orange Line) and "Customer Assistants" as we know them today would not exist for another four years after the station opened, the Orange Line was the first to prepare for the time when fare collection would be more automated. The agent in the booth did not collect fares, though they did verify reduced fare eligibility and accept transfers, and functioned more as an information assistant. Fares were to be paid at the turnstiles, and individuals that did not have exact change could use one of the Orange Line's specially-installed token vending machines. Following the installation of the AFC equipment, these machines were removed and standard TransitCard Vending Machines (TCVMs) were installed. The station also has a concession space and originally had a payment station for the park'n'ride (later relocated to the parking lot). Two pairs of stairs and an escalator lead to the platform, as well as an elevator, making the station ADA compliant and accessible.
The platform is of the island variety, with a concrete deck and a full-length canopy. The canopy has a gable roof supported by two rows of square steel columns. The canopy extends out to the centerline of each track. The platform is outfitted with flat concrete slab benches and glass and steel windbreaks, shaped like an "H" if viewed in plan, with a panel on top that holds a station name sign inside a frame. Behind each stairway is another windbreak waiting area.
In late Spring 2005, the station name signs and column signs on the platform were replaced, with Current Graphic Standard signs replacing the Modified KDR Standard originals. Likewise, the original Modified KDR graphics of the station's backlit entrance signs were replaced with the newest Current Graphic Standard variety, listing the station's name, in January 2006.
Although the companies the CTA® has contracted with over the years to handle their station and railcar advertising -- Obie, Viacom, and most recently CBS Outdoor Advertising -- have long had the right to install advertising frames and ads at Orange Line stations, this right was not exercised for over a decade, leaving the Orange Line stations ad-free, somewhat of an anomaly on the "L" system. CBS Outdoor finally fulfilled this contract option in June 2006, installing freestanding advertising panels at all Orange Line station platforms except Midway (where there is insufficient room). The panels are lined up along the centerline of the platform, between the already-present benches, trashcans, windbreaks, elevators, and stair/escalator enclosures.
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