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CTA Mum on New Polk Street Red Line Entrance

(Photo: A new Polk Street entrance to the CTA Harrison Street Red Line station? Who knew?)

Yesterday, the Chicago Transit Authority opened the long-heralded Polk Street entrance to the Harrison Street Red Line ‘L’ station months ahead of schedule. If you didn’t know that, you’re not alone. Most people probably still have no clue the entrance is open.

That’s because the CTA didn’t bother to send out a press release to tell anyone. Ever since the sudden and controversial departure of former president Ron Huberman from the agency, many transit watchers–including Greg Hinz at Crain’s and the CTA Tattler–have wondered how many of Huberman’s hand-picked communications and managerial staff were going to jump ship and join him over at Chicago Public Schools.

Just yesterday, Kevin O’Neil, editor & publisher of the Tattler, was grousing to me that it’s been a week since the CTA’s public affairs department has bothered to respond to emails from the blogosphere’s leading voice of Windy City transit riders. Indeed, the only reason I knew the entrance had opened was because I walked by a street placard proclaiming its debut on a stroll through the South Loop yesterday afternoon.

Later in the day, Kevin and I both found a service alert on the CTA’s website noting the new entrance. Why the recommissioning of an entrance to a major downtown rail station previously closed for 41 years would merit a service alert and not a full-blown press release is beyond me.

Well, unless there simply isn’t the staff left at the CTA to actually write such a press release. And judging how meager the offerings have become on the agency’s press release page since the loss of Huberman, my money’s on that line of reasoning. (On a personal note, thanks again, Mayor Daley, for gutting Chicago’s transit agency. Next time this city goes to the polls, my vote goes to whoever on the ballot isn’t you.)

At any rate, the new entrance is a fabulous piece of work. Located on the southwest corner of State and Polk streets, it’s a gleaming clean (for now) facility with high automated turnstiles to allow for unstaffed entrance and egress. There are no transit card vending machines here and the turnstiles are narrow–if you have a suitcase or a bicycle to bring with you, stick with the main entrance on Harrison Street.

For everyone else, the recommissioned Polk Street entrance is a wonderful new convenience for South Loop transit riders.  Too bad the CTA doesn’t feel like telling them about it.

Browse below for photos I snapped of the entrance Monday afternoon (click through to enlarge):

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Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

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10 replies

  1. Its clear you are better at PR than the CTA staff, maybe you should campaign for a job. You have proved that you can do better. Take it to them and sell it. We all know they need it.

  2. I don’t think so, Kevin. The entrance seems pretty finished to me, and they did already announce it (although indirectly) with a service alert. As Dennis (Mr Downtown) said above, I think there was just an internal decision to open it now with no fanfare.

  3. As I understand it, some of the delay since a planned December opening was because there were folks at CTA who wanted to make a press event out of the reopening and so kept asking for more and more cosmetic work. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and it finally opened.

  4. Bea Haven, aw shucks, thanks!

    Levois, you may be in the minority on that one. I love the better lighting, snazzy tilework, and improved signage of the renovated stations (like Lake and Jackson). But I didn’t grow up here, so I don’t have any emotional attachment to the old forms.

    John, I don’t believe recommissiong the Ohio/State entrance to the Grand Street Red Line station is part of the current renovation. I agree it would be a great idea to do so, given how much more developed that area is now than when the entrance was closed decades ago.

  5. I hope they never touch it. I like the original designs of the State Street subways. When they change I feel they alter them too much. That’s not to say the alterations are bad ones I’d say don’t change too much of the designs.

    And yes this should have gotten a very public roll out!

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