Chicago Gets an Underground Rapid Transit Route

October 17, 1943

Chicago’s first rapid transit subway route began regular operations for passenger service just after midnight. This occurred the day after Mayor Edward J. Kelly of Chicago officially opened that new 4.9-mile (7.9-kilometer) subterranean transportation system in a ribbon-cutting ceremony beneath the intersection of State and Madison Streets, an above-ground location described by one newspaper as “the world’s busiest corner.” 

A key feature that had been built into the subway’s infrastructure was a 3,500-foot (1,066-meter) continuous platform — one of the longest of its kind in the world — that was designed to accommodate passengers boarding the trains from eight entrances. “Chicago is properly proud of its new municipally-owned subway, an engineering dream come true,” noted one Ohio-based newspaper on the day of the transit route’s inaugural runs. “Planners, builders and city officials assert it is the finest, fastest, best ventilated and best illuminated subway in all the world.” 

The two-track State Street Subway provided an express route free of the restrictive curves of Chicago’s elevated “L” transit system and – thanks to the use of the diagonal street Clybourn Avenue for part of those subterranean rides – also reduced travel time by as much as 11 minutes for a one-way trip. The initial fare for riding the subway was 10 cents.   

For more information on the State Street Subway in Chicago, please check out http://www.chicago-l.org/operations/lines/state_subway.html Additional background on Chicago’s rapid transit network is available at http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1042.html and http://americanhistory.si.edu/america-on-the-move/essays/chicago-transit-metropolis.

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