[From The A.V. Club Chicago / December 1, 2009]
Holiday season in Chicago means many things to many people, but nothing more strongly symbolizes December in the city than the annual threats issued by the CTA around fare hikes, service cuts, and endless variations on a transit Doomsday that never comes. This year’s edition brought more than 1,100 layoffs and reduced operation of 110 routes, all put forth as (hopefully) temporary measures to address a (hopefully) temporary budget shortfall. Griping aside, ’tis the season for saving money on station upkeep and rail maintenance, so The A.V. Club suggests bringing the demolition crew to a smattering of El stops to clean up the system on a more permanent basis.
Wilson (Red Line)
With all due respect to everyone headed to Truman College, does any El stop suck life out of the city more than the squalid hellhole at Wilson? The dueling stenches emanating from the Popeyes beneath the platform and the makeshift urinal in the southern stairwell certainly don’t help matters, nor do the droves of escaped mental patients selling hot socks just outside the station. The all-hours boozing at nearby Nick’s on Wilson (773-271-1155, 1140 W. Wilson Ave.) makes a nominal argument against Wilson’s date with the wrecking ball, but the piss and grease smell even worse at 3 a.m. than they do at 3 p.m.
Wellington (Brown and Purple Lines)
Sandwiched between the Diversey and Belmont stations, Wellington provides an inexplicably convenient stop for nearly nothing. Sure, it’s always fun to stop at Chicago’s Pizza (3006 N. Sheffield Ave., 773-755-4030) at 4 a.m.; unfortunately, trains stop running three hours prior. During the daylight hours, Wellington’s proximity to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center sounds like a benevolent reason for its existence—but seriously, would anyone in need of hospitalization ever rely on the CTA to go there?
At least half the stops between Lawrence and Loyola (Red Line)
Perhaps it made sense a century ago, when construction of the Howard branch first completed, to place stations every two or three blocks in hopes of keeping working folk safe from guff-talking rabble-rousers on their way home, but with time, the compact design has proven more annoying than useful. In theory, it sounds cool that a person can take a train from Pho Xe Tang (4954 N. Broadway St., 773-878-2253) to the low-rent beer at Ollie’s Lounge; in reality, the proximity of those places, located just across Foster from each other, makes such a plan just plain lazy.
King Dr. (Green Line)
Depending on your perspective, King represents either everything forward-thinking about Chicago transit or everything historically wrong with it. Citing the tremendous costs involved in staffing a low-traffic outbound platform, the CTA removed outbound boarding from the station in 1970. Passengers can still exit the outbound Green Line at King, but can’t resume travel in that direction without transferring to the #63 bus—a route whose pattern of unreliability later became the subject of an MIT study. If using King really means not being able to use it at all, then what’s the point of it being there in the first place?
Skokie (Yellow Line)
In 2008, the two-stop Yellow Line boasted an impressive 21 percent gain in ridership, although with the bulk of that increased use coming from weekend riders, only one conclusion makes sense: No one likes spending their weekends in Skokie. And despite its proximity to the course, would members of the Evanston Golf Club really take the El to the links? And if said member were en route to one of the EGC’s legendary shooting days, would anyone really want them to?