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Rapid Transit


As a child of ten living in the suburbs of Chicago, I explored the city as long and as often as possible. Saturday morning would find me at 63rd and Archer, across from the Argo Drug Co., waiting for the #63A CTA bus that would take me eastward to the transfer at Narraganset, then a #63 to Loomis Avenue, last “L” stop on the Englewood Branch of the Green Line. On a good day, I was downtown in forty-five or fifty minutes.


By the age of twelve or fourteen, I was an expert on the city, learning by simply boarding a bus and riding to the end of the line, then returning to the place where I boarded. Block-long facades of city streets passed as rapidly as traffic would allow, and I learned the shifting character of Chicago neighborhoods by watching the language of signs (from Czech to Puerto Rican) or the clumps of store-front churches called “Pilgrim Holiness God-in-Christ Revival Center, Bishop Jeremiah Washington presiding”. It was an education that could be bought for 25¢ and a nickel free transfer.

Urban transit systems continue to fascinate, whether it’s in grimy Glasgow or wood-paneled Budapest. I am a rapid transit junkie who hopes to never find a cure.

But the transit terminal that intrigues me more than any other; the one whose images I seek to understand its evolution, is the Dudley Square station on the old Washington Street Elevated Railway in Boston. Opened in 1901, expanded in 1909 and closed in 1987, I ran across my first “Dudley” image on eBay (no surprise there) and was hooked.


Dudley was a terminus for the line until 1909 and a transfer point for buses and trolleys. Using the state must have been an urban ballet during rush hours, with thousands of passengers shifting from one mode to the other. By the outbreak of World War I, its extent and complexity boggle the mind. Hold on to your metaphorical hats for the next image of Dudley Station at its maximum; the original is still at the core of the expansion.


Students are wont to do inter-modal transit facilities for thesis projects; there may be one or to in the offing as I write. It strikes me they would do well to analyse Dudley State as a case in point. I’ve been studying it for ten years and still find new understanding with each encounter.

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