CTA, Skokie Celebrate 50 years of Swift ‘L’ Service

April 23, 2014

Officials from the Chicago Transit Authority will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Yellow Line – also known as the Skokie Swift -- on Saturday, April 26. The event will feature rides on two historic CTA train cars built in 1923 by the Cincinnati Car Company for the Chicago Elevated Railways, one of CTA’s predecessor companies.

The CTA will commemorate the 50th anniversary with an event at 11 a.m. at the Oakton-Skokie station, 4800 Oakton St., Skokie.

“For more than 50 years, the CTA has been a vital part of the Village of Skokie, linking residents from the north suburbs and Chicago quickly and conveniently,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “We’re proud of the important role CTA has played in the rich history of the village over the last five decades.”

The Skokie Swift opened to the public on April 20, 1964, with service from Dempster to Howard, after an inaugural train operated for a few hours on April 18, 1964. The Swift service was developed as a joint “demonstration project” between the CTA, Village of Skokie and the federal government to demonstrate the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of linking fast-growing suburban markets with an existing central city using rail transit. The pilot service included many features common today, such as the provision of a large park and ride lot, commuter drop-off/pick-up areas, close integration with area bus services and limited stop rail operation.

The Skokie Swift became a permanent and integral part of the CTA ‘L’ system and was renamed the “Yellow Line” in 1993, following the CTA’s assignment of color names to all ‘L’ routes. It has continued to use the distinctive “Swift bird” icon that has branded the line since its inception. Brand new cars were assigned to the line in 1994, and more recently the CTA’s newest generation of rail cars, the 5000-series, have been assigned to the line, providing customers with a smooth, comfortable ride.

Last year, the Yellow Line saw more than 6,300 rides each weekday, a nearly 6 percent jump from the previous year. The Yellow Line had more than 1.9 million total station entries in 2013.

The Oakton-Skokie station, the Yellow Line’s newest station that opened two years ago this coming Wednesday next to the Illinois Science and Technology Park, saw a jump in average weekday station entries to 833 from 756. Oakton-Skokie is the second station on the Yellow Line, which runs from Dempster Street, Skokie to Howard Street, where customers can transfer to the Purple or Red lines.

The community event will feature CTA’s historic train cars affectionately named the “plushies” because of their luxurious interiors with green plush seats. The cost to ride the historic train cars is $2.25, the CTA’s basic fare.

These cars also featured steel carbodies with canvas-covered wooden roofs, with interiors that feature mahogany trim, electric fans, lights with glass lampshades and porcelain handholds for standees.

The 4000-series cars operated occasionally on the line’s earlier pre-CTA incarnation, the Niles Center branch, including on its opening day in 1925. The cars provided ‘L’ service until 1973. Following their retirement, they were fully rehabbed, repainted in a historic livery from the 1940, and outfitted with historic displayed inside. Today, the cars make occasional appearances at special events.

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