Best idea for the next civic spectacle, after this year’s Great Chicago Fire Festival triumph


If Chicago wishes to treat visitors to a spectacle, it ought to put them on one of the CTA’s longer bus routes. On the 29, which travels along State Street, spectators can enjoy an immersive experience for the price of a single-ride ticket. The southbound leg will take them from the splendor of Gold Coast mansions to the Loop’s retail blocks and then to neighborhoods that demonstrate the shocking disparity of this city with a clarity that no pyrotechnics can match. And perhaps the revenues from the added bus fares, coupled with savings realized from scrapping pricey theatrics, can make the spectacle seem a little less sad.

Audience Choice: Re-creation of the World’s Fair

Other audience comments that caught our attention: “A replication of the Great Chicago Flood of 1992″; “Actually re-enacting the great Chicago fire”; “The Great Parking Meter Lease Festival”; “Disco Demolition reunion”; “Founding Mothers of Chicago. Presenting 150 years of forgotten/ignored history crediting the women who built Chicago”; and “The return of July 3 at Grant Park. The city is not the same without the crowds gathering for the taste and fireworks!”

Best of Chicago 2014

Best rock icon spotted on the CTA

Dave Grohl

As part of the Foo Fighters new album and HBO series “Sonic Highways,” Dave Grohl and company traveled to Chicago to record a track with legendary producer Steve Albini (who recorded Grohl on Nirvana’s “In Utero”). Grohl was spotted and photographed riding the CTA rails in January, sporting a hearty winter coat (it was officially documented on People of the CTA). Wonder if he had any Ventra card issues?

Best of Chicago 2014

Best reasons to stop seeing red over grungy El stations

The deluxe rehabs of the Red Line’s 95th Street and Wilson stops

If you’ve ever visited London, Tokyo or even Washington D.C., you know that rapid transit can be a dignified, democratic experience, rather than a degrading one. However, it sure doesn’t seem that way when you’re waiting in a CTA tunnel with filthy walls and a dripping ceiling. Thankfully, the Emanuel administration has made upgrading the system a priority, and two of the gnarliest Red Line stations are now undergoing massive rehabs. The Wilson stop, a three-time winner of RedEye’s “Crust Station” contest, is getting a $203 million makeover that will turn it into a Purple Line transfer—expect an influx of Northwestern folks moving to Uptown. Meanwhile, the hulking, rust-stained 95th Street station is getting a $240 million overhaul that will transform it into an airy, light-filled transit temple. When you factor in the $492 million “Your New Blue” overhaul of thirteen O’Hare branch stations, Chicago strap-hanging is bound to become a lot more pleasant.

95th Street Station, 95th and the Dan Ryan; Wilson Station, Wilson and Broadway

Best of Chicago 2014

Best CTA Blue Line mishap

O’Hare Station Derailment

Public transit is inevitable for many Chicagoans. For those Blue Line riders, this fall and winter’s station closings will be a pain. And that guy shooting a rifle in the LaSalle station last month? Could be worse. Remember last March when a Blue Line train headed into the O’Hare station, overran the bumper, and derailed?  That security camera footage nervewrackingly showed bystanders conversing mere seconds before the train ascended an escalator causing six-million dollars in damages. Good thing the CTA increased the fair from O’Hare to $5.

Best of Chicago 2014

Best guess as to which project gets done first: Redevelopment of US Steel Southworks site on south lakefront; construction of the Chicago Spire; redevelopment of Old Chicago Main Post Office or CTA Red Line extension to 130th Street

Redevelopment of Old Chicago Main Post Office

Second city to none, Chicago is on track to best the glacial pace of Roman construction, which has become a matter of proverb. If Rome was indeed not built in a day, what timelines should we be expecting? Let us consult specific historical precedents. Think of Spire as an obelisk—an unmistakable symbol of potency. Though the Romans whisked obelisks from Egypt practically overnight, it had taken the Egyptians some 1,000 years to perfect the craft of carving a monolith out of stone. The CTA Red Line extension is most like aqueducts: a democratic means of conveyance elevated high above ground. The aqueducts system took just shy of 300 years to complete. The U.S. Steel site, with its phased approach and intractable political pressures, follows the pattern of the three Punic Wars, whose campaigns against Carthage lasted 120 years. Our bet is on the old post office: its transformation into an entertainment destination recalls the bread and circuses of the Colosseum. That project was finished in merely twenty-six years. Friends, Romans, countrymen: see you in 2040!

Audience Choice: CTA Red Line extension to 130th Street

Best of Chicago 2014