On Monday, the Chicago Transit Authority opened the long-heralded Polk Street entrance to the Harrison Street Red Line 'L' station months ahead of schedule. If you didn't know that, you're not alone. Most people probably still have no clue the entrance is open.
That's because the CTA didn't bother to send out a press release to tell anyone. Ever since the sudden and controversial departure of former president Ron Huberman from the agency, many transit watchers--including Greg Hinz at Crain's and the CTA Tattler--have wondered how many of Huberman's hand-picked communications and managerial staff were going to jump ship and join him over at Chicago Public Schools.
Just yesterday, Kevin O'Neil, editor & publisher of the Tattler, was grousing to me that it's been a week since the CTA's public affairs department has bothered to respond to emails from the blogosphere's leading voice of Windy City transit riders. Indeed, the only reason I knew the entrance had opened was because I walked by a street placard proclaiming its debut on a stroll through the South Loop yesterday afternoon.
Later in the day, Kevin and I both found a service alert on the CTA's website noting the new entrance. Why the recommissioning of an entrance to a major downtown rail station previously closed for 41 years would merit a service alert and not a full-blown press release is beyond me.
Well, unless there simply isn't the staff left at the CTA to actually write such a press release. And judging how meager the offerings have become on the agency's press release page since the loss of Huberman, my money's on that line of reasoning.
At any rate, the new entrance is a fabulous piece of work. Located on the southwest corner of State and Polk streets, it's a gleaming clean (for now) facility with high automated turnstiles to allow for unstaffed entrance and egress. There are no transit card vending machines here and the turnstiles are narrow--if you have a suitcase or a bicycle to bring with you, stick with the main entrance on Harrison Street.
For everyone else, the recommissioned Polk Street entrance is a wonderful new convenience for South Loop transit riders. Too bad the CTA doesn't feel like telling them about it.
Browse below for photos I snapped of the entrance Monday afternoon (click through to enlarge):