The Yellow Line (Skokie Swift Service), is part of the Chicago Transit Authority's Chicago 'L' heavy rail rapid transit system in Chicago, Illinois. The 5.1 mile (8.2 km), non-stop shuttle route runs from the Howard Street Terminal on the northern city limits of Chicago, through the southern part of suburban Evanston, to the Dempster Street Terminal in Skokie, Illinois.
At Howard Street, Yellow Line passengers can transfer to the Purple or Red Lines of the CTA. The Yellow Line is the only CTA line that does not go to Chicago's Loop. It is also unique in that it runs in a below-grade trench for part of its length, although it has no subway component and does not run in an expressway median and it includes grade segments and crossings at the northern portion of the line. It was built using the tracks of the former Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad's high-speed Skokie Valley Line.
Extending the line to Old Orchard Mall in Skokie has been discussed as well. At one time the line had several intermediate stops in Evanston and Skokie--including one at Oakton--but these stations have long been out of use and have been dismantled.
Travel time along the Skokie Swift-Yellow Line is about eight minutes. Trains operate using Morrison-Knudsen-built 3200-Series rail cars (and occasionally 2600-Series rail cars) in two-car train consists with 10 to 12 minute headways all day. Service is provided Daily, Monday-Friday between 5am and 10:30pm, Saturday-Sunday 6am and 11pm with about 2,800 daily station boardings.
The route included several intermediate stops through Evanston and Skokie (then called Niles Center) at Ridge, Asbury, Dodge, Crawford/ East Prairie, Kostner, Oakton and Main. On March 27, 1948, the Chicago Transit Authority (who had just bought out the Chicago Rapid Transit Company in 1947) discontinued service over the Niles Center Branch and replaced it with the #97 Skokie bus service. The stations were closed and remained dormant for the next 15 years.
The CRT had always owned the trackage between Howard Street and the Skokie heavy repair and inspection shops and thus their successors, the CTA, would inherit it as well.
On January 21, 1963, the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad ceased all of its operations, and the remaining section of trackage between the Skokie Shops and Dempster Street was purchased by the CTA. The intermediate stations were never reopened. Some of the vacant station houses were used by other businesses, including a convenience store and an electrical supplier, before finally being razed in the 1980s.
The success of this project had attracted nationwide attention. On its first day of service, Skokie Swift carried nearly 4,000 passengers in a 16-hour period compared to approximately 1,600 passengers carried by the North Shore Railroad from the Dempster Terminal in a 12-hour period before the railroad terminated. Ridership continued to increase and by the end of the first year, nearly 6,000 passengers were riding the new line each weekday.
Because of the weekday success, Saturday service was inaugurated, with more than 2,000 riders. At the end of the two-year experimental period, 3,500,000 persons had used the new service, and CTA authorized operation of the Skokie Swift as a permanent part of its rapid transit system.
The success of the Skokie Swift route demonstrated that many motorists will forsake their cars when high-speed mass transit is provided, and to a minor extent, gave birth to the first use of light rail before the term was ever coined.
One of the distinctive features of the five mile line was that approximately half was equipped with third rail while the other half was equipped with catenary left over from the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Railroad. Trains switched non-stop from third rail to overhead and vice-versa using distinctive pan trolleys designed by Skokie Swift Project Manager George Krambles.
On February 9, 1992, Saturday service was discontinued during a service purge by CTA. The "Skokie Swift" name was changed to the "Yellow Line" in 1993, when all Chicago 'L' lines were renamed for colors. The Dempster Street Terminal was completely remodeled in 1994, with a new station house and train platforms. In 2003, the old brick station building (designed by architect Arthur U. Gerber) was moved 150 feet to the east, then was restored and converted into commercial property.
The Skokie Swift was the only Chicago Transit Authority rapid transit line to use overhead catenary for electrification. It was also the last Chicago Transit Authority rapid transit line to use overhead, as portions of the Evanston and Lake Street lines used conventional trolley overhead until 1973 and 1962, respectively. Third rail electrification was installed in 2004 to allow compatibility with other rapid transit lines, increase reliability, and reduce maintenance costs.
Three alternatives are being studied, one plan would have the Yellow Line tracks follow the old North Shore Railroad right-of-way at grade from Dempster Street to about Church Street, then follow private property, possibly in a subway north to Golf Road. The route could then emerge from the short tunnel in an open-cut to the proposed Old Orchard Terminal which could also be built below street grade, or as an elevated structure immediately west of the mall. Another alternative keeps the yellow line on the former Chicago & Northwestern and North Shore Line right of way, passing under the Edens Expressway north of Golf Road and terminating at Old Orchard Road near Woods Drive.
Also, the planning process is nearing completion to establish a new intermediate stop on the Yellow Line at Oakton Street in downtown Skokie to serve the Illinois Science & Technology Park, which is scheduled to be completed in 2008, and other stops have been proposed at Kostner Avenue, Crawford Avenue, and perhaps on the section of the route in Evanston. Plans are also being studied to resume weekend service if ridership increases are sufficient when the new stations open.
|Yellow Line (Skokie Swift)|
|Station||Location||Points of interest and notes|
|Skokie||5005 W. Dempster Street, Skokie||Skokie|
|Main||Closed March 27, 1948|
|Oakton||Oakton Street and Skokie Boulevard, Skokie||Closed March 27, 1948|
|Kostner||Closed March 27, 1948|
|Crawford-East Prairie||Mulford Street between Crawford Avenue and East Prairie Road, Skokie||Closed March 27, 1948|
|Dodge||Dodge Street and Mulford Street, Evanston||Closed March 27, 1948|
|Asbury||Asbury Street and Brummel Street,Evanston||Closed March 27, 1948|
|Ridge||Ridge Avenue and Brummel Street, Evanston||Closed March 27, 1948|
|Howard||1649 W. Howard Street, Chicago||Transfer station for Red and Purple Lines|