Chicago by Night
I’m finding as I go through my photos I’m amassing quite a number of pictures of the various public transport systems that I come across. Partly this is just because that’s where you end up spending a lot of time as you explore but it’s also because having efficient, reliable and cheap mass transit is sort of a novelty for a Melbournite. The L isn’t quite as frequent as they made it out to be in the Blues Brothers. But’s it’s not far off.
Chicago’s ‘L’ rail is a really iconic part of the city. It ranks just behind New York as one of the oldest and largest metro railway networks in the US and it operates pretty much 24 hours a day to most areas.
But the impact of the L extends well beyond just having a lot of track. The price point and the frequency of services means freedom for all the people that are too young, old, poor, disabled or drunk to drive. And that’s quite a substantial number of people. It means you can start a business in an area where it’s cheap to do so and you actually have a chance of customers finding you. It means you can have a thriving night life in any district without turning half the real estate into parking lots. It means you can start your night at ten and not have to worry about paying for a taxi to get home. As a tourist it means you’re not confined to a narrow part of your city and, in the long run, that area wont end up looking like a theme park version of the city proper.
Chicago has the elevated rail system because soil conditions near the lake and alongside the Chicago river made subway excavations a real challenge for early developers but Chicago also has multi-level roadways in parts of the city – which means you end up with these weird businesses sitting in retail purgatory like the Billy Goat Tavern pictured below.
The Billy Goat has become a fixture of Chicago on account of its colourful former proprieter Billy Sianis who once petitioned the Mayor for a liquor license for the moon and was enough of a character to be turned into a skit by all the old luminaries of Saturday Night Live.
The nightscapes were taken from the 100th floor of the John Hancock Center and the above neon extravaganza was at the back of a blues bar in Lincoln Park which was still jumping at 4am on a wednesday morning when we left to take the L back to our beds.
Finally the last image is of the Marina City towers that I somehow remembered from a Steve McQueen film that I saw on daytime TV as a kid. The car chase from The Hunter clearly left a mark on my mind. Here it is on youtube.