CTA Station Review: Garfield Green Line
Located at the split between the Ashland and Cottage Grove branches of the Green Line, the Garfield stop is a mainstay for a wide variety of CTA customers. Located at Garfield Boulevard (55th Street) and Prairie Avenue, the station straddles the line between the northeastern boundary of Englewood and the western edge of Washington Park, with the University of Chicago beyond it. Originally constructed in 1892 as part of a southern extension of Chicago’s then-new L system that reached the World’s Columbian Exposition, it has since been part of the CTA’s South Side Rapid Transit line, North-South Route, and now, the Green Line, first established in 1993.
Condition – 14/15
As part of the creation of the Green Line, all stations along the elevated route were thoroughly renovated starting in 1994. Garfield is one of the largest stations on the route’s southern stretch, and is maintained to fairly high standards. Its glass-paned station house at the street level is sunny and generally spotless, and the platform above exhibits few signs of the fifteen years that have passed since station renovations concluded. The Garfield station’s PA system is clear and understandable, and its lobby doesn’t suffer from any of the water drainage issues that some other Green Line stops have seen struggled with. That said, the station has not seen any significant upgrade work since 2001, and some of its infrastructure is beginning to show age in dust and dirt buildup and fading paint.
Appearance – 7/15
The original 1892 station was located on the opposite side of Garfield from the current building, and that station was still in use until the completion of renovations at the turn of the millennium. The 1892 station house on the southern side of Garfield, despite being retired from use, is the oldest public transit entrance remaining in Chicago, and perhaps in the entire United States.
On the northern side of the road, the station largely follows the design language of the majority of the Green Line, with white and red tile covering its two elevator towers and off-white paint on most of its metal surfaces. The aesthetic is relatively dated at this point (and has begun to be replaced at stations like Morgan and Cermak along the same line), but it’s presented well here. Since Garfield is significantly larger than most stations along the Green Line, its scale allows for some variations on the CTA’s 1990s design themes, and it presents well as a whole. However, there is no significant public art on exhibit in the station house, and the stop comes across as rather forgettable on the whole.
Convenience – 17/20
Despite the relatively low density of its immediate vicinity (the southern portion of the Grand Boulevard community area exhibits plenty of urban pasture where a more populous neighborhood once stood, and Washington Park is literally just a big park), Garfield is actually a remarkably useful station. There’s a reason that it was built to handle more people than most other Green Line stops, and that’s because it’s an access point for so many different neighborhoods. The 55 bus and the University of Chicago’s own private transit system bring thousands of people over from Hyde Park, which isn’t serviced by any of its own L stops, and a large park-and-ride lot at the station’s northwestern corner services a different kind of commuter, one of a few such integrated park-and-ride facilities in the entire CTA system. In addition, the Garfield station has had a Divvy bike station installed in recent years, and a small cluster of buildings on the opposite side of the boulevard contains a vibrant café, an arts incubator, and other brand-new signs of a long-overdue economic and artistic revival in the area that consistently brings in people who would otherwise never find themselves so far south in the city. Garfield’s status as the last Green Line station before that route’s southern split is significant as well, cementing its status as an important local transit point.
TOTAL – 38/50