As CERA puts the finishing touches on our next book Chicago Streetcar Pictorial: the PCC Car Era 1936-1958, we’re adding various images to help complete our narrative. Among these are some very interesting CTA service change leaflets that were passed out when the PCC streetcar routes were converted to buses. Two such flyers are reproduced here.
These would have gone into a holder on the PCCs labeled “Read As You Ride.” This will probably be familiar to anyone of a certain age who lived in Chicago in the 1950s. We have a nearly complete set of these flyers, including the ones that were produced when the Broadway-State and Clark-Wentworth through-routes were separated in 1955 and 1957.
There is a lot of useful information in these leaflets- in some cases, they even mention just how many buses were needed to replace the streetcars. It wasn’t a one-to-one replacement; when purchasing buses to replace the 600 postwar PCCs, CTA needed 900, a ratio of 1.5 buses for each streetcar. Of these, 800 were purchased and 100 were leased.
In actual practice, the leaflets show that CTA did not need quite 1.5 buses to replace each PCC, probably because surface system ridership was gradually decreasing in this time period. Buses were not as popular and well-liked as the PCCs, and there were frequent fare increases in the 1950s. Riding patterns also were changing, with substantial decreases on the weekends.
For a variety of reasons, including increased competition from automobiles, CTA lost approximately 50% of its surface system ridership during its first 10 years.
There is other useful information in these flyers. For example, the one for Route 49-Western mentions how the City wanted to proceed with grade separation projects at busy intersections. The most notable such project was at Western and Belmont, where the City built an overpass, still in use to this day, to carry Western through-traffic over Belmont.
This was probably done in part since Riverview amusement park was at this location. The park closed after the 1967 season, but is still fondly remembered by millions of Chicagoans who went there to “laugh their troubles away,” to quote their advertising.
We are still looking for the CTA service change leaflets for Route 20-Madison and the Madison-Fifth branch line. This sort of “ephemera” was fleeting in nature, and would have been discarded by nearly everyone who even read them.
If you have these in your collection, CERA would love to hear from you. Should we use material from your collection in the book, we will naturally give proper credit. You can reach us by e-mail at:firstname.lastname@example.org
We thank you in advance for your help in making B-146 the best book ever published about Chicago’s PCCs, the famous “Green Hornets” and “Blue Geese,” which have been called the finest transit vehicles ever to run on the streets of Chicago.
-Your CERA Directors