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Cleveland's Rapid story told with maps and graphics

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In the past 85 years, there have been a number of plans for building subways in Cleveland, two of which involved public votes. The ultimate outcome hasn't been totally in vain, as they resulted in what is today called the Euclid Corridor Improvement Project (aka Euclid Transitway, RTA Silver Line, etc). But, back in the day, some impressive plans were put forward.

 

A good place to start is the construction of the Detroit-Superior High Level Bridge (today, the Veterans Memorial Bridge), which was completed in 1918. On its lower level was Cleveland's first subway and, as it turns out, its only subway. The subway had two stations, one at West 25th/Detroit (still mostly intact) and the other at West 9th. This is what the east entrance to the subway looked like in 1947, seven years before the tracks were ripped out and replaced with a futile attempt by County Engineer Albert Porter of paving the lower deck for cars to relieve traffic congestion on the upper deck. The idea came to a crashing halt as cars kept hitting the support piers holding up the upper deck. The lower deck was soon sealed, but the current county Engineer Bob Klaiber, often holds tours of it as visitors tend to leave wondering how it could be re-used....

 

Superiorsubwayramp1947.jpg

 

IMG_0123.jpg

 

IMG_0122.jpg

 

Detroit-SuperiorBridgeKid.jpg

 

Detroit-SuperiorBridgeSubway.jpg

 

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IMG_0098_edited.jpg

 

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The Detroit-Superior subway was built to be the linchpin of a plan for linking planned subways on the east and west sides of the city. The plan was released in 1919, the same year voters passed a franchise to the Van Swerigen brothers to build a new Union Terminal on Public Square, for uniting railroads, interurban lines and proposed rapid transit routes into a single, massive station. This was separate from the 1919 subway plan, which was to be voted on the following year. The initial phase of the $15 million subway plan included extending the existing subway east on Superior to East 9th Street, with two other subways extending out from Public Square under Euclid Avenue to East 22nd Street and under Ontario to near the Central Market (where Jacobs Field is today).

 

Future extensions included extending the Detroit Avenue subway west to West 85th Street, the West 25th Street subway south beyond Lorain Avenue, the Euclid Avenue subway east to University Circle and have a subway spur turning south at East 40th Street. Beyond the subway portions, streetcar lines would be converted to rapid transit routes, with elevated tracks or below street level operations in an open cut (scroll right)...

 

TransitPlan1919%20S.jpg

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The subway plan was turned down by city voters in 1920, who said it should have been a county tax proposal. Other factors included labor shortages, high-interest rates after World War I, a large city debt, and the high cost of construction materials.

 

With the Cleveland Union Terminal project proceeding, the Van Swerigens began building rapid transit infrastructure that would lay the foundation for the future Red Line. The brothers also began planning for a citywide network of rapid transit routes, including subways under Euclid Avenue and St. Clair Avenue. Part of the Union Terminal even included portals for a subway to go under Huron Road to reach Euclid Avenue at Playhouse Square. The portals still exist today. All of the construction and planning work for the rapid transit and subway lines was stopped dead in its tracks by the Great Depression. This was the 1929 rapid transit/subway plan.....

 

TransitPlan1929-2%20S.jpg

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Major construction projects stayed in limbo as materials and labor were needed to win World War II. As the war drew to a close, the following plan was put forth by the Cleveland Transit System to build rapid transit with a downtown subway. This plan became the foundation for the construction of the Red Line, which began in 1952. Here are some maps and planning graphics for the 1944 plan, which also proposed keeping streetcar lines on the outer portions...

 

Transitplan1944%20M.jpg

 

TransitSubway1944%20S.jpg

 

TransitSubway1944Xsection%20S.jpg

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A variant of the downtown subway routing was issued by CTS in 1947, and was proposed as a means to keep construction costs down. Part of the reason for the high costs was the existence of a layer of quicksand just below the city surface, that required the construction of slurry wall to keep ground water out of the tunnels. This was the revised plan....

 

TransitSubway1947%20S.jpg

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While construction on the CTS Rapid (Red Line) began in 1952, funded out of a $30 million federal Reconstruction Finance Corporation loan, Cuyahoga County voters approved a $35 million bond issue, funded out of a new 0.5-mill property tax levy, to build a downtown loop subway. The proposed routing would have put 72 percent of the rapid transit system's riders within 800 feet of their downtown destinations, as opposed to only 14 percent at Cleveland Union Terminal (Tower City). This was the proposed routing, plus a graphic of a over-under subway configuration on East 13th Street, owing to the adjacent storm and sanitary sewer lines....

 

TransitSubway1953%20S.jpg

 

TransitSubway1953Xsection%20S.jpg

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As the battle over the subway raged between Albert Porter and CTS officials, several other variants of the subway routing were presented and later discarded. I won't get into the details of this fight, as I've discussed them elsewhere on this forum. I can find them if someone wants me to.

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In the 1970s, more plans for a subway beneath Euclid Avenue surfaced (pardon the pun). They matured into the Dual Hub Corridor plan, with RTA (CTS's successor after 1974) preferring the following route and design features of the subway portion, as presented in 1993....

 

DualHub1993%20S.jpg

 

DualHub1993%20downtown%20S.jpg

 

DualHub1993%20EuclidSta%20S.jpg

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NOACA's board of governors didn't support the rail component because it included the costly subway, with the cheapest rail options projected to cost in excess of $500 million. RTA returned with the busway concept, which was approved by NOACA. Now we have the Euclid Corridor Improvement Project, a $200 million variant of the long-planned subway that never was, and may never be.


"Save the planet. Move to the city." -- The Downtowner podcast

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Detroit has a similar sad story of an uncompleted subway plan. At least Cleveland had the Rapid! Many exciting childhood memories of getting on at W 117th and emerging in Terminal Tower or University Circle. A subway station at W 85th? Thay would have done wonders for that part of Cleveland!

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Absolutely...again, great work KJP!  I know this is heartbreaking for us to see, but think about how many similar proposals existed around the country (and even the state) that were never seen through. 

 

I don't know this for sure, but I'd presume that the past decade must represent the greatest rail development period since WWII.  I don't know how we've managed to keep this up with the current federal attitude towards funding priorities...maybe it has something to do with national security???  Some transit wiz convinced the fed that rail cars could be used to stop terrorists???  Right.

 

 

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Glad you liked the maps & stuff.

 

Think about this... A national industry survey outfit last year did an inventory of all light-rail construction contracts expected to be let in 2005. The total was $19 BILLION.

 

Some in the Federal Transit Administration have said that, since they aren't able to satisfy the funding demand for all the light-rail projects around the country, the FTA should tighten the requirements for awarding rail grants. In the same breath, these dorks want to relax other requirements to make transit funding available for new high-occupancy vehicle lanes on highways. Seems they feel the local demand is in error, and that we should stick our heads back up our tailpipes. Whatever happened to the public policy rule that all politics is local? Gee, how about increasing the total funding for transit to satisfy the demand?

 

I know where they can stick it....

 

KJP


"Save the planet. Move to the city." -- The Downtowner podcast

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Thank you for posting those, KJP.  It would be interesting to try to guess at the difference we would see in downtown development had the subway been completed.

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Excellent, KJP, really good stuff.

 

As the 50s CTS "loop" plan was, realistically, the closest to materializing, I've often agonized over "what if" for Playhouse Square which, while it has revived admirably, is a fraction of what it was/could have been had the subway been built.  This area was Cleveland’s high-end, trendy retail district; our answer to 5th Ave, N. Michigan Ave, etc... Halle's, Sterling-Linder and others were our upscale department stores (just note the detail in the extant elegant Halle Building office/shopping food court today.  Also, the Statler, I understand, was probably our most elegant hotel -- the Ritz of its day.  And let’s not forget the stuffy Union Club.  Playhouse Sq. would have probably been surrounded by apt high rises... this district, indeed most of downtown, suffered a huge setback and decades-long decline as a result of the subway's killing.

 

Truly, from a city development standpoint, Albert S. Porter is hands down the biggest villain in Cleveland history by a wide margin.  Even Dennis Kucinich is a piker compared to this guy.

 

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Truly, from a city development standpoint, Albert S. Porter is hands down the biggest villain in Cleveland history by a wide margin. Even Dennis Kucinich is a piker compared to this guy.

 

Someone e-mailed me their comments on one of my Cleveland pages (most likely my "maps of Cleveland" page) earlier this year and refered to Porter as Cleveland's Robert Moses (infamous NYC planner for the uninitiated)

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Villain may be a bit strong, but Dennis really hurt this town's growth even if, intellectually, a few of his ideas made sense (like saving Muny Light from CEI) -- and actually, he's mellowed a great deal in older age.  But Dennis was certainly the worst mayor we've had in modern times, ... but as a public official, he can't compare with Albert Porter -- not even close.  HE certainly was a villain, big time.

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How was he a villain? All I hear is that Kucinich was mayor during our default.  Most say that he was horrible.  Others say that he was standing up to the corporations. I really don't know much.

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I don't fault standing up to the corporations to a degree -- I'm on the liberal side, myself.  In the end, Dennis proved right in protecting Muni Light (later, Cleveland Public Power) from the clutches of CEI to assure residents more fair and lower electric rates -- this was Dennis' shining hour.  But his minuses greatly outweighed this victory.  Kucinich was an alienator not a consensus builder.  Then, as know, we were in desperate straights-- needed someone not to merely consensus builder on many issues, and Dennis was not that.  He fought with then Cleveland Trust (now Key Bank) on forcing the city into too many concessions on loans that would have saved the city from a highly avoidable, humiliating default.  He pitted rich (sic, the "fat cats") against poor (the "little people"), black against white, city against suburb, etc.  Life in general, esp in Cleveland, was not that simple and we suffered greatly for it.  Although it would be difficult to point a finger at him as a direct cause, certainly the anti-business atmosphere created Kucinich and his PD-dubbed "Kiddie Hall" (staffed by a bunch of young, idealistic often mean-spirited, inexperienced types who had zero people skills) by appeared to begin the steady exodus of corporations from Cleveland that ultimately led to our pitiful state, business wise, today.  Like I said, I don't want to lay it all on Dennis' head, b/c there were in some cases other factors... but he sure didn't aid matters, either....

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KJP,

 

I don't even remember this thread. Now that I skim over it, I think that you could turn this into a book. Seriously. The information is fascinating.

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There already are a number of books on the subject, but I have two favorites. One is "Horse Trails to Regional Rails: The Story of Public Transit in Greater Cleveland" By James Toman and Blaine Hays. The other is Herbert Harwood Jr.'s "Invisible Giants: The Empires of Cleveland's Van Sweringen Brothers."

 

Both are exceptional books.


"Save the planet. Move to the city." -- The Downtowner podcast

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Fascinating thread!

 

The other is Herbert Harwood Jr.'s "Invisible Giants: The Empires of Cleveland's Van Sweringen Brothers."

 

I saw this in the window at a store in the Arcade and wanted it but the damn place was closed.

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Sad to think not what Cleveland today with a subway system could be, but what Cleveland would be like if a subway system had been built decades ago and the growth it would have spurn.

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Sad to think not what Cleveland today with a subway system could be, but what Cleveland would be like if a subway system had been built decades ago and the growth it would have spurn.

 

Very true, esp Playhouse Sq.  I really hoped the dual-hub could have been build, but I’ve come to terms with our failure to build and its time to move on.  We’re still much better off than most cities of our size, density and Midwestern/Great Lakes location in terms of transit.  (seen Detroit, Indy or Milwaukee lately?)... I'm really surprised, and very pleased, at all the TOD development ECP is spinning off.  As a big naysayer, initially, I have to say the stations look quite spiffy and the corridor is showing lots of sings of life (how wordy... oh well).  ECP/BRT, for its faults, is a technology Cleveland is pioneering -- as we have so often, transit-wise, in the past -- and for that alone we should be proud.

 

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I don't mean to take this thread in a different direction but any talk of a subway system brings to my mind when Cleveland or more specifically Dennis Kucinich and George Forbes told the federal government that Cleveland was not interested in something called the PeopleMover. It was 1976 and Cleveland at the time was chosen as a finalist for the Downtown People Mover Program. But our hero DK(aka BoyMayor) and his arch enemy GF(aka CityBoss) decided for the rest of us that Cleveland would pull out of this program.

 

Read this excerpt from  "A Brief History of UMTA's Downtown People Mover Program":

 

In 1976, after receiving and  reviewing 68 letters of interest and 35 full proposals and making on-site inspections of the top 15 cities, UMTA selected proposals from Los Angeles, St. Paul, Minnesota, Cleveland and Houston. It also concluded that Miami, Detroit and Baltimore would be permitted to develop DPMs if they could do so with existing grant committments. In 1997, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate Appropriations Conference Committee told UMTA to include Baltimore, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and St. Louis as part of the program. UMTA also added Norfolk, Virginia to the program. Cleveland and Houston were the first to withdraw from the program. Later, St. Paul also withdrew after its voters did not approve their project.

 

Read more at:

 

http://74.6.239.67/search/cache?ei=UTF-8&p=Downtown+People+Mover+Program&fr=slv8-hptb8&u=faculty.washington.edu/jbs/itrans/dpmhist.htm&w=downtown+people+mover+movers+program+programs&d=IHmrRxlMS5ft&icp=1&.intl=us

 

I understand that Detroit's PeopleMover has been nothing but a money pit and has performed well below expectations, but I love the thing. Anytime I am in Detroit it is a must ride. I love that form of rail. In my mind all rail should be elevated, winding its way through and around buildings as it fly's overhead. Detroit's system is 2.9 miles long. I would have loved to have had that train working its way through downtown Cleveland.

 

DetroitPeopleMover site:

http://www.thepeoplemover.com/WE-LL-TAKE-YOU-THERE!.id.2.htm

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The People Mover is pretty neat, but I also like streetcars, light rail and subways too.


"Save the planet. Move to the city." -- The Downtowner podcast

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I actually think the rubber-tired Miami People Mover is cool; goes everywhere downtown, interfaces with the Metro rapid transit and, most importantly, is FREE!  I actually think the rubber-tired Miami People Mover is cool; goes everywhere downtown, interfaces with the Metro rapid transit and, most importantly, is FREE! The rubber tired trains are all but silent overhead, cutting totally counter to Kucinich's (when he was Boy Mayor) scare talk of ugly, noisy Els like in downtown Chicago.  Worse yet, the Feds were prepared to practically subsidize the whole thing, but we thumbed our noses at them.  Kucinich, I think, called this Federal tyranny.  A shame.

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http://lisacanter.com/teachcleveland/images/pdf/timeline/1957.pdf

 

"What downtown needed was more parking, which could be provided by tearing down old buildings." :bang:

 

 

What began as a simple google search has now ruined my day.  Mr. Albert Porter, ladies and gentlemen.

 

Don't let Al Porter ruin your day. He's dead. Been dead for some 30 years. And don't let his followers stop you from making this city a better place.


"Save the planet. Move to the city." -- The Downtowner podcast

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http://lisacanter.com/teachcleveland/images/pdf/timeline/1957.pdf

 

"What downtown needed was more parking, which could be provided by tearing down old buildings." :bang:

 

 

What began as a simple google search has now ruined my day.  Mr. Albert Porter, ladies and gentlemen.

 

Don't let Al Porter ruin your day. He's dead. Been dead for some 30 years. And don't let his followers stop you from making this city a better place.

 

:)

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Here's a few I pulled off the hard drive, in response to our discussion in the GCRTA thread......

 

DualHub1993S.jpg

 

 

Zooming in a little closer.....

 

DualHub1993downtownS.jpg

 

 

There would be only one downtown subway station, between Euclid and Prospect just west of East 9th. This was its mezzanine floor plan....

 

DualHub1993EuclidStaS.jpg


"Save the planet. Move to the city." -- The Downtowner podcast

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This is a great thread, agree with the comments about the research becoming a book someday.  Interesting also is the historic events and external influences that affected the development, like the war's cost on materials, labor shortages, etc.

 

I understand that Detroit's PeopleMover has been nothing but a money pit and has performed well below expectations, but I love the thing. Anytime I am in Detroit it is a must ride. I love that form of rail. In my mind all rail should be elevated, winding its way through and around buildings as it fly's overhead. Detroit's system is 2.9 miles long.

 

Detroit's people mover is barely a step above a carnival ride.  I lived/worked in downtown Detroit and could watch that thing roll by totally empty for hours a day.  I think it's a 12 minute walk between any two farthest points on the loop.  Add up the cost to acquire land for the track locations & stops(even if elevated), the cars, the initial construction and ongoing maintenance and you could have given lifetime bus passes to a good number of Detroiters....

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I wish I could find the graphics on my hard drive which I hot-linked in the first thread. The host web site I used for those photos is kaput.


"Save the planet. Move to the city." -- The Downtowner podcast

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Guess I didn't pay close attn to the earlier maps.  The last 2 make little sense.  Why would the line dip to Huron, using the existing tunnels, the swing north under a block of buildings (and not the street) just to get to E. 9th & Euclid, when an easier (engineering-wise) stop at E. 9th would serve the purpose?  Also why, at U. Circle, would trains dip south to serve an out-of-the-way connection south of Cedar Glen just so trains could serve the Blue-Green Lines (which wasn't part of the original plan, anyway) -- a straight-line connection at Euclid- E. 120 would make more sense.... It doesn't seem the final plan wasn't well thought out.

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