On our wintertime tour, “The Loop: Explore Without Freezing,” we experience the insides of buildings. With this unique perspective of architecture, we engage with intriguing stories of the inner-workings of city life. It’s pretty incredible the different worlds we step into over the short walking course of just half a mile, and we use the Pedway network of underground passages for a small portion of the tour to stay indoors.
Now that Chicago Detours has moved into an office downtown, I have been experiencing this interior world on a daily basis, as a commuter rather than tour guide, and I’ve discovered how the Pedway contributes to efficient infrastructure. “Infrastructure” can be a boring word, I know – please keep reading as we’ll also talk about cookies!
The Pedway facilitates a quick commute for me (from the Washington blue line station to my office at 25 E. Washington) in a few ways:
1. Less people use the Pedway, especially less visitors and casual strollers who choke up the sidewalks when you’re in a rush.
2. No need to bundle up when you head out for meetings. To put on a coat, scarf, hat and gloves may only take a minute, but every second counts when you have a million things to do and need to rush out for a meeting.
3. No wait at stoplights! If I went outside I would have to cross streets only three times, but if I get stuck at the light then several minutes can be added to my walk.
A little bit more about my route…When I get off the train I walk straight into Block 37. Though I’m in a mall, this is still part of the confusing network of the Pedway. Several businesses have cropped up here to take advantage of the foot traffic, especially because it’s a transfer point between blue and red lines, and most of these businesses sell treats for spontaneous purchase. I’m most tempted by frozen kefir smoothies at Starfruit Cafe. Ok, being distracted by such things doesn’t speed up my travel time to the office – if I want them though it’s just a quick stop.
Then I do a jog through the bottom level of Macy’s before passing by this historic staircase in a forgotten corner. It’s on the way to this barely used passage of the Pedway that connects to the former Marshall Field’s men’s annex (you could get outfitted for an African safari or a Colorado cowboy trip here). This is where my office is.
It also doesn’t speed up your travel time when you stop to take pictures of strange corners that no one seems to pay attention to, like a historic stairway in the basement of Macy’s shows you there’s a camera monitoring it since otherwise you would probably think you’re all alone.
So about those cookies: When I’m up on the 15th floor in my office, working hard to develop and market our tours, I may choose to reward myself with a tasty cookie from Macy’s Marketplace, the surprisingly reasonably priced food court on the bottom floor. In less than 6 minutes total, I can take the elevator, walk over there, buy a peanut butter cookie or a lemon bar, and be back in my office. If I had to step outside the whole process would probably be doubled and then I wouldn’t do it at all. Only in the densest of urban areas can people move so quickly between various businesses, via both horizontal and vertical means. So maybe in this case the Pedway doesn’t help so much with efficiency…
And as a side note, photos for the blog and the site were primarily taken by me, and also photographer Stephanie Lu Jokich and artist Young Joon Kwak (and the happy portrait on the staff page by Julia Pelish of the Toronto Star).