East 55th (RTA Rapid Transit Station) - History


The station was first used for the Shaker Rapid Transit, the predecessor of the Green and Blue Lines. The Shaker Rapid Transit opened along private right-of-way from Shaker Square to East 34th Street on April 11, 1920. The station then consisted of a low-level island platform and a wooden stairway to East 55th Street.

The Shaker Rapid Transit was able to use an island platform at this station and at East 34th Street because it used left side running on its dual tracks west of East 65th Street (that is, each train traveled forward on the left track of the pair, instead of the right as is common and as done over the rest of the line). Therefore, the doors on the right side of each car opened onto the island platform at these stations. The switch from right to left side and vice versa was accomplished at a complex of tunnels located at East 65th Street. The tunnels also provided access from the trunk line to the Kingsbury Car Yard and Shops located in the Sidaway Valley, and they allowed for connection to the proposed line along the right-of-way eventually used by the Red Line.

When the CTS Rapid Transit (today's Red Line) was built, high-level side platforms were installed on each side of the island platform to accommodate the subway-style cars. Separate stairways were constructed from the two side platforms to a fare booth located at the East 55th Street entrance. The CTS line was opened on March 15, 1955. The CTS Rapid Transit and the Shaker Rapid Transit stations operated independently. Since the CTS Rapid Transit and the Shaker Rapid Transit were separately owned and since there was no transfer provided between the lines, there was no reason to have a connection at track level between the two stations.

When the Regional Transit Authority was formed on September 5, 1975, it merged the CTS and Shaker Rapid Transit systems, so convenient connection between the lines was needed. RTA first encouraged passengers to transfer at East 34th Station where a platform level connection had existed since 1971. Eventually, the island platform was eliminated along with the separate stairway to East 55th Street, and new low-level platforms were constructed at the western end of the high-level platforms. The high-level platforms were shortened, since RTA no longer ran the longer trains for which the platforms were originally designed.

RTA opened its new $23-million Central Rail Maintenance Facility on April 29, 1984 on a 20-acre (81,000 m2) site adjacent to the station. The new yard for all rapid transit cars was built on the site of the former rail yard of the Nickel Plate Road. The nearby Kingbury Shops originally built for the Shaker Rapid Transit were closed as operations were consolidated in the Central Rail facility.

Since its original construction, the station had not received any significant improvements until 2009, when RTA began a complete renovation of the station. The rebuilt, ADA accessible station opened in 2011.

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