Foster and Peterson bus routes


Edgewater’s East-West Bus Routes

by LeRoy Blommaert 

In a previous article we reported that Edgewater had the first public motor bus route in the city. It began operations in 1917 running on Sheridan Road, and it was begun by a new company, the Chicago Motor Bus Company. rather than by the Chicago Surface Lines which operated the streetcars in Chicago. However, like Edgewater’s then existing rail lines (both steam and electric) it ran north and south and connected Edgewater to the downtown business district. 

With the exception of Devon Avenue, on which streetcars ran at first just between Broadway and Clark and then was later extended first to Western then to Kedzie, Edgewater had no other east-west street with public transportation until the 1930s. Prior to that, Edgewater residents had to travel south to Lawrence to go west. (Electric streetcar operations began on that line in 1896.) Of course it should be mentioned that there was little reason for Edgewater residents to travel west during the early years, as business and major shopping were located downtown and there was little development to the immediate west, particularly at Edgewater’s northern end. 

The first east-west public bus line in Edgewater was on Foster Avenue. It began operations July 1, 1937 (almost 20 years after buses began operating on Sheridan Road), and it was run by the Chicago Surface Lines. Before it began there was a dispute over which company should operate this bus service —the Chicago Surface Lines or the Chicago Rapid Transit Company. (The line was initially considered a feeder to the Elevated Lines.) The City Council committee that had jurisdiction was divided for some time on the issue. Community pressure in the areas west of Edgewater finally caused the City Council to act. Buses on the line went from the Berwyn “loop” to a loop at Milwaukee Avenue. At the east end the buses ran on Broadway north to Berwyn then east on Berwyn to Winthrop and then south on Winthrop to Foster and then back west on Foster. Today the east end loop uses Sheridan rather than Winthrop. These are the only known east end loop routes. 

The second east-west bus line in Edgewater was the Peterson Ave line,. It began operations June 19, 1939 (just short of two years after the Foster bus line.). The route went from Central Ave via Caldwell, Peterson, Ridge to Bryn Mawr. The first eastern loop was north on Winthrop to Hollywood, west on Hollywood to Broadway, south on Broadway to Ridge and then west on Ridge. According to the records available it remained this way until after the CTA took over operations. A December 1953 CTA Peterson route bus map shows a different east end loop route: Bryn Mawr to Winthrop, south on Winthrop to Catalpa, west on Catalpa to Broadway, north on Broadway to Ridge then west on Ridge. A September 1978 bus map shows a third east end loop route: Bryn Mawr to Sheridan, south on Sheridan to Catalpa, west on Catalpa to Kenmore, north on Kenmore to Bryn Mawr, then west on Bryn Mawr to Ridge and then west on Ridge. Since at least July 1993, the east end loop is near the Outer Drive south entrance ramp, with both eastbound and westbound buses using Bryn Mawr. 

Efforts to secure this bus service began even earlier than the efforts to secure bus service on Foster. An item in the March 15, 1931 issue of the Chicago Tribune indicated that the North Side Transportation League had petitioned the Illinois Commerce Commission to order the Chicago Surface Lines to institute feeder bus service on Peterson.  A subsequent issue of January 10, 1932, informed that the City of Chicago had intervened on behalf of both the North Side Transportation League and the West Ridge Improvement Association. Interestingly, less than seven days later the Bryn Mawr Broadway Business Association began a private bus service.  It ran from Bryn Mawr and Broadway up Ridge to Peterson then west on Peterson to Washtenaw (2700 west) then north to Coyle. Tickets were free for those making a purchase from participating members of the association, and 5 cents for others.  (Chicago Tribune January 17, 1932)  We don’t know is how long this service lasted. We suspect: Not long. 

EHS member Raymond DeGroote remembers as a grammar school student another east west bus route that ran on Granville, operating from a small bus barn at Lincoln and Catalpa. It was the private American Coach Company. The route went east as far as Sheridan and wyed in an alley at Kenmore. He remembered first seeing its buses from the Stone School which he attended. His first recollection was in 1937. Thus far no documentation has been found for this route. 

The buses that first ran on the Foster and Peterson routes were smaller than the ones that run on them today: 30 seats and 30 feet long compared to the 40 seat and 40 foot long non-articulated ones that run on them today.

I want to thank Bruce Moffat for providing me with copies of the relevant bus route maps and Ray DeGroote for his recollection. 

Sources: Alan R. Lind, Chicago Surface Lines: An Illustrated History, 1974 ,Chicago Tribune Historical Digital Archives, CTA bus route maps for employees, recollection of Raymond DeGroote. 

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