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Failed Dreams

Chicago’s transit history is littered with grand plans that never quite got off the ground.

1895 Cyclists recommend bike paths stacked on top of existing el tracks, with elevators carrying bikers up and down.

1897 The Tribune predicts that by 1997 pneumatic tubes “will whisk passengers from a suburb ten miles away to the heart of the town in less than five minutes.” No details on how riders would survive traveling at 120 miles an hour.

1908 Inventor Joseph Stoetzel revives the tube idea for freight and people. Alas, it turns out that trucks are cheaper.

1910 A new company called Twenty-First Century Limited pushes for a winged zeppelin-like airship, the invention of a local locksmith, to carry up to 50 passengers in nine-hour trips from Grant Park to New York City. “This is no dream,” a company rep says.

1953 The State Street Council mulls “moving sidewalks” in the Loop. Shoppers would step into shuttle cars traveling 15 miles an hour on a rubber conveyor belt.

1955 City officials study the idea of monorail lines connecting the Loop with O’Hare and Midway. Cue the song from The Simpsons.

1956 Mayor Richard J. Daley wants gondolas operating on the Chicago River—until a councilman points out that “the turgid old river first would have to be cleaned of industrial sewerage.”

1961 Daley proposes a monorail from Grant Park to McCormick Place. The CTA decides the $6.4 million price ($51 million in today’s dollars) is too steep.

1968 Barge industry officials predict hovercraft will transport people and cargo on rivers in the Chicago area.

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