Navy Pier Plan Has CTA Buses Feeling All Tingly

If this was a certain recently-defunct real estate blog, we would use the headline “REVEALED: CTA’S SHOCKING PLAN FOR NAVY PIER!”  But we’re not.  We’re a certain been-reporting-on-Chicago-for-17-years-and-don’t-engage-in-clickbait publication.  So that’s why we’ll just tell you that the Chicago Transit Authority has a cool idea for an electric bus charging station at Navy Pier.

May 2020 diagram of the Navy Pier bus charging stations
May 2020 diagram of the Navy Pier bus charging stations

The CTA has been running all-electric buses since 2014.  There are currently a couple of dozen in the fleet.  According to the transit agency, each bus saves $24,000 in fuel and $30,000 in maintenance each year.  The downside is that each bus has to be pulled out of service for three to five hours to recharge.  Not ideal, considering that they do the 66 and 124 routes, which are two of the busiest.

With the new charging station, designed by Johnson Lasky Kindelin ​Architects over on Huron Street, the CTA wants to be able to top up the bus batteries each time they arrive at Navy Pier.  At first, two masts with hanging pantographs will be built at the bus staging area on Park Drive.  When a bus is parked, the pantograph will descend and charge the bus’ batteries.  It takes about ten minutes to quick-charge a bus, and it can then go up to 120 miles. The CTA seems to think all-electric buses are the future, since it also plans to put in foundations for more masts to electrify more bus berths in the future. 

Electric buses have been around for almost as long as buses have, so the CTA is late to the game when it comes to this particular path for public propulsion.  But the CTA’s method of loading the buses up with batteries is clearly superior to the method used in places like Seattle and Vienna, where the most picturesque views of the city are obscured by a web of wires and catenaries.

Location: 590 East Grand Avenue, Streeterville


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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  1. I’d like to see Light Rail trolleys running into Navy Pier like the trolleys out in Los Angeles. They could utilize abandoned North Western freight railroad right of ways to reach Navy Pier.

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    • Editor

      This is a plan that has been brought up from time to time, and the reason the city allows the Kedzie Street Bridge to remain in place. The most recent time was about five years ago as the water taxis started getting popular again. It gets talked about a lot, but nothing ever seems to happen.

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  2. Since I rode the electric trolley buses until their foolish demise, I never had a problem with “ugly catenary wires”.
    In fact, you never had to watch for the bus, as the wire would ‘sing’ when the bus was a block or two away.
    The trolley buses were environmentally clean & very quiet.

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