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A walk through Chicago Pedway (2017) (curbed.com)
84 points by wglb 8 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 43 comments

Houston, Texas also has an extensive underground tunnel system connecting large parts of the downtown business district and government buildings. It's a godsend during hot, swampy summers when commuting by foot at street level guarantees being soaked in sweat within a block or two, and is probably the most popular spot to head for lunch in the downtown area.

One interesting factor here is that aside from the portions serving government buildings, the tunnel system has grown organically as each piece is constructed and maintained by the owner of the building above. Direct tunnel access from a building is considered a major perk for employees and drives up commercial rent prices in each section's associated building.


While the Chicago Pedway is interesting, it is not extensive. The most interesting part of it is a relatively tiny section of mixed use commercial including hotels. It’s not useful to the bulk of downtown workers on a day to day.

This + when I lived there (2015-17), large segments of the Pedway would close at seemingly arbitrary hours, making it pretty common to have to head back to street level anyway to get between, say, Millennium Station and the State/Lake L stop outside of core business hours.

"Normal operating hours of the Pedway are 7am to 5pm, Monday - Friday, unless otherwise noted."

Probably so they only need one shift of cops.

I might suggest a link to the Wikipedia entry instead?


I've never heard of this, and it's interesting, but the Wikipedia page has way more info than the PDF there.

We've since changed from the submitted URL (https://www.chicago.gov/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/pedestri...) to the article platz suggested (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=39351010).

Wikipedia submissions are fine if there really isn't another interesting article out there, but we prefer a non-generic source where possible.

Reminds me of the Minneapolis Skyway[0]. I wonder if other cold-weather cities have similar systems.


Montreal has one: https://www.mtl.org/en/experience/guide-underground-city-sho...

I grew up in Chicago and lived in Montreal for a while. Theirs is WAAY better than Chicago's.

+1. Very functional and mostly clean system. Not that Montrealers are afraid of cold. Not sure how many businesses are still operating there post-pandemic.

University of Wisconsin, Green Bay has a semi-tunnel, semi enclosed walkway system:


It is very close to the eponymous Green Bay and the wind can be very cold if you are outside for any time in some parts of winter.

University of Rochester in Rochester NY has one too!


Laval University (in Quebec City) also has one.


Tunnels are dotted green lines.

Duluth has a (much smaller-scale) system

Some cities in Japan have large underground pedestrian tunnel systems, too. In Tokyo, the most extensive might be around Shinjuku Station [1], though there’s also a large one around Tokyo Station that is connected through a series of tunnels to a smaller one around Yurakucho and Ginza [2]. I walked the entire length of the latter one snowy day about twenty-five years ago. Fukuoka and Sapporo also have underground passageways and malls in the city center.

My favorite is the maze of tunnels in the Umeda area of Osaka [3]. It includes a lot of retail as well as sometimes obscure connections through the basements of buildings. The bar- and restaurant-lined corridors under the slightly rundown Osaka Eki Mae buildings are especially fun to explore [4, 5].

[1] https://yamap.com/activities/2821503/article

[2] https://nativemoriokan.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-1059.html

[3] http://umedachikagai.web.fc2.com

[4] http://osakaekimaebirumap.web.fc2.com

[5] https://th-page.net/umeda/ekimae_izakaya.html

I used to live in the middle of the "The east side" and the pedway is really cool. If you're brave, there is way more walking complexity than just the pedway. Upper right on the map has 3 levels of streets and the bridges have 2 levels(with pedestrian sidewalks). Its kind of dark and seedy to walk on the bottom levels. At the middle level you can walked to the river walk which is nice. Going to the lake is nice. Really no retail underground, except for Billy Goat Tavern on the other side of the river. There are the ghosts of the Blues Brothers driving by on Wacker...

I live across the street from a pedway entrance, and commute to work via the Metra Electric from Millenium Station, so on rainy days, I sometimes take the extra few minutes to go through the pedway, but usually I walk the two blocks outside instead since it's substantially faster.

One time on a particularly cold day I found occasion to take the Pedway all the way to the City Clerk to pick up my daughter's birth certificate...

Nice! Let's change to that first link from https://www.chicago.gov/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/pedestri... above.

A few other cities I've been to also have extensive pedestrian subway systems / skyway systems:

Rochester MN: https://www.experiencerochestermn.com/planning-tools/getting...

Taipei Taiwan: https://pqvst.com/2023/05/28/taipei-underground/

New York NY near the World Trade Center: (can't find an up-to-date map or article)

Hong Kong near Central area: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design...

They are great as a way to avoid extreme weather on the surface (cold in Rochester's and New York's case, hot in Taipei's and Hong Kong's case) and car traffic.

Hong Kong takes things a step further in that it's actually hard to get around at ground level. Many streets don't have pedestrian crossings and there are barriers to prevent jaywalking. I'm not a fan honestly.

One of the interesting things about the Hong Kong system is that unlike many places with this pedway system, the terrain gets quite steep quite quickly, and so using the pedway systems may result in the same or fewer level changes than using the street network.

Hong Kong has one of the few examples of a public transport system consisting entirely of escalators. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central%E2%80%93Mid-Levels_esc...

Great way to avoid extreme weather... if you're part of the working class. Most of these pedways are private property acting as a public space, so any undesirables can be ejected.

We need to stop the privatization of our public spaces.

Most private underground pedestrian tunnels are basements of existing buildings. Do you think the government should be using tax payer money to be cease/buy basements instead? Seems like a really odd use of resources just to not be able to kick out people who aren’t using the path for the intend purpose… but more so: Seems like something most local governments in North America would be too inefficient to handle without it turning into a project that takes 50 years and millions of dollars to complete 1 mile.

Usually the primary complaint about making them private, is that coordinating wayfinding for a bunch of private rights of way is very difficult, so what may be a complete network can be hard to use as such. Some landlords may not want you to realize you can go to a different property a few blocks away to complete your needs.

From @smallmouth's message below ("filthy dirty mess in disrepair and reeking of powerful weed, and fresh human feces and urine.") it sounds like you should be a lot happier now.

do you have any evidence of that happening?

Singapore is an obvious omission based on my travels but many more probably qualify according to Wiki:


Love to visit Hong Kong some day just to wander the pedestrian network, a fraction of which (apparently) is shown here:


> Love to visit Hong Kong some day just to wander the pedestrian network, a fraction of which (apparently) is shown here:

If you get tired of wandering the pedestrian network within the city, make sure to visit the extensive network of hiking trails that (unlike so many other cities, where you have to drive before you can get a good hike) you can get to by walking from the city. I was there for two weeks for business, and frustrated my host no end because I refused to visit the celebrated shopping districts when there were so many trails to be explored.


Link to video of folks checking this out/walking around it: https://youtu.be/K6C9dbducAw

This is fabulous, thanks.

Sydney also has a very nice underground walkway connecting the Town Hall all the way down to the Queen Victoria building.


Would tunnels like this be cheaper and better alternative than dedicated bicycle commuter lanes? Covers from adverse weather and cheaper to dig than comparable car tunnels.

Climbing is disproportionately hard on a bicycle, and realistically you'd have to go in and out of whatever area had this tunnel network. Plus the great advantage of a bicycle is being able to safely mingle among shops/restaurants/etc. and stop off directly if you see somewhere you like. So no, probably not, just like bicycle overpasses at junctions seem like a good idea to non-cyclists but are usually pretty useless.

I don't think it's a separate, dedicated tunnel, as much as a network of public spaces including tunnels, but also, e.g., building lobbies and concourses, dense with pedestrians and probably not a place for biking.

There's some useful dining and bar options down there too. They don't get super crowded either like the above ground places do at lunch and after work hours.

And pro tip, if you're waiting for a train at the Jackson blue line station you can actually walk to the Washington station to get closer to your destination.

…unless your destination is in the Forest Park direction ;)

This is another post that makes me so angry about what they did unleashing covid on the world!

I walk through that lobby shown in the first image maybe 3 or more times a week, multiple times a day. None of those great food kiosks shown are there anymore and so many more that are out of camera shot are gone as well.

The Pedway has become a filthy dirty mess in disrepair and reeking of powerful weed, and fresh human feces and urine.

It's definitely a Godsend in the dead of winter and a great place to get exercise walking to and fro after sitting in front of a computer screen all day. But hell, it could be so much better and could server so many more people.

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