In the jumble of the pedway, can an amateur map fill in the blanks? | Bleader

Monday, March 4, 2013

In the jumble of the pedway, can an amateur map fill in the blanks?

Posted By on 03.04.13 at 04:26 PM

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Amanda Scotese
  • Julie Meckler
  • Amanda Scotese
On a recent afternoon, tour guide Amanda Scotese led an ambling group of nine sightseers past the Cook County Vital Records Office beneath the Daley Center. Most of them had never been in the pedway before. As the tourists took in their first views of the underground pathway, city workers cast puzzled glances their way and cut sharply around them.

Scotese, 34, founded the Chicago Detours tour company in 2010. Her Inside the Loop tour takes groups through parts of the pedway and other indoor spaces downtown. The juxtapositions as the tour swings from the ornate sanctuary of the United Methodist temple to the former Marshall Field's (now Macy's) housewares department are pleasing and unexpected.

"A lot of people, when they hear about the pedway for the first time, imagine this underground city out of Indiana Jones," Scotese told the group as they walked back into the pedway from Macy's. "But as you can see, it's really more like somebody's basement."

In fact, most of the pedway is somebody's basement. The network, which connects the lower levels of some 50 downtown buildings, allows a savvy pedestrian to navigate from the Daley Center to the far reaches of East Wacker Drive without ever setting foot outside. There are grimy, unheated passages—like the section under Michigan Avenue—and posh, stately stretches. In the carpeted corridor beneath the Fairmont, where elegant signs acknowledge special discounts at the hotel day spa, it's easy to feel like an accidental trespasser.

Scotese on one of her tours.
  • Julie Meckler
  • Scotese on one of her tours.
"I like to snoop around, unless somebody tells me to leave, and I end up finding a lot of interesting public spaces inside buildings," Scotese said later. By the summer of 2011, she'd noticed a trend on her signature indoor tour: tourists were strangely fascinated with the pedway, which she uses mainly as a shortcut between interesting buildings.

Rather than design a tour that focused exclusively on the pedway (Margaret Hicks of Chicago Elevated already leads one), Scotese decided to design a map of the pedway that visitors could use to explore the network on their own. The city's official map hadn't been updated since 2007, and Scotese wanted to create a map with more information on how to get in and out of the pedway, and what to look for inside.

She's not the first—other amateur maps have come out in recent years, including a computer-mapped version using city GIS data, and a conceptual artist's suggested route. Since CDOT only controls the sections of the pedway directly connected to city transit or beneath city buildings, even the official city map is something of an outsider's best guess.

After a year of exploratory charting expeditions and design work, Scotese published her map in December. Split into five sectional views, it goes into specifics unimagined on the city map—helpful if you want detailed information on a particular stretch, but potentially confusing for someone looking for a clean overview of the system's scope.

A segment of Scoteses pedway map
  • A segment of Scotese's pedway map

Scotese once covered culture for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and spent several years editing Italy guidebooks for travel kingpin Rick Steves, whose work ethic she calls "very intense." Her eye for detail and interest in the peculiar come through in the map's colloquial text bubbles: "Interesting food court . . . 2 for 1 sushi after 2pm"; "empty pit here will likely include a passage in the future." Other notes list irregular hours for the various access points, which are controlled by private buildings.

"The pedway system is so confusing that it needs more of a pirate-style map," she observed. "It's just such a strange space."

Gathering the tour group in a quick huddle under Randolph Street, Scotese told them about her new map, which she distributes free at city visitors' centers. Overhead, fluorescent light shone, wires and pipes snaked in complex patterns, old brick pavers lay silent under asphalt, and cabs whizzed through the February chill. That very morning, Scotese announced, a friend had sent her a link to a new version of the city's pedway map, the first update in seven years.

Does the new city map, updated for recent construction and readability, make Scotese's work obsolete? She doesn't think so. "What's different about our map is that it's about the experience of the pedway, not just where it goes. The new city map has in no way eclipsed the awesomeness of our map."

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