Monday, June 30, 2008

10. Trolley lines in Champaign-Urbana

Subscribe in a reader

May be you've seen the vintage street cars of San Francisco, but do you know that our own Chambana once boasted a successful electric trolley line?

This was more than a century ago ... when the first electric trolley lines rolled out.

From Wikipedia:

"The first trolley service in the area was established in 1863, when the Urbana Railroad Company was created to link Urbana and Champaign. These first trolleys were drawn by horses or mules. By 1890, work had begun on an electrified trolley system under the auspices of William B. McKinley. At its peak, this system had as many as 20 routes, including a nighttime "Owl Service" linking Champaign and Urbana.

Interurban streetcar service was also supplied to the area (and indeed to much of Illinois) by the Illinois Terminal Railroad Company, another brainchild of William McKinley. McKinley's scheme of selling electricity from the interurban system to the surrounding towns led to the founding of the Illinois Power and Light Company.

In 1901 the Illinois Motor Transit Company introduced a city bus system to the region, but they went bankrupt within the year. However, the inability of the trolley system to lay enough track to fully serve the area prompted the 1925 addition of another bus system by National City Bus Lines, a subsidiary of General Motors. In 1936, as was happening in other places across the nation, National City Bus Lines purchased the trolley system from the Illinois Power and Light Company and dismantled it. The last trolley operated on 10 November 1936. Within one month bus lines had become the dominant form of transportation in the city under the new name "Champaign-Urbana City Lines"."

That Champaign Urbana City lines almost closed in 1970, but a referendum allowed the creation of CU-MTD, the mass transit district. Their first fare? 30 cents! Considering the fare is at $1 now, it's not much of an increase over the last 38 years. And in the days of $4 gas, this is indeed a very affordable public transport system.

In the figure: Street car #10. "Car no. 10 was the first electric streetcar in Champaign-Urbana, entering service in October 1890 when the electric route opened between Hill and Neil Streets in downtown Champaign, and Wright and Green Streets at the University. Cars 10 and 11 were 16 foot 7 window closed cars built by the Brownell Car Co. in 1890. This picture, taken from the background of a larger view, shows car 10 in its original configuration, with open platforms and a Bombay roof. " Image courtesy of Champaign County Historical Society via H. George Friedman Jr.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

9. Origin of name - Champaign

Subscribe in a reader

The City of Champaign was named after the Champaign county where Champaign-Urbana are located. Now, how did the county come to be named "Champaign"?

Well, as mentioned in the previous post about Urbana, the region was settled by folks coming from the Champaign county of Ohio. (Any surprise that the largest city/county seat of that county in Ohio is "Urbana"?). Anyway, why was it named Champaign to begin with? Well, we can refer to our French-English dictionary about that. In French, "Champaign" means "a plain" or "open level country". Apparently, the land was as flat as the prairie we see in our Chambana!!

Talk about deja vu !!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

8. Origin of the name - Urbana

Subscribe in a reader

Urbana was founded in 1833. The city was founded by people coming from Ohio, who named it after the City of Urbana, Ohio.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, that city in Urbana was in turn named after a town in Virginia.

The town from Virginia is actually named "Urbanna" (notice the 2 n's in the name). According to the history page of the town's website:

The 1680 Acts of Assembly at Jamestown changed all that.

They ordered local officials to establish 20, 50-acre port towns, at a cost of 10,000 pounds of tobacco each, through which all trade would take place: Varina, Charles City, Surry, Jamestown, Patesfield, Nansemond and Warwick along with plantations in Elizabeth City, Norfolk, Yorktown, New Kent, Gloucester, Tappahannock, Stafford, Accomac, Northampton, Lancaster, Northumberland—and the small part of Ralph Wormeley’s Rosegill that would, in 1705, be named Burgh of Urbanna, “City of Anne.” The town was named in honor of England’s Queen Anne.

There you go ... the name Urbana is therefore linked to Queen Anne of England!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

7. Wright and Green, the heart of U of I campus

Subscribe in a reader

Originally uploaded by Ragib Hasan.
Where do you want to be when you first arrive at Chambana? Definitely, you should come to the corner of Green Street and Wright Street. This forms the center of the U of I campus. On the south east side, you'd see the Illini Union, the place where students hang out all day.

On the south west, you have Moonstruck cafe, one of the best places to have a good sip of hot chocolate in town. The Folett bookstore is at the north west corner (visible in the photo). The Everitt lab of the ECE dept is on the north east side.

The traffic signal here lasts for 18 seconds, and you can pass diagonally. There are a LOT of different types of restaurants along green street as you walk along it to the west.

So, enjoy, have a bite at those cafes/restaurants, and take a sip of hot chocolate as you stroll around the campus.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

6. Weather in Champaign - Urbana

Subscribe in a reader

Chambana has the typical midwest weather ... snowy winters, mild spring, hot hot hot summer, and then wonderful colorful fall.

Springtime is April/May, then there is summer between June and August, when temperatures go as high as 100 degrees. Then Fall is between September and November.

Chilly winters start from December, though there is not much snow until January. From January till March, it snows here. of course, the amount of snow is little compared to most other places ... but at times it is usual to have 6 to 12 inch snowfall.

Things to watch out here: Tornadoes!! Illinois is in Tornado country ... from March to June, Tornadoes sirens may wail, and if you can hear one, go head towards the basement, or tornado shelter!!

5. Libraries of Champaign Urbana

Subscribe in a reader

There are two library systems in Champaign-Urbana ... one associated with the University of Illinois, and the other associated with the public library systems.

  • UofI library: Part of many other academic libraries in Illinois
  • Lincoln Trail Library System: the public libraries of the cities of Champaign and Urbana

U of I library: This is the academic library system. The University of Illinois has the largest public university in the United States, and it has more than 10 million items in its collection. The library is scattered throughout the U of I campus, with the two largest locations being the main library at Armory & Wright in Champaign , and the Grainger Engineering Library on Springfield avenue, Urbana (between Wright and Matthews). Subscribers (U of I students, staff, faculty, and also UniHigh students) can also get books from many other libraries in the I-Share alliance.

Lincoln Trail Library System: This is an alliance of the public libraries in the region.

  • Champaign Public Library is located on Randolph St between Green and Springfield. It just moved into a new building in 2008, and the new state-of-the-art building is one of the largest and spectacular library buildings in the area. It has cool features such as automated check-out of books, spacious reading rooms, and on-site cafes.

  • The Urbana Free Library is located at the corner of Green and Race in Urbana. It is more than 150 years old, and is a very nice, quiet, and fun place to study. It also has in its collection the historical records of the county.

People who are members of either of these two libraries can borrow books from the other one, and also from 20+ public libraries in the region. There are also videos (VHS and DVD), audiobooks and CDs. Membership is free and open for all area residents.

4. How to get to Champaign-Urbana by Air

Subscribe in a reader

Reaching Chambana by Air is easy, given that the University of Illinois has its own airport. The Willard Airport (IATA: CMI, ICAO: KCMI, FAA LID: CMI) is located at the Village of Savoy, just a few miles south of Champaign. Just take Route 45 southbound from Champaign (it's the Neil Street inside Champaign, and Dunlap in Savoy).

American Airlines (via American Eagle), Delta, and NorthWest Airlines operate out of here. AA connects to its hubs in Chicago and Dallas Fort Worth. Delta connects to its hub in Atlanta, and NorthWest takes you to its hub in Detroit.

For a limited time, there was a small airlines that connected to Las Vegas, but it moved away in early 2008.

One thing to consider, flights from Chicago O'Hare to Champaign Willard often face bad weather, so be prepared to handle last minute flight cancellations.


Willard Airport has some really nice features. Internet is free for people with a UofI account. Also, check-in times are quite short. Parking at the airport is available at 10 dollars/day.

The other nearby airports include the ones at Decatur, Bloomington-Normal, and Springfield. And of course, you have good ol' O'Hare and Midway at Chicago.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

3. Area code for Champaign Urbana

Subscribe in a reader

The local area code is 217. However, the same code also applies for a large part of Central and East Central Illinois, so the code is not exclusive to Chambana.

Usually, the 217-3* codes almost for sure belong to Chambana.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

2. How to get to Champaign-Urbana by road?

Subscribe in a reader

Many roads lead to Champaign-Urbana, and here are the different ways you can reach there:

  • From East/West - I-74 (takes you from Iowa via Chambana to Indianapolis)
  • From North-South - I-57 (takes you from Chicago via Chambana towards Memphis)
  • From South-East - I-72 (starts from Champaign, goes via Springfield to Missouri)

Local state routes
  • Route 45
  • Route 130

Friday, June 20, 2008

1. Champaign + Urbana = Chambana

Subscribe in a reader

What do you call Champaign-Urbana,the twin cities that house the University of Illinois? Well, folks here have come up with some interesting names. These names coined by the "townies" include:

  • Chambana
  • Shampoo-Banana
  • Champo-Banana

But among these, "Chambana" seems to be the most popular. Even Craigslist's local page is marked as Chambana.

Image Courtesy of wikipedia