Inside station at North/Clybourn.Inside the newly renovated station near the Lincoln Park Apple store.Photo: Kevin Zolkiewicz

Tomorrow, a new Apple store will open in Chicago. For residents of the Lincoln Park neighborhood, even ones who never intend to swipe their fingers across an iPad, this is a good thing.

That’s because as part of a deal with the city, Apple poured $4 million into renovating the notoriously dilapidated North/Clybourn station on the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line.

From the Chicago Tribune:

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Outside, the station has clean new brick, big new windows and a sleek new look, partly 1940s and entirely 2010.

The inside isn’t stylish, but it’s improved. Someone has scrubbed the red concrete floors, brushed red paint on the old railings, tried to wipe the grime from the escalator stairs.

And the Apple name is everywhere, except out front.

From the moment you push through the turnstile, Apple ads beam at you, as bright as searchlights. Down in the tunnel, all the other ads are gone.

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Apple expressed interest in calling it the Apple Red Line stop. The CTA, which is exploring the possibility of selling naming rights to its stations, said Apple would get the right of first refusal for this one.

Not only has Apple rehabbed the station, they’ve created a pleasant public plaza between the station and the new store, complete with benches and a fountain.

What’s not to like? Well, if you live in the neighborhood and ride the CTA, the answer is nothing, as long as you can deal with a few more Apple ads.

But as Tom Philpott pointed out yesterday in his piece about Whole Foods helping to put salad bars into public school lunchrooms, a few acts of corporate benevolence can’t fix a broken system. If you don’t happen to live near an Apple store, who is going to pay to renovate your train station? Or maintain it? That is, if the train is even running anymore.

Apple Inc storeAn Apple a train sure would be nice.Photo: Jay RodgersEarlier this year — just months after Apple announced its intention to renovate the North/Clybourn station — the CTA cut service on 119 bus routes and seven rail lines to deal with a $300 million deficit. This after raising fares in 2009. Transit systems around the nation have been slashing service, laying off employees, and asking passengers to pay more at the farebox. You can find an excellent map of the damage at Transportation for America‘s site. Meanwhile, the tough decisions about how to fund our nation’s transportation system keep getting kicked down the road.

So, kudos to Apple for putting a shine on the public facility that will serve its eager customers. The rest of the nation’s transit users are still waiting for a solution.

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