Chicago 'L'

From Academic Kids

Template:CTA The Chicago Elevated is the principal urban heavy rail and metro serving Chicago, Illinois in the United States. It is colloquially known by several names: Chicago El, Chicago L, El, L and other variations. It is currently being marketed as simply the Chicago 'L'. Networked as a series of rail lines, the Chicago Elevated connects downtown Chicago with eight adjacent suburban cities, towns and villages. It is one of several mass transit programs of the Chicago Transit Authority; it also offers a more often used city bus system. The oldest segments of the Chicago Elevated date to 1892.

The Chicago Elevated is one of the busiest mass transit systems in the United States and the world. According to 2003 statistics prepared by the Chicago Transit Authority, 494,743 people rode the Chicago Elevated each weekday. 262,791 people rode each Saturday while 180,951 people rode each Sunday. Despite the fame of the Chicago Elevated, it is not the most popular service (in terms of usage) provided by the Chicago Transit Authority. More Chicago residents use the city bus system which has 148 routes connecting all the neighborhoods of Chicago. The statistics noted that for every person that rode the Chicago Elevated, two people rode the city bus system.

The Chicago Elevated derives its name from its distinct elevated railway lines that run through the Chicago Loop. The Chicago Elevated also serves as a subway at grade level through downtown Chicago. Along the expressways that lead into and out of Chicago, the Chicago Elevated run on tracks constructed within the medians. Chicago pioneered the use of the expressway median for rail lines in the 1950s.



Main article: List of Chicago Elevated stations

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A westbound Chicago Elevated crosses the south branch of the Chicago River.
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Passengers wait for the Brown Line at Quincy station.
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Map of the Chicago Elevated

Currently, there are seven rail lines of the Chicago Elevated. Since 1993 under Richard M. Daley, Mayor of Chicago, each rail line is classified by color and destination name: Red Line (formerly Howard–Dan Ryan), Blue Line (formerly O'Hare–Congress–Douglas), Brown Line (formerly Ravenswood), Green Line (formerly Lake–Englewood–Jackson Park), Orange Line, Purple Line, Yellow Line (also called the Skokie Swift).

Previously, the rail lines were given route names based on cardinal directions. For example, the present-day Blue Line was formerly the West-Northwest Route. Passengers were forced to rely on station platform signs to determine destinations of particular trains. Trains also were given names based on principal terminals. The former O'Hare–Congress–Douglas designation of the Blue Line reflects this.

As part of the effort to make the Chicago Elevated easier to navigate for newcomers, current terminal or branch names for some lines have changed from the historical neighborhood names to terminal station names. The changes are:

  • The "Douglas" branch of the Blue Line now carries "54th/Cermak" destination signs.
  • The "Congress" branch of the Blue Line now carries "Forest Park" destination signs.
  • The Brown Line toward Ravenswood now carries a "Kimball" destination sign.
  • The "Lake" branch of the Green Line carries "Harlem/Lake" destination signs.
  • The "Englewood" branch of the Green Line now carries "Ashland/63" destination signs.
  • The "Jackson Park" branch of the Green Line now carries "East 63rd" destination signs and no longer goes as far as Jackson Park.
  • The Purple Line toward Evanston now carries a "Linden" destination sign.

Four Chicago Elevated lines (Brown, Green, Orange, and Purple) converge in Chicago's central business district to form a small rectangular nexus around the district referred to as the "Loop", roughly 500m long east-to-west and 900m long north-to-south. While many believe that the city's center earned the name "Loop" from this very conspicuous section of the "L", the term actually predates the "L" and refers to a now-retired circular routing of streetcars through downtown.

The Red and Blue lines serve the heart of Chicago via subways under State and Dearborn streets, respectively. These are the only 24-hour lines in the system, but having them makes it distinctive along with the New York subway as one of the only American 24-hour rapid transit systems. The Skokie Swift, a shuttle from Howard Street at the city's northernmost limit to Dempster Street in suburban Skokie, does not serve the vicinity of the Loop and is the only "L" line not to run on weekends.

Expansion Plans

The CTA has several plans for renovation and future expansion of the "L" system. The Authority recently completed massive infrastructure reconstruction on the Douglas branch of the Blue Line. The next major renovation project on the list is an ambitious renewal and capacity-expansion project for the Brown Line, a line that has been largely untouched since the first decade of the twentieth century. The Brown Line expansion plan will most notably renovate existing stations while extending platform lengths to support 8 car trains. Work is scheduled to begin in late 2005.

The CTA also continues to work towards the creation of the Circle Line, a new L line which would form a large circle around the Loop and connect various other lines and Metra trains.

Other possible future expansions include

  • new express service to O'Hare and Midway Airport.
  • bringing the Yellow Line out to Westfield Shoppingtown Old Orchard and possibly adding a station or two along the length of the Skokie Swift.
  • bringing the Orange Line to its originally-planned terminus at Ford City Shopping Center. The destination signs on Orange Line trains already have this as a possible destination, so eventual construction of this piece of the system is likely.
  • bringing the south end of the Red Line to a new southern terminus. Several possible alignments have been mentioned.

Currently, the CTA is undergoing a proposal to increase fare prices and/or cut some of its services by reducing hours or temporarily closing stations. This decision will be made on April 13, 2005 and will go into effect during the summer of 2005.

Chicagoland Connections

Connections to commuter rail, intercity rail, intercity buses, and airports:

  • Chicago Union Station, terminal for all Amtrak and many Metra trains, is closest to the "L"'s Clinton (Blue Line) and Quincy (Loop Brown, Orange, and Purple Line) stations.
  • Chicago Ogilvie Transportation Center (formerly Northwestern Station), terminal for many Metra trains, is closest to the "L"'s Clinton (Green Line) and Washington (Loop Brown, Orange and Purple Line) stations.
  • Chicago Randolph Station, terminal for Metra Electric and South Shore/South Bend trains, is closest to the "L"'s Randolph (Loop Brown, Orange, Green and Purple Line) station.
  • Chicago LaSalle Street Station, terminal for many Metra trains, is closest to the "L"'s LaSalle (Blue Line) and LaSalle (Loop Brown, Orange and Purple Line) stations.
  • The downtown Chicago Greyhound bus terminal is near the "L"'s Clinton (Blue Line) station.
  • The "L" directly serves both O'Hare Airport (Blue Line) and Midway Airport (Orange Line).

Outlying transfer points between "L" trains and Metra:

  • Main Street, Purple Line / Main Street, Metra UP-N
  • Davis Street, Purple Line / Main Street, Metra UP-N
  • Irving Park, Blue Line / Irving Park, UP-NW
  • Montrose, Blue Line / Mayfair, Metra MD-N
  • Jefferson Park, Blue Line / Jefferson Park, UP-NW
  • Kedzie, Green Line / Kedzie, UP-W
  • Harlem, Green Line / Oak Park, UP-W
  • Western, Blue Line (Douglas Branch) / Western Avenue, BNSF
  • Damen, Brown Line / Ravenswood, Metra UP-N

Outlying transfer points between "L" trains and Greyhound Lines bus service:

  • Chicago 95th and Dan Ryan destination is directly above the 95th/Dan Ryan (Red Line) station.
  • Cumberland destination is closest to the Cumberland (Blue Line) station.
  • Chicago Latinos destination is closest to the California (Blue Line–Douglas Branch) station.
  • Skokie destination is near the Skokie (Yellow Line) station.

Suburbs served by the "L", in alphabetical order:

External links

  • Chicago Transit Authority ( - operates CTA buses and Chicago "L" trains
  • ( - an unofficial, extensive fan site
  • This is Grand ( - Stories of Chicago's Rapid Transit
  • CTA Tattler ( - Daily blog of "L" stories

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