Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Chicago "L" (short for Chicago Elevated) is an urban rapid transit metro serving Chicago and eight of its adjacent suburbs. Its oldest segments date to 1892, while its newest extension, the Orange Line to Midway Airport, opened in 1993.
- 494,743 people rode the "L" each weekday
- 262,791 rode each Saturday
- 180,951 rode each Sunday
While the "L" is the most famous and distinctive of Chicagoland's mass transit offerings, most transit trips in the city of Chicago use the CTA's 148-route bus network at least in part, at about a 2-1 ratio.
Unlike many cities' systems, considerable parts of the "L" are elevated -- hence the system's nickname. Other parts of the "L", though, reside in subways, at grade level, or in expressway medians. Chicago pioneered this last form of right-of-way in the 1950s. Regardless of altitude, Chicagoans refer to their rapid transit system's entirety as "the 'L'" (and alternatively the El-train or The El).
Previously, riders would need to understand the basic routing that they would need to use to get to their destination (e.g., today's Blue Line used to be the "West-Northwest Route") and would rely chiefly on station platform signs to determine the destination of a particular train.
In 1993, the CTA began to refer to rail routes by assigned colors, rather than route names that were often derived from a given line's terminals or the outlying areas it would serve, with the following seven color names (listed in order of ridership):
- Red (formerly "Howard–Dan Ryan")
- Blue ("O'Hare–Congress–Douglas")
- Brown ("Ravenswood")
- Green ("Lake–Englewood–Jackson Park")
- Orange (marketed as "Midway Orange Line" at 1993 opening; direct connection to Midway Airport)
- Purple ("Evanston Express" and "Evanston Shuttle") (the Purple Line Express, connecting Chicago to Evanston and Wilmette, Illinois, runs to the Loop during rush hour only)
- Yellow ("Skokie Swift")
As part of the effort to make the "L" 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 "L" 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.
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.
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:
- Cicero, Illinois
- Evanston, Illinois
- Forest Park, Illinois
- Oak Park, Illinois
- River Forest, Illinois
- Rosemont, Illinois
- Skokie, Illinois
- Wilmette, Illinois
List of stations:
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