Monday, February 9, 2009

The Chicago El

Chicago's Elevated Train (or El as it is usually called) is the second oldest in the country (behind New York). Pieces of it date back to 1892. There are some stretches of the El below ground, but it is still called the El. In the movie, The Dark Knight, when Christian Bale was driving under some elevated tracks, that was under the El.

It costs $2.25 to ride no matter how far you want to go. Payment is taken when you enter the station. You can make as many transfers inside the station as you want. If you leave and transfer to a different station or a bus it costs 25 cents. Transfer rates last for two hours.

If you take the El during peak morning and evening commute times be prepared to be stuffed in to the cars like little sardines.

We have several lines (Red, Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple, Yellow) and I have riden on all of them except the Yellow line. The Brown, Pink, Orange and Purple (when express) Lines run around the business area of downtown on an elevated circle called the Loop. The Green line also uses the Loops tracks, but only on the north and east sides. All the other lines that use the Loop make a P shape. They go to the Loop, circle around, stopping at each of the nine stations on the Loop and go back out again.

Red Line- This is the line that I live by. This runs north to the edge of Evanston at Howard Street and south to 95th/Dan Ryan. The Red Line serves both Wrigley (Cubs Stadium) and US Cellular Field (White Sox Stadium). The Red Line is underground from just north of the loop to just south of the loop. It is one of just two lines that run 24 hours.

Blue Line-This is the line that I take to class--well I take it to the shuttle that takes me to class. The Blue line runs from OHare through downtown (where it is underground) and then out to the west side. Pieces of this are underground as well.

Brown Line- This line has the stereotype of serving the "nicer" areas. Mostly it just doesn't serve any not nice areas. It runs from the north side down to the loop which it circles and then runs back to the north side again.

Green Line- This line utilizes the oldest pieces of track. Because of that, it has had much more recent construction, making it the line with the highest percentage of wheelchair accessible stations.

Orange Line- This line serves Midway Airport. It was constructed in the early 1990s. I prefer to fly out of Midway and have taken this line down to the Airport several times.

Pink Line- In 2006 the CTA overlaid new service on existing lines to create the Pink Line. The southern most branch of the Blue Lines and pieces of the Green Line were recommissioned to make more access to the train for those in the western areas.

Purple Line- This line serves Evanston, a suburb to the north. During morning and evening commute times it runs express from Howard (where the Red Line ends) down to Belmont, south of which it follows the Brown Line route.

I take the El all the time and find it very easy to navigate. I hardly ever bother with the buses as the El gets me where ever I need to go.

My Town Monday is the brain child of Travis Erwin. For other locations to visit please go to Travis' site here.

25 tidbits:

Sepiru Chris said...

Brings back good memories of riding the El. Cheers

Charles Gramlich said...

You live up close to Wayne Allen Sallee, who is linked on my blog. He's a Chicago writer. I've heard him talk of such lines quite a bit.

paintandink said...

Oh... how I wish we had such accessible public transportation here in VA. A bit jealous, I must say!

stu said...

Living miles from the nearest bus stop, let alone trains, I'm suddenly very jealous.

Lauren said...

@Chris- The El is alot of fun. It's nice to be able to look at the city while riding verses being underground.

@Charles- I checked out his blog through the link on your blog. I think he lives in the burbs. He gets to experience a whole different set of trains called the Metra. Maybe I will do another post on that set (the El is just in the county verses the Metra serves further out).

@paintandink and @stu- Thinking about the Wind in Chicago coupled with the fact that the platforms are also elevated might make you feel less jealous. Very very cold up there while waiting for the train, let me tell ya.

Clare2e said...

Hi Lauren-

I lived in and around Chicago for close to 20 years. In addition to being a Lake County Metra girl in college, I lived along the Blue Line (Back of the Yards), the Red Line (Uptown), the Purple Line (Rogers Park), and the Brown Line (Lincoln Square). It's a great system, and just like in New York, each line does have its own personality from the equipment to the ridership. I remember the Red Line before Cubs games. Sardine cans are as roomy as airplane hangars by comparison.

Tell us more- I get nostalgic : )

Travis Erwin said...

Interesting stuff. Our public transportation is nearly non existent.

Jenn Jilks said...

I love the idea of the EI.

We have to travel 25 min. to the next town! My adult children love the city.

Thanks for visiting my blog and commiserating about our citiots!

The Blonde Duck said...

Of course my most intelligent response is "Choo, choo!"

I moved! Come visit me at

Monnik said...

What a great blog you have! I have always wanted to ride the El, but each time I'm in Chicago, I end up driving instead. Next visit, I swear.

Fortune Cookies said...

I followed the link from the comment you left me, didn't know I'd get photos of the El! What sweet memories that brings back, YAY!
Thanks for stopping by, nice blog you got yourself here, I'll be back!

Barry said...

Fascinating. What an extensive train service.

Here in Toronto we are just preparing for a major expansion of our rail system. Instead of extending the subways, they are putting in new Light Rail lines above ground through the suburbs.

Lauren said...

Eek! I'm behind on the commenting on my comments! Sorry!

@Clare2e- I take the Red Line home so cubs games make for an interesting commute...but it's nice and extra empty after Wrigley :-P

@Travis- Most cities don't really have any public transportation. Here, if we drive downtown it costs about $20 to park so it makes the train much more resonable!

@Jenn- Thanks for visiting the blog. I used to live in a fairly small town so I remember the long trips to the bigger town.

@Duck- They really only go CLACK CLACK CLACK RUMBLE RUMBLE. Really loud. Although I have heard them toot a couple times when they come to a station and an idiot is leaning over the rails.

@Monnik- It really depends on where you are if the el makes sense. But I'd recommend taking one of the tracks that go around the loop. It's only $2.25 and you can ride and transfer as much as you want. It's a fun and fairly cheap way to see the city.

@Barry- So you will have an Elevated too! They aren't too ugly to look at and I think they are much more fun to ride. The open air stations keep cleaner and smell better. We have both and it is quite a difference.

Reb said...

What an extensive system. Our city is just getting to the second phase which was originally planned for the 80's. Surface track except for an area downtown where they went underground.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the El also mentioned in The Fugitive (one of my favorite movies of all time)?

Lauren said...

@cookies- sorry, I had missed mentioning you on my last comment. Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting.

@reb- better late than never :) I hope the train is convenient for you! It's so much nicer than having to worry about where to park.

@writer- Yes, it was. And the Fugitive is a good movie. I love it when movies are set in Chicago.

Spy Scribbler said...

17 years ago, I took my first plane/train trip by myself to Chicago. Long story short, one of the lines had JUST opened, but the policeman didn't know it, so he told me to get on a different line. I ended up with a guy dripping BLOOD, fresh from a bar fight, carrying my luggage and helping me get to the airport. Then a taxi driver who drove me to the airport, even though my ATM card wouldn't give me the money (that was back in the day when ATM cards didn't necessarily work everywhere).

And I should mention I missed the plane going and the plane coming home.

It was a trip.

Unknown said...

The last time I came to Chicago I did all my travel in taxis. Next time around I should give El a try thanks to your informative post.

Tia Nevitt said...

I love your blog! Thanks for linking Fantasy Debut.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

This sounds wonderful! Wish I could see it in real life. I love the Dark Knight, and it'd be amazing to see where it was filmed.

Lauren said...

@spy- That sounds like a very eventful trip!

@t and s- The el is much cheaper and is very safe. I'd recommend it to any visitor.

@tia- Thanks for visiting and commenting.

@raph- I love watching the Dark Knight and seeing the el!

Barrie said...

What a great idea to do the El!

Lauren said...

@barrie- Thanks :) I'm thinking about doing other MTM on different el routes and the places you would find along the way.

Linda said...

I just visited Chicago and blogged about a bracelet with charms made out of recycled CTA maps. Thought you might find the piece interesting.

I enjoy your stories of life in Chicago and will surely visit again.

Lauren said...

@scoop- thanks for visiting my blog. I will have to go check yours out and learn about those bracelets. I think my nieces would love them!

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