Monday, July 11, 2011

Did You Know, Chicago? The 'L'

Those were some crazy storms this morning!! The power has been going in and out all day, so today's 'Did You Know, Chicago' is going to be a short one.

I love the 'L.' I think it's because my goal growing up was to live in the city, and being on the 'L' is a sure fire reminder that I'm a Chicagoan. (For any non-Chicagoans reading this, the 'L' is the nickname for Chicago's elevated train system. Some of the train lines do go underground, but they're still called the 'L.')

As much as our transit system sucks, it has a great history:

The first EL train ran from Van Buren to 39th, and the car was actually a steam locomotive pulling four wooden coaches. I don't know about you, but that idea scares the crap out of me.

The elevated line under construction in 1896 on Lake Street in downtown Chicago. This view is looking west from Wabash Avenue. The "Loop" came to refer not only to the downtown elevated structure but also to the central business district. (Photo Courtesy of Chicago Historical Society)

Ever wonder why the downtown business district is called "The Loop?" It's because the 'L' trains make a giant circle around the area. The area considered to be "The Loop" has long since expanded outside of the track lines, but the name stuck.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) didn't actual have control over the train system until the late 1940s. Before that, the system was controlled by the president of Chicago Edison, and before that each line was operated independently by various companies.

When the CTA took over, they created one fare system for the entire line. The CTA sold tokens, one per train ride, up until 1999 when they introduced the fare card. I kind of wish they still sold tokens because they are very cool looking.

Food for thoughts; the Chicago 'L'/subway system versus the Tokyo subway system. I guess we're not so bad after all:


  1. Sorry to hear about your power! My fiance's parents (who live in Gurnee) haven't had power since the storm. However, we haven't had any outages.

    I actually have learned a lot about the L because I took a history of Chicago architecture class and we spent a week on the transportation systems! Very cool!

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