Chicago: Getting Around on The “L”

Believe it or not. I am quite impressed with the transit system in Chicago.


Yeah, it has to qualify as the worse looking transit system in the world. It really does look dilapidated and rusted through and rickety … and appears to be close to falling apart any day now. However, it gets me from A to B without requiring much of brain work.

There are 8 lines on the system, each of them identified by colors. It took me a while before I realized that lines for the platform entrances are painted on the steps. That is a first I had seen signs on steps … not intuitive initially.


The transit system in Chicago is known as the “L”. There is also a standard way to write it. It is not L, or l … it is “L” … with the close inverted commas and the capital L.

The nickname “L” came from the name Elevated Rapid Transit. The reason the system looked so old is because, well, it IS old. The “L” was first built about 120 years ago.


There is no glitz in the system but it is functional. At least I don’t have to navigate a maze of tunnels getting from one line to another on the “L”.


Perhaps the only visible high-tech thing is the ticket machines. You can only get standard tickets here. You can’t get multi-day passes on these machines.


I got a 3-day Visitor Pass which allows me unlimited travel on the system. To get this I had to go to a store near the station to buy them.

It was awkward buying the multi-day passes because it is the same store people lines up to cash their welfare checks.

Oh … one thing to add too. My 3-Day Visitor Pass works 50% of the time. Not sure why. So it was a hassle having to get the attendant of the station to let me through the turnstile half the time.

One thing I can’t complain is that using the system is so cheap. I think it is like just $2 for a 2-hr trip on the system. It is certainly cheaper than Vancouver’s Skytrain.


Does the above view look familiar to you?  How about this video …


This is where that familiar battle scene between Spiderman and Doctor Octopus in the Spiderman 2 movie.


I know it’s strange like I said but I like the “L”. The ride is certainly more scenic than underground trains — particularly around The Loop. It is a noisier system too for sure because of the structure. Don’t you think that such lumber platforms look much better than pure concrete ones?

The other thing good about the “L” is that it operates 24 hours a day. That is so rare, especially for an American system in a country which had not quite embraced public transit safe for New York City.


Even the cars are nothing to shout about. They even use faux wooden panels in the decor.

Anyway, Chicago is a very walkable city. It is really flat and The Loop and The Magnificent Mile is really close to one another.


The transit system included the use of buses which I used quite a bit too getting to places where there are no “L” stations.

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  1. may

    aaarrrggghhhhh i am currently hating chicago after the canucks-blackhawks series! your blog is great though 🙂

  2. Ben

    chicago is my favourite city in america

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