A Quick Guide To Getting Around On The Chicago “EL”

Navigating the subway in Chicago can feel intimidating at first, but with a little bit of preparation, it's easy to get the hang of. 



Navigating the subway in Chicago can feel intimidating at first, but with a little bit of preparation, it’s easy to get the hang of. 

Chicago has a robust public transportation system that is essential for getting around without the hassle of driving. The subway, also known as the “L”, is a quick and efficient way to travel throughout the city. Before diving in, it’s important to understand the basics of the subway system. Here are a few helpful tips for doing just that.

Getting started 

First, you’ll need to purchase a transit card, which can be done at any station vending machine or online. You can choose between a reloadable Ventra card or a single-use ticket. Once you have your card loaded with money, you’re ready to ride. Single ride fares with up to two free transfers are $2.50 unless traveling from O’Hare where a ride into the city costs $5. A reduced fare is also available for those who qualify. CTA unlimited passes ranging from 1 to 30-day validities can be purchased and vary in cost depending on the time frame needed. You can find more information on fares via the CTA website here

Understanding the lines 

There are eight different subway lines in Chicago, each represented by a different color; Blue, Red, Green, Brown, Orange, Pink, Purple, and Yellow. Knowing which line you need to take is crucial, so it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the route map ahead of time. Additionally, the signs and maps inside the stations are color-coded to make it easier to navigate. 

Timing is key 

Subway cars come and go quickly, so it’s important to time your arrival at the station accordingly. Most subway lines run every 5-10 minutes during peak hours, and less frequently during off-peak hours. You can check the train schedule on the CTA website or via the Ventra app to make sure you don’t miss your train.

Navigating transfers

If you need to transfer from one line to another, you’ll need to know which station to do so at. Some stations have multiple lines running through them, while others only have one. When transferring, make sure to follow the signs to the correct platform and train. You can also ask a station attendant for help if you’re unsure.

Navigating the stations

Subway stations in Chicago can vary in size and layout, but they all have certain features in common. Each station has a main entrance and exit, ticket vending machines, and a turnstile area for accessing the platforms. Some stations also have elevators or escalators for easier access. When boarding a train, make sure to stand behind the yellow line on the platform until the train comes to a complete stop.

Safety Tips

Like any major city, Chicago can have its share of safety concerns. When riding the subway, it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings and keep your belongings close to you. Avoid wearing headphones or being distracted by your phone, as this can make you an easy target for theft. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, move to a different car or alert a station attendant.

In conclusion, navigating the subway in Chicago may seem daunting at first, but with a little bit of preparation and some common-sense tips, it’s easy to master. By understanding the lines, timing your arrivals, navigating transfers, understanding the fare system, and staying aware of your surroundings, you can ride the L with confidence and explore all that Chicago has to offer. Happy travels!

Sources: https://www.transitchicago.com/