Brown Line (CTA)
A Brown Line train at Clark/Lake
|Locale||Chicago, Illinois, USA|
|Daily ridership||101,881 (avg. weekday in 2011)|
|Opened||August 1, 1949 (Current operation)|
|Operator(s)||Chicago Transit Authority|
|Character||Elevated and Street Level|
|Line length||11.4 mi (18.3 km)
(Loop; 33 minutes)
(Belmont; 18 minutes)
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Minimum radius||90 feet (27 m)|
|Electrification||Third rail, 600 V DC|
The Brown Line (or the Ravenswood Line) of the Chicago 'L' rapid transit system, is an 11.4-mile (18.3 km) route with 28 stations between Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood and downtown Chicago. It runs completely above ground and is almost entirely grade-separated. It is the third busiest 'L' route, with an average of 101,881 passengers boarding each weekday in 2011.
The Brown Line operates to the Loop weekdays and Saturdays from about 5am to 12:30am and on Sundays from 7am to midnight. The Brown Line Shuttle service, running only between the northern terminus Kimball and Belmont, runs from about 4am to 5am and about 12:30am to 2:30 am on weekdays and Saturdays, and about 5am to 6am and about midnight to 1am on Sundays. At Belmont, southbound riders can transfer to the 24-hour Red Line.
Before CTA lines were color-coded in 1993, the Brown Line was known as the Ravenswood Route; specifically, the series of stations from Belmont to Kimball were called the Ravenswood branch. Accordingly, the Kimball-Belmont shuttle service was called the Ravenswood Shuttle.
The Brown Line starts out in northwest Chicago, at the Kimball and Lawrence Avenue terminal (3400 W. - 4800 N.) in Albany Park, where there is a storage yard and servicing shop for the trains to the east of the passenger station. From there, trains operate over street level tracks between Leland and Eastwood Avenues to Rockwell Street, then ramp up to the elevated structure for the rest of the trip.
The trains on the street-level section are powered by third rail rather than overhead catenary (the technology used by most other U.S. electric-powered at-grade rail systems), a decision that exposes wayward pedestrians to the risk of electrocution. A fatal accident in 1977 involving a severely intoxicated Korean immigrant who attempted to urinate on the third rail at the Kedzie station eventually resulted in a famous Illinois Supreme Court decision in 1992 affirming a verdict of $1.5 million against CTA.
After the Damen station, the route turns south, about one-half block parallel and west of Metra's Union Pacific North railroad line and Ravenswood Avenue to a point south of the Addison station. Here the route turns east again and runs parallel to Roscoe Street past Sheffield Avenue where it once again turns south at Clark Junction to join the four-track North Side elevated line in Lakeview. From just north of Belmont station south to Armitage, Brown and Red Line trains operate side-by-side, with Purple Line Express trains sharing the tracks during weekday rush hours. Brown and Purple Line trains run on the outermost tracks serving five stops, while Red Line trains run on the innermost tracks making only two stops.
South of the Armitage station, Brown and Purple Line trains continue southward towards the Chicago Loop on elevated track which zigzags its way through the neighborhoods of Lincoln Park and Near North Side stopping at Sedgwick and Chicago and Franklin. Running over Franklin, then Wells Street, a stop is made at the Merchandise Mart before crossing the Chicago River on the upper lever of the Wells Street Bridge before joining the Loop Elevated at Lake Street. Operating counterclockwise, Brown Line trains extend around the Loop over the Outer track via Wells-Van Buren-Wabash-Lake, serving all Loop stations, before the return trip back north to the Albany Park terminal.
Operating fleet 
Currently, the Brown Line's rolling stock consists of Morrison-Knudsen-built 3200-series rail cars, delivered from 1992 through 1994. Budd-built 2600-series rail cars sometimes appear on the Brown Line when there is a shortage of 3200-series cars. However, the borrowing of 2600-series cars is no longer necessary as of December 2012 since Orange Line-assigned Boeing Vertol-built 2400-series cars (often in mixed eight-car consists with that line's 3200-series cars) began operating selected weekday rush-period trips on the Brown Line due to a shortage in storage space at the Kimball Yard.
Beginning March 30, 2008, the Brown Line began running eight cars on trains during rush periods, since all of the re-opened or renovated stations have been rebuilt to accommodate eight-car trains. Prior to this, although ridership certainly warranted eight-car trains on the Ravenswood–Brown Line during rush periods, most stations on the line couldn't berth longer than six-car trains. Six cars are standard on the Brown Line during midday. Early morning, late evening, and weekend service is generally provided by four-car trains, although this may vary due to special events.
The Northwestern Elevated Railroad opened the Ravenswood branch between the existing main line and Western Avenue in Lincoln Square on May 18, 1907. The route was completed to the Kimball/Lawrence terminal on December 14, 1907.
The Kimball/Lawrence terminal was completely remodeled and a new bridge over the North Branch of the Chicago River was completed in the 1970s. The Western and Merchandise Mart stations were rebuilt in the 1980s. Prior to the start of the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project these two stations, along with the Kimball/Lawrence terminal were the only ADA accessible stations on the Brown Line outside of the Loop.
Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project 
The Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project—which ran from 2006 to 2009—was undertaken to repair aging infrastructure and increase passenger capacity at Brown Line stations. On February 20, 2006, the CTA formally broke ground on the project. All but one of the Brown Line stations were modified or reconstructed to be ADA compliant and able to accommodate eight-car trains. The right-of-way between Kimball and Rockwell Avenue was modernized. Traction power equipment and train control systems were upgraded, and a new fiber optic communication network installed. Merchandise Mart was the only station not to receive any work as it had previously been reconstructed in 1988, and so was already ADA compliant and able to accommodate 8-car trains. Another two stations—Kimball and Western—received small platform extensions but little other work, whereas the other 16 stations were largely or completely rebuilt.
The first two stations to be completed—Kedzie and Rockwell—reopened on August 16, 2006, and all of the stations had reopened by July 30, 2009 when the new Wellington station entered service. The project was formally completed on December 31, 2009.
Station listing 
At Clark/Lake, Brown Line trains head back to Merchandise Mart, then make all stops in reverse order to Kimball.
- "Annual Ridership Report: Calendar Year 2011". Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
- Lee v. Chicago Transit Authority, 152 Ill.2d 432, 605 N.E.2d 493 (1992).
- Press Release - Eight Car Service to Begin on Brown Line. transitchicago.com.
- "New 'L' Line Operated". Chicago Daily Tribune. 19 May, 1907.
- Borzo, Greg (2007). The Chicago "L". Arcadia Publishing. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-7385-5100-5.
- Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project. ctabrownline.com
- Rockwell station, ctabrownline.com
- About the Brown Line at Countdown to a New Brown - official CTA site
- Brown Line at Chicago-'L'.org
- Train schedules at CTA official site