Brown Line (CTA)
The Brown Line (or the Ravenswood Line) of the Chicago "L" system, is an 11.4-mile (18.3 km) route with 27 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 63,481 passengers boarding each weekday in 2017.
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 begins on the northwest side of Chicago, at the Kimball terminal 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 with the Brown Line 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 tracks which zigzags its way through the neighborhoods of Lincoln Park and Near North Side stopping at Sedgwick and Chicago/Franklin. Running over Franklin, then Wells Street, a stop is made at the Merchandise Mart before crossing the Chicago River on the upper level of the Wells Street Bridge before joining the Loop Elevated at Lake Street. Operating counter-clockwise, Brown Line trains operate around the Loop on the Outer track via Wells-Van Buren-Wabash-Lake, serving all Loop stations, before the return trip back north to the Kimball terminal.
There are three sections of the Brown Line which includes the Ravenswood Branch that connects from Kimball Avenue station to Belmont Avenue station; merging from the Purple Line Express. Another is the North Side Main Line which connects from Belmont Avenue station to the Merchandise Mart before entering the Loop. The Brown Line enters the loop going counter-clockwise from Washington/Wells to Clark/Lake and then exits the loop, heading towards the Kimball Avenue station.
Operating hours and headways
The Brown Line operates between Kimball and the Loop weekdays and Saturdays from 4 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. and on Sundays from 5 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. The Brown Line Shuttle service runs only between Kimball and Belmont between 1:30 a.m. and 2:25 a.m. At Belmont, southbound riders can transfer to the 24-hour Red Line. On weekdays, service runs between three and eight minutes during rush hour, seven to eight minutes during midday, then six to twelve minutes during nighttime. On weekends, early morning service operates every fifteen minutes, then increases to seven to eight minutes on Saturdays during the day and ten minutes on Sundays during the day, then at nighttime every ten to twelve minutes. Late night service operates every fifteen minutes until the end of service, although late night trips from Kimball to Belmont stations operate every half hour Monday thru Saturday nights.
During morning rush hour, several Brown Line trains bound for the Loop continue toward the Orange Line after stopping at the Harold Washington Library station; whereas several Orange Line trains bound for Kimball continue as the Brown Line after stopping at Adams/Wabash station.
The Brown Line is operated with the 2600-series and 3200-series railcars. The Brown Line operate using four cars at other times on weekdays and all day on weekends and eight cars during weekday rush hours. The Brown Line's 3200-series cars are to remain in service on the line until at least the late 2020s, where they will be replaced by the new 7000-series cars if all options are picked up, otherwise the Brown Line's 3200-series cars will remain in service on the line until the 2030s if the options are not picked up. In the meantime, CTA is currently in the process of overhauling the 3200-series cars with color LED destination signs (similar to the 5000-series cars), new air conditioning systems, and rebuilt propulsion systems, passenger door motors, and wheel/axle assemblies. The 3200-series rehabilitation began in 2015 and was completed in 2018. Later that year, some of the Brown Line's 3200-series cars will be transferred to the Blue Line, with some of the Orange Line's 2600-series cars being transferred to the Brown Line.
Beginning March 30, 2008, the Brown Line began running eight cars during rush hours, since all of the reopened or renovated stations have been rebuilt to accommodate eight cars. Prior to this, although ridership certainly warranted eight cars on the Brown Line during weekday rush hours, most stations on the line couldn't berth longer than six cars. Six cars are standard on the Brown Line during midday. Early morning, late evening, and weekend service is generally provided by four cars, although this may be extended to eight cars due to special events and holidays.
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 terminal on December 14, 1907.
The Kimball terminal was completely renovated 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 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 broke ground on the project. All but one of the Brown Line stations were reconstructed to be ADA compliant and 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 from 1987 to 1988, and 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, and the other 16 stations were 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 completed on December 31, 2009.
The Red & Purple Modernization Project will involve a redesign of a diamond junction north of Belmont Station into a flyover allowing Brown Line trains going north to circumnavigate crossings with Red and Purple Line trains. This project will decrease train backups and increase the number of trains that can cross the junction per hour. The project was criticized by 2015 mayoral candidate Chuy García and local residents in the Lakeview neighborhood who organized a referendum to stop it. The Federal Transit Administration passed the CTA's environmental review on the bypass in January 2016 and received a $1.1 billion federal grant the following year. 16 properties affected by the bypass were demolished. Construction on the bypass began on October 2, 2019 and will be completed by the end of 2021.
|Station||Location||Municipality||Points of Interest & Notes|
|Kimball||4755 N. Kimball Avenue||Chicago||Points of interest:|
Albany Park, Northeastern Illinois University, WTTW, Northside College Prep, Von Steuben Metropolitan High School and Albany Park Library
|Kedzie||4648 N. Kedzie Avenue||Points of interest:|
|Francisco||4648 N. Francisco Avenue||Points of interest:|
|Rockwell||4648 N. Rockwell Street||Points of interest:|
|Western||4648 N. Western Avenue||Points of interest:|
|Damen||4645 N. Damen Avenue||Points of interest:|
|Ravenswood||4530 N. Ravenswood Avenue||Closed August 1, 1949|
|Montrose||1817 W. Montrose Avenue||Points of interest:|
|Irving Park||1816 W. Irving Park Road||Points of interest:|
|Addison||1818 W. Addison Street||Points of interest:|
|Paulina||3410 N. Lincoln Avenue||Points of interest:|
|Southport||3411 N. Southport Avenue||Points of interest:|
|Belmont||945 W. Belmont Avenue||Points of interest:|
|Wellington||945 W. Wellington Avenue||Points of interest:|
|Diversey||943 W. Diversey Avenue||Points of interest:|
|Wrightwood||Wrightwood Avenue and Lincoln/Sheffield Avenues||Closed August 1, 1949|
|Fullerton||943 W. Fullerton Avenue||Points of interest:|
|Webster||945 W. Webster Avenue||Closed August 1, 1949|
|Armitage||944 W. Armitage Avenue||Points of interest:|
|Willow||Willow Street and Sheffield Avenue||Closed May 17, 1942|
|Halsted||Closed August 1, 1949|
|Larrabee||1540 N. Larrabee Street||Closed August 1, 1949|
|Sedgwick||1536 N. Sedgwick Street||Points of interest:|
|Schiller||Closed August 1, 1949|
|Division||Closed August 1, 1949|
|Oak||Oak Street and Orleans Street||Closed July 31, 1949|
|Chicago||301 W. Chicago Avenue||Points of interest:|
|Grand||Grand Avenue and Franklin Street||Closed September 20, 1970|
|Kinzie||Kinzie Street and Wells Street||Closed 1921; replaced by Grand|
|Merchandise Mart||350 N. Wells Street||Points of interest:|
|Randolph/Wells||150 N. Wells St.||Closed July 17, 1995; partially demolished and replaced by Washington/Wells|
|Washington/Wells||100 N. Wells Street||Outer Loop platform|
Points of interest:
|Madison/Wells||1 N. Wells St.||Closed January 30, 1994; demolished and replaced by Washington/Wells|
|Quincy||220 S. Wells Street||Outer Loop platform|
Points of interest:
|LaSalle/Van Buren||121 W. Van Buren Street||Outer Loop platform|
Points of interest:
|Dearborn/Van Buren||Dearborn Street and Van Buren Street||Closed 1949|
|Harold Washington Library–State/Van Buren||1 W. Van Buren Street||Outer Loop platform|
Points of interest:
|State/Van Buren||400 S. State St.||Closed September 2, 1973|
|Adams/Wabash||201 S. Wabash Avenue||Outer Loop platform|
Points of interest:
|Madison/Wabash||2 N. Wabash Avenue||Closed March 16, 2015; demolished and replaced by Washington/Wabash|
|Washington/Wabash||29 N. Wabash Avenue||Consolidation of Madison/Wabash and Randolph/Wabash. Opened August 31, 2017
Points of interest:
|151 N. Wabash Avenue||Closed September 3, 2017; demolished and replaced by Washington/Wabash|
|State/Lake||200 N. State Street||Outer Loop platform|
Points of interest:
|Clark/Lake||100 W. Lake Street, Chicago||Outer Loop platform|
Points of interest:
- Note: After stopping at Clark/Lake, Brown Line trains return to Merchandise Mart, then make all stops back to Kimball.
- "Annual Ridership Report: Calendar Year 2017" (PDF). Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved 2019-04-02.
- Lee v. Chicago Transit Authority, 152 Ill.2d 432, 605 N.E.2d 493 (1992).
- "Brown Line Trains schedule" (PDF). Chicago Transit Authority. transitchicago.com. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
- 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
- "Chicago L.org: Operations - Lines -> Brown Line".
- Rockwell station, ctabrownline.com
- "Countdown To A New Brown - The Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project".
- "Red and Purple Modernization: Rebuilding Vital Infrastructure For Chicago's Future" (PDF). CTA. April 23, 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-01-24. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
- Swartz, Tracy (March 2, 2015). "Chicago mayoral candidates sound off on transit priorities". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
- Swartz, Tracy (November 6, 2014). "Lakeview residents vote: CTA hasn't 'sufficiently justified' Belmont flyover". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
- Greenfield, John (January 26, 2016). "The controversial Belmont flyover has federal approval—but still faces other hurdles". Chicago Reader. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
- Dudek, Mitch (January 9, 2017). "Obama sends CTA $1.1 billion for Red Line improvements". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 19, 2018.