Brown Line (CTA)

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Brown Line
Chicago Transit Authority Brown Line train.jpg
A Brown Line train of 3200 series cars.
Type Rapid transit
System Chicago "L"
Status Operational
Locale Chicago, Illinois, United States
Termini Kimball
The Loop, Belmont
Stations 27
Daily ridership 101,881 (avg. weekday in 2011)[1]
Opened August 1, 1949 (Current operation)
Operator(s) Chicago Transit Authority
Character Elevated and Street Level
Rolling stock 3200-series
Line length 11.4 mi (18.3 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Minimum radius 90 feet (27 m)
Electrification Third rail, 600 V DC
Route map
Kimball Park and ride Bus interchange
Chicago River
North Branch
Western Bus interchange
Damen Bus interchange
UP-N to Kenosha
Montrose Bus interchange
Irving Park Bus interchange
Addison Bus interchange
UP-N to Ogilvie
Paulina Bus interchange
Purple Line Express
to Linden
Red Line
to Howard
Belmont Bus interchange
Diversey Bus interchange
Fullerton Bus interchange
Armitage Bus interchange
Sedgwick Bus interchange
Chicago Bus interchange
Merchandise Mart Bus interchange
Chicago River
Clark Bus interchange | State Bus interchange
Randolph/Wabash Bus interchange
Washington/Wells Bus interchange
Madison | Madison
Adams/Wabash Bus interchange
Quincy Bus interchange
LaSalle | Library Bus interchange

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 101,881 passengers boarding each weekday in 2011.[1]

The Brown Line operates to the Loop weekdays and Saturdays from 4:00 am to 1:30 am and on Sundays from 5:00 am to 1:30 am. The Brown Line Shuttle service, running only between Kimball and Belmont, runs from 4:00 am to 2:20 am on weekdays and Saturdays, and 5:00 am to 2:00 am 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.


A Brown Line train crosses the north branch of the Chicago River
Between Rockwell and Western stations a ramp carries Brown Line trains from ground-level to elevated tracks
Northward view from Adams/Wabash station
Brown and Orange line trains contend for the intersection at the southeast corner of the Chicago Loop. Photographed from the Adams/Wabash stop crossover walkway on the Green, Orange, Brown and Purple lines.
Chicago Transit Authority control tower 18 guides elevated Chicago 'L' north and southbound Purple and Brown lines intersecting with east and westbound Pink and Green lines and the looping Orange line above the Wells and Lake street intersection in the loop.

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.[2]

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 counterclockwise, 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.

Rolling stock[edit]

The Brown Line is operated with the Morrison-Knudsen-built 3200-series railcars, delivered from 1992 through 1994, with one 2600-series railcar 3458, (renumbered from 3032). 2600-series railcars 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 2400-series cars (often in mixed eight car consists with that line's 3200-series cars) began operating selected weekday rush hour trips on the Brown Line due to a shortage in storage space at the Kimball Yard. The Orange Line's 2400-series cars have since been replaced by the 2600-series cars as of October 31, 2014. Still, one 2600-series car 3458, (renumbered from 3032) remains on the Brown Line. 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 expected to remain in service on the line until at least the 2020s, where they will be replaced by the future 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 will be completed in 2017.

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.[3] 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.[4] The route was completed to the Kimball terminal on December 14, 1907.[5]

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[edit]

The new Rockwell Station opened on August 16, 2006

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.[6] 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.[7]

The first two stations to be completed—Kedzie and Rockwell—reopened on August 16, 2006,[8] and all of the stations had reopened by July 30, 2009 when the new Wellington station entered service.[9] The project was completed on December 31, 2009.[10]

Station listing[edit]

The Brown and Purple Chicago 'L' lines run above road traffic on Franklin Street in the Near North Side community area.
Ravenswood Branch
Station Location Transfers Points of Interest & Notes
Kimball Handicapped/disabled access Aiga parking inv.svg 4755 N. Kimball Avenue - Albany Park, Northeastern Illinois University, Northside College Prep, Albany Park Library
Kedzie Handicapped/disabled access 4648 N. Kedzie Avenue Albany Park, North Park University, Theodore Roosevelt High School, Swedish Covenant Hospital
Francisco Handicapped/disabled access 4648 N. Francisco Avenue Lincoln Square, Stephen Tyng Mather High School
Rockwell Handicapped/disabled access 4648 N. Rockwell Street Lincoln Square, Ravenswood Manor Historic District
Western Handicapped/disabled access 4648 N. Western Avenue Lincoln Square, Sulzer Regional Library, Krause Music Store, Old Town School of Folk Music
Damen Handicapped/disabled access Metra or South Shore connection 4645 N. Damen Avenue Ravenswood, Amundsen High School, Rosehill Cemetery, St. Gregory the Great High School

Transfer to Metra trains at Ravenswood

Ravenswood 4530 N. Ravenswood Avenue Closed August 1, 1949
Montrose Handicapped/disabled access 1817 W. Montrose Avenue Ravenswood, Kinetic Playground, All Saints Episcopal Church
Irving Park Handicapped/disabled access 1816 W. Irving Park Road Ravenswood, Lake View High School, Graceland Cemetery, St. Benedict High School
Addison Handicapped/disabled access 1818 W. Addison Street North Center, DePaul College Prep, WGN-TV Station, Lane Technical College Prep High School
Paulina Handicapped/disabled access 3410 N. Lincoln Avenue Lakeview, Electrical Audio Recording Facility
Southport Handicapped/disabled access 3411 N. Southport Avenue Lakeview, Music Box Theatre, Theatre Building Chicago
North Side Main Line
Belmont Handicapped/disabled access 945 W. Belmont Avenue      Red Line
     Purple Line
Lakeview, Briar Street Theater, Boystown, The Vic Theatre

Transfer to Red and Purple Line Express trains

Wellington Handicapped/disabled access 945 W. Wellington Avenue Lakeview, The Alarm, Signal of Peace, Illinois Masonic Medical Center
Diversey Handicapped/disabled access 943 W. Diversey Avenue Lincoln Park, Apollo Theatre Chicago, Brewster Apartments, Wiggly Field, Francis J. Dewes House
Wrightwood Wrightwood Street and Lincoln/Sheffield Avenues Closed August 1, 1949
Fullerton Handicapped/disabled access 943 W. Fullerton Avenue      Red Line
     Purple Line
Lincoln Park, DePaul University, Children's Memorial Hospital, St. Josaphat Roman Catholic Church, Biograph Theater
Webster 945 W. Webster Avenue Closed August 1, 1949
Armitage Handicapped/disabled access 944 W. Armitage Avenue Goose Island Brewery, Lincoln Park Zoo
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 Handicapped/disabled access 1536 N. Sedgwick Street The Second City, Piper's Alley, Old Town, Chicago History Museum, North Avenue Beach, Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Schiller Closed August 1, 1949
Division Closed August 1, 1949
Oak Oak Street and Orleans Street Closed July 31, 1949
Chicago Handicapped/disabled access 301 W. Chicago Avenue Moody Bible Institute, Cabrini–Green, River North Gallery District
Grand Grand Avenue and Franklin Street Closed September 20, 1970
Kinzie Kinzie Street and Wells Street Closed 1921; replaced by Grand
Merchandise Mart Handicapped/disabled access 350 N. Wells Street      Purple Line Merchandise Mart

Transfer station for Purple Line

The Loop (Counterclockwise)
Randolph/Wells 150 N. Wells St. Closed July 17, 1995; partially demolished and replaced by Washington/Wells
Washington/Wells Handicapped/disabled access Metra or South Shore connection 100 N. Wells Street      Pink Line
     Purple Line
     Orange Line
Chicago City Hall, Civic Opera House, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Ogilvie Transportation Center
Madison/Wells 1 N. Wells St. Closed January 30, 1994; demolished and replaced by Washington/Wells
Quincy Metra or South Shore connection 220 S. Wells Street      Pink Line
     Purple Line
     Orange Line
Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), Union Station

Transfer station for Amtrak trains

LaSalle/Van Buren Metra or South Shore connection 121 W. Van Buren Street Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Board Options Exchange, LaSalle Street Station
Dearborn/Van Buren Dearborn Street and Van Buren Street Closed 1949
Harold Washington Library–State/Van Buren Handicapped/disabled access 1 W. Van Buren Street      Pink Line
     Purple Line
     Orange Line
     Red Line
     Blue Line
Harold Washington Library Center, DePaul University, Robert Morris University, John Marshall Law School, Chicago Bar Association and The Auditorium Building of Roosevelt University
State/Van Buren 400 S. State St. Closed September 2, 1973
Adams/Wabash 201 S. Wabash Avenue      Green Line
     Pink Line
     Purple Line
     Orange Line
Grant Park, Petrillo Music Shell, Buckingham Fountain, Art Institute of Chicago, Orchestra Hall, DePaul University
Madison/Wabash 2 N. Wabash Avenue Closed March 16, 2015
Washington/Wabash TBD Consolidation of Madison/Wabash and Randolph/Wabash scheduled to open in 2017
Randolph/Wabash Metra or South Shore connection 151 N. Wabash Avenue Marshall Field's, Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, Millennium Station
State/Lake 200 N. State Street      Red Line Chicago Theatre, Gene Siskel Film Center, Harold Washington College

Transfer station for Red Line

Clark/Lake Handicapped/disabled access 100 W. Lake Street, Chicago      Green Line
     Pink Line
     Purple Line
     Orange Line
James R. Thompson Center, Richard J. Daley Center
  • Note: After stopping at Clark/Lake, Brown Line trains return to Merchandise Mart, then make all stops back to Kimball.


  1. ^ a b "Annual Ridership Report: Calendar Year 2011" (PDF). Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved 2012-05-31. 
  2. ^ Lee v. Chicago Transit Authority, 152 Ill.2d 432, 605 N.E.2d 493 (1992).
  3. ^ Press Release - Eight Car Service to Begin on Brown Line[permanent dead link].
  4. ^ "New 'L' Line Operated". Chicago Daily Tribune. 19 May 1907. 
  5. ^ Borzo, Greg (2007). The Chicago "L". Arcadia Publishing. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-7385-5100-5. 
  6. ^ Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project.
  7. ^ "Chicago Operations - Lines -> Brown Line". 
  8. ^ Rockwell station,
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Countdown To A New Brown - The Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project". 

External links[edit]

Route map: Bing / Google

KML is from Wikidata