Orange Line (CTA)

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Orange Line
Chicago 'L' - Flickr - ReneS (2).jpg
An Orange Line train waits at the Quincy station and is bound for Midway
Type Rapid transit
System Chicago 'L'
Status Operational
Locale Chicago, Illinois, USA
Termini Midway
The Loop
Stations 16
Daily ridership 63,037
(avg. weekday September 2012)
Opened October 31, 1993
Operator(s) Chicago Transit Authority
Character Elevated and Surface Level
Rolling stock 2600-series, 3200-series
Line length 12.5 mi (20.1 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
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
Roosevelt Bus interchange
RI to LaSalle Street
Green Line to Ashland/63rd
and Cottage Grove
Red Line
to 95th/Dan Ryan
RI to Joliet
SWS to Manhattan
Halsted Park and ride Bus interchange
Chicago River
(south branch)
Ashland Bus interchange
35th/Archer Park and ride Bus interchange
HC to Joliet
Western Park and ride Bus interchange
Kedzie Park and ride Bus interchange
Pulaski Park and ride Bus interchange
Midway Park and ride Bus interchange

The Orange Line, is a rapid transit line in Chicago, Illinois run by the Chicago Transit Authority as part of the 'L' system. It is approximately 12.5 miles (20.1 km) long and runs at grade and elevated on existing railroad embankments and new concrete and steel structures from Midway International Airport, the Southwest Side and downtown Chicago. In September 2012, the average weekday boardings on the Orange Line were 63,037. The Orange Line operates between Midway Airport and the Loop, weekdays from 4:00 a.m. to 1:25 a.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 4:30 a.m. to 1:25 a.m.


Northward view from the Adams/Wabash station at night
Brown line and Orange line trains contend for the intersection at the southeast corner of the Chicago Loop. Photograph taken from the crossover walkway of the Adams/Wabash stop 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.

From the Midway Terminal, the Orange Line begins in an open cut near Midway Airport and then rises to elevated structure at 55th Street and continues northeast towards the city on railroad right-of-way. At Lawndale Avenue the line turns east along Conrail right-of-way at 49th Street to a point east of Western Boulevard, then curves north and northwest on embankment structure along CSX and Conrail right-of-way to Western Boulevard and Pershing Road.

From here, the line rises on elevated structure again and makes a curve to cross Archer Avenue, the Conrail tracks and Western Boulevard before descending onto Illinois Central (ex-Gulf, Mobile and Ohio) Railroad right-of-way immediately east of Western Boulevard. Entering the IC right-of-way, the line again changes from elevated structure to surface level. The line continues on surface level to Ashland Avenue where it crosses the bridge of the South Branch of the Chicago River. At this point, the line enters the joint Illinois Central and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad right-of-way continuing on embankment to Canal Street.

There the line again transitions to the elevated structure to bridge Canal Street, Cermak Road and the Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad tracks then curves east to run along the south side of 18th Street, crossing over the Red Line and Metra's Rock Island District tracks near Wentworth Avenue, before joining the other CTA 'L' lines immediately east of State Street, with the northbound track over the double track South Side Elevated. The ballasted track ends and the timber deck begins here. Orange Line trains share the tracks with the Green Line operating from the connection at 17th Street to the Loop.

Orange Line trains operate around the Loop clockwise on the Inner Loop track via Van Buren-Wells-Lake-Wabash serving all Loop stations before returning to Midway Airport.

Along the Orange Line's main route there are seven stations. An eighth station is located at Roosevelt/Wabash on the old South Side 'L' which Orange Line trains share with Green Line trains. A passenger tunnel connects this station with the Roosevelt/State subway station on the Red Line.

A downtown superstation has been proposed to provide express service from the Loop to O'Hare and Midway, via the Orange and Blue Lines. The station would provide services such as baggage check. The downtown terminal is under construction, but the express tracks required for the Airport Express trains have yet to be funded.

Rolling stock[edit]

The Orange Line is operated mostly with the 2600-series railcars, as well as the Morrison-Knudsen-built 3200-series cars which were delivered a year before the opening of the route. From November 8, 2012 to October 31, 2014, some 2400-series rail cars were assigned to the line. Trains operate in 8-car trains during weekday rush hours and 4-cars during other times of the day and all day on weekends except for special events when 8-car trains may be required. A non-rush hour 4-car Orange Line train consists of two 2600-series cars and two 3200-series cars or four 2600-series cars or four 3200-series cars.

Beginning in June 2014, CTA began to transfer some 2600-series cars to the line as an interim replacement for its aging 2400-series cars. The first batch of the Orange Line's 2600-series cars are reassignments from the Blue Line, where the lost capacity on the Blue Line is made up from reassignment of 2600-series cars from the Red Line (which are newer than the existing Blue Line cars) as they are displaced by the new Bombardier-built 5000-series cars on the Red Line. The second batch of 2600-series cars are reassignments from the Red Line as more 5000-series cars are delivered and assigned to the Red Line, replacing the Orange Line's remaining 2400-series cars in the interim until the Red Line is fully equipped with 5000-series cars. The last 2400-series cars were retired from service on October 31, 2014. After the Red Line is fully equipped with 5000-series cars, CTA initially planned on replacing the Orange Line's 2600-series cars with 5000-series cars, leaving only the Blue and Brown Lines as the only lines not to operate 5000-series cars. However, the assignment of 5000-series cars to the Orange Line is now unlikely, since delivery of all 5000-series cars is complete and are completely assigned to all other lines except for the Blue and Brown Lines, thus the assignment of 2600-series cars to the Orange Line is now likely a permanent assignment until the delivery of the future 7000-series cars.


The Orange Line's terminal at Midway International Airport

The Orange Line opened for service on October 31, 1993, and was the first all-new service in Chicago since the Dan Ryan Line opened in September 1969 and the first extension to the CTA system since the O'Hare Airport Extension of the Blue Line in September 1984. But its planning dates back to the late 1930s when the City of Chicago proposed a high speed subway extension along Wells-Archer-Cicero between the Loop and 63rd Street and Cicero Avenue near Chicago Midway International Airport (then called Chicago's Municipal Airport). It would be another four decades before Chicago transit planners would become serious about providing rapid transit service to this area of the city.

In 1979, the City began the Southwest Transit Project, which proposed extending the CTA 'L' system to the Southwest Side of Chicago over existing railroad rights-of-way and newer elevated connections along the very busy Archer-49th-Cicero Corridor from the Loop to its originally planned terminus at Ford City Shopping Center. Funding for the project was made possible from Interstate Highway Transfer monies saved after the city decided to cancel the high priced and controversial Crosstown Expressway and Franklin Street Subway projects. Federal funding for the project was secured by U.S. Representative William Lipinski as a favor from then-President Ronald Reagan, who wanted to thank Lipinski for his vote to provide aid to the Nicaraguan contras.[1]

In 1987, construction of the $510 million transit line began and continued until fall 1993. When the Midway Line opened, the CTA decided to adopt a color-coded naming system for the rapid transit network (like Boston, Washington D.C., Cleveland) and named it the Orange Line.

Proposed extension[edit]

Destination signs on CTA trains have another destination sign for the Orange Line: Ford City.[2] The Ford City Mall is about two miles (3 km) south of Midway Airport, and it was originally planned to be the line's terminal. However, because of financial shortfalls, the city decided to end the line at Midway Airport.

The CTA recently undertook an Alternatives Analysis for the Orange Line extension to Ford City and determined that the project currently stands at an estimated $200 million. Community meetings were held in neighborhoods surrounding Midway and Ford City to judge the level of public support for the extension.[3]

In the August 2008 Screen 1 of the Alternatives Analysis, the four corridors being studied for the Orange Line extension include alignments along Cicero Avenue, Pulaski Road, and a combination of the Belt Railway and either Cicero or Kostner Avenues. The corridors selected for further study are Cicero Ave (Bus Rapid Transit) and Belt/Cicero or Belt/Kostner (Heavy Rail Transit).[4] For Screen 2 in April 2009, the Cicero Avenue/Belt Railway corridor was chosen as the most viable option and advanced in the Alternatives Analysis process.[5] By December 2009, the CTA had identified the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) as the Belt/Cicero route. According to a CTA report,

The LPA would operate in a trench along the BRC right-of-way between the existing Midway station and approximately 6400 South, where it would begin to transition to an elevated structure above Marquette Road, where it would curve to the southwest over the BRC Clearing Yard and then continue south on elevated structure in the median of Cicero Avenue. The Orange Line extension would end at a new terminal station in the vicinity of Ford City Mall."[6]

The CTA planned to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and complete preliminary engineering. Design and construction is allowed to start after the Federal Transit Administration approves the Final EIS. The current extension schedule could potentially lead to service in 2016.[7]

Station listing[edit]

Orange Line stations
Station Location Transfers Points of interest and notes
Orange Line (Midway Branch)
Midway Handicapped/disabled access Aiga parking inv.svg Airport 4612 W. 59th Street Chicago Midway International Airport Toyota Park, home of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club of Major League Soccer,and the Chicago Fire Premier of PDL.
Pulaski Handicapped/disabled access Aiga parking inv.svg 5106 S. Pulaski Road Curie Metropolitan High School, The Polish Highlanders Alliance of North America
Kedzie Handicapped/disabled access Aiga parking inv.svg 4900 S. Kedzie Avenue Marquette Park, Hayes Park, Nabisco Factory, Tarkington Park, Ashburn Area
Western Handicapped/disabled access Aiga parking inv.svg 4900 S. Western Avenue St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Sherman Park, Gage Park
35th/Archer Handicapped/disabled access Aiga parking inv.svg 3528 S. Leavitt Street McKinley Park, St. Peter and Paul Church, St. Maurice Church
Ashland Handicapped/disabled access 3000 S. Ashland Avenue Bubbly Creek, St. Mary of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church
Halsted Handicapped/disabled access Aiga parking inv.svg 2520 S. Archer Avenue Bridgeport, St. Barbara Church, All Saints-St. Anthony Church
Orange Line (South Side Elevated)
Roosevelt Handicapped/disabled access Metra or South Shore connection 22 E. Roosevelt Road      Green Line
     Red Line
Field Museum of Natural History, Soldier Field, Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium
Orange Line (Loop)
Harold Washington Library–State/Van Buren Handicapped/disabled access 1 W. Van Buren Street      Pink Line
     Brown Line
     Purple 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
LaSalle/Van Buren Metra or South Shore connection 121 W. Van Buren Street Chicago Board of Trade Building, Chicago Board Options Exchange
Quincy Metra or South Shore connection 220 S. Wells Street Willis Tower, Union Station

Transfer station for Amtrak trains

Madison/Wells 1 N. Wells Street Closed January 30, 1994; demolished and replaced by Washington/Wells
Washington/Wells Handicapped/disabled access Metra or South Shore connection 100 N. Wells Street      Pink Line
     Brown Line
     Purple Line
Chicago City Hall, Civic Opera House, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Ogilvie Transportation Center
Randolph/Wells 150 N. Wells St. Closed July 17, 1995; partially demolished and replaced by Washington/Wells
Clark/Lake Handicapped/disabled access 100 W. Lake Street      Green Line
     Pink Line
     Brown Line
     Purple Line
     Blue Line
James R. Thompson Center, Richard J. Daley Center, Chicago City Hall
State/Lake 200 N. State Street      Red Line Chicago Theatre, Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago Theatre District, Harold Washington College
Randolph/Wabash Metra or South Shore connection 151 N. Wabash Avenue Macy's, Chicago Cultural Center, Millennium Park, Millennium Station
Washington/Wabash TBD Consolidation of Madison/Wabash and Randolph/Wabash scheduled to open in 2016
Madison/Wabash 2 N. Wabash Avenue Closed March 16, 2015
Adams/Wabash 201 S. Wabash Avenue      Green Line
     Pink Line
     Brown Line
     Purple Line
Grant Park, Petrillo Music Shell, Buckingham Fountain, Art Institute of Chicago, Orchestra Hall DePaul University

After stopping at Adams/Wabash, Orange Line trains return to Roosevelt/Wabash, then make all stops back to Midway.


  1. ^ Chicago-'L'.org - Orange Line
  2. ^ Jon Hilkevitch. Signs mark growth of CTA Chicago Tribune, 30 October 2006.
  3. ^ CTA Press Release, August 13, 2008
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ , p. 60
  7. ^ "Project Schedule". Orange Line Extension. Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved December 18, 2009. 

External links[edit]