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.[1]

Brown Line
Chicago Transit Authority Brown Line train.jpg
A Brown Line train of 3200 series cars.
TypeRapid transit
SystemChicago "L"
LocaleChicago, Illinois, United States
The Loop, Belmont
Daily ridership101,881 (avg. weekday in 2011)[1]
OpenedAugust 1, 1949 (Current operation)
Operator(s)Chicago Transit Authority
CharacterElevated and At-Grade Level
Depot(s)Kimball Yard
Rolling stock2600-series, 3200-series
Line length11.4 mi (18.3 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Minimum radius90 feet (27 m)
ElectrificationThird rail, 600 V DC
Route map

Park and ride Kimball
Metra Ravenswood
Irving Park
demolished 1970
Merchandise Mart
closed 1995
demolished 2017
Metra South Shore Line
demolished 1994
demolished 2015
LaSalle/Van Buren
Bus interchange Bus connections at all open stations except
Kedzie, Francisco, Rockwell, Southport, and Wellington.

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 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, 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. 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 headwaysEdit

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.[3]

Rolling stockEdit

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.[4] 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.[5] The route was completed to the Kimball terminal on December 14, 1907.[6]

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 ProjectEdit

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 ageing infrastructure and increase passenger capacity at Brown Line stations.[7] 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.[8]

The first two stations to be completed—Kedzie and Rockwell—reopened on August 16, 2006,[9] and all of the stations had reopened by July 30, 2009 when the new Wellington station entered service.[10] The project was completed on December 31, 2009.[11]

Red-Purple BypassEdit

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.[12] The project was criticized by 2015 mayoral candidate Chuy García and local residents in the Lakeview neighborhood who organized a referendum to stop it.[13][14] 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.[15][16] 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.[17][18][19]

Station listingEdit

Neighborhood Station Points of Interest & Notes
Albany Park Kimball     Points of interest:

Northeastern Illinois University, WTTW, Northside College Prep, Von Steuben Metropolitan High School and Albany Park Library
  CTA buses: 81 Lawrence, 82 Kimball/Homan, and 93 California/Dodge

Kedzie   Points of interest:

North Park University, Theodore Roosevelt High School, and Swedish Covenant Hospital

Francisco   Points of interest:

Ravenswood Manor Historic District, and Stephen Tyng Mather High School

Lincoln Square Rockwell  
Western   Points of interest:

Sulzer Regional Library, Krause Music Store, and Old Town School of Folk Music
  CTA buses: 11 Lincoln, 49 Western, 49B North Western, and X49 Western Express

Damen   Points of interest:

Ravenswood, Amundsen High School, Rosehill Cemetery, and St. Gregory the Great High School
  Metra trains: Union Pacific / North Line (at Ravenswood)
  CTA buses: 50 Damen

Ravenswood Closed August 1, 1949
Lincoln Square / North Center Montrose   Points of interest:

Ravenswood, Kinetic Playground, and All Saints Episcopal Church
  CTA buses: 78 Montrose

North Center Irving Park   Points of interest:

Lake View High School, Graceland Cemetery, and St. Benedict High School
  CTA buses: 80 Irving Park

Addison   Points of interest:

DePaul College Prep, WGN-TV, and Lane Technical College Prep High School
  CTA buses: 152 Addison

Lake View Paulina   Points of interest:

Electrical Audio Recording Facility
  CTA buses: 9 Ashland

Southport   Points of interest:

Music Box Theatre, and Theatre Building Chicago

Belmont   Points of interest:

Briar Street Theater, Boystown, and The Vic Theatre
  CTA "L" trains: Red and Purple Lines
  CTA buses: 22 Clark and 77 Belmont

Wellington   Points of interest:

The Alarm, Signal of Peace, and Illinois Masonic Medical Center

Lincoln Park Diversey   Points of interest:

Lincoln Park, Apollo Theater Chicago, Brewster Apartments, Wiggly Field, and Francis J. Dewes House
  CTA buses: 76 Diversey

Wrightwood Closed August 1, 1949
Fullerton   Points of interest:

Lincoln Park, DePaul University, St. Josaphat Roman Catholic Church, and Biograph Theater Connections:
  CTA "L" trains: Red and Purple Lines
  CTA buses: 37 Sedgwick and 74 Fullerton

Webster Closed August 1, 1949
Armitage   Points of interest:

Lincoln Park, Lincoln Park High School, Goose Island Brewery and Lincoln Park Zoo
  CTA buses: 73 Armitage

Willow Closed May 17, 1942
Halsted Closed August 1, 1949
Near North Side Larrabee Closed August 1, 1949
Sedgwick   Points of interest:

Old Town, The Second City, Piper's Alley, Chicago History Museum, North Avenue Beach, Steppenwolf Theatre Company
  CTA buses: N9 Ashland, 37 Sedgwick, and 72 North

Schiller Closed August 1, 1949
Division Closed August 1, 1949
Oak Closed July 31, 1949
Chicago   Points of interest:

River North, Moody Bible Institute, Walter Payton College Prep, and Cabrini–Green Homes
  CTA buses: 37 Sedgwick and 66 Chicago

Grand Closed September 20, 1970
Kinzie Closed 1921; replaced by Grand
Merchandise Mart   Points of interest:

River North, Merchandise Mart
  CTA "L" trains: Purple Line
  CTA buses: 37 Sedgwick and 125 Water Tower Express

The Loop Randolph/Wells Closed July 17, 1995; partially demolished and replaced by Washington/Wells
Washington/Wells   Outer Loop platform

Points of interest:
The Loop, Chicago City Hall, Civic Opera House, and Chicago Mercantile Exchange
  CTA "L" trains: Orange, Purple, and Pink Lines
  Metra trains: Union Pacific / North Line, Union Pacific / Northwest Line, and Union Pacific / West Line (at Ogilvie Transportation Center)
  CTA buses: J14 Jeffery Jump, 20 Madison, 37 Sedgwick, 56 Milwaukee, 60 Blue Island/26th, 124 Navy Pier, and 157 Streeterville/Taylor

Madison/Wells Closed January 30, 1994; demolished and replaced by Washington/Wells
Quincy   Outer Loop platform

Points of interest:
The Loop, Willis Tower
  Metra trains: BNSF Railway Line, Heritage Corridor, Milwaukee District/North Line, Milwaukee District/West Line, North Central Service, and SouthWest Service (at Union Station)
  Amtrak trains: California Zephyr, City of New Orleans, Empire Builder, Hiawatha Service, Illini and Saluki, Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle, Lake Shore Limited, Pere Marquette, Wolverine, Blue Water, and Lincoln Service (at Union Station)
  CTA buses: 1 Bronzeville/Union Station, 7 Harrison, 28 Stony Island, 37 Sedgwick, 126 Jackson, 130 Museum Campus, 151 Sheridan, and 156 LaSalle

LaSalle/Van Buren Outer Loop platform

Points of interest:
The Loop, Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Board Options Exchange and Metropolitan Correctional Center
  Metra trains: Rock Island District (at LaSalle Street Station)
  CTA buses: 22 Clark, 24 Wentworth, 36 Broadway, and 130 Museum Campus

Harold Washington Library – State/Van Buren   Outer Loop platform

Points of interest:
The Loop, Harold Washington Library, DePaul University, Robert Morris University, John Marshall Law School, Chicago Bar Association and the Auditorium Building of Roosevelt University
  CTA "L" trains: Orange, Purple, and Pink Lines and Red Line (at Jackson/State) and Blue Line (at Jackson/Dearborn)
  CTA buses: 2 Hyde Park Express, 6 Jackson Park Express, 10 Museum of Science and Industry, 22 Clark, 24 Wentworth, 29 State, 36 Broadway, 62 Archer, 146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express, and 147 Outer Drive Express

Adams/Wabash Outer Loop platform

Points of interest:
The Loop, Grant Park, Petrillo Music Shell, Buckingham Fountain, Art Institute of Chicago, Orchestra Hall and DePaul University Loop campus
  CTA "L" trains: Orange, Green, Purple, and Pink Lines
  CTA buses: 1 Bronzeville/Union Station, 7 Harrison, 28 Stony Island, 126 Jackson, and 151 Sheridan

Madison/Wabash Closed March 16, 2015; demolished and replaced by Washington/Wabash
Washington/​Wabash   Consolidation of Madison/Wabash and Randolph/Wabash. Opened August 31, 2017

Points of interest:
The Loop, Chicago Cultural Center, WFLD-TV, WPWR-TV and, Millennium Park
  Metra trains: Metra Electric District (at Millennium Station)
  South Shore Line (at Millennium Station)
  CTA buses: J14 Jeffery Jump, 20 Madison, 56 Milwaukee, 60 Blue Island/26th, 124 Navy Pier, 147 Outer Drive Express, 151 Sheridan, and 157 Streeterville/Taylor

Randolph/Wabash Closed September 3, 2017; demolished and replaced by Washington/Wabash
State/Lake Outer Loop platform

Points of interest:
The Loop, Chicago Theatre, Gene Siskel Film Center, Harold Washington College, WLS-TV
  CTA "L" trains: Red Line (at Lake)
  CTA buses: 2 Hyde Park Express, 6 Jackson Park Express, 10 Museum of Science and Industry, 29 State, 36 Broadway, 62 Archer, and 146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express

Clark/Lake   Outer Loop platform

Points of interest:
The Loop, James R. Thompson Center and Richard J. Daley Center
  CTA "L" trains: Orange, Green, Blue, Brown, and Pink Lines
  CTA buses: 22 Clark, 24 Wentworth, 134 Stockton/LaSalle Express, 135 Clarendon/LaSalle Express, 136 Sheridan/LaSalle Express, and 156 LaSalle

  • 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 2017" (PDF). Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved 2019-04-02.
  2. ^ Lee v. Chicago Transit Authority, 152 Ill.2d 432, 605 N.E.2d 493 (1992).
  3. ^ "Brown Line Trains schedule" (PDF). Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
  4. ^ Press Release - Eight Car Service to Begin on Brown Line.
  5. ^ "New 'L' Line Operated". Chicago Daily Tribune. 19 May 1907.
  6. ^ Borzo, Greg (2007). The Chicago "L". Arcadia Publishing. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-7385-5100-5.
  7. ^ Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project.
  8. ^ "Chicago Operations - Lines -> Brown Line".
  9. ^ Rockwell station,
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Countdown To A New Brown - The Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project".
  12. ^ "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.
  13. ^ Swartz, Tracy (March 2, 2015). "Chicago mayoral candidates sound off on transit priorities". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  14. ^ Swartz, Tracy (November 6, 2014). "Lakeview residents vote: CTA hasn't 'sufficiently justified' Belmont flyover". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  15. ^ Greenfield, John (January 26, 2016). "The controversial Belmont flyover has federal approval—but still faces other hurdles". Chicago Reader. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  16. ^ Dudek, Mitch (January 9, 2017). "Obama sends CTA $1.1 billion for Red Line improvements". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^

External linksEdit

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata