Open main menu

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 approx. 12.5 miles (20.1 km) long and runs at grade and serves the Southwest Side, running from the Loop to Midway International Airport. In September 2012, the average weekday boardings on the Orange Line were 63,037.

Orange Line
Chicago Transit Authority Orange Line Train on the loop.jpg
An Orange Line train of 3200-series cars.
TypeRapid transit
SystemChicago "L"
LocaleChicago, Illinois, United States
The Loop
Daily ridership63,037
(avg. weekday September 2012)
OpenedOctober 31, 1993
Operator(s)Chicago Transit Authority
CharacterElevated and Surface Level
Rolling stock2600-series
Line length12.5 mi (20.1 km)
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Minimum radius90 feet (27 m)
ElectrificationThird rail, 600 V DC
Route map

to Howard
to O'Hare Pictograms-nps-airport.svg
closed 1995
demolished 2017
demolished 1994
demolished 2015
LaSalle/Van Buren
to Forest Park
RI to LaSalle Street
Green to Ashland/63rd
and Cottage Grove
to 95th/Dan Ryan
RI to Joliet
SWS to Manhattan
Halsted Park and ride
Chicago River
(south branch)
HC to Joliet
35th/Archer Park and ride
Western Park and ride
Kedzie Park and ride
Pulaski Park and ride
Midway Pictograms-nps-airport.svg Park and ride



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 interlocking 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 Orange Line begins in an open cut at a station on the east side of Midway International Airport. From here, the line rises to an elevated viaduct 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 the Rock Island District tracks near Wentworth Avenue, before joining the South Side Elevated at a flying junction between 16th and 17th Streets. The ballasted track ends and the timber deck begins here. Orange Line trains share the tracks with the Green Line operating from this junction to Tower 12 at the southeast corner of the Loop. Orange Line trains operate clockwise around the inner loop - via Van Buren Street, Wells Street, Lake Street and Wabash Avenue - before returning to Midway.

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 was proposed to provide express service from the Loop to O'Hare and Midway, via the Orange and Blue Lines, but the project was cancelled during the excavation process due to significant cost overruns.[1]

Operating hours and headwaysEdit

The Orange Line operates between Midway and the Loop weekdays from 3:30 a.m. to 1:25 a.m., Saturdays from 4 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. and Sundays from 4:30 a.m. to 1:25 a.m. On weekdays, headways consists of 10tph (trains per hour) during rush hour, 8tph during midday and 5tph at night. Saturday service consists 5-8tph during the day, then 3-4tph during late night hours. Sunday service runs 5tph during the day, then 3-4 tph at night.

During morning rush hour, several Orange Line trains bound for the Loop continue toward the Brown Line after stopping at Adams/Wabash station; whereas several Brown Line trains bound for Midway continue as the Orange Line after stopping at Harold Washington Library station.[2]

Rolling stockEdit

The Orange Line is operated with the 2600-series cars. From November 8, 2012 to October 31, 2014, some 2400-series railcars were assigned to the line. From the opening of the route to October 2018, 3200-series railcars were assigned to the line. Trains operate using eight cars during weekday rush hours and four cars during other times on weekdays and all day on weekends except for special events when eight cars may be required. The Orange Line's 2600-series cars are to remain in service on the line until the early 2020s, where they will be replaced by the new 7000-series cars.

Beginning in June 2014, CTA began to transfer some 2600-series cars to the line as an interim replacement for its 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 until the Red Line is fully equipped with the 5000-series cars. The last 2400-series cars were retired from service on October 31, 2014. After the Red Line is fully equipped with the 5000-series cars, The CTA 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 a permanent assignment until the delivery of the new 7000-series cars.

Beginning September 2018, CTA began to transfer the Orange Line's 3200-series cars to the Blue Line. As of October 2018, the 3200-series cars no longer operate on the Orange Line.


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 became 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.[3]

In 1987, construction of the $500 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. and Cleveland) and named it the Orange Line.

Former proposed extensionEdit

A former CTA car at the Fox River Trolley Museum displays a "Ford City" destination sign

Destination sign on CTA trains have a line on the blind bearing the following text: Ford City.[4] 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 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.[5]

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).[6] 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.[7] 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."[8]

The CTA planned to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and complete preliminary engineering. However, the extension was canceled.[9]

Station listingEdit

Station Location Municipality Points of interest and notes
Midway       4612 W. 59th Street Chicago Connections:

  CTA buses: 47 47th, 54B South Cicero, 55 Garfield, 55A 55th/Austin, 55N 55th/Narragansett, 59 59th/61st, 62H Archer/Harlem, N62 Archer, 63 63rd, 63W West 63rd, and 165 West 65th
  Pace buses: 379 Midway/Orland Square, 382 Central/Clearing, 383 South Cicero, 384 Narragansett/Ridgeland, 385 87th/111th/127th, 386 South Harlem, 387 Toyota Park Direct, and 390 Midway CTA Station/UPS Hodgkins
  River Valley Metro buses: Midway Commuter
  Midway International Airport

Pulaski     5106 S. Pulaski Road Points of interest:

Curie Metropolitan High School and The Polish Highlanders Alliance of North America
  CTA buses: 53A South Pulaski and 62 Archer

Kedzie     4900 S. Kedzie Avenue Points of interest:

Marquette Park, Hayes Park, Nabisco Factory, Tarkington Park, and Ashburn Area
  CTA buses: 47 47th, 51 51st, 52 Kedzie/California, and 52A South Kedzie

Western     4900 S. Western Avenue Points of interest:

St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, Sherman Park, and Gage Park
  CTA buses: 48 South Damen, 49 Western, X49 Western Express, and 94 South California

35th/Archer     3528 S. Leavitt Street Points of interest:

McKinley Park, St. Peter and Paul Church, and St. Maurice Church
  CTA buses: 35 31st/35th, 39 Pershing, 50 Damen, and 62 Archer

Ashland   3000 S. Ashland Avenue Points of interest:

Bubbly Creek and St. Mary of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church
  CTA buses: 9 Ashland, X9 Ashland Express, 31 31st, and 62 Archer

Halsted     2520 S. Archer Avenue Points of interest:

Bridgeport, St. Barbara Church, and All Saints-St. Anthony Church
  CTA buses: 8 Halsted, 44 Wallace/Racine, and 62 Archer

Roosevelt   22 E. Roosevelt Road Points of interest:

Field Museum of Natural History, Soldier Field, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium
  CTA "L" trains: Green Line and Red Line
  Metra trains: Metra Electric District (at Museum Campus/11th Street)
  South Shore Line (at Museum Campus/11th Street)
  CTA buses: 12 Roosevelt, 18 16th/18th, 29 State, 62 Archer, 130 Museum Campus, 146 Inner Drive/Michigan Express, and 192 University of Chicago Hospitals Express

Harold Washington Library – State/Van Buren   1 W. Van Buren Street Inner Loop platform

Points of interest:
Harold Washington Library Center, DePaul University, Robert Morris University, John Marshall Law School, Chicago Bar Association, The Auditorium Building of Roosevelt University, Monadnock Building, and Metropolitan Correctional Center, Chicago
  CTA "L" trains: Orange, Brown, 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

LaSalle/Van Buren 121 W. Van Buren Street Inner Loop platform

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

Quincy   220 S. Wells Street Inner Loop platform

Points of interest:
Sears Tower and Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
  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

Madison/Wells 1 N. Wells Street Closed January 30, 1994; demolished and replaced by Washington/Wells
Washington/Wells   100 N. Wells Street Inner Loop platform

Points of interest:
Chicago City Hall, Civic Opera House, and Chicago Mercantile Exchange
  CTA "L" trains: Purple, Brown, 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

Randolph/Wells 150 N. Wells St. Closed July 17, 1995; partially demolished and replaced by Washington/Wells
Clark/Lake   100 W. Lake Street Inner Loop platform

Points of interest:
James R. Thompson Center and Richard J. Daley Center
  CTA "L" trains: Purple, 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

State/Lake 200 N. State Street Inner Loop platform

Points of interest:
Chicago Theatre, Gene Siskel Film Center, Harold Washington College
  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

Randolph/Wabash 151 N. Wabash Avenue Closed September 3, 2017; demolished and replaced by Washington/Wabash
Washington/Wabash   29 N. Wabash Avenue Inner Loop platform

Points of interest:
Marshall Field's State Street store (now Macy's), Chicago Cultural Center, and Millennium Park
  Metra trains: Metra Electric District (at Millennium Station)
  South Shore Line (at Millennium Station)
  CTA buses: J14 Jeffrey Jump, 20 Madison, 56 Milwaukee, 60 Blue Island/26th, 124 Navy Pier, 147 Outer Drive Express, 151 Sheridan, 157 Streeterville/Taylor

Madison/Wabash 2 N. Wabash Avenue Closed March 16, 2015; demolished and replaced by Washington/Wabash
Adams/Wabash 201 S. Wabash Avenue Inner Loop platform

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

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


  1. ^ Hinz, Greg (June 11, 2008). "CTA to halt over-budget superstation". Crain Communications Inc. Retrieved June 11, 2008.
  2. ^ "Orange Line Trains schedule" (PDF). Chicago Transit Authority. Retrieved June 3, 2018.
  3. ^ "Chicago Operations - Lines -> Orange Line". Retrieved 22 April 2018.
  4. ^ Jon Hilkevitch. Signs mark growth of CTA Chicago Tribune, 30 October 2006.
  5. ^ "CTA Press Release, August 13, 2008". Retrieved 22 April 2018.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2008-12-27.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-04-15. Retrieved 2009-05-16.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ Archived 2016-04-15 at the Wayback Machine , p. 60
  9. ^ "Orange Line Extension".

External linksEdit