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Chicago L
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2013-07-22 22:08:37 | Chicago, Illinois, United States
Keywords: Icon, subway
Chicago subway system is quite unique by its structure and by its layout. It can be very confusing at first. But once you figured it out, it works like a charm and all cars have air conditioned for everyone's comfort. But even after my second visit to Chicago, there are some aspects that I still have problems putting my head around. For example, most of the network is on the surface... or elevated with metal stairs, no protection for rain or snow.

The people from Chicago (and the transit system authority too) refer to their subway as the 'L', in reference to the loop it does downtown, where all lines converge and most of them do a runabout loop.

So, on at least 4 major streets downtown, the area above the circulation has a super metal structure supporting at least 2 train lines... up to 4 in certain spots. Plus there are special sections in the corners of the Loop to allow for trains to redirect and change direction. Yes, you'll say it's not new... New York has many of them too. Yes and no. Chicago's are right downtown and the train platforms literally occupies ALL the space... not only of the car passages below.. but also of the sidewalks. The sides of the rails are just a few feet from the buildings. It's really like a river down a giant canyon. Outside downtown, there are many places where the space between the rails and houses on the side are measured in inches, not feet.

When I tell you it's a confusing system, I'll give you an example. In most other cities, to identify the station you're going to, all you need is the name of the station. Not in Chicago. You also need the colour of the line on which that station is... because you have a station named A (for example) on blue line, another on the green line, another on the red line. If that station is in the Loop, that's okay... there's only one station being serviced by many lines. But if it's not on the Loop, chances are that the stations of the same name on other lines are in totally different parts of the city.

It gets even worst... sometimes the same name repeats itself on the same line! Don't believe me? Check out on the system map (you have a large version here), then look at the lower segment of the blue line... just next to the Forest Park terminus, you see Harlem. Go up on the green line, you'll see another Harlem station... and if you go straight up to the upper blue line... you'll find another Harlem station right on the same line!

There's also a funny particularity downtown on the blue line. If you look in the Loop section, you'll see there are 3 stations in the middle of the Loop... Washington, Monroe and Jackson. Well, these are in fact only ONE station... that's just ONE long station in which the train stops at 3 different locations. You can walk from Washington to Jackson on the platform that is probably more than 500 m long.

Another unique feature of the L... if you go through the Illinois Institute of Technology, you'll actually go through a muffler designed to reduce the sounds of the subway not to disturb the classes.

Just the metro itself is worth a visit to Chicago.

Related posts:
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San Francisco architecture
Lady Liberty


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