|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