Brown Line


Runs from Kimball & Lawrence to the Loop Elevated via the North Side Main Line and Ravenswood branch. Shuttle operates between Kimball and Belmont during off-peak hours.


Click on a branch to see its profile:

Loop Elevated | North Side Main Line | Ravenswood

Service Notes:

Hours of Operation:
Kimball-Loop: 4am-1am, Mon-Sat; 6:45am-12:15am, Sun
Kimball-Belmont: 4am-2:25am, Mon-Sat; 5am-12:55am, Sun
Length of Route: 11.3 miles
Ravenswood branch: 5.0 miles
North Side Main Line: 4.3 miles
Loop Elevated: 2.0 miles
Number of Stations: 28 stations
Car Types Assigned: 2600-series, 3200-series
(see Car Assignment sheet for latest car assignments)

The Brown Line service as it operates today was created on August 1, 1949 when the CTA reorganized all of the its North Side "L" operations. Routes and stopping patterns were reorganized and the Ravenswood Line -- today called the Brown Line, since 1993 -- was created, running between Kimball and the Loop via the North Side Main Line and Ravenswood branch.

Operating between downtown and the Northwest Side, the Brown Line was originally constructed in two phases opening for service in 1900 (the North Side Main Line) and 1907 (the Ravenswood branch).

The Brown Line is the third busiest line in the CTA rail system (behind the Red and Blue lines), with 19 stations from Kimball on the north to downtown, plus nine stops on the Loop. The line serves more than 42,000 customers on an average weekday, close to 23,000 customers on Saturdays and just under 15,000 customers on Sundays.


Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project

As a result of the increasing ridership, insufficient train and station capacity, and aging infrastructure, the CTA began planning in late 1990s to renovate the Brown Line to increase its capacity and bring the stations and other infrastructure up to a good state of repair.

The $530 million Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project, a program that is the largest capital improvement project undertaken by the CTA at the time (surpassing even the Douglas Renovation Project, which was the largest up to that point), received a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on April 13, 2004. The main objectives of the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project are to expand the line's overall ridership capacity by lengthening station platforms to accommodate eight rather than six-car trains, rehabilitate rail infrastructure and stations, provide for station enhancements to meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), upgrade or replace traction power, signal and communication equipment, and reduce or eliminate slow zones.

Of the Brown Line's 19 stations, only one (Merchandise Mart) will not be touched at all due to its modern construction (1988) and ability to berth eight-car trains. Another two (Kimball and Western) will only receive small platform extensions and other modest work. The other 16 stations will be completely or largely reconstructed.

Construction for the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project was scheduled to begin in 2004, taking place on weekdays, evenings and weekends but with no station closures to complete projects as quickly but with as little disruption as possible. However, when the Brown Line project was advertised and bids for the construction portion were opened on May 5, 2004, the two responses that were submitted both exceeded the CTA's construction budget. The CTA has previously reported publicly that its total project budget, including items such as insurance, design, engineering and property acquisition, as well as construction, is $530 million. The bids the CTA received for the construction portion of the project were for $420.5 million and $541.2 million.

On June 9, 2004, the Chicago Transit Board voted to repackage and rebid construction work for the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project. The project was reorganized into several discrete pieces to help attract more competitive construction bids. Signal system upgrades and electrical substation work formed one package. Work on station renovations were grouped into five separate packages according to location.

In addition, despite strong objections from many citizens and elected officials, the CTA announced on January 28, 2005 that in order to stay within the project budget and preserve amenities planned for neighborhood stations, the CTA will implement temporary closures of some Brown Line stations during construction. Under the plan, three stations -- Fullerton, Belmont and Western -- will remain open throughout construction. Maintaining service at these three heavily trafficked stations for the duration will minimize the effect of surrounding temporary station closures.

Work on the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project began in late 2004 with the signal system upgrade portion of the project, which included replacing and expanding the number of intrelockings on the Brown Line, especially in the Clark Junction Corridor. Work on the stations began in early 2006 with the at-grade stations at the far north end of the line.

Starting Monday, April 2, 2007 Red, Brown and Purple Express trains began operating on three tracks instead of four at the Belmont and Fullerton stations to allow one of the four tracks along the platforms at each station to be taken out of service while the platform is rebuilt and tracks are reconfigured to allow room for elevators to be installed. When Three-Track Operations began, Track 3 was removed from service at Fullerton (a new Track 4 having already been placed in service) and Track 4 was removed from service at Belmont. However, the specific track to be taken out of service will vary during the course of the project.

The reduction from four tracks to three had a profound impact upon the peak of the morning and afternoon weekday rush period, limiting capacity and reducing the number of trains the CTA could run through the corridor. CTA encouraged customers to consider adjusting their travel patterns -- switching to bus service, leaving earlier or later, or making a connection that would help speed their trips. To help support the additional demand that is expected to be placed on the bus system, CTA boosted bus service at those points where rail customers were expected to migrate.

On Fenruary 13, 2008, CTA officials presented plans for the next phase of three-track operation at the Belmont and Fullerton stations. Beginning Sunday, March 30, 2008 southbound trains will be limited to one southbound track at the Belmont and Fullerton stations due to construction for the Brown Line capacity expansion project. To help ease the impact, the CTA will begin operating eight-car trains on the Brown Line during morning and evening rush hours. Currently, Brown Line trains consist of six cars. The introduction of eight-car service will occur nearly 18 months earlier than originally planned.

In order to safely provide eight-car trains, Paulina and Wellington stations will close for renovation on March 30. Currently, these stations can only berth six-car trains. While the stations are under construction, Brown Line trains will bypass both stations.

Also on March 30, the CTA will reopen the Southport station and open a temporary station at Diversey. Both stations had been closed for construction and will be able to accommodate eight-car trains by March 30. Using a temporary station at Diversey will make it possible to reopen for service nearly three months earlier than originally planned. Work to install elevators and complete the stationhouse at Diversey will continue throughout the spring.

Huberman said that during peak morning rush period there will be four fewer Red Line trains traveling inbound from Howard to Downtown (from 19 to 15) but that additional southbound trains will be staged south of Fullerton for use as needed. Four fewer Brown Line trains (16 to 12) will operate during the peak, however, due to the longer trains, capacity on the Brown Line will be the same as it is today. Purple Line Express service levels will remain the same (4 trains). South Side Red Line service will also remain the same.

There are more than 40 bus routes that could be used as alternate transportation, including nine lakefront express routes that provide direct service to and from the Loop during rush periods. CTA will increase bus service on several routes: #11 Lincoln/Sedgwick, #22 Clark, #134 Stockton/LaSalle Express, #135 Clarendon/LaSalle Express, #147 Outer Drive Express, #148 Clarendon/Michigan Express and the #156 LaSalle. The CTA also recommends that riders consider other nearby bus routes or other CTA rail lines such as the Blue Line.

To the extent possible, the CTA recommends that riders plan to leave earlier or later, and allow extra travel time.

Southbound three-track operation is scheduled to begin on Sunday, March 30, 2008 and continue until summer 2009. The $530 million project remains on schedule and on budget.

For more detailed information on the Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project, see the detailed lines profiles for the Brown Line -- the North Side Main Line and the Ravenswood branch -- and the station profiles that can be accessed from those pages.

The project's Full Funding Grant Agreement with the federal government requires that the CTA complete the project by the end of 2009. Separately, there is a 2008 deadline for accessibility work planned for the Fullerton station.