Runs from 54th Avenue in Cicero to the Loop Elevated, via the Paulina Connector and Lake branch of the Green Line.
Click on a branch to see its profile:
Cermak | Paulina Connector | Lake | Loop
Number of Stations: 22
Car Types Assigned: 5000-series (see Car Assignment sheet for latest car assignments)
The Pink Line is the newest route on the CTA rapid transit system, created in 2006 by overlaying a new service onto existing infrastructure. The Pink Line runs from 54th/Cermak station in west suburban Cicero to the Loop Elevated in downtown Chicago through the West Side of the city, over the Cermak (Douglas) branch, Paulina Connector, and Lake Street branch of the Green Line. The Cermak and Paulina sections were extensively rehabilitated or reconstructed in 2001-2005.
The modern origins of a 54th-Loop route can be traced to the highly-conceptual Circle Line plan the CTA publicized in 2002, although the two concepts are not dependent on one another or inextricably linked as some members of the public claimed. (The Circle Line concept publicized in 2002 was merely conceptual and is undergoing the federally-mandated Alternatives Analysis process.) Its lineage goes back father, however, as the Pink Line resumes a pattern of service used between 1954 and 1958 when Douglas trains accessed downtown via the Paulina line and Lake branch while the Congress branch and Eisenhower Expressway were under construction. This was the last time the Paulina Connector, originally built in 1895 as part of the Metropolitan Elevated's Northwest branch, was used in scheduled passenger service.
The main drive behind rerouting Cermak trains via the Loop and disconnecting the branch from the rest of the Blue Line lies with the ability to schedule trains independently based on demand and travel patterns. Presently, by acting as a branch of the Blue Line, service levels are constrained to be half the number of Blue Line trains run north of Loomis Junction, regardless of how different the branches' demand characteristics might be.
The 54th-Loop concept, as publicized by CTA in 2004, elicited protests from residents of the Lawndale, Little Village, and Pilsen neighborhoods, some of whom did not want to lose a one-seat ride to those areas served by the Blue Line, and many of whom were convinced that the reroute would somehow guarantee less service on the branch. CTA and Daley administration officials, on the other hand, argued that the reroute would provide better transit options to communities undergoing revitalization by providing a faster ride downtown via the Paulina Connector and Green Line, and by allowing the CTA to add service to the branch, something not feasible without completely disrupting the rest of the Blue Line's schedule and requiring a number of railcars that simply are not on hand.
The CTA conducted a West Side Corridor Study with nine interactive workshops in July and August 2004 that brought CTA and West Side residents together to discuss how to enhance service. The study evaluated West Side and west suburban rail and bus service to develop a comprehensive picture of the service needs of the communities. On November 9, 2005, the Chicago Transit Board directed staff to begin community meetings on the enhancements developed in the workshops. In January 2006, the CTA held three community meetings to discuss the findings of its West Side Corridor Study and obtain public comment.
On February 15, 2006, the Chicago Transit Board approved recommendations for both bus and rail service enhancements for the West Side and West Suburbs based on the results of CTA's West Side Corridor Study, including the 54th-Loop routing. Although the 54th-Loop service had at many times over the years been referred to colloquially as the "Silver Line", this name was never the route's officially-adopted moniker. In February 2006, the Chicago Transit Board announced a contest in which Chicagoland students would be allowed to submit nominations for the line's color-coded name. The "Name the Line" contest was open to students in kindergarten through eighth grades and students were asked to submit an essay of 200 words or less explaining why their nominated color is best for the new rail line. Over 500 students participated in the contest and entries were submitted from throughout the CTA service area. The winning student received a $1,000 U.S. Savings EE Bond, received public recognition through car cards on CTA trains and buses, and had the opportunity to be one of the first to ride on the new line. The top three colors submitted by the students were Pink, Gold and Silver. The Chicago Transit Board evaluated the essays and selected the winning entry, which was announced on March 30, 2006: the Pink Line.
The new service was first inaugurated on Sunday, June 25, 2006 as a 180-day experiment. To address community concerns, service to the O'Hare branch from 54th/Cermak via the Dearborn Subway is maintained during morning and afternoon rush hours. Service to O'Hare is still possible at other times through a free transfer at Clark/Lake. In addition, bus service on the #7 Harrison provides connections between UIC's east campus and the Illinois Medical District.
On December 12, 2006, the Chicago Transit Board approved a six-month extension of the experimental service enhancements for the West Side and near western suburbs, including the Pink Line service. A preliminary evaluation of the service enhancements by CTA during the initial experimental period showed a 7.1 percent increase ridership on the Cermak [Douglas] branch. In addition, CTA has conducted two customer surveys and the most recent survey indicates that 82 percent of customers are satisfied with the route enhancements. More than 7,800 customers participated in the surveys.
As the experimental period continued, the CTA revised service on the Cermak branch to eliminate the rush period Blue Line trains, leaving the Pink Line to provide all service to 54th/Cermak. Although ridership had risen overall since the introduction of the Pink Line, Blue Line trains had consistently low ridership on a person-per-railcar-basis. The last day of Blue Line Cermak service was Friday, April 25, 2008.
The Pink Line serves several points of interest, including the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, the Illinois Medical District, City Hall/County Building, Daley Center, Thompson Center, and the Board of Trade.