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: 27 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 at a time while the platforms were rebuilt and tracks were reconfigured to allow room for elevators to be installed. Three-Track Operations ended on December 20, 2008, with all four tracks back in service through Belmont and Fullerton.

On January 9, 2010, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago Transit Board Chairman Terry Peterson and CTA President Richard L. Rodriguez joined federal, state and city officials at the Fullerton station for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the last of the 18 station renovations undertaken as part of the $530 million Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project. 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.