Orange Line


Runs from Midway Airport to the Loop Elevated via the Southwest Side.


Click on a branch to see its profile:

Midway branch | Loop Elevated  

Service Notes:

Hours of Operation: 3:30am-1am, Mon-Fri; 4am-1am, Sat; 4:30am-1am, Sun
Length of Route: 13 miles
Midway branch: 9.2 miles
South Side Elevated: 1.8 miles
Loop Elevated: 2.0 miles
Number of Stations: 16 stations
Car Types Assigned: 2600-series
(see Car Assignment sheet for latest car assignments)

The Orange Line is most recent line to be built from scratch, opening on October 31, 1993.

The Orange Line was the first "L" line to open with a color name (although it was called the "Southwest Route" when it was being planned, reflecting the directional names that many routes had from the 1950s to the 1990s). It also had several other firsts, including being the first line to have all ADA-accessible stations (not counting the downtown Loop trackage it shares with other lines); the first non-shuttle service to be run with one-person train operation (OPTO), without conductors (now a system standard); and, in acknowledgment of the lower density of some of its neighborhoods and the auto-centric society of the end of the 20th century, was the first to have park'n'ride lots at most stations.

The Orange Line serves the Southwest Side of the city, the last area to have "L" service. Although it might seem strange that the Southwest Side was bypassed for so long when it came to rapid transit service, this was in part a pragmatic result of the fact that such infrastructure is very population intensive. When the "L" lines were first built under private companies, the density of the Southwest Side was low-to-moderate and the type of industry it attracted wasn't as labor intensive as other areas'. By the 1950s, the "bungalow belt" communities on the Southwest Side had sufficiently increased in population to justify a rapid transit line, but no funds were available. Ironically, although plans for a subway line to Municipal Airport (later renamed Midway Airport) existed as far back as the 1940s, O'Hare Airport -- which didn't even exist as a commercial airport at the time -- would recieve "L" service first and it would be half a century until the Southwest Side "L" concept was realized.

The Orange Line project was announced in 1980 by then-Mayor Jane Byrne, who said she would use money that had been set aside for the defunct Crosstown Expressway to help pay for it. But obtaining federal transit funding remained a critical component of the financing plan.

U.S. Rep. William Lipinski (D-IL), whose district included the Southwest Side, received a call one day in 1986 from President Ronald Reagan, who thanked him for his vote to aid Nicaraguan Contras and asked if there was anything he could do for Lipinski.

"Have you ever heard of the Southwest Side rapid transit system?" the congressman replied.

A full funding agreement with the federal government was signed by Mayor Harold Washington later that year.

The Orange Line serves several points of interest, including Midway Airport, Art Institute of Chicago, the Board of Trade, Chicago Cultural Center, City Hall/County Building, Daley Center, Museum Campus, Soldier Field, and Thompson Center.

In 2004, the Orange Line served 27,100 customers on an average weekday, more than 14,350 customers on Saturdays and just under 9,100 customers on Sundays.