Purple Line


Runs from Linden-Wilmette to Howard Street. Extended to the Loop Elevated via the North Side Main Line during weekday rush hours.


Click on a branch to see its profile:

Evanston | North Side Main Line | Loop Elevated

Service Notes:

  Hours of Operation:
    Linden-Howard shuttle: 4:30am-1:20am, Mon-Fri; 5:30am-2:20am, Sat; 6:30am-1:45am, Sun
    Loop Express: 5:20am-10:15am and 2:30pm-7:10pm, Mon-Fri only
  Length of Route: 16.2 miles
    Evanston branch: 3.9 miles
    North Side Main Line: 10.3 miles
    Loop Elevated: 2.0 miles

Number of Stations: 9 stations (shuttle), 26 stations (express)

  Car Types Assigned: 5000-series (see Car Assignment sheet for latest car assignments)


The Purple Line is a 4-mile shuttle operation in suburban Evanston and Wilmette, operating to Howard station on the Evanston-Chicago city limits where customers can transfer to the Red and Yellow lines. During weekday rush hours, the Purple Line service is extended to downtown Chicago, running express over the North Side Main Line (parts of the Red and Brown lines) to the Loop Elevated, where from 1949 to 2007 it operated clockwise via the Inner Loop.

The Purple Line shuttle is the suburban portion of the Northwestern Elevated Railroad, which opened an extension from Wilson Avenue in Chicago to Central Street, Evanston in 1908. In 1912, the line was extended to its current terminus at Linden Avenue, Wilmette.

The extension opened as a ground-level line, but was elevated in sections over several decades. Of the portion of the extension now on the Purple Line, the section from Howard to University Place was elevated in 1908-10 and the remaining portion to Isabella Avenue on the Evanston-Wilmette city limits was raised in 1928-31. Unlike most parts of the "L", the Purple Line is elevated on a solid-fill embankment with concrete retaining walls.

North Side "L" service used to be more commonly through-routed into Evanston, with Evanston trains running through to Jackson Park on what's now the Green Line, from 1913 to 1949. In 1949, the CTA instituted a North-South service revision, at which time the suburban portion was divorced into its own line, running as a shuttle to meet the new North-South trunk line at Howard. Thus was the modern Evanston Route, with the shuttle service at all times and downtown rush hour express service, born.

In 1993, the Evanston Route was renamed the Purple Line, following the CTA's new color-coded nomenclature for its "L" lines, with new destination-specific railcar destination signs to match. Accordingly, the Evanston Express became the Purple Line Express. Many longtime riders still use the original names, however.

The Purple Line serves several points of interest, including Art Institute of Chicago, the Board of Trade, Chicago Cultural Center, City Hall/County Building, Daley Center, Thompson Center, Northwestern University, Noyes Cultural Center, and the Baha'i Temple.

On April 2, 2007, the Purple Line Express service was altered due to the beginning of Three-Track Operation, wherein the Red, Brown and Purple Express trains operated on three tracks instead of four at the Belmont and Fullerton stations to allow the island platforms to be rebuilt and tracks to be reconfigured to allow room for elevators to be installed at the renovated stations. During the 2-year period of Three-Track Operation, Purple Line Express service was reduced from every 7-8 minutes to every 15 minutes due to decreased track capacity in the Three-Track zone. (Shuttle service between Linden and Howard remained at every 7-8 minutes during rush periods.) In addition, Purple Line Express trains were rerouted via the Outer track in the Loop -- the same side currently used by the Brown Line -- to make it easier for customers to board either route and exit the Loop at the first opportunity.

Three-Track Operations ended on December 20, 2008, with all four tracks back in service through Belmont and Fullerton.