Red Line


Runs from Howard Street on the north city limits to 95th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway on the South Side via the State Street Subway. Considered the city's trunk line.


Click on a branch to see its profile:

Howard | State Street Subway | Dan Ryan  

Service Notes:

  Hours of Operation: Service at all times
  Length of Route: 21.8 miles
    Howard branch: 7.5 miles
    State Street Subway: 4.9 miles
    Dan Ryan branch: 9.4 miles

Number of Stations: 33 stations

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


The Red Line was created in 1993 when the Howard Line was linked with the Dan Ryan Line via the State Street Subway and a new connector track between 13th/State and 18th/Clark. Previously, the Howard Line had been linked with the Englewood-Jackson Park Line via the subway (and called the North-South Route) and the Dan Ryan had been through-routed with the Lake Street Line via the Loop Elevated (and called the West-South Route).

The Red Line stretches most of the north-south length of the city and has the highest ridership of any "L" line, making it the city's main trunk line.

The oldest part of the route is the southern portion of the Howard Line, built in 1900. The section between Armitage [on the paralleling Brown Line], where the Red Line descends into the subway south of Fullerton, and Wilson was originally part of the main line of the Northwestern Elevated Railroad. This four-track line is a typical steel trestle elevated structure adjacent to alleys. The Red Line runs on the inside tracks (what were the Northwestern's express tracks) and Brown Line uses the outer (former local) tracks here, continuing on the old main line south of Armitage and branching west north of Belmont station. North of Wilson, the Howard Line continues on a solid-fill embankment to Howard station, the end of the line. The embankment was created in the late-1910s/early-1920s; previously, the line was at grade-level north of Wilson, running on overhead wire for safety purposes. Here, the Red Line continues running on the inner two tracks, stopping at all the local stations, while the Purple Line Express uses the outside tracks, running nonstop.

The second-oldest section is the State Street Subway, opened in 1943. Running between Armitage/Sheffield and 13th/State, this two-track subway runs beneath Clybourn, Division, and State Streets and was built as a Depression-era WPA project. The tracks run in separate tubes, dug with the "bench method" and with shields. The stations in the Loop are actually separate stops along one long 3,500 foot platform, stretching from Lake Street to Congress Parkway and served by eight mezzanine station houses spaced a block apart. Trains from the State Street Subway originally rejoined the "L" at the 13th Street Portal, where the tracks ascend to the elevated structure of the Englewood-Jackson Park Line (now part of the Green Line). The old 13th Street Portal and elevated connection still exist as nonrevenue trackage.

The Dan Ryan portion of the Red Line is the newest of the three major segments, opened in 1969. Nine stations serve the Dan Ryan Line, which runs at grade in the median of the Dan Ryan Expressway. The Skidmore, Owings & Merrill-designed stations were considered ultramodern at the time, with wide visibility and a high level of illumination provided by the glass and steel "open plan" design of the facilities. Stations are widely-spaced at a one mile (or more) intervals with feeder buses, typical of modern rapid transit planning. The two-track line was originally through-routed to the Lake Street Line via a connection to the elevated at 18th and Federal, just north of the Cermak-Chinatown station. This short connector still exist as nonrevenue trackage.

The last portion of the Red Line built was the short subway connection between the State Street Subway and the Dan Ryan Line. Constructed in the early 1990s, it extended a short branch off the subway south of Roosevelt/State that already existed about a mile south, emerging at the point where the Dan Ryan Line previously turned east to connect to the elevated at 18th and State. This subway connector was activated in February 1993, when the Red Line route was created.

In 2013, the CTA launched the Red Line South Reconstruction Project, a track renewal project to rebuild the Dan Ryan branch tracks from the bottom up, excavating down to the bottom of the trackbed to rebuild the underground drainage system then installing new ballast, ties, and tracks. Stations also received modest improvements. In order to perform the work more quickly and cost-effectively, the CTA closed the Dan Ryan branch for five months while work was performed. During that time, there was no 'L' service on the Dan Ryan branch south of Roosevelt station. Red Line trains were rerouted via the old 13th Street Incline from the State Street Subway to the South Side Elevated, where they operated to Ashland/63rd via the South Side Elevated tracks in a pattern reminiscent of the old Howard-Englewood "A" trains of the North-South Route days. Red Line service to Ashland/63rd began on Sunday, May 19, 2013.

The Red Line serves both of Chicago's baseball parks, Wrigley Field (home of the Cubs) at Addison and Comiskey Park (home of the White Sox) at Sox-35th. An Interesting Note: There hasn't been a World Series with both teams since 1906 (though this predated both the Dan Ryan Line and the use of both parks), but they do play the "Crosstown Classic" game against each other every year.

The Red Line serves several points of interest, including Chinatown, Columbia College, DePaul University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University, the Magnificent Mile and North Michigan Avenue Shopping, the Museum Campus, Navy Pier, Northwestern University (Chicago Campus), Soldier Field, and Water Tower.