I have traveled all over the country, I’ve even been Blessed to travel beyond our borders and experience the lifestyles of our Jamaican, Mexican and Canadian friends! I cannot tell you how happy I am when I touch down at Midway International, exhausted from traveling, and board the clean, shiny Orange Line. Orange Line? You don’t know about the Orange Line, well what about the Green line? No. Blue Line? No. Pink, Purple, Yellow or Brown Lines? Whhhaaaaaatttt? Well welcome to the worlds best transit system! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
If you have never had the pleasure of riding our city’s “L”, a nick name for elevated rail cars, then you have been missing out. Let me preface this shout out to the “L” by saying that any form of transportation outside of the comforts of a personal vehicle will have some elements that suck. I just happen to think that we in Chicago, riding our fancy smancy “L” tracks, suck….less. You know, a lot less. And please understand that my love for riding the “L” has nothing to do with my
disdain love for CTA. Oh just keep reading to see what the difference is!
The history of the “L” lines are kind of cool. Operating as one unified system now, each rail line began as its own company! Can you imagine different fare amounts and different time schedules for all the trains that we take today? That would be a nightmare!
Although accolades for the first elevated railway system goes to the city of London with its London and Greenwich Railroad (1836) Chicago was not far behind when it championed, in 1892, the Chicago and South Side Rapid Transit Railroad. To give you a scope of its service, the rail line was only 3.6 miles long, I currently walk 3.5 miles everyday on my lunch break, so you know in 1892 people weren’t getting very far, very fast. One of the coolest features of the “L” that so many tourists and even Chicagoan’s enjoy today is the fact that the “L” runs adjacent to most city alleyways. In the late 19th century, in Chicago, it would have required a private business to get consent through a petition signed by the community homeowners to allow a transit line to run on the streets. Therefore the rail lines were commissioned to only run through city owned alley ways, earning it its first nick name of “Alleyway L”. How gangster. Fast forward 12 decades and 18 mayors later and we still get that one of a kind city glimpse whether we are going north for a Cubs game or headed out west to the ‘burbs, the “L” is still a great way to see the city!
In 1924 all of the various “L” lines were consolidated. The demand to get people from one side of the city to the other was growing by the minute. Despite the enormous personal gains of rail owners the system got too big for its britches and could not continue to successfully operate under private ownership. In 1947 all private railways were seized and the city owned and operated CTA, Chicago Transit Authority, was born.
In 2012 my son and I ventured to New York City, all of my local friends yelled at me and told me I did not want to take the MTA into downtown. Who really listens to people anyway right? It was the WORST! Everything was so crowded and packed, and this was a Tuesday night! There were 3 people sitting on my lap in addition to the homeless guy nestled snugly into my neck while I was being serenaded by some rendition of a Michael Jackson and Dionne Warwick mash up. This. Can’t. Be. Life. I thought that nothing could top my first experience on Atlanta’s MARTA. Here I was a fresh eyed 17 year old college freshman set to explore the city with my new roommates as I boarded the train and encountered…….carpet. Orange shag carpet on the floors, on the seats, on the walls. Wow. The stench of decades old carpet was more than my northern nose could bear. I stepped off the train at the Lenox Station and threw up. Although the MARTA began to upgrade itself in 2005 it still boasts a whopping 38 stops on its entire rail system. Meanwhile across the country, my Bay Area compadres riding BART are dealing with this. Wow.
What different cities transit systems have you taken? Which ones were the best to you? comment below or shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me some of your craziest public transportation moments! Let me wrap this post up so I can catch my train. Until next time.