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It's always a surprise to run into someone that lives in or around Chicago that doesn't use the 'L' at least once in awhile. It is a great way to get around. If you buy a card at any station, you can transfer from the train to any bus. It is easy and safe. Often it is faster to take the train to and from the airport or a major sporting event than to drive. The CTA is certainly cheaper than parking anywhere downtown. You can obtain maps on their website or at any train station. There are system train maps on every train.
There are eight 'L' lines named after the six spectrum colors plus brown and pink. Approximate routes are as follows, with comments:
Red: Bi-directional north and south from Loop, stops at both baseball stadiums. Southern end may eventually be extended southeastward.
Orange: Single direction Southwest from Loop, ends at Midway airport. Intended to eventually extend to Ford City shopping center further south.
Yellow: Currently has stops at either end plus one intermediate stop at Oakton Street - connects Skokie with the northern end of the Red Line at Howard. May have more intermediate stops added in the future and be extended to the Old Orchard Shopping Center.
Green: Bi-directional west and south from Loop; southern leg splits into two branches. Western leg terminates in downtown Oak Park and is a good public tranaportation access for the Hemingway and Frank Lloyd Wright attractions there. It also provides easy access to Garfield Park conservatory along the way.
Blue: Bi-directional northwest and west from Loop; northwest leg ends at O'Hare airport. Extensions of the northwest leg far out into the northwestern suburbs have been discussed. Northwest leg provides access to the suburb of Rosemont and west leg to both Oak Park and Forest Park.
Purple: Connects Howard terminus of Red Line with multiple stops in Evanston and the terminal in Wilmette. Provides access to Evanston attractions and the Bahai Temple in Wimette. Provides express service to/from the loop during morning and evening rush hours.
Brown: Single direction from Loop in north northwestward direction between Blue and Red lines. A very good train to ride to get an elevated view of Chicago. Newly reconstructed with all stations to re-open by mid 2009.
Pink: Single direction west from Loop running south of the west branch of the Blue Line. Provides acess to Pilsen and Little Village and continues beyond Chicago city limits to Cicero.