Flip Flops in the Windy City: The Red Line!

The Red Line, Morse Stop

Everyone that takes the subway regularly will swear that their line is the best.  They’re all wrong.  Unless they’re talking about the Red Line.  In which case they’re correct, because it IS the best.  And here is why…

Okay the subway in general is a Godsend, regardless of what line you ride.  But I’m a Red Line man through and through.


The CTA prides itself on punctuality.  This is ever-so-true on the Red Line, regardless of time of day or weather.  I have a 45 minute commute from my apartment to school, and this rarely deviates by more than a few minutes.  Don’t worry, I have empirical evidence.  During 5 separate trips on the Red Line at 5 different times of day, I recorded the time between each stop, and how long the train remains at each station.  The consistency is nothing if not impressive.  Did you know that it takes the train almost exactly 40 seconds to travel between the Thorndale and Granville stops?  I do, because during the 5 times I timed it, it took the train 39, 40, 39, 24, and 40 seconds to do so.  Between Sheridan and Addison?  2:20, +/- 3 seconds.  This is true across the board for the Red Line stops.

Red Line, Morse Stop

It’s the same for waiting at the station.  At any stop that doesn’t have a transfer, it usually takes less than 20 seconds from the opening of the doors to beginning to move to the next station.  At the transfers (Belmont, Fullerton, Lake, Jackson, Roosevelt), it can take up to a minute, particularly at rush hour.  This is not to say the Red Line is immune to delay.  There are 4 common delays, and the first 3 are announced over the PA: waiting for signal clearance, crews working on the track, mechanical failure, and assisting a handicapped person.  They don’t announce this last one to avoid drawing attention to an individual.  The trip from North & Clybourn to Clarke & Division usually takes around 2:20.  But waiting for crews to clear the track more than doubled our travel time.  These delays are uncommon, but important to consider when budgeting time.


All of the Red Line stops south of Roosevelt and north of North & Clybourn are above ground and elevated.  This leaves them quite vulnerable to winter weather, especially WIND.


The CTA has heated waiting areas that are active from November 1 to April 1 of each year.  These are life savers, particularly when it is very late at night–super cold, and a potential wait of up to 15 minutes.


The Red Line parallels Lake Michigan, running North/South up and down Chicago.

In this case, West points up

This makes it both easy to navigate the Red Line and navigate orienting to the Red Line itself.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the lake is, but an elevated train track is hard to miss.


The Red Line stations feature some cool stuff.  A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll save some space.

Red Line, Wilson Stop

Red Line, Harrison Stop

Hey even a local arts college got in on the fun:

Red Line, Harrison Stop

Peak Hours

The Red Line is a major commuter route.  Anyone who lives in North Chicago (but not Evanston) and commutes to work without a car probably takes the Red Line.  As such, it can get very, VERY crowded going South in the morning and North in the late afternoon/early evening.  Wrigley Field is literally on the Addison stop.  When there is a Cubs game, avoid the Red Line at all costs, particularly if you are a Sox fan (I hold no allegiance either way, I’m just visiting).  I also recommend avoiding the CTA in general after 2am.  It’s not that it is very dangerous, but mostly full of really weird people.  Take a cab.  If you want to save money, buckle up for an odd experience.

Other People

There are those among us that are not very considerate.  These include:

-people who take up more than one seat with groceries or suit cases

-people who talk so bafflingly loud to their friends on the train

-people who smell really bad

-people who play music through ear phone buds so loudly it’s amazing they’re not deaf

-people who play music directly off their phone, the self-appointed CTA DJ

-people who talk on their phone the entire time, loudly

It’s these last two that can really get on people’s nerves.  I’ve seen people actually get in fights over it.  It’s important to remember that unless it’s actually causing you discomfort, you’re getting off the train soon and probably won’t see these people for the rest of your life.


Columbia College Chicago provides all its students with a U-Pass.  This allows you to ride any CTA transit (subway and bus) for a total of $90/semester.  It usually costs $2.25 per ride.  I ride the subway at least 10 times a week.  We have a 15-week semester.  You do the math.