Living the ‘L’ Life: Using The Train in Chicago

Living the ‘L’ Life: Using The Train in Chicago

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The ‘L’: a quintessential Chicago icon and a staple of many Chicagoans’ daily commute. Short for “elevated”, the ‘L’ is a rapid transit system known for its ancient sky-borne tracks that carry retro looking trains as they trundle from station to station. It can be your best friend and worst enemy, but either way it will be part of your routine. This is my guide to living the ‘L’ life.

It’s FREE! Well sort of. If you are a full-time Columbia student, your tuition & fees package includes a U-Pass, which allows you to ride any CTA bus or train throughout the semester. Good deal! No more rummaging for quarters as you hear the train approaching the station.

The VIEW. Yes the trains are sometimes grubby, but what they lack in cleanliness they more than make up for in visual stimulation. When you are above ground (“elevated”, if you will), the views of the Chicago skyline are fantastic (Instagram gold!). You will also see a side of the city you don’t normally get to see. Once the train goes under ground, you can people watch to your hearts content.

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BIKES! You can take your steely steed on the train anytime that is not rush hour (7am-9am and 4pm-6pm). This is great if you want to get to class that much quicker. Ride to station, take the train, ride from station, done! You may get the occasional side-eye from a fellow passenger, but who will have the last laugh as you wizz down the street! Be sure to read this guide to taking bikes on the ‘L’.

MUSIC! We are all busy students. So busy that even listening to music takes up precious time. Use your transit time to listen to your fav tunes or that new nose flute album everyone is raving about. Toot toot! While you wait for the train or when you alight, depending on which station you’re at, you may even get to hear some busking (of wildly varying quality). The guys at the Lake stop are AMAZING! Check. Them. Out. It’s worth getting off at Lake for their dulcet tones alone. [youtube][/youtube]

APPS! If you possess a smart phone, get the transit tracker apps. Whether it’s raining or snowpocalypsing, you will know when your train (or bus) is or probably isn’t coming, so you can leave home right on time. You can also track your train by text.

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HOMEWORK! Get your reading done on the train. Seriously. Do it. If your average ride is 30 mins, that is five hours of homework time a week! For free. Cash-back!

DRIVERS! If you are lucky enough to get on the right train at the right time, you will get a driver who says things like “all aboard, it’s time to get home to your honey”, and “prepare for takeoff!” Sweet.

HOLIDAYS! There is a holidays themed train. I shall say no more!

COLUMBIA! The train takes you to your favorite college ever! Harrison for ever! Toot toot toot!

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