On this Halloween night I was reminded by a Tribune piece that today marks the 25th anniversary of the Orange Line, something those who live on the Southwest Side or commute regularly between the Loop and Midway Airport can easily take for granted. But getting downtown from more outlying areas of the city wasn’t always so easy.
The Orange Line officially opened on Halloween in 1993. I remember being excited about having a faster way to get downtown. Just a few months earlier, my family and I boarded the #62 Archer bus in Garfield Ridge to make the long trek to the Loop. Our errand was of utmost importance: My mother and her mother and sister were slated to attend a ceremony where they would be sworn in as US citizens.
That bus commute from about half a mile east of Harlem to the Loop took more than an hour, but at least we didn’t have to worry about parking. The new ‘L’ line cut that travel time by more than half. One drawback though, was that the line ends at Midway, so I still had to take the bus to the train station. Still, the trip was a lot faster.
I regularly made use of the Orange Line to get to work downtown, or to connect to other transit to get to a couple of jobs I had on the West Side. The commute got even easier when they added an ‘L’ stop at the Harold Washington Library.
I hardly ever went downtown on public transit before the Orange Line made its debut, but I made regular trips all over the city with the expanded transit options. Yes the ‘L’ has its drawbacks: crowded trains, filthy pigeons hovering on the platform hoping you’ll feed them, heat lamps that are often out of your reach when it’s ten degrees outside and everyone’s trying to get home from work at the same time.
But having a train line on the Southwest Side has made getting downtown or connecting to other trains and buses a million times easier. The Orange Line allows thousands of commuters to get to work and school every day much faster than they probably otherwise would, and at a relatively low cost. Although ride-share and car rental apps are luring some travelers away from the CTA, that doesn’t negate the fact that the Orange Line has helped the economies of the neighborhoods it passes through, and made for a smoother daily commute for thousands of people for a quarter of a century,
And it was made possible because of former US Rep. Bill Lipinski’s support of then-President Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy in Central America, giving the Congressman leverage to request the needed funding for Chicago’s public transit. Here’s to the Orange Line, and its rather colorful history (pun intended) on its 25th birthday.
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