How to ride every CTA El route in one day

So what happens when four transit geeks set out to ride the entire CTA elevated train system (eight lines) to every terminus in one day? Well, you end up with four very tired transit geeks after 10 hours and 53 minutes — plus lots of memories and some strange experiences.

That’s what CJ, Trey, Sarah and Jason got when they completed the lengthy trek all over the city and some suburbs. And they recorded their experiences on this Google map. Click on the markers on the map below, or view the slideshow at bottom to see some of the highlights of their long day.

View Riding the ENTIRE flipping ‘L’ in one day in a larger map


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  • One would think that the guy who runs the transit blog for Chicago would know that it is the `L', not the 'El' in this city. Sheesh.

  • Apparently they didn't do it the usual way of just staying in the paid area of the rapid transit system. Also, apparently they weren't too impressed by the bus system. Nothing very profound here.

  • The CTA says that they are doing more work between Addison and Wilson on the Red line (Sheridan will be boarding only on 1 side), but according to the latest slow zone map (12/31) there are no slow zones there any longer.

    How accurate are these maps and how many other discrepancies are there like this?

  • This used to be a popular thing to do in NY. It takes about 24 hours to do it there.
    And yes, we call it the "L" because we don't have a line that uses the letter "L" as it's name like NYC does.

  • They did say "L" on the map, but yeah, calling it the "El" in headlines is dubious. I had this debate with someone recently...

    I'm surprised I've never tried this (the closest would be riding the entire MBTA subway system in Boston in a few days) despite having traveled through/photographed every CTA station (that took a while). Someday...

  • Walking from Harlem/Lake to the Ike and Lake is terrifying? Yeah, that scary Oak Park/Forest Park/River Forest border puts the chills into all of us. Woooooooooh spooky!

  • In reply to BigOldGeek:

    Maybe there were lots of drivers texting along the route.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Maybe he wanted a hot dog at Parky's and only had credit cards.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    I thought it was called "El" because it was abbreviated for ELevated? What do I know? I'm from the burbs. ;)
    This entry is on in today's 'Hot on ChicagoNow:'

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    L, El, what the hell.... "Whatevs" as the kids say. Congratulations on making it to Camelot, er Howard. Walking along Harlem is scary because of the traffic, people. But here's my beef: seriously, the 81 was the fastest bus of the day??? WTF? Perhaps you guys were suffering from dehydration/low blood sugar/exposure the the McDonald's washroom? I have NEVER known the 81 to be anything approaching fast, but if you say so, I'll believe you!! :) Next time pack jerky and Gatorade or at least eat the croissants you find behind a pole.

  • In reply to marthat3:

    Oh Martha, I knew you would understand! And you read correctly, the 81 was the fastest bus of the day! We're still in disbelief. The 63 and x54 were a joke.

    And next time, I'll prolly eat those croissants. I'm sure theyre still there...

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    So what would the best way to do it without leaving the rail system??

  • In reply to JustinS:

    just make sure to time your trek so as you can use the Purple Express on the North Main. It'll save you some time and frustration. Other than that, avoid construction periods (meaning, dont go on the weekend!). Since it's a hub and spoke, there's not much you can do to speed it up because you almost always have to go downtown to transfer.

  • In reply to BigOldGeek:

    Have you tried walking along Harlem at the Ike? Come back and talk to me after.
    *I* wouldnt call it terrifying (it wasnt my post) however its frustrating and intimidating to say the least.

  • In reply to ibright05:

    and because I'm that cool to reply to my own post, its not the neighborhood. Its the (lack of a) pedestrian environment on Harlem.

  • In reply to ibright05:

    LOL, I live on Maple one block east of Harlem just south of Lake. It's hardly scary - on a par with walking along Western near Lincoln Square. Plus, you've got Parky's and the Forest Park Madison corridor right there.

  • In reply to BigOldGeek:

    Yet again, I said the @ the Ike aka Eisenhower Expressway aka 290.

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