CTA color-coded lines celebrate 25 years

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In 1993, CTA debuted its red, blue, brown, purple, green and yellow lines to make life simpler. (WLS)

The Chicago L celebrates 25 years of color-coded rail lines Wednesday. In 1993, CTA debuted its red, blue, brown, purple, green and yellow lines to make life simpler.

"The color being the name could be carried... through visual motifs on the signs, on the trains, and in the stations," explained Graham Garfield, the CTA's General Manager of Customer Information and unofficial historian.

As vintage CTA maps will show, train lines "were either directional like north-south route," or referenced local neighborhoods, he added.

Garfield said that proved challenging for the Windy City's visitors and infrequent users. But these days, it's easy enough to remember "take the Red Line."

Chicago's regular L riders may remember other problems with the old system.

"How about transfers," recalled David Hubert, who's been riding the L for 30 years.

Perhaps the most glaring example was transfers needed to get from Dan Ryan to Howard and back.

"The Dan Ryan line went to Lake Street," said Garfield, adding that the Howard line traveled east along the South Side elevated line.

But with the creation of the Red Line, north and south were better linked.

"You had more people making that trip and now they didn't have to transfer between lines," said Garfield.

CTA added the Orange Line to Midway International Airport in October, 1993, and started Pink Line service in 2006 to round out the system. Today there are eight CTA train lines making up a network of color as vibrant as the city it explores.
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