7 on the Streets: Why are CTA train lines named by color?

CHICAGO (WLS) -- ABC7 is on the streets, answering your traffic and transit questions.

A few people asked Roz Varon about the names of the CTA's transit lines. When did the names convert to colors and why was that done?

Graham Garfield, CTA General Manager of Customer Information, said the name change happened in 1993.

"The basic reason was to make the system easier to navigate - particularly for tourists, out of towners, new riders or occasional riders - or even those who had English as a second language," Garfield said.

The CTA modeled the color code system after other cities, like the "T" in Boston and the D.C. Metro.

The changes were phased in over a number of years. Signs on the trains and maps were switched first.

The O'Hare-Congress-Douglas became the Blue Line. The Ravenswood became the Brown Line. The Skokie Swift became the Yellow Line. The Evanston Express because the Purple Line.

Two lines changed names and routes.

The Howard-Englewood-Jackson Park changed to the Howard-Dan Ryan. Then it because the Red Line. The Lake-Dan Ryan changed to the Lake-Englewood-Jackson Park. Then it became the Green Line.

Two CTA lines opened after the color names went into effect.

The Orange Line was planned as the Southwest Route, but opened as the Orange Line in 1993. The Pink Line was originally the Douglas branch of the Blue Line.

"The color pink was the result of a contest among school children to name the line. Kids submitted entries with their suggestion and wrote a short essay," Garfield said.

There was quite a learning curve to all the changes, including the elimination of "A" and "B" stops, which had its own color-coding system.

Today, that color code is second nature to the more than 726,000 riders who use rapid transit each day.

The old name system wasn't just confusing - it became outdated.

The Congress branch of the Blue Line runs down the Eisenhower Expressway, which opened in 1955 as the Congress Street Expressway.

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