Taking the Elevated Train

Chicago has an excellent public transportation system, despite constant talk of fare hikes and service cuts.  Within the city there is the elevated “el” train and an extensive bus system.  For traveling to the suburbs, there is the cushy Metra train. Chicago’s public transportation system makes living car-free easy. Although we almost always ride our bikes, having other options is helpful.

The El Train

The El Train

The Platform

The Platform

During my first year in Chicago, I took the El train everyday. We bought a condo close to an El stop. I was happy to be free from driving: I could read during my commute or stare out the window aimlessly while listening to music. Most of the routes are above-ground and provide a great view of the city and its neighborhoods. Eventually the routine grew tiresome and I decided to look into bicycling – the rest is history. But sometimes I still take the El (and so does Oma).

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20 thoughts on “Taking the Elevated Train

  1. MarkA says:

    Ah ha, but can you take your bike onboard and combine the two? That would be very cool indeed (although I think I’d be taking my bike in the elevator up to those high up platforms) We have an elevated train here in London too, called the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) Unfortunately they absolutely forbid bikes on board at any time :o( boo

    • dottie says:

      Yes, bikes are allowed on board except during rush hour. Chicago’s elevated train is different from light rail, more equivalent to London’s Tube. Some routes go underground like a regular subway system. The El has been around since 1892.

  2. donna says:

    Toronto’s transit by comparison is completely archaic. Actually, the entire city’s infrastructure is stuck in the 1950s. They’ve just announced another fare hike so people are hording tokens so if they run out you won’t have any option but to pay a cash fare (if you’re someone who doesn’t buy a monthly or weekly pass). They phased out paper tickets a couple of years ago but have yet to implement a card you can load money on. It absolutely sucks which is why I’ve been riding my bike to work since last spring and plan to until the snow falls.

  3. G.E. says:

    It would be great if the transit system was shared with other major cities. What a great way to get to see your city, too. I always wonder why cities can’t learn from each other, correct any possible mistakes, and improve the plan in other areas. It’s amazing that something that has been running for, what, a hundred plus years hasn’t been perfected and brought to other areas. What a nice option when you don’t ride! :o)

  4. The train looks old! We have a train system in Salt Lake City called TRAX but the bus stop is closer to me so I often take the bus to school and work! In SF, they had old trolleys and trains. It was really cool to see that they still used them with little modifications of course!

  5. My bike and I enjoyed the El when I visited Chicago this fall. It felt so good to know that I could get anywhere in the city with the trains and my legs. That’s one of the things I love about big cities.

  6. Catherine says:

    I take my bike on our public transit system (Metro) fairly frequently. On Mondays, I take dance classes (ballet followed by ballroom) near my work, and then often get a late dinner (9pm) with the ballroom dance folks afterwords. I’m really not a fan of the idea of riding all the way home down an unlit trail that late. So Metro it is! Also, every now and again I’ll go to my Friday night plans directly from work. If those plans are in DC (not near my home in Alexandria), I’ll Metro home with the bike in tow. It’s really a very convenient option to have available.

    I’m not against nighttime riding–I ride all over my town and DC well after dark all the time. It’s just that the trail that connects the two is completely unlit and I feel a slightly like Little Red Riding Hood traipsing through the 5 miles of dark woods all alone late at night.

  7. dukiebiddle says:

    I’ll occasionally take a round trip road bike ride pretty far south of my city, and then give up on riding when I pass the first light rail station on the way home (I’m miserable after 50 miles). Unfortunately, I have yet to take that bike on the train without having a heroin addict ask me how much the bicycle is worth. Like I’m going to answer. I could make it easy for them and convert dollars to doses when I tell them the value.

    • Catherine says:

      Oh, duckie, there you are! Just had to give a quick Tweed Ride update (DC/Baltimore differences be dammed!): it was a blast and was covered by the Washington Post (Style section, and the reporter took himself more than a bit too seriously, but that’s par for the course), was mentioned in the New York Times last week and it’ll be featured tonight on All Things Considered on NPR.

      The All Things Considered coverage is what has me all excited–I love NPR and love the idea of even in the vaguest, loosest sense being “on” it :)

      • dukiebiddle says:

        Did you see your picture on DCist?

        Ya’ll must have been burning up in the heat. Unlike you, I got to clean out a garage on
        Sunday! Haha, I win. Errr…..

        • dukiebiddle says:

          I tried to link to your photo on DCist, but the hyperlinking is disabled in these here comments.

        • Catherine says:

          Ack, no I hadn’t seen it! I was kind hoping it wouldn’t get used. I was in SUCH a bad mood at the beginning of this shindig, and sadly, I think it’s reflected on my face.

          I’d had it up to ::here:: with the early disorganization surrounding registration and the standing out in the heat while wearing wool(not their fault, obviously), trying to find my friends and just as everything started to click into place, my bike started making a death-throes kind of noise (something rubbing on the back tire and I couldn’t figure out what). I had just told my friends that I was giving up and going home because I’d had enough and this mechanical issue was my last straw. They convinced me to go see the volunteer mechanics (the blessed people). 20 seconds later, on my way to said mechanics, the photographer asked me for a picture. I’m standing right outside the mechanic garage in that photo, attempting to look like I’m having a good time, but really regretting my decision to attend.

          Never fear, it all ended well. The mechanics found the issue and fixed it, my friends and I regrouped, I got a (free) scone and tea (my crankiness was also probably due to the lack of lunch and caffeine), I chilled the heck out, apologized for my moodiness and we set off on what really was a spectacularly fun ride.

  8. maria says:

    I so love the El!!!

    I wish I could take it everyday!

  9. Scott says:

    Ah, the Paulina Brown line stop. That’s where I used to wait for the train in the winter of 07/08 and listen to patent bar exam lectures on my ipod every morning. I only used the oma then for short trips and to feed my Julius Meinl monkey because I had inadequate winter clothes. I remember one day that winter I was riding the oma with no gloves and I saw a temperature reading of 19 degrees, what was I doing!?

  10. Dwayne says:

    You make Chicago seek like a must visit city for me! With you descriptions and photos, it sounds like a great place. I’m going to try and make it out there when my Angels are playing the White Sox. Probably not this summer, but in 2011.

  11. Amy says:

    The best part about the train is you can get a lot of reading done; I used to read huge novels just waiting for, and riding, the train.

  12. anna says:

    I’m wondering if it is possible to bring the bike along in the train — and if so under what conditions. In Vienna, for example, it’s possible to carry the bike in the subway for a half-fare ticket (but not in the rush hour), but not in trams or buses…

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