I am from Iowa and am 48 years old. My 19 year old son and I went on the El Train last August during the day and I was quite impressed to say the least.
The El provides inexpensive transportation and it can be a great experience if done correctly. We rode around downtown Chicago and it gave me an opportunity to look at different areas without the headaches of trying to drive. We got off at various locations to check out the areas.
I agree with other people who said be careful at night and different areas that are dangerous at any time.
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Mike in Iowa
For some reason, the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) has decided to spend some money on the maintenance and renovation of its "classic" and "historic" Brown Line. They actually want to make more of its stations accessible to the handicapped! They actually want to make the station platforms longer so they can accomodate longer trains! They actually want to replace some of the charming "traditional" features of the Brown Line's stations, such as the interesting metal grate "cages" and the rotting wooden floors.
Expect delays and cancellations. Ah, the Price of Progress.
Make sure you're getting on the right train, because a lot of different train routes use the same tracks. Tonight, i got on the green line, when i was supposed to be on the orange. It took me five stops to realize what train I was on. I was lucky that I didn't get robbed, or raped, or murdered like everyone warned you that you would, but I was in a very bad neighborhood, and I'm lucky no one tried anything. So just always keep in mind where you're going, and whether you're getting there.
The L train is a great way to get around, but please be careful at night especially if you are alone. The stairways up to the platforms are very poorly lit and in some areas, it could be very dangerous to be traveling alone.
Also - be advised that some lines do not run on Sundays. We sat around for a half an hour waiting for the darn purple line on a Sunday before we realized it was one of the ones with either limited service or no service on Sundays.
Make sure you know when the trains and buses stop running. Most people use the buses, the 'L' and the subways to get everywhere, because it's so easy. But if you're out late, you might get stuck! Cabs are easiest to find near bars and hotels, so just think ahead and you should be okay!
CTA is very simple to use. Trains are marked by colors: Red (runs north and south), Brown (north and northwest), Orange (southwest), Green (west and south), Blue Line (west and northwest), Purple (from downtown to the far north side city of Evanston, IL) and Yellow (transfer from the Red Line to the village of Skokie, IL). The buses aren't hard to use, either. Be aware that crime can happen any time of day or night on CTA and on any bus or train line. I have seen robberies at 10:00 AM in the morning on the 'L, and rode the buses home at 3:00 AM with no incident. The majority of the stuff that happens is more irritating than harmful: the con artists, street vendors, people begging for money, drunks, rude passengers, people preaching loud sermons, those exhibiting emotional/mental disorders, CTA personnel with attitudes. Also, the fares are some of the highest in all of the USA.
Be careful how late you travel on the El. One night we were on there in the evening (After the Rush Hour crowd), and it was very unsettling on there. Some people were walking from one car to the other (Which is something you aren't supposed to do), and I felt as though someone was following us, because we were with them on 2 separate lines. So just be careful on the El. I was very impressed with the El, as it is very clean and nice, but you just might want to ride during the day and not the evening.
I was warned not to travel on the EL at night on my own, but found that walking the streets of Chicago as a single female isnt a good idea either, also if you around Central Station in Chicago dont look lost, you attract the attention of pan handlers who offer to show you the way and want money for doing it as well. You cant get rid of them :-(.
Chicago is a great city but great cities have there problems also. When on the train keep your eyes and ears open, don't fall asleep on the train and try not to travel alone, especially at night.... for the most part the trains are safe and easy to get around, if your attending an event then you have nothing to worry about since there is tons and tons of people but use caution at night. With common sense you should be OK .....
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