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The Chicago Traveler

Best and Worst of the eL

by Matt B on May 13th, 2008

Recently, the CTA has been asking the opinions of “Mystery Commuters” to tell them all that is good and bad about Chicago’s buses and trains. The Chicago Sun-Times decided to take matters into their own hands and ride all 242 miles (389 km) of subway and eL tracks. They made a list of 10 “bests” and “worsts.”

The “Scariest Platform” goes to the State/Lake station right in the heart of downtown. The intersection of State and Lake is the hub of the Chicago transportation as dozens of buses travel through it or within a couple blocks. The Red Line runs underground, while the five Lines that comprise the Loop (Brown, Purple, Green, Pink, and Orange) all stop at this station. As you can imagine, there is a lot of pedestrian traffic and a lot of riders crowding onto the platform. And yet, at most, it only provides a width of 8 feet (2 m) for all those people to stand on. Depending on where you’re standing, this could definitely be a very scary platform.

argyle station chicagoWhile some commuters may have complaints or make jokes about how the stations (and some of the passengers) smell, the Sun-Times gave its “Best-Smelling” award to the Red Line Argyle station. This is due to all the Asian restaurants in the north side neighborhood, offering delicious fragrances to waiting riders. The Pink Line Western stop, serving the city’s Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods, enjoys the aromas of nearby Mexican eateries and deserves an honorable mention.

garfield station chicagoMy own “Best” and “Worst”? Well, one of the worst bus/train transfers has to be the Red Line Garfield station. In order to make my way from the train station to the eastbound bus (or vice versa), I had to cross ten lanes of traffic. Ten! There is currently a stoplight there that is supposed to help with traffic, but that doesn’t help you when you’re trying to catch that bus that just pulled up to the stop across the street. And the bus driver can’t hear or see you waving from ten lanes away! To make matters worse, there’s no seating or shelter available. I know there are quite a few similar stations which require unfortunate commuters to trek across several lanes of traffic, sometimes without a stoplight.

jackson station chicagoAs far as “Best,” I think the Red and Blue Line stops at Jackson are very interesting for a couple of reasons. The two stations look a lot cleaner and more modern after the city spent an extensive amount of time and money renovating them. There’s always some kind of street performer, though I can’t guarantee how talented he or she will be. The crowd is a fascinating mix of urban teens, tourists with shopping bags, blue-collar workers, and Blackberry-wielding businessmen, making it a perfect people-watching spot. Finally, even though both stations are underground, a block-long tunnel that is even deeper underground connects the two stations, a feature that is unique to these two eL stops.

You can find the article and the complete Sun-Times list here. Do you have any eL recommendations of your own?

Photo credit: (c/o Flickr) zol87 (1, 2), sallycinnaminn, BigFreaky

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POSTED IN: News, Uncategorized

3 opinions for Best and Worst of the eL

  • StarkedSF Editor
    May 13, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    Somebody should do this for the San Francisco Bar Area. We’d have entries for station with the strongest reek of urine, most active drug sales, widest array of prostitutes . . . .

  • peaches
    May 14, 2008 at 10:05 am

    I’d add that the Polk stop is the loudest el stop. I can’t say that for sure, but everytime a train pulls in or out, I swear it’s the loudest thing I’ve ever heard.

  • Matt B
    May 15, 2008 at 10:03 am

    Ah yes, Polk is pretty loud, along with Belmont or Fullerton when more than one train comes pulling in. Or Addison or 35th right after a ball game! But that’s more due to the passengers than the trains…

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