Discussion related to commuter rail and rapid transit operations in the Chicago area including the South Shore Line, Metra Rail, and Chicago Transit Authority.

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After long thoughts I decided to post about my plan to refer to CTA routes by number instead of color names.
I have never cared for the CTA color NAMES of the 8 routes - even though the colors should be kept along with
the numbers with color-coding emphasized as much or even more than it is presently.

When I first joined Railroad.Net one of my first topics in the Chicagoland Forum was about the color names:
https://www.railroad.net/cta-i-just-can ... 10794.html
(2/9/2005 to 8/24/2008)

I came up with this idea from noting how the TTC in Toronto adopted numbers along with shortened names
for their four major rail routes:
1 (yellow): Yonge-University ("Spadina" was dropped)
2 (green): Bloor-Danforth
3 (blue): Scarborough Line ("LRT" was dropped)
4 (purple): Sheppard Line

The idea about numbering the CTA's eight rapid transit routes did come up during the earlier discussion
-in this case I decided to number the routes in order of ridership and importance to the system and re-instate
a shortened line name that describes the route better than only the color name does.

The numbers would be in circles the same as New York City Transit's IRT routes and the four TTC Subway
lines use. They would be white or black numerals on the line color background.

My choice for #1 is easy: The Howard-Dan Ryan (Red) Line. This is the line with the highest CTA rail ridership
and is literally the "backbone" of the CTA Rapid Transit system.

#2: The O'Hare-Eisenhower (Blue) Line. This is the line with the second highest ridership in the system.
I think that "Eisenhower" makes more sense to use than "Forest Park Branch" does. I wondered why
the CTA did not re-name the Congress Line (The original name of the Eisenhower Expressway was the
Congress Expressway before it was re-named in tribute to the former US President in the early 1970s)
the Eisenhower Line back then when it made perfect sense to do so.

#3: Kimball (Brown) Line - new name change - to me it makes more sense than bringing back the original
"Ravenswood" name - which is a neighborhood along the routing. In this case using the line terminal name
makes this change logical.

#4: Lake-Englewood-East 63rd (Green) Line(s). The easy-to-remember "Lake" would be retained. The tough
part is referring to the two South Side terminals: "Englewood" would make sense for the 63/Ashland branch
being the original name. The name "Woodlawn" for the route to E. 63/Cottage Grove is better to use than
"Jackson Park" for the directly-served neighborhood since the line was cut back westward from JP.

The #4 circles in green destinations could read: 4L (or plain #4) Lake; 4a-Englewood or 63/Ashland;
4c Woodlawn or E63/Cottage Grove.

#5: Midway (Orange) Line. A simple short name that is easy to remember. This would have been the
obvious route name when the line opened back in 1993 had the CTA not gone with the color names.

#6: Cicero or Cermak (Pink) Line. Either one makes sense and would be perhaps better than bringing
back the "Douglas" name (for a neighborhood and park along the route). Cicero would be for where
the line terminates - but could be confused for Cicero Avenue (IL-50) a major N/S Chicago highway.

#7: Evanston Express or Local (Purple) Line. The Evanston Express through trains to Downtown
Chicago could use the "7x" designation along with a square or diamond shape to identify them.

#8: Skokie (Swift) (Yellow) Line. This could either use the #8 or the "bird" logo by itself on destination
signs. I always thought retaining the Skokie Swift bird logo on a yellow background was a good move.

Looking back I would liked to have submitted this plan in 1993 when CTA was planning changes to
the identification of the rapid transit routes. I do think that route numbers would have made more
sense than the color names - in the case of Toronto they have - along with a shortened route name
either retained from the older name(s) or a new one introduced along with further color coding.

Does anyone have their own thoughts and feedback? I will thank all in advance...MACTRAXX
  by justalurker66
From 2005 ...
octr202 wrote: Thu Feb 10, 2005 12:20 pm Interesting debate. One thing the colors do provide is consistancy with most rail transit systems in the US. I think at this point, NYCTA and SEPTA that haven't adopted a color system. Transit riders from other cities are often inclined to look for colors, and associate different colors with different lines.

Also, the color names make a bit more sense if expansions are factored. Here in Boston, if they hadn't adopted color names, the "Cambridge-Dorchester Subway" would be something like the "Alewife-Cambridge-Dorchester-Quincy-Braintree Subway" by this point. Red Line is a bit simplier.

I'm not sure to what extent the colors were responsible for this, but I found the El to be very easy to navigate last month as a first time visitor. Perhaps the combination of colors, consistant use of destination points in identifying platforms, and the lack of "inbound" or "outbound" made it easy to find my way around. I don't think I got lost once in five days. I thought the "white on color" or "color on white" changes for signs were good too, to help spot the different branches more easily.

Losing the historical context is tough on folks like us though, even if it does improve the systems for the general public. Ask around again in 10-15 more years -- it'll get easier to think of it that way. :wink:
Well, it has been 16 years. And I'm OK with the color names, but I did not have the historical names drilled into my mind like some locals and people with a historical outlook on life.

I used to get annoyed at posters who refused to use modern names for rail lines, constantly referring to the NYC or PC or CNW or CBQ as if they still existed. It made it hard to follow discussions and some of those posters were not kind to people who didn't know the historical names and routes. I like history, but not enough to annoy millions of people who have not known the CTA lines by any other name than the colors.
  by west point
As a basic numbers person I prefer numbers. But there are artist types who would be much more comfortable. with colors. So when I go to CHI to visit a friend he would say take the #5 orange to downtown and change to #3 brown and get off at xxxxxx. Not everyone see directions the same way so make it convenient to as many persons as possible especially out of towners.. .
  by justalurker66
west point wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 7:12 pmSo when I go to CHI to visit a friend he would say take the #5 orange to downtown and change to #3 brown and get off at xxxxxx.
My first reaction to numbers would be "are those buses"? Colors and numbers seem redundant.

NYC has too many routes to run solely by color, so the expansion to numbers and letters makes sense.
Toronto has a small system where the line numbers are historical. First built through current.
Anyone else using numbers? (Los Angeles uses letters.)

As far as giving directions it might be better to use the wording on the signs that will be seen. "Take the Orange Line to the loop. Transfer to the Brown Line at Harold Washington Library or Clark/Lake to avoid backtracking (since the Orange runs clockwise and the Brown runs counterclockwise around the loop) but any loop station will work. Any Brown Line train will take you north from the loop toward Kimball. Get of the train at xxxxxx." That could be shortened to "Orange to the Loop then Brown to xxxxxx."

I don't want to be the "we ain't never done it that way before" guy, but numbered train lines would work better if the numbers were not new. Sure, the red and blue lines are currently the backbone of the system, but they have not always run on the same paths through the city. Adding numbers now seems arbitrary.
  by ExCon90
Designation by color is useful only when a system has a relatively small number of lines because there is a limited number of readily distinguishable colors; I suspect that may be the reason why Los Angeles switched to letters. As it is, New York has to use two shades of green on its map, augmented by letters and numbers -- take the Pale Green from Queens to Brooklyn?. At one point New York produced a map with a different color for each individual route, resulting in about three different shades of blue, and a number of different shades of red; it didn't work and was quickly abandoned. Systems all over the world use letters or numbers, which are the clearest and simplest way of distinguishing between routes. I have trouble picturing a Puce Line, or a Mauve Line, or a Teal Line ...
  by justalurker66
Los Angeles Metro Rail has six lines: A, B, C, D, E and L (Blue, Red, Green, Purple, Expo and Gold) .

Transport for London has 15 services including the Underground. Lines are known by their names.

Chicago still has plenty of crayons in the box.
  by GWoodle
If you go by traditional routes & names the Englewood or Ashland/63 should be the Red line & the east branch the Green Line. Many Ashland trains were known as the A train. East branch trains were known as the B train. This may be simpler than the route numbers you suggest. Some A and B trains had separate stops & other stations were AB where a rider would transfer from/to an A or B trains.

If you had a situation where Green/REd trains would transfer to the State Street subway to go North a route number could apply. The transfer for a train to get to the Blue line requires switching on the Pink Line over to Cicero branch to find a similar connection to the Blue Line. A subway downtown directly connecting the 2 subways was never built. If they did this it would at last be possible to have a train go directly from Midway to O'Hare.
  by ExCon90
justalurker66 wrote: Sat Jun 12, 2021 10:02 pm Los Angeles Metro Rail has six lines: A, B, C, D, E and L (Blue, Red, Green, Purple, Expo and Gold) .

Transport for London has 15 services including the Underground. Lines are known by their names.

Chicago still has plenty of crayons in the box.
I don't see that -- the schoolchildren of Chicago chose pink for the former Douglas Park line, but realistically, what other choices were there? If you wanted to split the Green Line into two colors according to the two southern destinations, what else is available that's readily distinguishable from other colors in use?

The London lines have names that mostly go back to their beginnings (1863 in the case of the Metropolitan and the District) and, except for the Bakerloo and the Hammersmith & City, tell a present-day user nothing much about where the line goes. -- Central, Northern, Victoria, Jubilee? (And the Bakerloo now goes well beyond its original endpoints of Baker Street and Waterloo, its original corporate name.)

Los Angeles had to come up with aqua for the Expo Line, very close to blue, already in use. The saving grace for the Orange Line (now in preliminary engineering for conversion from busway to light rail) is that it's nowhere near the Gold Line and connects end-on with the Red.
  by justalurker66
The point is Los Angeles was not forced to choose letters due to running out of colors. They have less lines and less colors than Chicago.

It has been a few decades but I have ridden the London Underground (Tube). The biggest problem I had was that the maps were not geographic. There were times where it would have been less steps to walk between two stations on different lines than to ride the train. I had no problem with keeping track of the lines by names, even if they were not the same names as Crayolas. Does a letter tell you where a train line goes any easier than a color or a name? The names of the lines could be Bert, Ernie and Andrew as long as they were consistently used. (I lived in England when the Jubilee Line opened. I am glad London kept their historical names even though some services grew far beyond the original plan.)

Chicago's use of Green on White (and previously Blue on White) reversing the white on color standard for trains with an alternate destination works well. Does the Green Line really need a completely different color for two stations? (The Yellow Line is special since it is a shuttle train, not an alternate end point.) Chicago's Loop throws in an extra challenge with five of the seven main lines sharing stations in the loop and Red Purple and Brown sharing stations on the north side of Chicago.

I am not saying numbers or letters would not work in Chicago, just that they would not work any better than the current color based line names.
  by Leo Sullivan
Note that the names of the London routes are not particularly geographic. They are also
unique to London and of local significance. They can live forever and expand to include
extensions. They are also known internationally. I certainly don't remember the color
names of lines in any city except the one in which I live but, I do know where the
southern end of the Northern Line is. Here in Boston, the color names have led to lines
having more than one vernacular name. For instance, the Ashmont Branch. Then on the
Green Line, "C"/Beacon St./Cleveland Circle or, "B"/Lake St./Boston College/Comm. Ave.
etc.,etc. If color names are so good why have so many cities got named expressways.
  by justalurker66
Leo Sullivan wrote: Mon Jun 14, 2021 7:11 amIf color names are so good why have so many cities got named expressways.
An interesting thought ... how many commuter rail lines anywhere are named intentionally after people? (Not counting lines named after cities or destinations that happen to be people.)

Expressways normally get named after people that the then current politicians wanted to honor at the time of naming: John Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Dan Ryan, Adlai Stevenson, Bishop Ford, Robert Kingery, William Edens, Ronald Reagan, Jane Addams. If one runs out of expressways one can always name a bridge or smaller section of roadway after an honoree. Fortunately the expressway routes all have numbers so out of area people don't get completely lost.

Planners probably do not go for color named expressways because map makers typically use color to define class of road. One could have the red, blue and green expressways but coloring a map to match the names wouldn't be good. There are certainly streets with color based names.

Most commuter agencies try to have colors on their map even if the lines are not color named. Color named lines just make it easier to label the map. One doesn't need to denote "#1 Green, #2 Blue, #3 Red, #4 Brown, #5 Purple, #6 Yellow, #7 Orange, #8 Pink" - the numbers are irrelevant when the colors are used.

And yes, 28 years after Chicago started using colors for names locals (and history buffs) still use the more descriptive old names. But as people change and generations pass the old names are fading with only the destinations on the current color named lines being re-enforced through continued use.
  by doepack
I wasn't a fan of the new color designations at first, but one positive result is that it's somewhat alleviated the confusion surrounding multiple stations on the system with the same name.

Stations like Belmont, Addison and Austin are served by more than route, but if one puts a color to it, it becomes more identifiable.

Of course, that doesn't help the situation on Blue, which has two stations at Harlem and Western on different segments of the line. Making the actual signage at these stations more descriptive, such as "Western-Congress", and "Harlem-Kennedy" would be so much better.

justalurker66 wrote: Mon Jun 14, 2021 12:23 pm And yes, 28 years after Chicago started using colors for names locals (and history buffs) still use the more descriptive old names. But as people change and generations pass the old names are fading with only the destinations on the current color named lines being re-enforced through continued use.
Long live the Douglas Milwaukee!
  by Literalman
In Boston, "the trains are actually the color of the given blue, green lines etc": when I lived in Boston and, later, Malden, in the 1970s and 1980s, some of the Red Line trains were blue, and some of the Green Line trolleys were orange. :grin: In "Change at Park Street Under," Brian Cudahy wrote that just before the lines were color-coded, the transit authority had begun painting everything gray. Now there's an idea for Chicago. ;-)
  by ExCon90
As I recall, the first postwar cars for NYCTA (or whatever it was called then -- don't know the R-numbers) the first ones were painted green, but later ones red (a "clear, pure red" as it was called in the press releases), but after a few years in service you couldn't tell them apart. In the pre-stainless-steel era the New York subways had a uniform color on all routes.