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Sears Tower (Willis Tower)
July 9, 2014

Transportation in Chicago is overseen by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which serves as the financial and oversight board for its operating divisions, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), PACE, and METRA.

The CTA was fouinded 1947 when it bought out all the private rail and bus companies operating in Chicago. The “L”, the CTA’s rail system, dates back to 1892. The downtown area in Chicago, the Loop, is named after the fact the L line forms a circle in downtown.  Although nicknamed the “L” due to being mostly elevated, the CTA does include surface, at grade, and subway sections.  The “L” is the third busiest rail system in the United States and one of a handful to operate 24 hours a day (though only on two lines).

The CTA also operates a large bus network with a fleet of about 1,800 buses serving over 140 routes throughout the city.  The CTA’s bus fleet is fully accessible and each bus has a bike rack on its front.

PACE is the RTA’s suburban bus system that operates throughout the Chicago suburbs, however a handful of routes operate in to the city of Chicago itself.  There are some communities in which bus service is provided by both PACE and the CTA.  Many of PACE’s routes feed either CTA or Metra stations.

Metra is the regional commuter rail system.  It was founded in the 1970s as the Illinois state legislature believed the private railway companies operating passenger lines at the time were likely to shut down those lines as they were not profitable, although the METRA branding was not adopted until 1985.  Today, METRA has 11 lines, four of which are contracted out to the freight owners of the lines where they run.

Finally, the South Shore Line operates between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, using METRA owned tracks to reach Chicago’s Millenium Station.

CTA 2200 Series

The 2200 Series were manufactured by Budd and were ordered in the late 1960s. The 2200 Series cars were the last cars ordered with the handicapped inaccessible "blinker doors", as opposed to sliding doors. Due to ADA regulations, there was always at least one pair of 2600 Series cars in each consist to ensure ADA compliance on each train. The 2200 Series cars were retired in 2013.

CTA 2400 Series

The 2400 Series were manufactured by Boeing-Vertol and were ordered in the early 1970s. They were delivered with red, white, and blue fronts and stripes of the same colors along the sides, but those were removed starting in fall 2003. The 2400 Series cars were retired in the fall of 2014.

CTA 2600 Series

The 2600 Series was manufactured between 1981 and 1987. Car 3200, the last car built in this series, was also the last car built by Budd before the company shut its railcar manufacturing division.

CTA 3200 Series

The 3200 Series was ordered to facilitate the opening of the Orange Line to Midway Airport, and were the last cars to be ordered with DC traction motors. Select cars had pantographs for operation on the Skokie Swift; these were removed after the line was fully electrified with a third rail. The 3200 Series is scheduled to be rehabilitated between 2015 and 2019.

CTA 5000 Series

The CTA 5000 Series was manufactured by Bombardier starting in 2009; the last unit was delivered in 2015. These cars were the first CTA cars to feature AC traction motors, LED destination signs, and a new interior layout to increase capacity among other features.

CTA Stations

The CTA has over 145 stations, 97 of which are ADA compliant. Stations are located in a variety of settings, included elevated over the streets, at the surface level, in highway medians, and underground.

CTA Buses

The CTA has has approximately 1,800 buses that operate over 140 routes traveling along 2,230 route miles throughout Chicago and some immediate suburbs, such as Evanston and Skokie. The current fleet includes buses manufactured by New Flyer and NABI. Previously, the Flxible Metro-E, RTS-08, and several MAN models including some second hand units from Seattle could be found on the city's streets.


PACE is the suburban bus division of the Regional Transportation Authority. It operates over 200 routes with over 700 buses throughout Cook, Lake, Will, Kane, McHenry and DuPage counties.


METRA is the Regional Transportation Authority's commuter rail division, consisting of 11 routes radiating out from four termini in Chicago. It is the fourth busiest commuter rail system in the United States.

South Shore Line

The South Shore Line is operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) from Millennium Station in Chicago to South Bend, Indiana. The South Shore Line includes a section of street running along its route in Michigan CIty, Indiana.