People wait as the Holiday Train stops at Sedgwick

CTA Holiday Train & Bus

As a way to spread cheer and goodwill in this difficult year, we are thrilled to announce that one of Chicago’s most unique holiday traditions, the CTA Holiday Train and CTA Holiday Bus, will continue in 2020 -- though with restrictions in place to keep everyone happy and healthy for the holidays.

See below for additional details.

Jump to:

Temporary changes for 2020

With so many Chicagoans on Santa’s “Nice List,” we wanted to find a way to keep this beloved holiday tradition going in 2020, while also allowing Santa and his elves to stay socially distanced during their visit to Chicago. After a few virtual meetings with our friends from North Pole, we agreed to make the following temporary changes to the 2020 CTA Holiday Fleet:

  • The CTA Holiday Train and CTA Holiday Bus will travel “out of service,” meaning that customers will not be able to board.
  • All photo sessions with Santa will be temporarily suspended this year.

Fortunately, as many can attest, the mere sight of the CTA Holiday Train & Bus is enough to brighten anyone’s day – and we couldn’t agree more, which is why we felt this was the best approach to keeping the tradition of delivering holiday cheer and goodwill throughout the city.

CTA Holiday Train

What few may realize is that the train serves two very important purposes: to deliver joy and the holiday spirit to thousands of riders and also to deliver food baskets to various charitable agencies throughout the city.

The train began on the Blue Line in 1992 when a “Season’s Greetings from the CTA” sign was placed on the front of an out-of-service train used to deliver food to various charities. Over the years, this holiday tradition has evolved from its modest and humble beginnings to a spectacular, joyous sight to see – in daytime or nighttime.

Today, as the train pulls into each station, Santa waves to riders from his sleigh on an open-air flatcar carrying his reindeer and decorated holiday trees.

Each car of the train is wrapped with holiday and seasonal images. Thousands of twinkling lights outline the shape of the train and windows, with even more lights running across the tops of the cars.

Charity food delivery

The CTA family continues its decades-long tradition of supporting Chicago communities. Each year our employees donate their time and money to purchase groceries and assemble food baskets for delivery to community organizations across the city. This year, we'll donate approximately 600 food baskets to local community organizations.

Each food basket contains all the ingredients for a complete meal including a canned ham, potatoes, mixed vegetables, muffin mix, macaroni and cheese, fruit cocktail, green beans, corn and dessert.

Train schedule

In 2020, the CTA Holiday Train will travel out of service, meaning that customers will not be able to board the train. The train will travel all eight rail lines beginning Friday, November 27 (the day after Thanksgiving) through Monday, December 21.

In order to help avoid crowding at stations and on platforms, look for the CTA Holiday Train during afternoons on the dates and rail lines listed below:

  • Green Line: November 27-28, December 1
  • Brown Line: December 2-5
  • Orange Line: December 2-5
  • Red Line: December 8, 10 and 12
  • Purple Line: December 9, 11 and 12
  • Pink Line: December 15 and 16 (corrected*)
  • Blue Line: December 17-19
  • Yellow Line: December 21

*Note: the schedule has been updated to reflect the Holiday Train operating only on the Blue Line on 12/19. Previously, the schedule indicated the train would be on both the Blue and Pink lines on this date. We apologize for this error and any inconvenience. 

2020 CTA Holiday Bus

Day or night, the commutes of thousands and the streets of Chicago’s neighborhoods are made merry with the CTA Holiday Bus.  A part of our holiday tradition since 2014, this 60-foot bus has been transformed by CTA employees into a winter wonderland as a way to say “thank you” to customers and bring added cheer during the holiday season.

You’ll know this bus is near when you hear the sound of holiday music playing and a jolly “Ho-ho-ho!” from down the street. Look up and you’ll see Santa waving and greeting all the good boys and girls of Chicago from the roof hatch of the bus.

The exterior of the bus features Chicago's skyline one snowy evening with “Ralphie the Reindeer” leading the way, his nose aglow and Santa’s sleigh in tow. Festive strings of lights outline the bus and its windows, along with sparkling snowflakes that light up at night. 


In 2020, the CTA Holiday Bus will travel out of service, meaning that customers will not be able to board. The bus will travel 15 different routes serving all areas of the city beginning Tuesday, December 1 through Thursday, December 24.

Look (or listen) for the CTA Holiday Bus during afternoons on the dates and bus routes listed below:

  • December 1-2: #56 Milwaukee
  • December 3: #91 Austin/#92 Foster
  • December 4: #22 Clark
  • December 5: #22 Clark/#97 Skokie
  • December 8-9: #66 Chicago
  • December 10: #126 Jackson
  • December 11-12: #12 Roosevelt
  • December 15-16: #62 Archer
  • December 17: #49 Western/#X49 Western Express
  • December 18: #79 79th
  • December 19: #3 King Drive
  • December 22: #28 Stony Island
  • December 23: #29 State
  • December 24: #J14 Jeffery Jump