Loop the Loop - Proposal for new Circle Line

June 26, 2002
"Loop the Loop"

Program Description:

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is committed to providing transit customers with convenient, quality public transit options. The CTA is considering the creation of a new rail line, dubbed the Circle Line, that would link existing CTA lines and would establish other links with Metra's suburban commuter trains. These connections would offer customers making crosstown trips the flexibility of traveling to their destinations without having to change trains in the downtown Loop area. The Circle Line has the potential to transform how millions of CTA and Metra customers use public transit. The possible benefits could be shared throughout the entire Chicagoland region.

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Using only 6.6 miles of new or rebuilt CTA track, the Circle Line could shorten travel times between many stations that already serve the system. Some preliminary examples of reduced travel time savings (over current conditions) are highlighted below:

Between O'Hare and

  • Lincoln Park/N. Lakefront: 10-20 min
  • Medical Center/United Center: 10-15 min
Between Midway and
  • 95th/Dan Ryan (Red Line): 10 min
  • Pilsen: 20 min
If approved, the new line could be built in three phases over a 10 to 15-year period.

Phase I - Paulina Connector Restoration

The ? of a mile "Paulina Connector" on Chicago's Near West Side would be rebuilt to allow 54th/Cermak (Douglas) branch Blue Line trains to operate as an independent rail line to the Loop. This could help provide more frequent CTA rail service to the West Side Medical Center from both the Loop elevated and the Blue Line subway. Direct access to the United Center could also be possible via elevated rail service.

Phase II - Cermak-Archer Connector

This new link involves building 1.5 miles of new elevated track that would connect the existing 54th/Cermak (Douglas) branch Blue Line trains to the CTA's Orange Line at Ashland/Archer. New and rebuilt rail stations are possible to improve connections and enable transfers between Metra and CTA and among CTA lines.

Among the potential benefits of this phase would be improved access to the Midway Airport area for West Side residents and business people. In addition, this link could provide better access to the West Side Medical Center and the United Center for South and Southwest side residents.

Phase III - North-Ashland Subway

By building 3.35 miles of new track, the Circle Line would connect with the Red Line at North/Clybourn creating a new "super station" that would link the Red, Brown and Circle Lines. This final phase would complete the Circle Line.

As a result, the Circle Line would:

  • serve an area six-times greater than the Loop;
  • reduce travel times to destinations throughout the Chicagoland area through increased CTA and Metra rail connections; and
  • provide customers with flexible transit options and an increased service value.
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