Leanne Vanderschool (CC)
Last Saturday night, I chartered a CTA train for a rolling party. My husband, our family, and 60 of our closest friends rode the CTA for three-and-a-half hours to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary and my 20th year of living in Chicago. We didn’t realize the significance of the timing, just three days before the “L” celebrates its 125th anniversary, today, June 6.
Everyone erupted into excited shrieks as four Cubs World Series Champions cars rolled dramatically into the Belmont platform. (CTA staff had surprised us with special cars.) We readied our coolers (soda only, no alcohol on CTA property), trays of sandwiches and cookies, Bluetooth speakers, and—most importantly—a disco ball.
This was a full service operation. In the weeks leading up to the big event, we chose our car models, route and stops. Of course, we wanted the most scenic route so we chose the Brown and Pink elevated lines where we’d have views of the sunset, skyline and river.
Every time we arrived to a station and the conductors urgently announced that nobody on the platform could board the charter train, we giggled. For just a few hours we got to have the L all to ourselves. As a transportation planner with many friends who are urban planners, rail fans and lovers of all things Chicago, this was the ultimate place to celebrate. The city looked spectacular on a crystal clear, warm summer night with a gorgeous sunset. Everyone captured the breathtaking views of Chicago with their cameras. People tried chin ups on the grab bars. My 13-year-old daughter and her three friends delighted in striking ballet and gymnastics poses in the car they got all to themselves.
Leanne Vanderschool (CC)
CTA trains integrate totally into Chicago life. Chicagoans pause conversations when a train goes by and plan their lives in relation to train stops. The advantages of traveling on continuous tracks separated from the streets grow as street traffic continually increases. It seems like a miracle that I can get on a train and shoot across the city in 20 or 30 minutes for just a couple of dollars (ok, $2.25). The Red Line takes me to places integral to my life—to the Auditorium Theater where my daughter and I go to see Joffrey Ballet performances (Harrison Stop), to my job at the Metropolitan Planning Council (Monroe), to my beloved Lurie Garden at Millennium Park (also Monroe) and to dinner with friends in Uptown (Argyle). If I could live anywhere in the city, I’d choose exactly where I live now, in large part because I’m near the Belmont stop and enjoy access to the Red, Brown and Purple train lines.
Every other day we have to share the L with the rest of Chicago, so we reveled in having the train and the views all to ourselves. Monday morning returned to normal, as I spent my daily commute riding the train during a weekday rush hour. But we’ll always remember our private night of celebrating our lives in Chicago on the L.