On an average weekday, more than half a million riders will take CTA trains. You might not think twice about the “L” as you’re getting off to go to work, grab food, or because someone's eating an entire burrito next to you. But a train system that’s over a century old has some interesting facts worth digging into.
1. Is it the “L” or the “EL”?
First things first, is it the “L,” the “El,” or the “el”? Not to burst your bubble, but the official name is “L” with quotes. The popular “EL” moniker stuck as a shortened version of "elevated railroad," but “L” was used by previous companies, and is the one held by the CTA itself, which even tweeted about it to remove all concerns.
2. The original “L” was comprised of four separate companies
Before the train system was turned into the public chartered Chicago Transit Authority in 1945, it was a collection of privately owned elevated “L” companies. The South Side “L” was the first to operate in 1892, and demand for expansion led to the development of the Lake Street “L,” the Metropolitan West Side “L,” the Union Loop, and the Northwestern “L.” The four companies would later be unified under the Chicago Elevated Railways Collateral Trust (CER), and then bought by the Chicago Rapid Transit Company (CRT) before the State of Illinois stepped in to create the CTA.
3. You could've ridden to your grave via car 802
Elevated transit in its early days was a lucrative game, and the privately-owned Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railway (today’s Blue Line) wised up to the opportunity in the early 1900s by catering to the dead with funeral trains that stopped at select cemeteries. This practice died (!) down by the 1930s once roads became more accessible, but, the CTA’s General Manager of Customer Information, Graham Garfield, says based on the original clause in the Metropolitan Transit Authority Act, we could still, in theory, utilize this service.