Take the El Train #AtoZChallenge

ChicagoAs in years past, this month I’m participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. 2016 marks my fifth anniversary, so to celebrate, I’m hosting Friday Blog-Ins here in San Diego; you can find out more info about where we’re meeting each week on my A to Z Challenge page.

My monthly theme is Chicago From A to Z, so stay tuned from Monday to Saturday for new posts on the Windy City. Or sign up for my mailing list (delivered weekly, on Fridays) so you don’t miss a thing!

Chicago’s El Train is another distinguishing feature of the city. While New York may have its (mostly) underground subway, and San Francisco has cable cars, Chicago’s rattling, brake-squealing elevated trains are unique among North American cities.

You’ve undoubtedly seen the El in countless movies.

One of my favorite examples is in the Blues Brothers:

“How often does the train go by?” Jake asks his brother, Elwood.

“So often you won’t even notice it,” he replies.

The El is, basically, running right past the apartment’s one window, nonstop.


Elwood’s apartment is amazing for a few other reasons, but I’ll leave those for another day.

The El is color coded, with red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink and brown lines, and rides are currently $2.25 ($1.10 reduced fare, or 75¢ for students). There’s an RTA Trip Planner to help you figure out how to get where you’re going, as well as a variety of unofficial apps.

I must be completely honest here and admit that I’ve never actually ridden the El, so I’m just going on the assumption that the system works like most of the subway/metro systems I’ve used in other big cities like New York, Montreal, Paris and Toronto. If you can figure out the New York subway system across five boroughs, you can probably figure out Chicago’s CTA system, right?

El or L?

Interestingly, most style guides also say that you should write “El” as “L,” even though it’s short for “Elevated,” and thus the E makes more sense. In this modern age of texting and abbreviations galore, however, I suppose typing one letter (L) as opposed to two is a lot easier. But for alphabetical correctness, I stand by my decision to stick with El.

Also, I feel like I’d confuse myself, because I used to live in New York where one of the subway lines is called the L. It runs from 8th Avenue in Chelsea to Canarsie, Brooklyn, briefly dipping into Queens at Halsey Street.

El train photo by CJ Henry (used with permission)
Under the El train – photo by CJ Henry (used with permission)

More Movies

In addition to the Blues Brothers, you can also see the El in these movies, set in or around Chicago:

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  • Code of Silence – Chuck Norris kicking ass in Chicago
  • The Fugitive – Harrison Ford on the lam in Chicago
  • On the Line – Joey Fatone fumbling a come-on in Chicago
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Steve Martin trying to get home to Chicago, with random sidekick John Candy
  • Risky Business – Tom Cruise getting naughty on the El
  • Running Scared – Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines being silly in Chicago
  • The Sting – Paul Newman and Robert Redford, conning folks in Chicago
  • While You Were Sleeping – Sandra Bullock tears tickets in Chicago


Additional Resources

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Giveaway: San Diego from A to Z

Want to read the book I wrote last April, based on my A to Z posts about San Diego? I’m giving away two paperback copies of San Diego From A to Z over at Goodreads, so click here and enter to win! AND I’m giving away one free ebook copy every day until the end of April to a random commenter here on the blog. Leave a comment every day for another chance to win!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

San Diego from A to Z by Laura Roberts

San Diego from A to Z

by Laura Roberts

Giveaway ends April 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway