In a move city officials hope will help stimulate business for downtown Evanston restaurants and perhaps encourage more people to live and work here, the CTA has agreed to test adding a new evening Purple Line Express run to its schedule.

The express service to and from Chicago’s Loop now only runs during the morning and afternoon rush hours — with 23 southbound trains during the morning rush and 24 southbound trains during the afternoon rush, with the last one leaving Davis Street at 6:37 p.m.

At other times Purple Line passengers have to change to the Red Line at Howard, which makes all local stops enroute to the Loop — substantially lengthening the duration of the trip.

Johanna Nyden, reading from the schedule for the test service at Thursday’s meeting.

Johanna Nyden, the city’s economic development division manager, told residents at a joint 8th and 9th ward meeting Thursday night that the test will run from June 1 through July 10.

The evening train will leave the Linden station in Wilmette at 8 p.m. and arrive at Clark and Lake downtown at 8:50 p.m.. and then return to Linden by 9:52 p.m.

Ylda Capriccioso, the city’s intergovernmental affairs coordinator, who’s been working on setting up the test, says the CTA has told her it will need to see an average of 468 people riding the new train each night to consider the test a success.

Nyden says the city is planning a publicity campaign starting this spring to try to drum up ridership for the test.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. An even bigger improvement

    Until about 30(?) years ago the Evanston Express ran non-stop from Howard to the Merchandise Mart. Then the CTA decided [if memory and chronology serves me] to make Purple Line stops at Belmont, Fullerton and Chicago Avenue.

    Maybe one extra but surely not three stops were needed.Then at some point Wellington, Diversey, Segwick and possibly other stops were added. The stated reason was that the Ravenswood platforms were too short for the trains to be as long as needed and thus over-crowding.

    Supposedly the station platforms have long been extended and so the argument no longer should hold. To call the Express 'Express' is a joke. Yes if you want to get to Belmont it is some help but if you want to get to the Loop, I certainly find transfering back to the Red line at Belmont makes the journey much faster—though you probably will have to stand from there on out.

    Evantson and some in Rogers Park riders would certainly benefit from the original plan. More people would be transported faster and more comfortably and want to take the CTA rather than switching to Metra as many have—I see people east of Ridge walking past the Central CTA to get to Metra.

    1. Remember 25 Minutes to the Loop?

      The CTA used to have a sign over the Howard Street Station advertising it took only 25 minutes to get downtown – and IT DID- and that was when they had "A" & "B" stations.

      1. Cta tracks

        There also used to be express tracks to Chicago. The biggest problem is the state of the express tracks from Wilson to Jarvis. Trains used to run at 55 mph. Now they run at 15-20. When I asked a top CTA official a decade ago why Evanston service had been so degraded, the answer was: "you don't vote in Chicago."

    2. Exactly right

      You're exactly right. A few of those added stops never have many passengers, but they do diminish the "express-ness" of the service. Belmont I can see, Fullerton maybe, and Chicago Maybe, but if you cut the other ones I think it'd speed things up quite a bit.

      1. The hare following the tortoise

        One of the reasons the CTA had the Evanston Express make all stops from Belmont to the Merchandise Mart other than to relieve congestion on the Brown Line was because the Evanston Express shares the same track as the Brown Line.  Since an Evanston train cannot pass a Brown train, it makes sense to have them pick up passangers on the less used stations. 

  2. So Only One?

    I love the idea of there being a later version of the Express so that I can get more easily into the City and my friends in the City to Evanston but one train a night running way too early will not be adequate.

    1. Evening plays etc

      Might want to time the evening run to allow people to return from plays and evening cultural events. The return time is a bit too early.

      1. purple line express
        Love the idea… and agree with the other posters that the proposed train is running a bit early… would be more helpful if it would run later to accommodate event attendance.

      2. Express Timing
        Seems there was a online survey late last year. One of the questions was about times. I am guessing most responses picked times close to these.

  3. Why are the doing this at the

    Why are the doing this at the end of the school year? The students would love the extended train schedule!

  4. Weekend express trains?

    Weekend express trains would make more sense. The worst part about the Purple line is waiting at Howard. The 15 minutes can be painful in January. Would make a lot of sense to just extend every other train up through Evanston instead of requiring a transfer, if the platforms are ever extended. Perhaps some cars could be closed off like on Metra in the interm.

    1. Evanston trains and Ravenswood experience
      I was surprised at the comment that Evanston platforms can only handle six cars. I wonder if that is true of all stations-Central and Davis seem longer.

      When the Ravenswood platforms were shorter and stops were added to the Evanston Express in Chicago [e.g. Fullerton, Belmont and others], the CTA said at Ravenswood stops they did or would have to have longer trains stop in sections if they were to handle all the passengers. As commented above, perhaps the trains to Evanston could do the same [run the longer trains] but at or before Howard announce that only the first six(?) cars would be on the platform [let passengers on/off] in Evanston. At the ‘turn around’ at Wilmette they either stay on the same track if returning or [as memory serves me] continue forward through the tunnel if going through the yard.
      The issue of changing trains would still apply to Skokie riders.

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