The Yard Social Club Metra Line Naming System

Edit, April 8, 2018: In light of some increased web traffic to this post this weekend, I went ahead and dug a little deeper into our map in a new Diverging Approach post. This post has not been edited.

Nothing Metra does can be easy, and their line nomenclature fits right in. Metra operates a legacy network of commuter rail service, and as such most of their lines are named after their host (or former host) railroads. While this serves as a semi-interesting history lesson, it makes for a network that is less than intuitive for infrequent riders.

Since we can’t leave well-enough alone, we’ve developed our own naming scheme for the Metra system. You may see various lines on this site referred to by letter rather than their official Metra names, but we try to include both names wherever possible to aid in navigation for infrequent riders.

With a hat-tip to the New York City Subway system, we developed our naming scheme based on a lettering system to differentiate Metra from the CTA’s rail lines (which are color-coded) and CTA and Pace bus networks (which are numbered). Generally, Metra lines are lettered increasing in a counter-clockwise manner from north to south, with groups of letters based out of the four/five downtown rail terminals. (We subdivided Union Station into a North Concourse and a South Concourse, based on the raw number of trains that leave Union Station relative to the other terminals.)

From there, each lettered line includes three variations: full-service trains, which generally operate off-peak and on weekends and serve most stops; express trains, which bypass a certain batch of stations before running local for the rest of the train trip; and short-turn local trains which make a certain number of stops and turn around and head back into the city.  Full-service trains are shown in circles/parenthesis; express trains are shown in diamonds/angled brackets; and local trains are shown in squares/square brackets. This allows us to refer to trains by a single letter and a shape, which gives basic information about where that train goes and where it stops.

The system is by no means perfect, due to the fact that Metra schedules are highly irregular between trains (since some trains make some stops and other trains do not). However, our system provides a simple unified naming structure throughout the system that we feel is relatively straightforward and intuitive. While schedules of individual trains vary, this system allows us to more easily group trains based on their schedule and destinations in general terms.

As a reminder, Metra trains do not use naming system, but they theoretically could if Metra ever chose to adopt a simpler naming system to make the network more friendly to infrequent riders. (Just one more way we here at The Yard Social Club try to give back to our community!)

Below is a list of Metra’s various train formats, with our naming system. Also included are maps showing the full schematic of Weekday and Weekend trains throughout the system with The Yard Social Club’s naming system.

  • Ogilvie Transportation Center
    • ⒶⒷ – Union Pacific North
      • (A) – Trains to Kenosha
      • <A> – Express trains to Kenosha
      • (B) – Trains to Waukegan
      • <B> – Express trains to Waukegan
      • [B] – Local trains to Winnetka
      • <AB> – Weekend express trains to Waukegan or Kenosha
      • <♪> – Weekend special Ravinia Park Express
    • ⒸⒹ – Union Pacific Northwest
      • (C) – Trains to Harvard
      • <C> – Express trains to Harvard
      • [C] – Local trains to Crystal Lake
      • (D) – Trains to McHenry
      • <D> – Express trains to McHenry
      • [D] – Local trains to Des Plaines
    • Ⓔ – Union Pacific West
      • (E) – Trains to Elburn
      • <E> – Express trains to Elburn
      • [E] – Local trains to Elmhurst
    • Ⓕ – Reserved for future use
  • Union Station – North Concourse
    • Ⓖ – Milwaukee North
      • (G) – Trains to Fox Lake
      • <G> – Express trains to Fox Lake
      • [G] – Local trains to Deerfield/Lake Forest*
    • ⒽⒾ – North Central Service
      • <H> – Express trains from Antioch via Milwaukee North
      • (I) – Trains to Antioch via Milwaukee West
      • <I> – Express trains to Antioch via Milwaukee West
    • ⒿⓀ – Milwaukee West
      • (J) – Trains to Elgin
      • <J> – Express trains to Elgin/Big Timber, making stops Bensenville-Roselle
      • [J] – Local trains to Franklin Park
      • (K) – Trains to Big Timber Road
      • <K> – Express trains to Elgin/Big Timber, making stops Schaumburg-National Street
  • Union Station – South Concourse
    • Ⓛ – Heritage Corridor
      • (L) – Trains to Joliet via Heritage Corridor
    • Ⓜ︎ⓃⓄⓅ – BNSF Railway
      • <M> – Express trains to Aurora, making stops Downers Grove-Main St. to Lisle
      • (N) – Trains to Aurora
      • <N> – Express trains to Naperville and Route 59
      • <MN> – Express trains making stops Downers Grove-Main St. to Aurora
      • <O> – Express trains making stops Highlands-Fairview Ave.
      • <P> – Express trains making stops Congress Park-Hinsdale
      • <OP> – Express trains making stops Congress Park-Fairview Ave.
      • [P] – Local trains to Brookfield
    • Ⓠ – SouthWest Service
      • (Q) – Trains to Manhattan
      • [Q] – Local trains to Orland Park/179th
  • LaSalle Street Station
    • ⓇⓈ – Rock Island
      • (R) – Trains to Joliet via Vincennes Ave.
      • <R> – Express trains to Joliet via Vincennes Ave.
      • [R] – Local trains to Blue Island via Vincennes Ave.
      • (S) – Trains to Joliet via Beverly/Morgan Park
      • [S] – Local trains to Blue Island via Beverly/Morgan Park
    • Ⓣ – Reserved for future use
  • Millennium Station
    • ⓍⓎⓏ – Metra Electric
      • (U) – Trains to University Park
      • <U> – Express trains to University Park, making stops Kensington-University Park
      • (V) – Trains to Blue Island via Hyde Park
      • <V> – Express trains to Blue Island via Hyde Park
      • [V] – Shuttle trains from Blue Island to Kensington
      • ( W ) – Trains to South Chicago/93rd
      • <X> – Express trains to Harvey, making stops Kensington-Harvey
      • <Y> – Express trains to Flossmoor, making stops Hazel Crest-Flossmoor
      • <Z> – Express trains to University Park, making stops Olympia Fields-University Park

* – Some weekday MD-N [G] trains continue to Grayslake. Weekend [G] trains terminate at Lake Forest.

View Weekday map as a PDF.
View Weekend map as a PDF.



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