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Signs, signs, everywhere a sign: Check out the new O’Hare ‘L’ station wayfinding signage

A new sign at a tunnel between a terminal and the train station. Photo: CTA

Yesterday the city of Chicago announced that a massive $12.1 billion O'Hare terminal expansion project has been cleared for takeoff. Today the CTA announced a much more modest airport initiative, but one that will also be of interest to transportation buffs. The transit agency has partnered with the Chicago Department of Aviation to refresh the wayfinding signage leading from the airport to the local Blue Line station, hopefully making it more obvious to visitors how to access the train.

New signs and other wayfinding elements have been installed along the routes between O’Hare’s baggage claims in Terminals 1, 2, and 3 to the 'L' stop, located in the lower-level concourse between the main terminals, closest to Terminal 2. According to the CTA, the intention was to provide easy-to-read designs at many locations that would be especially helpful for Chicago transit newbies. These signs are the first of their kind to use a bright azure color dubbed “Blue Line Blue,” and they feature the agency’s ‘L’ train icon, "creating a new and more complete breadcrumb trail from the baggage claims to the trains," according to a press release. 

A sign directing travelers from the baggage claim area to the Blue Line. Photo: CTA

“Travelers now have clearer, more-defined directions to and from the Blue Line, which is the most affordable – and typically the fastest – way to travel between O’Hare and downtown,” said CTA president Dorval R. Carter, Jr. in a statement.

"Wayfinding is one of most important aspects of the customer experience at O'Hare International Airport, and we were thrilled to partner with the CTA to make these improvements so visitors can easily find a fast, affordable, environmentally-friendly ride into the city," said aviation chief Jamie L. Rhee. "This work with the CTA is one facet of an ongoing effort to reimagine wayfinding at our largest airport, led by a dedicated team of two dozen experts committed to instituting a first-class wayfinding experience." 

A sign on a pillar in the airport pointing the way to the train station. Photo: CTA
A sign on a pillar in the airport pointing the way to the train station. Photo: CTA
A sign on a pillar in the airport pointing the way to the train station. Photo: CTA

According to the CTA, the O’Hare station is one of the busiest Blue Line stops, with over 1.7 million boarding this year as of September 30.

Other upgrades to the O'Hare stop in recent years include the installation of new brighter, more environmentally-friendly LED lights; repair and cleaning of walls, ceilings, and other surfaces; and the installation of digital screens. 

The station made headlines last month after a post on the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce's Facebook page claimed a CTA staffer said trains to O'Hare stop running at 11 p.m. “due to concerns about homeless individuals.” The post also said that an airport worker ID or boarding pass is needed to board shuttle buses to and from the airport.

A CTA spokesperson later said trains still go to the airport all night. However, for the past two years, runs arriving at the airport between midnight and 4 a.m. have been exit-only, and inbound passengers have been require to catch a shuttle to the Rosemont station, supposedly to allow time for cleaning the cars. Some have argued this is actually a strategy to discourage people from taking shelter on trains. No special ID or boarding pass is needed to ride the shuttles, only a Ventra card.

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