Getting around any big city can be a daunting experience. Chicago is no different; however, it thankfully has the second largest biggest transportation system in the USA. There are plenty of options for public transportation in the city. From buses to trains to cabs and rideshares, by following this guide, you can make your trip or commute to Chicago a stress-free experience.
Here’s your guide to making the most of Chicago’s transit system:
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Parking can be hard to find in Chicago, especially if you’re new to the city. On average, parking can cost upwards of $4 per hour. There are numerous lots and garages throughout the city, but street parking can be scarce. You can search online for parking spaces for rent that are near chicago; there are many different apps and services that offer this too. It is best to plan in advance if you are driving into the city to park your car.
Metra is a commuter rail service that operates in the suburbs of Chicago, with stops at O’Hare Airport, downtown Chicago and two train tunnels under Lake Michigan to the South Shore. There are 11 lines that operate between 4 am and 1:30 am daily, so you can ride them after work or when school ends! During weekdays during rush hour, the service runs (7:01 am-12:12 pm), and on weekends it runs (08:35 am – 1.57 pm).
Metra trains have their own tracks and aren’t covered by CTA fares—so it costs between $2.75 and $8.25 depending on where you are going. In addition, there are different passes available from Metra depending on how often you plan on travelling each month (weekly vs monthly). You can find a route map and schedules on the Metra rail website. There are four different Metra Rail stations in Chicago, Union Station, Ogilvie Transportation Center, La Salle Street Station, Van Buren Street Station and Millenium Station.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is the main public transit system in Chicago. It has buses and trains, and there are discounts with a Ventra Card! To get one of these cards, you simply need to register online or through their mobile app and then wait for your card to arrive. Once you have it, you’ll be able to hop on any CTA bus or train for free.
The L-trains have nine different lines that are color coordinated making them easy to navigate. Some of the lines run 24 hours a day whilst others only operate at specific times, so it is always worthwhile checking the schedules and planning your trip in advance. Fares on the L-Train start at $2.50 with many options to purchase day passes.
Buses are a great way to get to and from different train stations, and the CTA Bus Tracker is a brilliant way to check schedules. Starting at $2.25 per journey, buses are a cheap way to get around. Some of the bus services start as early as 03:40 am.
Divvy is a bike-sharing system that allows you to rent a bike at one station and return it to any other station in their system. There are around 6,000 bikes across the city, you can use the Divvy app on your mobile device to find available bikes for rent as well as pay for their trip with a credit card or with a prepaid pass. Prices to rent a bike for 30 mins starting at $3.
Taxi and rideshare services are available in Chicago, but they can be quite expensive. The fastest way to get around the city is by public transit or renting a car.
7. Planning your trip
It is best to plan your trip ahead of time. Check your route and see which mode of transport will be most cost-effective. Keep in mind what times and days of the week you are looking to travel and factor in how busy each will be. For example: If I’m taking a train from downtown Chicago to O’Hare airport on Sunday morning at 9 am (a notoriously quiet time for public transportation), I might need to consider whether or not I could arrive on time if there were any delays—or if it would be better for me just to take an Uber instead!
8. Maps and resources
There are several ways to get around the city:
- Maps and information. The CTA has a wide variety of maps, schedules and other resources on their website. You can also find the closest bus stop or train station using their mobile app. If you want additional help, call 311—the non-emergency contact line for Chicago residents—or tweet.
Public transit is easy to use in Chicago
All you have to do is buy a ticket, hop on the train, and enjoy your commute.
The CTA is Chicago’s local subway system that operates around 220 stations throughout the city. The Metra trains cover a wider area of the city and suburbs, with more than 180 stations offering service throughout six counties. Divvy bikes are one of many options for getting around town without driving your own car.
Divvy has 600+ stations across Chicago and Evanston (and soon Oak Park). You can rent up to 24-hour access passes on their website or through third-party apps such as Transit App or Google Maps (for Android users). You can also buy 24-hour passes at any Divvy station kiosk using cash or credit card as the payment method (no debit cards accepted). When you’re done riding for the day, it’s important to return your bike within 30 minutes so someone else can use it!
We hope that this guide has helped you better understand how to use Chicago’s public transportation system. We know it can be a little intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, riding the train or bus will become second nature. Remember that plenty of resources are available to help plan your trip; just ask the friendly people at any station!