Transport in Chicago is one of the most popular commutation systems not only in the US but the entire world. All of this is made possible with the commendable management of the Chicago Transit Authority, especially during and after the pandemic. Handling an elaborate system of both bus routes and L trains, CTA has made sure that each popular landmark is accessible via public transport and is easy on the pockets for daily commuters. And even if one finds themselves absolutely clueless about routes, CTA has an official website with all the necessary information one might need to find routes of buses and trains.
When wanting to explore the suburbs, the Metra Rail is yet another commutation option which makes travelling safe and easy. While there isn’t enough reason why one wouldn’t choose public transport in Chicago, however, those preferring comfort over money, have ample options like taxis, cabs and even rentals.
So, the below-mentioned article talks about the famous modes of commutation in Chicago city and what makes each one of the great. If you wish to know more about the pricing, hours and routes of Chicago’s transport, we suggest you keep reading!
1. “L” Train
The fourth-largest transit system in the US is managed by the Chicago Transit Authority. Chicago’s L trains run around the windy city and some of the surrounding suburbs, making them the third busiest rail mass transit system in the US. With a combined network of both above ground and underground train stops, the L train is undoubtedly one of the best means of transport in Chicago. Divided into different colours (red, blue, brown, green, orange, purple, pink and yellow) the L train system operates across 145 stations. While a major chunk of these L trains has a specific running time, two L lines, namely the Blue line and Red Line run for a full 24 hours.
The usual timings for 6 other train lines are from 4 or 5 am to 11 pm or 2 pm, however, this too depends on the line and the day of the week. One way fares usually round-off at $2.50, however, getting a one or multi-day pass, can prove to be an economical alternative to the former. The cost of one-day passes is around $10, while 3 day and 7 day passes round off at $20 and $28 respectively. If one isn’t sure about their mode of transportation or is willing to explore, then getting a ventra card for $5 is a good idea. Allowing travellers to switch between buses and L trains, the ventra cards can easily be purchased or recharged at the vending machines installed at the stations.
Other than the elaborate system of L trains, buses make up a substantial part of the transport in Chicago. Operating between 130 routes plus rush hour express routes is not only a holidaymaker friendly mode of transport but also a great way of commuting for daily commuters. Similar to the L trains, several routes operate for full 24 hours, while others start running around 4 or 5 am and conclude the day between 11 p.m. to 2 p.m. Rush hours calls for the opening of Express routes on weekdays. A bus ride, just like L trains, costs around $2.50 which comes down to $2.25 if travellers pay via Ventra cards. Day Passes offered by CTA, ranging between $10 and $28 based on the number of days, are multi-functional, thereby working on buses as well.
To know about bus routes and stops, keeping the CTA Bus tracker or Ventra App, would be a good idea. It is advisable to use the rear door when getting down and put a stop request using the button installed over the rear door or a pole.
3. Metra Rail
Travellers wanting to venture into Chicago suburbs, cannot overlook Metra. Being the most reliable form of transport in Chicago for the outskirts, Metra consists of 11 lines that go beyond the loop, making stops in North, East and South Chicago, while eventually heading towards Evanston, Aurora, Joliet and University Park. Divided into a zone system, the Metra rail system has fares devised as per the number of zones one travels through. While a one-way ride costs between $4 to $11, obtaining a weekend pass allows unlimited commutation and that too is $10.
Metra offers relaxation to travellers with little ones, as on weekdays children up to 7 years of age ride free and on weekends and holidays, children under age 11 are allowed to ride free. Operating the entire week, Metra starts around 4 am and halts operation around midnight, however, this varies from line to line and day today. For everyday schedules, keep checking the official website of Metra.
Taxies are a great option for travellers who prefer a privatised experience with convenience. However, they are an expensive mode of transport in Chicago, but a comfortable option to venture beyond downtown. While the Loop and Northside are well supplied with cabs, finding rides outside this area is a little difficult due to the lowered availability of cabs. Cabs are metered at $3.25 and each mile costs an additional $2.25. In some cases, extra charges can be applied to trips from airports and to areas that go beyond the city’s limits. With car-hailing apps, like Uber, getting a cab is just one click away.
5. Water Taxi
Unlike typical modes of transportation, Chicago gives travellers an interesting way to traverse the city’s topography. Companies, namely Shoreline Sightseeing and Chicago Water Taxi, are the main players in the industry. Taking travellers across the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, while covering landmarks like Chinatown, the Museum Campus and the Loop, water taxis are an amazing alternative and a transport in Chicago that makes ditching other conventional transports worthwhile. However, water taxis operate from the end of May up till September or October. Costs of water taxis vary according to the route, company and day.
The grid layout of Chicago makes it very easy for travellers to navigate the city. However, when it comes to exploration via foot, there is a limit to how much one can traverse. As far as travelling on bikes are concerned, one can easily grab a pair of wheels for themselves and get on with their journey like a local. The Divvy bike system is one of the most popular modes of transport in Chicago, with the cost of renting is a minimal $15 per day, and single rides costing around $3.30. For a better understanding of the routes and offers, one is advised to keep a track of Divvy’s website.
Taking control of the journey is one of the primary reasons why travellers invest in cars. The windy city is fairly easy to approach via roads, however, the hassle lies in finding spaces in already limited parking lots and traffic during rush hours. However, this is not the only problem with choosing cars. Winters make driving trickier with snowfall, hence, cars are a good option only if one decides to use them during summers. For parking spaces, one can access apps like ParkChicago, SpotHero and ParkWhiz and pay to reserve spots in order to save themselves from parking hassles.
There are quite a few companies that have entered the Chicago cab-hailing market today. While they do offer single person rides, rideshare or pooling is the new way of travelling that not only saves travellers some extra bucks but also the environment. Lyft and Uber remain to be the top players in the rideshare game, with Curb and Arro as newcomers in Chicago.
With the above mentioned, travellers must have got an idea about what makes each type of transport unique and important in Chicago. While choosing L trains and buses is smart, however, they won’t fill the gap as Metra rail does. And while travelling within the city is made so much easier, travelling outside the city isn’t difficult either. L’s Blue Line allows travellers to reach O’Hare International Airport with ease via public transport. Chicago Midway International Airport is connected via L’s Orange Line.
For those excited to be on wheels, Chicago is just the right place. There are more than 200 miles of bike lanes that allow travellers to explore various regions of the city with ease. Water taxis are yet another interesting mode of transport in Chicago, that has made the lives of locals and tourists easier and more beautiful. In a nutshell, Chicago’s transport system is equally interesting as the locations one would want to reach. So, happy travelling!