1. Chicago Transit Authority - Schedule & RouteIf you aren’t ready to hail a taxi just yet in the ‘windy city,’ try either buses or trains run by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) in the heart of downtown. Both these forms of transportation are run by the same company, which means you can switch between your transportation mode at ease. And the best part? They both accept the same payment system: Transit Cards, Ventra Cards, and Chicago Cards. Both Transit Card and Ventra Card can be purchased at local retailers and train stations, while Chicago Cards can only be bought online.
CTA Buses in Chicago
CTA trains don’t cover most places in the city, and that’s when CTA buses come to the rescue. The bus system and the routes are vast, and there are hundreds of bus routes and bus stops situated all around the city. You can figure out the buses in Chicago by their CTA signs - blue and white - which also show the routes where the bus will stop at the locations. All the bus routes are numbered, and they arrive at the bus stops every 10 to 20 minutes. There are specific routes where buses run 24 hours a day, and they are called OWL routes.
The buses in Chicago have several payment options - either you can pay directly by cash while you’re on board, you could use a Ventra payment system that works the same as trains, or you could use CTA cards. If you’re using cash as payment, make sure to pay an extra .25 cents. Also, once you’re on a bus, you can’t transfer to another.
Operating time: From 4:00 or 5:00 AM onwards until 11:00 pm or 2:00 AMOWL routes time: 24 hours (daily)Ventra card: 2.25 USD per rideFare: 2.50 USD per rideCTA card: From 10 USD onwards
CTA Trains in Chicago
The train system in Chicago has been made famous because of the movie ‘The Fugitive.’ And the train systems here are known as ‘L.’ Although most of the train routes will take you underground, specific routes are elevated. Using trains in Chicago is simple - each train line has a specific color, and the trains have listed the name of the last stop, so you can figure out the direction the train is headed towards.
It comprises 8 lines: orange, pink, purple, yellow, green, red, blue, and brown. Among these lines, two of them operate 24/7, and they are red and blue. They are convenient, especially when you’re out and about in Chicago overnight. The blue line will take you to the airport - O’Hare, and the orange line towards Chicago Midway Airport.
Operating time: From 4:00 or 5:00 AM onwards until 11:00 pm or 2:00 AMVentra card: 2.25 USDFare: 2.25 USDCTA card: from 10 USD
A line of commuter trains is called Metra that starts from the center of downtown Chicago. These train lines extend towards the nearby states - Indiana and Wisconsin, and near Chicago's suburbs. You can catch a train at any of the four stations in Chicago that have nearly eleven lines. The fares depend on how many lines or ones you intend to travel, and the prices vary accordingly. And if you’re a regular Metra user, you could opt for purchasing a monthly pass or a ten-ticket pass. These passes can either be bought online or at the station.
Fares: From 2.75 USD onwards
3. Chicago Water Taxi
If you’re in the mood for some scenic water ride across the city, water taxis are perfect for you! Sail along the river of Chicago and soak in the blissful views of the Chicago skyline as it takes you through Goose Island, Michigan Avenue, North Avenue, and Madison Street. And over the weekends, it also goes through Chinatown. If you’re planning on using only a water taxi throughout the day, then it’s best to go for an all-day pass. When you purchase an all-day pass, you needn’t buy a ticket when you board the taxi time and time again.
Fare: From 3 USDAll-day pass: 10 USDMonthly pass: 80 USD
4. Taxis in Chicago
Although a tad bit expensive, taxis are hands-down one of the most convenient public transportation options in Chicago. You can take the taxis to the areas that go beyond downtown Chicago and around the Loop. If you’re near the North Side or by the Loop, it’ll be no hassle to hail a cab right from the street. And by any chance, if you happen to be near the outskirts, it’s best to call for a pick-up cab beforehand, as you won't see city cabs outside the area. Alternatively, you can also use ride-hailing app services called Lyft or Uber.
Fare: Starts from 3.25 USD
5. Bike Rentals in Chicago
Cycling in Chicago is certainly the easiest, as you’ll find several bike lanes and dedicated spaces for cyclists and pedestrians. While riding in Chicago, the rider must be cautious, because just like any big city, the traffic in Chicago can be heavy and even maddening at times. For starters, you can opt for a bike tour company to pick a bike and to plan the routes. And if you’re the spontaneous kind, you could rent a bike at a minimal fee from one of the bike stations peppered throughout the city.
Walking Around Chicago
Chicago is a huge city. But most of the famous attractions in Chicago are all either a ride or a short walk away from each other. So, you could cover the city on foot easily and for free. Not just the attractions; the neighborhoods of the city are also easy to navigate and walk around. That being said, if you’d like to explore the hidden gems, walking is the best way to do so.
Insider tip: While walking, if you’d like to calculate a mile, know that every 8 blocks are equal to a mile.
Tips for Taking a Bus in Chicago
- While using buses in Chicago, if you wish to exit the bus, notify the bus driver by pulling the cord that’s located by the windows. There’s also a button for stop, that’s along the pole or the rear door.
- If you’re using a wheelchair or anyone you know is using one, there’s a yellow strip next to the wheelchair seat position that you need to push. This will notify the bus operator that a person with a wheelchair wishes to exit.
- To exit, make use of the rear door because once you reach your destination stop, there will be people waiting to board the bus. By leaving through the back door, the bus can keep up with the schedule and move faster.
- As you get on the bus, go all the way in. When you do that, you make more room for the other passengers to get on and around and move through the bus easily.
- Also, the aisles and exits should be free of obstacles. Blocking them can slow the movement of the bus. To help maneuver within the bus easily, keep the bags or other items away that can obstruct the aisles.
Tips for Using Public Transportation in Chicago
- If you’re riding a bus, make sure to stop by a well-lit bus stop and near a store or an open cafe.
- If possible, have a company while using public transport.
- Know your bus or train schedule before departing, so you needn’t wait longer than needed.
- No matter how tired or sleepy you are, don’t sleep on the bus or train.
- Grab a seat near the bus driver.
- Keep the correct change or token ready to give to the driver. This avoids the whole fumbling part with your purse or wallet.
- This may seem counter-intuitive, but don’t disclose personal information to strangers while talking to them on the bus or subway. Maybe the person you’re talking to is trustworthy, but multiple ears can overhear the conversation.
- No matter how much you love reading, don’t go deep into the world of reading while you wait for your ride to arrive at the stop. Be vigilant.
- If you notice a drunk or an intoxicated person at your stop, steer clear from them, or move into a different stop altogether.
- Although this may seem like an inexpensive option, don’t share a ride with a stranger.
- You may love your window seat but sit by the aisle, as it may get easier to get off the seat if someone troubles you.
- While using trains, subways, or buses, avoid the seats that are by the exit door, because as the stop arrives, there may be chances that someone can get in and grab a hold of your valuables such as a purse or briefcase.
- And never place your purse, bag, or briefcase on the seat next to you. Hold them firmly, keep them in between your feet, or place them on your lap.
- Don’t wear anything flashy, such as rings, necklaces, etc. If you have got a necklace on, tuck it inside your outfit, and if you’re wearing rings, turn it around, so that if there are stones on the rings, it’ll be hidden. If this seems like a hassle, don’t wear jewelry while using public transportation in Chicago.