9 Modes of Public Transport in Chicago

Getting around Chicago can be tricky. It is a highly-populated city with heavy rush hour traffic, and finding parking spots are next to impossible. If you want to save time and find a cheaper alternative, public transportation is the best way to travel in and around the city. Since Chicago is a hub for working professionals, tourists, and out of city commuters, it has an extensive subway and bus system easily accessible and connects most of the city.

So here is an A to Z guide on the public transport in Chicago to make commuting easier! 

Chicago Street System

Chicago street system
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The Chicago Street system is a grid layout. Addresses and suburbs in Chicago are numbered from State Street, which divides east and west, and Madison Street, divided north and south. Eight city blocks make up a mile, and streets are numbered in the increasing order from downtown Chicago to the outer suburbs. For example, an address- 6800 N Pratt Boulevard means that it's 68 blocks north of Madison Street. 

1. The ‘L’ Train in Chicago

Public Transport Chicago
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The Chicago Transport Authority (CTA) is one of the largest public transport systems in the United States after New York and Washington DC. They provide the city’s most widely connected elevated train system colloquially called the ‘L’ train. The L train covers 144 stations in downtown Chicago, The Loop, Central Park, and Evanston. The L train is also an excellent way to see the sights in Chicago from a vantage point. 
How to Pay: 1-day pass is USD 10, 3-day pass is USD 20, and a 7-day pass is USD 28. You can also purchase a Ventra card which has a one-time fee of USD 5 to make smooth contactless transactions and pay easily for other people. 

2. Metra Rail in Chicago

Public Transport Chicago
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Metra Rail is the best option for getting around Chicago if you want to travel from the suburbs. With 11 lines and nearly 240 stations, it is extensive and well connected to most north-east Illinois areas. Metra, managed by the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), regularly runs during rush hours and off-hours. Six of the train lines start and terminate at the Chicago Union Station, which is at the city's heart.
How to pay: Unlike CTA, you have to pay per zone which can range from USD 4 for Zone A, to USD 9.50 to farthest Zone J. You can also buy One-Way tickets, 10-Ride tickets, Monthly or Weekend passes. Paying through a Ventra card is also acceptable 

3. Amtrak - Intercity Travel 

Public Transport Chicago
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Amtrak is a railroad service that connects major cities in the midwest to Chicago. Amtrak connects Chicago to other places in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin. Along with a lounging area, hotels, and Amtrack Wifi, it offers an easy connection to the Metra and is only a 5-minute walk to Skywalk Chicago. Amtrak has great discounts for students, kids, and small groups of commuters. It also offers one-of-a-kind train vacation packages from Chicago to places like Seattle, Salt Lake City, The Grand Canyon, and tourist destinations within the city. 
Fare prices: Tickets range from USD 33 to USD 137 depending on where you’re traveling from.   

4. Buses in Chicago

Public Transport Chicago
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'Pace' is a suburban bus transport provider in Chicago. Also, under the purview of the RTA, the bus service covers 284 municipalities in the city. Pace also has express routes running from the airport and other local tourist attractions, making it a pocket-friendly and convenient option. Pace makes getting around Chicago simple and accessible for everyone from tourists, daily commuters to persons with disabilities. 
How to Pay: You can avail student discounts or use your Ventra card. There are also reservation-based tickets as the routes and times are fixed. 

5. Taxi in Chicago

Public Transport Chicago
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While taxis are not a cost-effective method of transport in Chicago, it can be useful if you’re running late or need to get to the outskirts of town. There are plenty of taxis in Chicago that you can catch, and the price usually depends on the number of passengers and the distance. You can also find rideshare with apps like Uber and Lyft, which will bring down costs significantly. 
Price: Base fare is USD 3.50 with additional charges for every mile, extra passengers, and wait time.  

Other Unconventional Options 

6. Water Taxi 

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Chicago is a wonderful tourist destination to explore in the midwest. If you want a Venice vibe, check out the shoreline water taxi service! With six routes connecting the city’s main shopping centers, sightseeing, and museums, the water taxi is a fast and unique way of getting around Chicago. 
Ticket Prices: USD 6 for one way ride, USD 10 for a day pass with unlimited rides, USD 25 for 10 rides, USD 80 for a monthly pass. 

7. Biking in Chicago

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With over 200 miles of biking trails, Chicago is one of the safest and easiest cities to bike in! Apart from a 19-mile Lakefront trail, most of the city has biking lanes and parking spots. You can rent a bike in Millenium Park or the Navy Pier and shake off some calories while exploring the city! 
Rental Prices: USD 10 per hour (2-hour minimum), USD 25 for 4 hours, or USD 30 for a full day rental.

8. From the Airport

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All three of the Chicago transit systems- Metra, Pace, the L train have lines and routes connecting the O’Hare International airport and the Midway International Airport to downtown Chicago. You can also hail a taxi for convenience or book a ride-along. 

9. Driving around Chicago

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There are several options for a car rental if you want to explore the city by yourself, in your own time. Hertz, Enterprise, and Alamo offer excellent deals for daily and weekly rentals. Economy, Minivan, Luxury, SUV, and convertible cars are available to rent. You’ll need a valid driver’s license, a passport, and a need to be over 25 years to avoid a youth tax. Getting around Chicago can be fun and relaxing using a car rental, so be sure to add that to your itinerary. 
Price of Rentals: USD 35 to USD 90 depending on the size of the car. 
Public Transport in Chicago is very well connected and easily accessible for daily commuters and tourists. Use this guide to make your trip to Chicago smooth and pocket friendly!

This post was published by Anupama Manjunath

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