If you are looking for an easy means of getting around the city of Chicago, then public transportation is your best choice with the L’Train being a specific favorite for many tourists. Under the management and operation of the Chicago Transport Authority this service, short for “elevated train”, is not only easy to use but also very cheap. This body is also responsible for operating an extensive bus system with routes running to nearly all of the popular tourist attractions around the city. However, for the newcomers to Chicago, navigating this service may prove to be a bit difficult. Then there is the Metra regional train system that serves the downtown region of the city.
Commuters and tourists alike can make best use of the public transport system in Chicago for travelling to and from the nearby airports. While the O’Hare International Airport is only eighteen miles northwest from downtown Chicago, the Midway International Airport is closer to town and only eleven miles southwest of the downtown area. There are also taxi services to take you around the city. With such a comprehensive public transport network in place, need for a personal set of wheels is more or less negated. However, interested individuals can yet avail a car rental service from one of the many kiosks at either airport.
Let us now take a detailed look at the various means of public transportation in Chicago.
While L’Train generally stands for “elevated train” not every one of the eight lines in the city subway system operate above ground level. With a variety of colors to identify it, namely yellow, pink, purple, orange, green, brown, blue and red, this means of transportation provides a speedy and extensive service to as many as 144 different stations around the city. The Blue line and the Red line, operating respectively from the city to the O’Hare International airport and along downtown, stay in service round the clock. As far as the other six routes are concerned, their operations usually start between four to five in the morning and continue till midnight. Standard one-way fares on the service are around $2.25 but for those looking to do all their travelling on the L’Train system, purchasing a day-card would be ideal. Tourists can also opt for the Ventra Card that can be used on other means of public transportation besides this one.
Bus Service in Chicago
The city of Chicago is traversed by close to hundred bus routes with a stop located close to almost each of the major tourist attractions in the city. Numerous routes operate round the clock while there are a number of them which, similar to the L’Train system, operate from the early hours of morning and wind up by midnight. The single ride charges are $2.25 per person (cash payment) and $2 when paid with the Ventra card. Day passes issued by the Chicago Transit Authority are also valid for use on all of the buses.
Chicago Metra Rail
For those planning to travel down to the suburbs of Chicago, Metra is their most reliable means of transportation. There are eleven lines to the system extending out of the Loop with stops in South, East and North Chicago. The line eventually heads out towards the nearby communities of University Park, Joilet, Aurora and Evanston. This transport system is further divided into zones with the determination of the fares done exclusively based on the number of zones that commuters travel through. For those planning to use Metra over the weekend, it would be advisable to purchase a weekend pass that permits unlimited travel for only $7. These trains usually operate from early hours of the morning and late into the night though schedules very often tend to vary according to the travel route and time for the day.
Taxi service in Chicago
A convenient means of travelling around the Loop and to the areas further downtown, taxis can be found easily on the Chicago streets. However, if you are stuck somewhere in the suburbs, the cabs tend to be far less in number and commuters would be required to call for a pickup in such a case. Rates usually depend on the distance travelled and charges are also applicable for extra passengers travelling in the vehicle.
For the tourists who intend to travel around Chicago by their very own ride, they will find the grid layout of the city to be extremely helpful. However, they should be prepared for heavy rush hour traffic. Also, the parking spaces are few in number and tend to be extremely pricey. Individuals visiting Chicago during the winter months and not having prior experience of driving in the cold weather will be better off keeping themselves away from behind the wheels. Snowfall tends to bring down the visibility and roads tend to get extremely slippery. Under such circumstances, the extensive network of public transportation in the city proves to be the major saviour for one and all.