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Transit From the Airports to Downtown: A Guide (V 2.0)

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Transit From the Airports to Downtown: A Guide (V 2.0)

In General:

There are a few different ways to get from the airports to downtown. The first way is via a van service, the most common/well-regarded of which is Airport Express (airportexpress.com) - AE also now offers a car service, as well.

The second way is via taxi. Travel into the city by taxi from the airports is costly, but is the most optimal way when visitors are carrying a large amount of baggage.

There are also many different limo services from the airport, and a Metra train (metrarail.com/metra/…station.OHARE.html) stop by the far parking lot. However, this line has very limited service during the week and no service during the weekend. While the Metra trains (which are different from CTA trains) are very nice and quite comfortable, this option is not going to be convenient for the majority of travelers.

The most common way is via CTA "L" train:

An average/manageable amount of baggage can be taken on CTA trains and visitors coming from the airports do not have to worry about being the only one to have baggage on a train from the airport - given that the airports are the end of the line for the Blue and Orange Line, and there will certainly be other visitors coming on the train with their bags, as well.

Chicago's bus and "L" train transit operates on fare cards. Large blue machines are placed within subway stations and in some additional spots - there is one just off the family area/stage at Navy Pier, by one of the restrooms.

The fare cards are rechargable, which means that you can put as much as you want into the machine, and that value is on the card. Whenever you take a ride on bus or L, when you put the card in the machine/turnstyle, the amount is deducted. When you run out of money, you can put the card back in the machine and put more money on it. I recommend - and this is if no one is waiting behind you - to get rid of your pocket change in the machine.

Rides on the "L" are $2.25. If you transfer within 2 hours, it's 25 cents. If there is an additional transfer within the first two hours, that's free. After the second transfer, it's $2.25 again for the next ride.

With the transit card, multiple people in a group can use it. When I'm in a group, I run it through and then hand it back to the next person.

Fares may be going up again soon, possibly as soon as 1/1/10.

There are also visitor passes: (Visitor Passes cannot be shared or recharged.)

Full Fare Passes

1-day:

$5.75

3-day:

$14

7-day CTA only:

$23

7-day CTA/Pace:

$28**

30-day:

$86

"Your pass activates the first time you use it. Just dip your pass into the bus farecard machine or the train station turnstile---and go! The pass is good for the number of consecutive days shown on the front of the card. As an example, a 3-day pass is valid for 72 hours from the time of first use and the expiration date and time is printed on the back of the card after it is used." Phone number for pass ordering: 1-888-YOUR-CTA. Passes can also be bought online at transitchicago.com, or at local outlets (full list here: http://www.transitchicago.com/travel_information/fares/vendingmachines.aspx#pass), such as:

Chicago Cultural Center

312-742-0079 Shop at the Cultural Center

78 E. Washington St.

Open 10 a.m. - 6 P.M. Weekdays, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sat, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sun.

Hot Tix Ticket Center

312-554-9800 72 E. Randolph St.

Open 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Tue. - Fri.,

10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Sat.,

Noon - 5 p.m. Sun.

CVS (right by the Palmer House)

312-609-1215 137 S. State St.,

Open 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. Mon. - Fri.,

8 a.m. - 8 p.m. Sat.,

8 a.m. - 6 p.m. Sun.

Chicago Transit

Authority

888-YOUR-CTA 567 W. Lake Street,

Chicago, IL 60661.

Open weekdays 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Chicago Water Works

Visitor Center 163 E. Pearson

Visitor Pass Vending Machine

Open daily 7:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Accepts Credit and Debit cards

Chicago Water Works

312-742-8811 City of Chicago Store, 163 E. Pearson

Open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Mon. - Sat. , 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sun.

Jewel Foods (not far from Ambassador East)

312-944-6950 1210 N. Clark St.

Open 6 a.m. - 12 a.m. Mon.,

24 hours Tues. - Sun.

Navy Pier

312-595-5413 Navy Pier Store in the Family Pavilion

700 E Grand Ave.

Open 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. Sun. - Thru.,

10 a.m. - midnight Fri. - Sat.

Midway Airport Orange

Line Station

4612 W. 59th St.

Visitor Pass Vending Machine available 24 hours per day

Accepts credit and debit cards

O'Hare Airport Blue

Line Station

Main Parking Garage, Lower Level

Visitor Pass Vending Machine available 24 hours per day

Accepts credit and debit cards

Chicago Red

Line Station

800 N. State St.

Visitor Pass Vending Machine available 24 hours per day

Accepts credit and debit cards

These places:

Chicago Cultural Center

312-742-0079 Shop at the Cultural Center

78 E. Washington St.

Open 10 a.m. - 6 P.M. Weekdays, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sat, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sun.

Chicago Water Works

Visitor Center 163 E. Pearson

Visitor Pass Vending Machine

Open daily 7:30 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Accepts Credit and Debit cards

Are also visitor information centers, and provide quite a lot of booklets and information about the city. The Water Works center also has a restaurant area. Both should also have the official city coupon books, but sometimes they do run out.

Otherwise (regular fare):

Full fare with farecard

(Chicago Card, Chicago Card Plus, and Transit Cards)

Learn more about and order Chicago Cards online at chicago-card.com.

Buy Transit Cards online at CTA Store, reload at rail stations, CTA Headquarters, or buy-preloaded around town.

Read more about farecard types

Deducts:

1st ride

$2.00 (bus)

$2.25 (rail)

1st transfer

25 cents

2nd transfer

FREE

___________________________________________________

Coming From O'Hare:

From O'Hare downtown, you will be taking the Blue Line (no confusion possible, since it's the only line going from O'Hare and it's the end of the line, so you're not going to be getting on the wrong line or going the wrong way.

Those coming from Midway will be getting on the Orange Line and headed downtown. Again, this is the end of the line, so there's no worries about going the wrong way or getting on the wrong line.

A new CTA super-station that would offer express service to the two airports was planned as part of the Block 37 project in the Loop area of downtown. Unfortunately, while production on the costly station was started, it ran into cost overruns and was never completed. There are currently no plans to complete the station, although if the status changes, the thread will be updated.

To figure out the remainder of your trip from the airport to downtown, please use one of the trip planning services offered at this link at the CTA website: transitchicago.com/travel_information/trip_p…

Additionally, the trains do not stop close to all hotels - there may be some walking and/or taxi involved to some properties further from stations, such as the W Lakeshore, Embassy Suites Lakefront or Sheraton. However, it is a more reasonable walk from a station to most hotels. Those carrying a larger amount of baggage or those traveling during rougher weather may want to take a taxi to their hotel from the station, and taxi fare from one of the city stations to any of the downtown hotels will be reasonable.

Also of note:

A guide to getting to popular locations via the CTA can be found here (transitchicago.com/riding_cta/populardestina…).

Worth checking is the "System Status" area, which notes CTA closures and other work being done. That can be found here (transitchicago.com/travel_information/…307)

Chicago-l.org's Station list (http://chicago-l.org/stations/index.html) provides a detailed history of each station, as well pictures/updates for each station. Those who will need to be getting off/on at a particular station may want to familiarize themselves with it via these listings. One example: chicago-l.org/stations/washington-wells.html

A transit system map can be found at this page (transitchicago.com/travel_information/maps/d…)

Additionally, Metra Rail (metrarail.com) trains run from the city to outlying areas from different stations. Metra is a separate entity from the CTA.

Please ask any questions or offer any additional tips in this thread. Thank you.

Swartz Creek
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1. Re: Transit From the Airports to Downtown: A Guide (V 2.0)

Thank you for v 2.0, and good to see you back in print in the forum!

2. Re: Transit From the Airports to Downtown: A Guide (V 2.0)

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3. Re: Transit From the Airports to Downtown: A Guide (V 2.0)

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Long Beach...
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4. Re: Transit From the Airports to Downtown: A Guide (V 2.0)

Hi, thanks for the info. I am planning to take the Blue line L from O'Hare to Clark St Station. Can you please advise the approx. travel time for this journey?

ON, Canada
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5. Re: Transit From the Airports to Downtown: A Guide (V 2.0)

NathAus: I use google maps for directions ... you can get transit, walking and driving directions (with trip times included.) When getting transit directions, it gives the combination of walking/transit ... door to door.

I bookmark the map with my hotel on it, then use that for whatever directions I need. Very easy & efficient!

Edited: 08 April 2010, 11:13
Illinois
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6. Re: Transit From the Airports to Downtown: A Guide (V 2.0)

O'hare to Clark/Lake on the blue line = 45-60 minutes. Unfortunately Google Maps does not take construction or other delays into account.

ON, Canada
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7. Re: Transit From the Airports to Downtown: A Guide (V 2.0)

Right, google maps doesn't give delay info. The CTA site http://www.transitchicago.com/ is easy to use for trip planning and obtaining info on route changes/disruptions (see 'Alerts'). It also provides the link to Google Transit for directions/map.

Long Beach...
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8. Re: Transit From the Airports to Downtown: A Guide (V 2.0)

Thanks both for the info

california
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9. Re: Transit From the Airports to Downtown: A Guide (V 2.0)

Great, informative post. Thanks!

My plane gets in about 8pm and I plan to take the blue line to downtown. Is the walk from the station to Hyatt reasonable/safe for a fifty-something female with minimal luggage?

Illinois
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10. Re: Transit From the Airports to Downtown: A Guide (V 2.0)

Yes, the walk is reasonable and safe. You can map out directions here - http://www.hopstop.com/?city=chicago