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Best Modes of Transportation in Chicago

According to Choose Chicago:


Chicago is a walking city with an easy-to-navigate downtown grid. Madison Street divides the city north and south, while State Street divides it east and west. The State/Madison intersection marks the origin of Chicago’s address grid system. Addresses are relative to the distance from that mark, with eight blocks to every mile. So an address of 3600 North Clark means that it is 36 blocks north of Madison.


The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates the nation’s second largest public transportation system – serving the City of Chicago and 40 neighboring communities by rail and bus. Pay cash for single trip rides or purchase a reloadable Ventra Transit Card or Unlimited Ride Pass for added savings.

For full fare information, transit card retailers and maps, visit the Chicago Transit Authority website Also look to their site for the latest updates to train schedules and routes that may affect your travel plans.

‘L’ Trains: Not all of Chicago’s eight ‘L’ lines are “elevated.” They do, however, connect the city via above-ground, street-level and subway trains and serve 144 rail stations all over town, making the ‘L’ one of the most efficient and affordable methods of transportation available. Two lines operate 24 hours a day: the Blue Line, which connects the airport and downtown, and the Red Line, with service between the North and South Sides via downtown.

Buses: More than 100 routes lace the city; buses stop every few blocks. Several lines operate 24 hours a day. Exact change is required for cash fare.

Full Fare with Cash (bus only)
Acceptable on buses using exact change only in dollar bills or coins; no transfers available.

  • Single ride: $2.25

Single Ride Disposable Ventra Ticket (bus and rail)
Ventra Tickets are good only for a limited time and cannot be loaded again once used up. Includes a full fare and two transfers (a $2.50 value), plus a $0.50 limited-use media fee.

  • Single ride: $3.00

1-Day Disposable Ventra Ticket (bus and rail)
Ventra Tickets are good only for a limited time and cannot be loaded again once the value is used up. Includeds unlimited rides within 24 hours of activation.

  • Unlimited rides for 24 hours: $10.00

Full Fare with Reloadable Ventra Card (bus and rail)

Transfers must occur within two hours of the first ride. Available online and at rail station vending machines.

  • First ride: $2.00 (bus)
  • First ride: $2.25 (rail)
  • First transfer: $0.25
  • Second transfer: FREE

O’Hare Station Fare (rail)
Effective January 14, 2013, a $5 O’Hare rate applies to riders paying full fare from the O’Hare Blue Line Station.

  • First ride if starting at O’Hare: $5.00
  • First transfer: $0.25
  • Second transfer: FREE

Unlimited Ride Passes (bus and rail)
Activated on first use, passes allow unlimited rides for the specified time, offering the best travel value.

  • 1-Day CTA Fun Pass: $10.00
  • 3-Day CTA Pass: $20.00
  • 7-Day CTA Pass: $28.00



The high-speed Metra commuter rail train connects outlying suburbs to downtown and is an easy way to get into the heart of the city fast. For exact fares and route maps, visit the Metra website


  • Single trip: $2.75 and up based on zones traveled
  • 10-ride pass: $27.50 and up based on zones traveled



Taxis are plentiful and easy-to-hail downtown and at the airports, and offer a convenient way to get around the city. Credit cards are accepted in all cabs by city mandate. It is standard to tip the driver about 15-20% of the fare, plus $1-2 per bag if the driver helps you with luggage. Please note that all fares are subject to change. Sample taxi fare between downtown and O’Hare Airport is $40-50, and between Midway Airport is $30-35.


  • Taxis charge a base rate of $2.25 for the first 1/9 mile, plus, $0.20 for each additional 1/9 mile.
  • If a gas surcharge is in effect, a sign will be displayed inside the taxicab and a surcharge may apply. Tolls are an extra charge. Taxis charge $1 for the first additional passenger over age 12 and under age 65; each additional passenger after that is $0.50.



For fast, affordable and fun connections between Chicago’s top tourist destinations, Chicago Water Taxi by Wendella Boats and Shoreline Water Taxi are the perfect combination of sightseeing and convenient transportation. During the warm weather season, travel on these fun water rides to popular visitor sites such as Chinatown, Museum Campus, Willis Tower, Michigan Avenue, Union Station and more. For exact fares and route maps, visit


  • Single ride: $3.00-8.00
  • Day pass: $11.00-29.00



For cyclists, information on Chicago’s bike sharing program Divvy, local bike lanes and bicycle rack parking is available at


Click here to access an interactive parking map of downtown Chicago to search for public parking lots and garages by address and points of interest.

Want to pay for parking in advance? Find the perfect Chicago parking spot by comparing price, location, and amenities. Reserve your spot now.

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Tim Padavic