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Chicago Transportation Options: How To Get Around the Windy City

May 8, 2023 By CityPASS

Chicago is one of the top three most prominent cities in America. The city is a travel hub with two large airports. Often, driving and parking can be a hassle in the Windy City. Learning about the different transportation options makes it easier to visit Chicago and get around.

The Various Transportation Services of Chicago

Since downtown Chicago has the Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and the Midway International Airport (MDW), traffic is always coming and going in these areas. Chances are, you'll be looking for alternative ways to get around Chicago. Of course, you can always walk around to really soak in all the city offers. But using Chicago public transportation allows you to get to where you want to go faster and more efficiently. Let's look into some of the best ways to get around Chicago.

Chicago Transit Authority

The Chicago Transit Authority, or CTA, operates public transit. The train and bus routes can take you to the city and some of the closest suburbs.

If you plan to use the train and bus systems in Chicago, you must learn how to use the Ventra payment system to cover fares. You can find Ventra machines at train stations, various locations, online, or over the phone. The cool thing about these cards is that they are contactless and easy to load more money into. You can tap and go, making it a super convenient way to pay to travel around. If you are tech-savvy and have a digital wallet on your Android or Apple phone, you can directly scan your phone's app.

If you'll only be using the Chicago public transit system a few times, you can purchase single-ride Ventra tickets and day passes.

Train Lines

The Chicago train system, El or L, has eight color-coded train lines. The "L" stands for elevated because the train cars are above ground instead of underground, like in a traditional subway system. Although part of the train system runs underground, the rest is "elevated." The system has 146 train stations. The Red and Blue Lines run 24 hours a day, every week. These are convenient if you'll be coming to or from one of the airports.

The regular fare for the L is $2.50. Using a Ventra card or purchasing day passes is wise if you visit many destinations, as the trains are among the most popular forms of transportation in Chicago.

Bus Lines

The CTA also operates and runs 129 bus routes. The bus routes go through the city with various stops up and down the streets. The regular fare is $2.25 for riding the bus. You can purchase Ventra cards for $5. If you'll be using cash, it's best to have the exact fare per person to help the bus driver stay on schedule when you board. Some bus routes offer late-night service until around 2 a.m.

Chicago Water Taxi

The Chicago Water Taxi is a fantastic way to discover Chicago's beautiful lake and river. The water taxis are only operational from the spring through the end of November, weather-permitting. There are two water taxi services to choose from: Shoreline Water Taxi and Chicago Water Taxi.

Shoreline Water Taxi

Shoreline Water Taxi has a red, white, and blue taxi design. You can catch a taxi every day from Memorial Day through September. Tickets are available at Navy Pier, Willis Tower, Michigan Avenue, or Museum Campus locations. You can pay with a card or cash at most locations.

Chicago Water Taxi

The yellow water taxis are the Chicago Water Taxi and only operate on weekends. You need to get tickets for the boats from the Michigan Ave or Ogilvie/Union stop. You can also purchase rides on your device. However, you have to buy the ride with a card. Tickets are only $6 for a one-way trip.

Metra Rail

The Metra commuter train travels rapidly from downtown Chicago to the connecting suburbs. The Metra has eleven lines, making it a quick and convenient way to travel around Chicago. With 242 train stations, you can get about anywhere you need to go from the Harvard stop to the South Chicago stop.

Costs of the Metra will vary depending on how long you'll be riding. There are different pricing options: a one-way pass, a 10-ride pass, day passes, and weekend passes. Fortunately, you can use the Ventra app and purchase $6 day passes for unlimited travel for one day.


Uber and Lyft are good options to get around in Chicago. You can easily download the apps and conveniently call on-demand rides. You must input your location and destination and request a ride. You'll pay for the trip on the app. Uber and Lyft are good for after-hours travel or when you want a ride right away because of a tight schedule.


There are many different Taxi services in Chicago. You can hail a Taxi down if you need to go somewhere. You can also download the convenient Taxi apps where you can e-pay and hail with CURB and ARRO. Most taxi services will offer flat rates from the airports and even downtown. Taxis are a great choice if you need transportation after business hours.

Bike Sharing

Chicago is an area that is perfect for cycling, especially if the weather permits. There are many bike lanes around the city. Chicago has a bike-sharing system called Divvy. You can join Divvy and grab a bike from over 500 locations around town. When you're finished riding, you can drop the bike off at one of the locations closest to you.

Riding bicycles is great for exercise, and you can purchase a day pass for $16.50 for unlimited rides for up to three hours. A single ride will cost you $1. If you want to ride an e-bike with a motor, you can open one for $1 and $0.42 for each minute after. Just download the Divvy app to get started.

Make Your Way to Chicago's Hottest Attractions

As you can see, there are many ways to see all the Chicago destinations you want. If you're still unsure which transportation to choose, you can ask some of the residents. They'll gladly let you know which gets you where you need to go the quickest.

In addition, you can save money with CityPASS® tickets on your next trip to Chicago. By choosing CityPASS® tickets, you can see the hottest attractions for less.

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