If you’re interested in scouting famed architecture, wandering unique neighborhoods or eating some of the best food in the Midwest, Chicago is a city that charms residents and visitors alike. And it offers a robust public transportation system that can help you explore Chicago without a car. Whether your plans have you staying in the city or venturing out to the suburbs, there are a variety of Chicago public transportation options to help you reach your destination.
Chicago Transit Authority
Price: $2.50, $5 for a 1-day CTA/Pace pass
When you’re walking around Chicago, it’s hard to miss the trains zooming by on elevated tracks above you. Those Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) ‘L’ trains — a nickname-turned-official name paying homage to the elevated tracks — are a major component of the public transportation system here. There are eight different lines — Red, Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple and Yellow — that run across the city and through its many neighborhoods. You can use the CTA’s “Plan a trip” feature to input your origin and destination and determine which route(s) are right for your plans. Download the Ventra app to buy passes and transit value in advance, or use a station kiosk to purchase a ticket on-site.
Price: $2.25 for Ventra pass holders, $2.50 for cash, $5 for a 1-day CTA/Pace pass
With 128 routes weaving through Chicago neighborhoods, the CTA bus service is the city’s most-used public transit option. It may not be as fast as the L trains due to local traffic and other factors, but CTA buses can get you nearly everywhere you want to go within the city. The CTA’s “Plan a trip” feature can help you navigate the system and pick the line(s) you need. Download the Ventra app to buy passes and transit value in advance. This is recommended, as there are no ticket kiosks at CTA bus stops and transfers aren’t provided for cash fares. If you don’t buy in advance, you’ll need to pay the bus driver in cash. You won’t receive change, so make sure you have the exact amount you need.
Metra commuter trains
Price: Varies based on route and distance traveled
Metra trains connect the city of Chicago with the surrounding suburbs. There are 12 different lines: four for the north and northwest suburbs, four for the south and southwest suburbs and three for the western suburbs. Use the Metra Train Tracker feature to confirm departure and arrival times and help plan your trip. Once you arrive at the suburban station, you can use the Pace bus system to get closer to your destination.
Chicago Water Taxi
“No red lights, no traffic, just relaxation to your destination.” Perhaps the most unique way to get around town, Chicago Water Taxis cruise down the iconic Chicago River and connect riders with riverfront neighborhoods, including River North, the Loop, West Loop, Chinatown and Goose Island. If you’re visiting the city, the water taxis offer a fun way to sightsee while heading to your destination. They have restrooms on board and welcome riders to bring food, bikes and luggage along with them. You can buy a ticket online or at a Wendella kiosk or ticket office.
Bikes and scooters
Divvy – $1 to unlock + $.17/min for classic bikes, $.42/min for ebikes and scooters
Lime – $1 to unlock + $.39/min for scooters
Want to get some fresh air while you experience the best things to do in Chicago? Take advantage of the city’s bike and scooter programs. Thanks to companies like Divvy, Lime and others, you can take in the sights and park near your destination. To get started, you’ll need to download the mobile app(s) and create a profile. Then find and unlock a bike or scooter and get on your way. Once you’re done riding, park it following the company’s protocols and end the ride in the app. Don’t forget to read up on the safety requirements – including local traffic laws and wearing a helmet – before you start your trip.
Public transportation to Chicago’s airports
Does Chicago offer public transportation to the airport? Yes! Chicago’s public transportation offerings can take you to all corners of the city, as well as the two local airports, O’Hare and Midway. Avoid an expensive taxi or rideshare, and opt to use CTA L trains to help you get to and from downtown.
Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Price: $2.50 from city stations, $5 from the O’Hare station
The CTA Blue Line L train runs from Chicago O’Hare Airport to Forest Park, traveling through many neighborhoods, including Jefferson Park, Logan Square, Wicker Park, the Loop, Austin and Oak Park. At the airport, you can access the Blue Line from the lower level in Terminals 1, 2 and 3. Trains run 24 hours a day, but take caution during the late evening and early morning hours when safety incidents are more likely to occur.
Chicago Midway (MDW)
Price: $2.50 from city stations, $5 from the Midway station
The CTA Orange Line L train runs from Chicago Midway Airport to the Loop, crossing through the McKinley Park, Bridgeport and South Loop neighborhoods. At the airport, you can access the Orange Line from the Midway Transportation Center, which is connected through a covered walkway. Train schedules vary slightly between weekdays and weekends, but generally run from around 4 am to around 1 am. Like the Blue Line, safety incidents are most likely to occur during late evening and early morning hours, so you may want to consider alternate transportation options during those times.
Car sharing in Chicago
There are numerous ways to get around using public transportation, but if you prefer to drive in Chicago, Avail car sharing is the best choice. Our peer-to-peer car sharing platform makes it easy to borrow a car when you need one, and it allows local car owners to share their car with others to make money. We have convenient locations in neighborhoods across the city and offer contactless pick-up to help you get on your way fast. Every trip is protected by Allstate insurance and 24/7 roadside assistance. Travel around the city with freedom and flexibility and learn more about borrowing a car from Avail in Chicago.