Chicago is the home of the skyscraper, a beautiful lakeside city that is one of my favorites! But with so much to do, you may wonder what the best way to get around is.
You can drive in Chicago or use public transportation, but there are pros and cons to both options that might surprise you. So we’ve created this guide so that no matter what mode of transportation suits your needs best, you’ll have all the information necessary before setting out on your adventure!
Table of Contents
Driving in Chicago
Driving around in Chicago can be simple; the roads are in a grid structure which helps if you are a first-time visitor. However, there are some one-way roads to keep an eye out for and the usual stop signs, so it is best to understand the rules of the streets before you go.
Peak hours are usually between 6 am – 8 am and 4 pm – 6 pm. If you can avoid these times, you will save yourself the hassle of traffic jams.
Parking can be tricky
Parking is quite challenging in The Windy City! It’s expensive and can cost from $50 – $100 a day, although there are ways to find more affordable parking.
- There are metered spots, but these often fill up fast. Meters usually start at around $2 an hour and have signs explaining when you can and cannot park there.
- Parking garages can vary from $6 to $30 an hour. It is best to reserve a space as these spaces will likely fill up. Lots of websites have discounted offers if you book online.
- Residential areas usually require permits, so it is best to avoid them unless you live here.
- Monthly parking in Chicago can be affordable if you intend to visit the city regularly. It allows the convenience of the same space every time at cheaper rates.
Hire a rental
Zipcar is an excellent car-sharing service that allows you to rent cars by the hour. You can pick up the car at numerous places across the city and then drop it back off where you got it. It is a great way to get around once you are downtown.
You must join the service by applying online, having your driver’s license handy, and waiting for your approval email.
Consider ride-sharing services
Ride-sharing services are an increasingly popular choice for getting around Chicago. Ride-share options include Uber and Lyft. This can be a great option if you need to get somewhere fast but want to save money on expensive parking.
While ride shares often cost more than public transportation, they’re still much cheaper than owning a car.
If you’re riding with other people (or have a lot of luggage), remember that Chicago also has taxi cabs available at every airport and train station around town. They can be an easy way of getting from one place to another while still keeping things cheap!
However, remember that taxis can only take four passengers at once; if more people are with you, consider taking an Uber.
Public transportation fees
Like other major cities, Chicago’s public transportation system is built around a fare-based system. This means that you pay per trip and not per distance traveled. As a result, the ride cost varies based on the type of vehicle you choose to take and the zone you’re traveling in.
The introductory fares for all modes are as follows:
- Bus/train – $2.25-$5.75 depending on where your trip begins and ends within the city limits
- CTA buses & trains also offer day passes for unlimited rides 24 hours at rates from $10-$20, depending on whether the pass includes CTA trains or only bus service.
- When purchasing a seven-day pass at any rail station or from most retail locations, such as Walgreens and Jewel Osco stores, passengers will receive an additional discount when using their Ventra card for each ride. However, this discount will only apply if the total value is more significant than what would otherwise be owed in fares under normal circumstances.
Chicago’s Transit Authority (CTA)
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is the largest transit agency in the country. It operates buses, trains, and paratransit services throughout Chicago. You can use their trip planner to plan your trip accurately on their website or by downloading the app to your phone.
You can also check out this helpful map of what train lines run where before you get on your way!
Commuter trains in Chicago
Commuter trains are a great way to get around the city. They’reThey’re also more expensive than buses, but cheaper than taxis. The downside is that they can be crowded during rush hour, especially on weekends, when people use them as their primary transportation method.
However, compared to buses (which tend to be very crowded), commuter trains are a much faster way of getting across town.
Buses in Chicago
The buses in Chicago are a convenient way to get around. They run from 3.40 am to 12 am weekly, with fares starting from $2.25. You can use the Chicago Transit Authority Bus tracker to check for times and fares.
Other public transport
While commuter trains and buses are more commonly used, Chicago has a brilliant water taxi service that takes you up and down the river. The city also has plenty of safe walking routes, or if you prefer to ride a bike, there are lots of bike shares available.
Getting around Chicago can be challenging, especially if you don’tdon’t have a car. But there are many ways for you to get where you need to go without breaking your budget.
Many public transportation options are available in Chicago. Car-sharing, ride-hailing, and bus lines will all get you where you need to go—and often at a lower cost than hailing an Uber or renting a car.
If public transportation isn’t working for you, consider taking advantage of one of the ride-sharing services we mentioned earlier in this article. They’re all great options and can help take some pressure off while traveling around town!
Greg is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) with 22+ years experience in Financial Services. He has held numerous FINRA Securities licenses (series 7, 63, 65, and 66), and is an expert on Investment Products and Financial Planning. Greg has 22+ years experience as a real estate investor and degrees in Psychology and Philosophy.
Greg has been quoted/interviewed in Yahoo Money, Yahoo Finance, USA Today, Authority Magazine, Realtor.com, Business Insider, and others.
Greg is an avid runner, and the father to identical twin girls and their awesome brother. His love of budgeting and his kids led him to join The Great Resignation in 2021.
Disclaimer: Any Financial Tips on ChaChingQueen are general and informational. Speak with a professional about your specific situation.