Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) anchors Chicago Transportation is the 2nd busiest airport in America and the world. It features so many international and transnational flights that it affects global flight schedules. In what seems like a quirk, the airport’s four passenger terminals are labeled 1, 2, 3 and 5. There is no terminal 4. You won’t find an airport with more restaurants, lounges, shops, business services, music, passenger amenities, emergency services, nearby hotels or one that is more ADA-friendly. There’s WiFi and plenty of electric outlets to recharge computers and mobile devices spread around the airport. Those features come in handy in case your connecting flight is delayed. To its credit, O’Hare has a bevy of “green” projects underway to reduce its environmental footprint. O’HARE AIRPORT TERMINAL MAP
Airport Transit System is a 24/7, people mover that runs every 8 minutes from all terminals to Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Airport Station, Car Rental Center and the offsite parking lot. Taxi pick-up is available outside all terminals. Taxi rides to downtown via Expressway take 40 to 70 minutes, depending on commute hour. To schedule return pick-up, call Yellow (312-829-4222) or Checker (312-243-2537). Shuttle by Continental Air Transport (312-454-7800) goes from O’Hare to dozens of downtown hotels for $20 from 6a-11:30p. Car Rental by Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz and National provides 24/7 counter service in the baggage claim area. Turn your car radio to 800 AM for Airport-Dan Ryan Expressway traffic news.
Midway Airport (MDW) has frequent flights to popular nationwide destinations. Taxis are outside the main terminal (Yellow 312-829-4222 and Checker 312-243-2537). Rides to downtown take 25 to 50 minutes. Shuttle by Continental Air Transport (312-454-7800) from MDW Airport to downtown hotels for $16 from 6a-10p. Chicago Transit Authority runs a frequent subway line from MDW to downtown Chicago. Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz and National provide 24/7 car rental counter service and shuttle buses to their car lots.
In a Beaux Arts-style building with soaring Corinthian columns, terracotta walls, a pink marble floor crowned with a barrel-vaulted atrium ceiling, Chicago Union Station is located at West Adams Street & South Canal Street in what’s called the West Loop of Downtown. The station’s barrel-vaulted Great Hall was recently restored and features 16 cafes, 1 restaurant, 1 spa & salon and 2 newsstands. Its marble staircase had a shoot-out between Al Capone’s gangsters and policemen. The shootout was portrayed in The Untouchables movie. During World War II, over 100,000 passengers passed through the station each day. Today, nearly half that number traverse Union Station, but plenty of corporate events are hosted in the Great Hall at night.
Although Chicago Union Station hosts Metra commuter rail, Greyhound, Megabus, a large taxi depot, city buses and a car rental center, it maintains status as a premier train station by hosting a multitude of Amtrak train routes:
Illinois: Chicago-St. Louis and Chicago-Carbondale
Michigan: Chicago-Kalamazoo-Ann Arbor-Detroit-Pontiac
California Zephyr: Chicago-Omaha-Denver-Salt Lake City-Oakland
Illinois Zephyr: Chicago-Naperville-Princeton-Quincy
City of New Orleans: Chicago-Memphis-Jackson-New Orleans
Empire Builder: Chicago-Milwaukee-Minneapolis-Seattle or Portland
Lake Shore Limited: Chicago-South Bend-Cleveland-Buffalo-NYC
Missouri: Chicago-Springfield-St. Louis-Jefferson City-Kansas City
Capitol Limited: Washington-Pittsburgh-Cleveland-Toledo-Chicago
Southwest Chief: Chicago-Kansas City-Albuquerque-Los Angeles
Texas Eagle: Chicago-St. Louis-Little Rock-Dallas-San Antonio
Amtrak service in Chicago-Springfield-St. Louis and Chicago-Ann Arbor-Detroit corridors run up to 110 mph top speed. By early next decade, Amtrak service in the Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati corridor is also planned for upgrade to 110 mph.
Bigger plans lie ahead for Union Station too. West Loop Transportation Center will interconnect Union Station and Oglive Transportation Center underground, permitting intercity trains to run through Union Station and Oglivie Center, rather than terminate at each station, as they do today. It will also expand local and regional rail trains to both stations. After the final plan is funded, the four-level underground center will form the hub of rapid buses, local rail, regional rail, Greyhound, and 220 mph trains in a Midwest High Speed Rail Network.
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is the nation’s 2nd longest heavy rail transit system at 222 miles, 143 stations and 7 rail lines. Serving nearly 600,000 passengers from 5a–12p, daily, it has the third highest ridership in America. CTA has single-zone fare of $2.25, with reduced fare to $1 for ages 7-11, age 12-18 students, age 65+ and the disabled. The CTA’s “L”, short for “Elevated”, dates from 1892, making it the second oldest heavy rail system in America. Chicago has both elevated lines and subway lines in the Loop downtown and once had a large streetcar network before the Freeway Age arrived in 1956. Old vintage however, means projects are underway to bring trains, tracks and stations up to modern standards, rather than expand. CTA is America’s only metro rail system that goes directly into two major airports. CTA SYSTEM MAP
The CTA’s most beloved L line circles the Loop District — the heart of business, government, culture and architecture downtown. Some lines run less frequently during weekends and holidays. Single travelers are advised to use the L only during the daytime, except for the two airport lines well-patronized day or night, and lines from the two major baseball parks or United Center after games to Downtown.
Metra consists of a 495-mile commuter rail system with 230 stations and 12 rail lines serving Cook, Du Page, Lake, Will, McHenry and Kane counties. Some commuter lines date back to the early 20th century. Chicago metropolitan commuter rail lines were consolidated under the brand name “Metra” in 1984. Chicago Union Station, a multi-modal transportation center, hosts the largest number of Metra trains. On weekdays, Metra averages 330,000 patrons and many purchase tickets over the Internet. Although three lines service the South Side of Chicago, Metra is primarily for suburban commuters from north, northwest, west, southwest and southeast of downtown. One-way fares vary from $1.75 to $6.60, zone dependent. On weekends and holidays, age 12-17 ride for half fare. Age 11 and under to ride Free when accompanied by a fare-paying adult. METRA SYSTEM MAP
Oglivie Transportation Center is located underneath the blue Citigroup Center highrise located at 504 West Madison Street. The attractive upper waiting room is open Monday-Saturday 5a-12:40a and Sunday 7a-12:40a. Ticket agents are on duty Monday-Saturday 5a-12:40a and Sunday 7a-12:40a. The station was named for Richard Oglivie, a railroad proponent who, as governor of Illinois, created the parent agency of Metra. Aside from many city bus lines that stop outside, Oglivie hosts these Metra rail lines:
Millennium Station, formerly called “Randolph Street Terminal”, is located at Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue under Millennium Park. It hosts two commuter rail systems, Metra Electric Line traveling to southern Chicago suburbs, and South Shore Line traveling southeast to McCormick Place, Hyde Park, Gary, IN and South Bend, IN. Millennium Station is open daily from 5a-12:50a. Ticket agents are on duty Monday-Saturday 5:55a-12:50a and Sunday 7a-12:50a Many commuter trains originating here go to McCormick Convention Center and University of Chicago in Hyde Park.
LaSalle Street Station located at 414 South LaSalle Street, is attached behind the Chicago Stock Exchange highrise. It hosts Metra Rock Island District trains and Metra ticket agents are on duty Monday to Friday 6:15 a-9p and Saturdays 11a-7:30p.
Offers daily tours at 9a, 12p, and 3p focusing on the Southside of Chicago; group rates available; reservations required
Chicago Motor Coach
Double-decker buses around the Loop, small fee
Got a taste for the old gangster digs? This is your tour
Chicago By Air
Small planes that takeoff from Miegs Field downtown provide narrated aerial views of the city for 30 minutes; call for pricing and information
Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise
DESCRIPTION: Experience Chicago’s #1 architecture tour – the Official Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises – departing daily from Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. These are 90-minute tours of Chicago’s riverfront architecture with commentary provided by CAF certified volunteer docents (guides) who provide insight into Chicago’s built environment. Specialty cruises include a morning Photography Cruise and an evening Twilight Cruise.
ADDRESS: Michigan Ave at Wacker Drive MAP
PHONE: 847-358-1330 and toll-free 800-982-2787
Mercury, Chicago’s Skyline Cruiseline
DESCRIPTION: Urban Adventure Cruise departing daily from the Chicago River and cruising into Lake Michigan from May-October. Expert guides show you the entire city from the waterways. Families of all ages enjoy this city cruise/tour which features 100% life preservers on board with option of covered or open outdoor seating. Specialty cruises include a Fireworks Cruise, Chicago By Night Cruise and Canine Cruise.
ADDRESS: Michigan Avenue at Wacker Drive MAP