There are a many ways of getting around Chicago, but the best way to fully enjoy and experience the city is by walking. Chicago is one of the few cities in America that is most enjoyable without a car. But even experienced walkers would also get tired of going around the city in their two feet. If you’re feeling tired, public transportation is readily available. You can also rent a car from the many car rental services in the city. Just be updated with the city’s traffic reports so you can estimate your travel time and avoid congestion in Chicago’s Interstates. Here are some ways to get around Chicago:
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) – The CTA is Chicago’s mass transit system. It operates an interconnected system of buses, subways and elevated trains covering most parts of the city. Basic fare is at $2.00 with an additional charge of $.25 for transfers or if you’re switching from bus to train and vice versa. Transit cards are available in $10 and $20 denominations and can be purchased from vending machines located at all CTA rail stations. Any value can be added to your Transit Card and a single Transit Card can also be used for up to 7 full fare individuals Remember that exact change is required when purchasing Transit Cards.
The Sky Train or Chicago’s "L" – The El is over a hundred years old and is already a landmark in Chicago. Short for elevated train, the El is the cheapest and fastest mode of transport between the O’Hare and Midway airports and the downtown Loop. It is also recommended when going to the suburbs or outlying areas of Chicago. The El provides a scenic ride of the city, but it’s best to avoid it during rush hour when it’s too congested to have a view.
Metra Rail – The Metra is a train system taking commuters to and from the suburbs, specially the far-off areas like Wheaton. Fares are reasonably priced and are based on the distance that you ride. It also provides a fun ride especially for kids, offering family discounts allowing children under age 12 to ride for free. During weekends, the commuter train offers a $5 pass for unlimited rides every Saturday and Sunday.
CTA Buses – These buses go almost everywhere but on a changing schedule. Blue-and-white signs indicating bus stops are a walking distance from anywhere around the city. Bus routes are identified by a number and the name of the street it runs along. For example, those following Grand Avenue are labeled No. 65 Grand. Riding a public bus is the best way to get around Chicago’s neighborhoods, other than on foot or bicycle.
Chicago’s Free Trolley System – If you want to try a different way of going around the city, hop on a trolley and get a free ride around downtown Chicago. Trolleys run every twenty minutes. Those that cover the downtown area available from 10am to 6pm, while those plying the Navy Pier route run from 10am until it closes. Routes are conveniently listed on signs at each stop. The free trolley service connects many of Chicago’s popular tourist destinations, which include the Museum Campus, Lincoln Park and Chinatown.
Water Taxi and RiverBus – During the summer season, expect heavy boat traffic along the shorelines of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. Water taxi services, such as those offered by Shoreline Sightseeing, ferries passengers on the lake between Navy Pier and Shedd Aquarium, and also on the Chicago River between Navy Pier and Sears Tower. The boat ride usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes. RiverBus floats daily between a dock at Madison Street and River East Plaza. Each ride takes almost 10 minutes and operates only through the months of April until October. It is popular among tourists and everyday commuters.
Taxi Service – Taxis are also a good option when going around the Loop and getting to various dining and shopping options located further away from downtown Chicago. Meter in Chicago cabs start at $2.25 for the first mile and charges $1.80 for every succeeding mile.