Walking, biking and rollerblading may be fun in the summertime, but in the frosty winter weather, these aren’t exactly viable transportation options if you want to remain comfortable. Luckily, Chicago offers plenty of affordable ways to get around the city. Whether you’re a visitor or a new Chicago resident who needs a little guidance on public transit, the following tips should be helpful:
1. Bike and Ride/ Park and Ride
If you live outside the city, taking public transportation all the way downtown can be a hassle. Fortunately, the Chicago Transit Authority features two excellent programs called “Bike and Ride” and “Park and Ride,” which allow Chicagoans to double-up on transportation options by driving or riding halfway and completing the trip via rail or bus. With the bike and ride option, you can either park your bike directly on the front of the bus or lock it in one of the designated lots. The Park and Ride program offers several designated lots conveniently located right next to subway terminals.
2. Pay your way
Are you spending just a few days in the city to see Chicago attractions or do you commute for work five days a week? Determining the best transportation option and price for you will depend largely on your travel plans. There are five basic pay options to choose from when riding with CTA, including Chicago Card Plus, Chicago Card, Transit Card, passes and cash. Passes are typically recommended for short-term visits (between one and 30 days), while the Chicago Card Plus is the most convenient and cost-effective option for regular travel.
3. Schedules and routes
You’ll want to consult CTA’s official website for updates on transit schedules and routes. However, an even more convenient option is downloading the company’s multiple apps for Web and mobile use. These provide up-to-the-minute updates and important information regarding routes and scheduling. Most of the applications are absolutely free, which means you can get convenient access to all the information you need without cutting into your budget. (A tip: Chicagoans call their light rail system the ‘L’ – short for “elevated.”)
4. Know the rules
CTA requires all riders to abide by several important policies and practices. A few of the most notable rules state that people: can’t eat or drink while on-board; can bring small pets along, only if in a protective carrier; and can’t play radios or use other devices that are noise and could disturb other passengers. Be sure to review the CTA’s rules regarding baggage as well, since carrying items that violate these rules may prevent you from boarding.
Chicago is an easy city to navigate by public transportation. Whether you’re taking a tour of Navy Pier or headed to the suburbs for other attractions, there’s a transportation option to meet your needs. And because routes, fares and maps are easily accessible online (or through mobile apps), you can plan your travels in advance. Hopping on the ‘L’ to reach your destination is truly the Chicago way, so try it on your next visit to the city.