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From the Airports to Downtown - 2010 Version

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Illinois
Destination Expert
for Chicago, Illinois
posts: 33,073
reviews: 66
From the Airports to Downtown - 2010 Version

Quite often, questions are posted asking how to get from the airport to a particular hotel downtown. This sticky post is meant to be a Cliffs Notes primer. If you have a specific question that’s not covered in this sticky, please create a separate post in this forum. It will make it easier for us to see and help you out.

Chicago has two airports – O’Hare (ORD) and Midway (MDW). They’re about the same commuting time (45-60 minutes) from downtown. If you have the opportunity to fly to either airport, go with whichever airport has the best fare.

Public transit in Chicago is operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The website www.transitchicago.com – is very useful. On the right side of the homepage is the Plan A Trip section. It’s the same as Google Transit. You can also call the CTA at (888) YOUR-CTA.

As of this writing, train (sometimes referred to as the “EL”) and bus fares are $2.25 for a single ride. CTA operates on a fare card system. You can purchase stored value fare cards from CTA vending machines (cash and credit cards accepted) at the airport as well as all train stations. They are reloadable and can be shared. Fare information - www.transitchicago.com/fareinformation.aspx

While you’re at the airport train station, pick up a free transit map. It will come in handy.

If you plan to use more than two buses and/or trains within a 24 hour period, a CTA Visitor Pass is a better value. It provides unlimited bus and train travel. A 1-day pass is $5.75, a 3-day pass is $14, and a 7-day pass is $23. The Visitor Pass works on a 24 hour period. For example, if you start your 1-day pass at 9:00 am on Monday, it’s valid until 9:00 am on Tuesday. Visitor passes are available at the airport vending machines as well as Walgreen’s, CVS, and currency exchanges downtown. You can also order them ahead of time online from the CTA website. Visitor passes cannot be shared.

CTA trains do not have luggage racks. The blue line (O’Hare) and orange line trains (Midway) originate at the airport. Getting a seat on the train shouldn’t be too difficult. However, the train will get more crowded as it gets closer to downtown. If you have a considerable amount of luggage, a taxi or shuttle van is best.

Speaking of taxis, cab fare from O’Hare to downtown is approximately $45. From Midway, it’s about $35. Chicago taxis accept credit cards. If the driver claims that the credit card machine does not work, don’t get in the cab. Cab fares are metered. There is an additional charge for more than one passenger. There is no extra charge for baggage or credit card use. Cab stands are located outside of baggage claim at both airports. You can calculate cab fares here - http://chicago.taxiwiz.com/

If you’re not in a hurry and want to save a few dollars - http://airportexpress.com/ is the airport van shuttle here. There’s a discount coupon on the homepage and you can make reservations (not required) online.

If your hotel is in the Magnificent Mile (Mag Mile), River North or Gold Coast area and you’re coming in from O’Hare (blue line), take the train to Clark/Lake. The station has an elevator and escalator. From there, take a taxi to your hotel. If your hotel is in the Loop area, Clark/Lake or Monroe are the closest stations.

From Midway to Mag Mile hotels or River North, you can take the orange line to Roosevelt. Transfer to a northbound (towards Howard) red line train. Get off at either Grand or Chicago. If you have a lot of luggage, take the orange line to Clark/Lake and a taxi from there to your hotel. From Midway to Loop hotels, take the orange line to Washington/Wells or Clark/Lake.

Not all CTA stations have escalators or elevators. The online maps below indicate the accessible stations.

You can make a free transfer between red and blue line trains at Jackson. However, it involves walking about a block in a tunnel along with some stairs.

At Clark/Lake you can make a free transfer between the blue and orange lines.

Here’s a good online map of the downtown area to put things in perspective - transitchicago.com/assets/…200806D.htm

Here’s a map with a sightseeing guide - transitchicago.com/assets/1/brochures/downto…

Note – as of this writing, the CTA has scheduled service reductions scheduled to begin February 7th. Trains and buses will be running less frequently and several bus routes will be eliminated. The eliminated bus routes are not in the downtown areas. You can get up-to-date information at - transitchicago.com/travel_information/servic…

If you’re coming to Chicago via Amtrak, Union Station is at the western edge of the Loop area. Taxis are best from there to your hotel. If you don’t have much luggage, CTA bus #151 will get you from Union Station to Loop and Mag Mile area hotels.

Once you're downtown - http://www.hopstop.com/?city=chicago - is a good site to map out walking directions.

If you are travelling from either airport to a suburban destination, do not take a Chicago taxi. It will be meter + 50%. Instead, take a flat rate (no meter) taxi - http://americantaxi.com/

366 replies to this topic
Michigan
Destination Expert
for South Haven, Saugatuck
posts: 3,505
reviews: 14
1. Re: From the Airports to Downtown - 2010 Version

Dave , this should be a stickey and I've recommended it as such..

Melbourne...
posts: 795
reviews: 13
2. Re: From the Airports to Downtown - 2010 Version

Very helpful. Thankyou very much.

Rensselaer, Indiana
posts: 4,616
3. Re: From the Airports to Downtown - 2010 Version

Dave, thanks for including the info about the CTA service reductions in this thread. I'll try to post it on the various threads where it appears most necessary.

Birmingham, AL
posts: 2
4. Re: From the Airports to Downtown - 2010 Version

Will we experience any issues getting a cab if there are 3 of us plus bags or is shuttle bus a better choice? Thanks!

Illinois
Destination Expert
for Chicago, Illinois
posts: 33,073
reviews: 66
5. Re: From the Airports to Downtown - 2010 Version

Three people plus luggage shouldn't be a problem. You can also request a minivan taxi from the Taxi Starter.

Birmingham, AL
posts: 92
reviews: 14
6. Re: From the Airports to Downtown - 2010 Version

Dave,

What can I expect to pay for a taxi from Midway to Gold Coast area for 3? I know we have to pay extra and tip for ea piece of luggage. Shuttle is $66 which is a little pricey to me but I live in a suburb so what do I know. Train might be a little intimidating with luggage for first trip to Chicago.

Birmingham, AL
posts: 92
reviews: 14
7. Re: From the Airports to Downtown - 2010 Version

Dave,

What can I expect to pay for a taxi from Midway to Gold Coast area for 3? I know we have to pay extra and tip for ea piece of luggage. Shuttle is $66 which is a little pricey to me but I live in a suburb so what do I know. Train might be a little intimidating with luggage for first trip to Chicago.

Illinois
Destination Expert
for Chicago, Illinois
posts: 33,073
reviews: 66
8. Re: From the Airports to Downtown - 2010 Version

Around $40 from MDW to the Gold Coast, depending on traffic.

Birmingham, AL
posts: 92
reviews: 14
9. Re: From the Airports to Downtown - 2010 Version

Thanks Dave!

New Hampshire
posts: 1
reviews: 2
10. Re: From the Airports to Downtown - 2010 Version

thanks very much for this information! my husband and I try to go to a different ballfield every Summer for our anniversary.

This year is our 5th Anniversary and we want to check out Wrigley for the Phillies game in July!

this is really helpful starting information for us to plane the trip!

Thanks again!

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