Finding parking can be difficult downtown, and it's almost never cheap. I recently stumbled upon the ParkWhiz app, and I think it's pretty great. They have a program called Simple Price Parking that allows you to find parking up to 12 hours for just $15. Worth checking out.
If you are listening to traffic reports while driving through Chicago, in addition to the highway number, sections of these highways in and around Chicago have different names that they are more commonly known by
Kennedy-highway 90/94 West runs north from downtown Chicago, at the Junction the Kennedy (90) keeps going northwest towards O'Hare and the Northwest suburbs, renamed after President John F. Kennedy after his assasination in 1963
Edens Expressway-highway 94 West runs north from the Kennedy Junction to the north suburbs, named for William Edens, head of the Illinois Highway Improvement Association, who ironically never owned or drove a car.
Dan Ryan-highway 90/94 East actually runs south from downtown, splits into the Bishop Ford (94) and the Chicago Skyway (90), named for Daniel B. Ryan, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners
Bishop Ford-highway 94 runs east from the Dan Ryan into Indiana, formerly named the Calumet Expressway, renamed in 1996 honor of the late Bishop Louis Henry Ford who had a church nearby.
Eisenhower-highway 290, runs west from downtown Chicago to the western suburbs, named after President Dwight D. Eisenhower, very appropriate as he was a major force in the development of interstate highways (although 290 isn't an interstate highway as it just runs through Illinois)
Stevenson-highway 55, runs south from Chicago towards St. Louis, named after Illinois governor and presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson
If you are heading into/out of Chicago via the Indiana Toll Road, you will spend a portion of your trip on the Chicago Skyway. As the price keeps rising and rising and rising, I'm less inclined to use this to get to and from home to Chicago than Highway 41 which eventually merges into Lake Shore Drive. If I'm not in a real hurry, I almost always avoid the Skyway now.
If you do drive it, watch out for the ever present Chicago Police Department writing tickets to speeders, it is practically guaranteed that you will see one during your trip. They lurk on the on ramps, at the bottom of hills and right before the toll plaza when the speed limit drops dramatically so you'd be advised not to go too fast.
And if you are unlucky enough to be continuing on to the Indiana Toll Road, you will get hit within a few miles with yet another toll.
In 2004, the City of Chicago agreed to sell the Skyway and the toll, which had been $2 since 1993 rose to $2.50, then to $3, the to $3.50 and is currently $4 and will likely continue to rise as the agreement allows for a series of increases up to $5 by 2017. You can use your Illinois I Pass, Indiana I Zoom or the EZ Pass (used in northeast US states) to pay the toll on the Skyway but there is no discount over cash like there is on the Indiana and Illinois toll roads. At least you avoid the long cash lines!
Parking rates increased as of 1/1/13, rates have increased annually since 2008 when the city of Chicago leased the meters to an outside contractor
Parking is expensive in Chicago, the most expensive being hotel parking rates. There are a couple of hotels with free parking in River North, Best Western and Howard Johnson, but otherwise you can expect rates in the $30-$40 range in the central hotel zone.
If you are parking for a shorter period of time, you have the option of metered parking which gets more and more expensive the closer to the center you go. Most of the city is $2 per hour from 8AM-9PM. Some parts of the Central Business District are $4 from 8AM-9PM, in the heart of the Loop it's $6.50 in the Loop ALL DAY. Maximum time per meter is 2 hours in most places. Check here for current rates. Actual meters are gone, parking is at pay boxes located somewhere on the block, you put the receipt on your dashboard. No more need for quarters, although the machines take them, you can use credit cards. If you think you've found a free spot, check the whole block, free spots are few and far between. If you overpay and need to park again, you can use the same receipt as long as the rate is the same or lower in the 2nd spot and there is still time on your receipt.
The other option is garage parking which tends to get cheaper once the workers have left for the day, after 3pm and on the weekend. Chicago Best Parking is a good website to check for rates based on your time frame, I've found it to have the correct rates when I've used it and I've saved a bit of money as I've found garages that are easy to overlook if you don't know they are there.
Chicago is one expensive place to park, but there are cheap places if you know where to look and a VT friend and local tells you where - thanks Kristi and David.
For Saturday's VT Meet, Hans and I needed to park our car for the day. Kristi suggested the INTERPARK STERLING SELF-PARK at 345 N. LaSalle, near Kinzie. We parked at about 10:00 a.m. as we were taking the Wendella Boats at 11:00 a.m. We had a full day including the Boat Tour, Cultural Center, Walk in Old Town and then dinner at the Adobo in Old Town, which we finished at 8:00 p.m. From the Adobo, we hailed a taxi ($7.00) to take us to the parking garage.
We inserted our parking ticket at the machine near the entrance, paid our $8.00, retrieved our validated ticket, went to our car and headed for the exit. You have to insert your validated ticket in order to get out of the garage.
From what I was able to find out, the $8.00 parking is offered from Friday 3:00 p.m. until Monday 5:00 a.m. I am not sure if it's a 12 or 24 hour period.
In any big city and especially one like Chicago it is very expensive to park downtown. Being from the suburbs of Chicago whenever I want to spend a day in the city either walking around, visiting friends or going to a ballgame at Wrigley Field by preferred choice of transportation is to take the Blue Line "EL" train. The easiest way for me to go is to drive from my hometown of Naperville to the Forest Park station which is the terminus for the Blue Line "EL". Although this still involves a 20 mile car ride for me it still is worth it.
When I arrive at the Forest Park stop I will park by car in one of several lots surrounding the station. An all day 24 hour parking pass is $5.00. You buy your ticket at the automated machine which will take cash or credit cards and then take the receipt and put it on the driver's side front window. I have done this numerous times and without any problems. From there it is a short walk to the train.
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning recently just released the congestion scans (or traffic patterns) for various highways around Chicagoland. It gives you data about the average speed on a highway between various exits. If you're driving to/from the city and don't want to get stuck in traffic, it's a good idea to plan ahead and avoid driving during certain hours of the day based on the scans.
For example, the link below gives the scans for I-90 between the I-90/I-94 split and O'Hare airport:
Going towards the airport, it shows that rush-hour traffic on I-90 are 6-10am and 2-6pm. But traffic usually clears up after Nagle Ave exit when you're heading westbound.
See the website below for the complete traffic scans of all highways.
Note that the data are for Tue-Thu.
Chicago has 4 seasons - Winter, Early Construction, Mid-Construction, and Late Construction. And even without construction and bad weather, traffic is inevitable. Driving to Chicago on the expressways can be very unpleasant. Just when you think everything is going well, you see nothing but brake lights ahead of you.
To prepare for traffic, it is good to tack on some extra travel time when driving to Chicago from a nearby area during the day. A good radio station for traffic updates is 780 AM with updates every 10 minutes. From 10pm - 7am, there shouldn't be any problem, but it happens. There is nothing like a 2am traffic jam, eh?
The link is to a congestion map which is updated frequently. Notice all the orange diamonds representing construction.
If you are traveling to or from Chicago through Northwest Indiana, this very helpful website by the Indiana Department of Transportation provides up to the minute information and live cameras of traffic and road conditions.
Drivers and Driving in Chicagoland is particularly stressfull are Chicago has a reputation of the worst drivers in the whole if the United States, even meaner than Manhattan drivers! lot of overspeeding, tail gating, lane changes, rude driving (but asian drivers in asia are worst hehehe like in Manila and Bangkok). it is every man for himself here in Chicago once you hit the streets. Some locals even lack common courtesy maybe because they are all in a hurry or they are stressed out. Or they are not concerned with your safety. Where they have to go is much more important than where you are going. Don’t worry if you’re not a mind reader. Communication between displeased drivers is very much in the open. If it is aimed at you, the point will be made. Just get out of the way.If you will be driving on one of Chicago’s expressways (they are not freeways) make sure you are loaded up with plenty of change for the tolls. Just about anywhere you go; you’ll hit a toll booth. Stay to the right if you have change. Currently the rate is 80 cents per toll and you may go through several. There are toll booth personal who can give you change and they are also helpful with directions.
although public transport is cheap and efficient in chicago and getting on tour buses are excellent and renting a car would let you go places, all of this would entail time and some limitations like tour time or parking fees so the best bet in touring around chicago is riding on the cars or vans or SUV's of Local Chicagoans that are your friends but you have to plan it for months as not to inconvenience them with their busy schedules and to have some quality bonding so I make it a point to meet friends when I visit an area an schedule them when their are not busy but also make it a point that you also treat them for luch or dinner and share in the expenses, don't be an "el cheapo" and your friends will appreciate it!
Chicago street parking can be a nightmare for travelers who don't understand how it all works. The city is famous for its efficient towing services and fast ticket writers. Public parking meters are different from most other cities in the U.S. Instead of the traditional, single-space meters that once lined the streets, the city installed several multi-space solar powered units to free up the streets. These meters also offer drivers the opportunity to pay with credit cards or debit cards in addition to coins. It helps to know where and when to park and to plan accordingly. With all the congestion and crowds often found in downtown areas, parking spaces are limited. If you are planning on parking on the street, be sure to check around for signs and meters. Careless parking in tow zones or permit spaces can lead to hefty fines and tickets, and can even get your car towed away. Also make sure that you leave your car with enough space to avoid other cards from dinging or bumping your vehicle.
Chicago is a very expensive city and the parking rates are no different and parking rates at parking garages in various areas of the city like in navy pier or grant park or millenium park offer daily flat rates of $ 15 for the whole day. There's metered parking on most downtown streets, but it's difficult to find one open. They only let you park in two hour increments. do not let the time elapse. You'll get a ticket faster than you can say "wait, I'm right here" while running towards your car with a quarter in your outstretched hand since chicago is notorious for it's efficient towing service and fast tickets hehehe.
Again for Public Parking Meters:
many of the Pay Boxes offer FREE PARKING from 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. As some Pay Boxes do vary, please check the machine you are using for specific rate and hour information.
Inside the Loop (from Lake Michigan to Wacker Drive and the south side of Congress Parkway), rates are $4.25 per hour and most are 24-hour meters.
In the Central Business District outside the Loop (bounded by the south side of Roosevelt Road on the south, Lake Michigan on the east, the north side of North Avenue on the north, and the west side of Halsted Street on the west), rates are $2.50 per hour.
In all other areas of the city, rates are $1.25 per hour.
A couple of years ago, the city needed money so it sold the parking rights to a group for $1 billion. Welllll-little did they know, or maybe care, the overall cost of all parking skyrocketed. there were cap limits over some years, but now it is full fare everywhere. Meter parking is $2-4 per hour. Off street near Grant Park is $19-40 for the day, and by the museum area. $19 if over 4 hours, or $14 if under that. It gets "rich" and a real disappointment for me to return to New York prices.
Chicago is well served by mass transit but we were traveling around the US for six months with all our camping/backpacking gear so our car was the best option. We hit Chicago on our way "back east" after touring the National Parks of the western US.
We drove in from New Glarus after visiting the brewery there and having a big lunch at the Glarner Stube. This 150 mile trip should take about 3 hours but we hit major traffic in town due to a White Sox playoff game so it took more like 4.5 hours. Since we left New Glarus after lunch, it was nearly dark by the time we got to Chicago so the brewpub was our only “sight.”
After dinner and our beers, D was nice to drive and surely I was in no condition after trying even small samples of nearly all the Goose Island beers. To make matters worse, we hit some rain once we got into Indiana and it was tough finding a room for the night though eventually did just that about halfway across the state. Thanks for driving D. I promise a much better look at Chicago next time. But the Stilton burger was great, wasn't it? :)