METRA and South Shore Line (suburban rail network), Chicago
A very convenient way to get downtown from O'Hare Airport, and it's the cheapest, too at under $3 bucks!!! The blue line Metra trains leave every 15 minutes, and you can get off almost anywhere, or make a connection to another line or train if you need to!
Chicago's El Train is great but if you need to go further distances by train then Metra Rail is your ticket to ride!
Metra's various routes will take you as far north as Wisconsin, to the edge of Indiana, and also out into the western suburbs of Chicago.
Each train car offers double-decker seating and great views in & out of Chicago.
The South Shore Line serves several cities in northern Indiana and is northern Indiana's commuter train to Chicago. The South Shore Line station in downtown Chicago is on Randolph Street (near Michigan Ave) -- same station as the Metra Electric. The train diverges from the Metra Electric line at Kensington/115th street and goes to Hammond, Gary, Portage, Chesterton, Michigan City, and South Bend. A ticket from Chicago to South Bend (station at the South Bend Regional Airport) costs a little more than $10.
Built between 1913-25, the grand Union Station harkens back to a bygone era, when rail was king and when Chicago was the railroad center of the United States. Located at 210 S. Canal Street, Union Station is bounded by Clinton and Canal on the west and east and Adams and Jackson to the north and south. Amtrak and commuter Metra services still eminate from this building.
In a word: stunning. Rightfully regarded as one of the most beautiful interior public spaces in the country, the interior of Union Station, designed in a Beaux-Arts style with a vaulted skylight roof, elegant balconies and staircases and an airy, open waiting room, will make you cry when you consider the pathetic state of United States rail service (brought about by federal collusion with the auto industry, NOT merely a change in public tastes.)
Even if your journey won't be taking you to Union Station, take a peek inside, it is well worth it and you never know what interesting things you'll see. Besides haggered or harried travelers I met a group of 30 Amish people who were paying a visit to the Big City.
Here's an idea to save some $$ - particularly if you are coming to the city on a busy summer or fall weekend and the downtown hotels are booked up. In that case, Priceline or Hotwire or any other internets booking service is not going to be much help. In that case - and especially on weekends - great deals can be found in some of the northland Chicago suburbs like Deerfield. These are places with a lot of big businesses and employers, and plenty of quite nice hotels that are relatively empty outside the business week. In summer 2013, I stayed for a weekend at a Hyatt property in Deerfield for a fraction of the price I would have paid in the city - and I took the Metra too and from the city.
From the north side 'burbs like Deerfield, Metra has good reliable service, numerous trains in and out of the city, and convenient arrivals and departures from Union Station. (Deerfield Station has free parking on the weekends - I like that price.) Now, there are times when you really want to stay in town, and the commute in and out on the train is not really worth it. On the other hand, I love feeling that I am saving a few dollars that I can spend on good restaurants and shopping. I recommend Metra as an option.
The commuter line, Metra, serves almost 250 stations in Chicago’s Illinois-surburbs. Mostly used for people going to and from work, it can also be of use to visitors. Some of the places with service, like Oak Lawn, are very much worth visiting. Or you can shop yourself stupid in downtown Chicago and then shop yourself stupid again in Schaumburg.
Fares and routes vary, check out their website. They offer a $5 weekend pass that is a good deal, especially for families. Trains almost always run on time and delays are mentioned on radio and TV news. If you buy a ticket on the train when the station's ticket office was open the conductor adds a surcharge
The Ogilvie Transportation Center is the Metra Station for the north shore suburbs of Chicago. (I used it to take the train up to the Ravinia Festival in highland Park.) The terminal is at the base of the Citicorp Center, this 1987 glass tower designed by the German - Chicagoan Helmut Jahn.
It used to be known as the Chicago & Northwestern Station, and I think most long-term Chicagoans still refer to it that way. on a typical business day, about 40,000 commuters pass through the station, though it's a lot quieter on weekend.
If you want to take a train from Chicago to NW Indiana then the South Shore Line is your best choice. Like its larger client, Metra, it's fast & efficient.
Thousands of Indiana residents take this train into Chicago daily for work & pleasure.
Chicago has a pretty extensive network of trains serving the suburbs. I came across this part of the Metra website this morning that gives directions on how to get from the Metra stations to the major attractions and thought it might be useful to someone if they live or are staying in the suburbs.
A couple of other notes about Metra trains:
Tickets-there are discount prices for commuters-monthly passes and 25 rides. For families, children are free/discounted on non rush hour trains. See all the fare rules here:
You also pay more if you buy your ticket on the train!
Pace buses-some suburban stations have connections with Pace buses, if you find the station you want to go to, it will link you with the Pace bus schedules.
Metra is Chicago's commuter train. It will take you to the suburbs and even into Wisconsin and Indiana. The Metra Electric station in downtown Chicago is located on Randolph Street (near Michigan Ave). The other Metra terminal stations are located at Chicago's Union Station and the Ogilvie Transportation Center. The cost of a one way ticket depends on through how many zones you travel.
I usually travel from the University of Chicago on the Southside to downtown, that is from Zone B to Zone A (through one zone) and the cost is around $2.
This is my preferred way of getting into the city. The Metra is available from just about every major suburb around Chicago, and will drop you off at one of our two train stations (only a block apart) right downtown. On weekends, you can get a $5 pass that is good for unlimited rides on Saturday and Sunday. Check their website for schedules.
Formerly called "Northwestern Station," while not as famous as "Union Station" (a major passenger rail hub, located roughly two blocks to the South), the recent renovation it was given includes a mixture of the traditional and modern.
Chicago has a rather extensive commuter train system called METRA which comes into the City of Chicago from all parts of the suburban area. The trains come into several downtown locations with the 2 largest debarking points of Union Station and the Ogilvie Transportation Center.
There are a number of different locations in many suburbs to the north, northwest, west, southwest and south that come into the city often several times per hour. Also mainly used by commuters, travelers to the area that come into Chicago can also opt to arrive here each day on the commuter trains. Although some of the trips could be upwards of an hour ride into the city, there are a number of different options which could shorten the trip somewhat.
If you do ride with the commuters in the mornings coming into and the evening going out of the city you can ride express trains which go to specific destinations in as little as 30 minutes. The trains that run outside the general commuter times in the morning of 6:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the evening will more then likely be the trains which stop at most stations along the way.
Metra is a suburban railway system in the Chicagoland area. We were staying in Crystal Lake, about 50 miles outside of Chicago, and used the Metra Union Pacific - Northwestern line to travel to Ogilvie station in Chicago center. The trains departed almost hourly at the weekend.
Using the Metra service was really easy and convenient. The journey took about 1 1/2 hours (there are some faster express trains, but not at the times we travelled), and cost only $5! At the weekends you can get a $5 weekend ticket which is valid for the entire weekend! By car the journey would take at least as long, much longer during busy times.
You can buy your ticket on the train from the conductor, but you will normally pay ~$2 extra for the privilege. If the station you started from doesn't have a ticket desk then this fee is waived.
The trains we used were all double-decker, with 2 rows of souble seats on the lower level and 2 rows of single seats on the upper level. Each carriage had a toilet. The carriages were robust, made from stainless steel, not pretty but clean and functional. The train conductor moved through frequently and we never felt unsafe. During rush hour the trains can get very crowded with commuters. On the back of each seat there is a hook where you can clip your ticket, to save being disturbed by the conductor.
I was impressed by the Metra service, especially by the price. I would recommend this service to anybody travelling in the area, it is cheap and convenient, and usually faster than travelling by car.