Chicago: Transportation

Approaching the City

The destination of the majority of air traffic into Chicago is O'Hare International Airport, located 17 miles northwest of downtown, where most major domestic and international commercial carriers schedule more than 880,000 flights annually. One of the busiest air facilities in the world, O'Hare accommodates more than 190,000 passengers who pass through the gates of the architecturally impressive terminal each day. Continental Airport Express provides van service between O'Hare and all downtown hotels, the North Shore, and Oak Brook suburbs; Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) provides rapid transit train service between O'Hare and downtown. Taxis are available at the lower level curbfront of all terminals.

Several other commuter and general aviation airports are located throughout the Chicago metropolitan area; among them are Midway Airport, ten miles from downtown, which is known as the "premier point-to-point airport in the nation".

Passenger rail service into Chicago is provided by Amtrak from cities in all regions of the United States; the Chicago South Shore and South Bend is an intercity commuter rail line. The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) operates bus and rapid-transit service into the city from the distant suburbs. Regional rail transportation is available through Metropolitan Rail (Metra).

A somewhat complex network of interstate highways facilitates access into the metropolitan area as well as the Loop district. Approaching from the northwest is I-94, which merges with the John F. Kennedy Expressway leading downtown. I-294 (the Tri-State Tollway), an outerbelt on the west side, joins I-80 to the south. Other westerly approaches are: State Road 5, the East-West Tollway, which becomes I-290; I-90, the North-West Tollway, which intersects I-290; and I-55, the Adlai Stevenson Expressway. Approaches from the south include I-94, the Calumet Expressway; I-57; and I-90, the Chicago Skyway; all of these merge with the Dan Ryan Expressway leading into the city. Running south of Chicago is I-80, which connects with I-55, I-57, I-90, and I-94; near the Indiana border I-80 joins I-90 to become the Northern Indiana Toll Road.

Traveling in the City

Chicago streets conform to a consistent grid pattern; major thoroughfares include east-west State Street and north-south Madison Street, which intersect downtown and provide the numerical orientation for all addresses. Lake Shore Drive, affording a scenic view of Lake Michigan and the skyline, extends along the lake from the northern to the southern city limits.

Metra runs commuter trains and buses between the city and suburbs. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates bus, subway, and elevated train (the "El") routes between the Loop and the nearby suburbs. Cabs are readily available in the downtown area. Parking in Chicago can be problematic; for this reason several city-run parking garages are available.