From Chicago public transit to walking the city’s many neighborhoods, here’s your A to Z for getting from A to B.
Our accessibility guide has details on getting around Chicago by train, bus, taxi, and more for those with disabilities and/or mobility devices.
Chicago’s street system
Chicago’s streets are organized on a grid system. Madison Street divides the city north and south, while State Street divides it east and west. The State and Madison intersection in downtown Chicago marks the starting point of Chicago’s grid system. Addresses are relative to the distance from this point, with eight blocks to every mile. So, an address of 3600 N. Clark St. means that it is 36 blocks north of Madison Street.
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)
The nation’s second largest public transportation system, the CTA operates Chicago’s eight ‘L’ train lines and 129 bus routes.
Not all of the system’s train lines are elevated (which is where the term ‘L’ comes from). They do, however, connect the city via above-ground, street-level, and subway trains, and serve 145 rail stations all over town. Two lines operate 24/7: the Blue Line, which connects Chicago O’Hare International Airport and downtown, and the Red Line, with service between the North and South Sides via downtown.
Convenient CTA bus routes travel throughout the city, with stops every few blocks. Several lines offer Night Owl service, running until 2 a.m. or later. Get more information about extended hours of service.
Pay cash for single trip bus rides or purchase a reloadable Ventra Transit Card or Unlimited Ride Pass for both travel by ‘L’ train and bus. Tip: Download the Ventra app to track arrival/departure times for CTA buses and ‘L’ trains, and to reload your balance on the go. Find CTA fares, card retailers, maps, schedules, and train trackers.
The high-speed Metra commuter rail train connects outlying suburbs to downtown Chicago, and is a fast and easy way to travel to the heart of the city. Find fares and route maps.
Chicago Water Taxi by Wendella Boats and Shoreline Water Taxi by Shoreline Sightseeing offer fast, affordable, and fun connections between Chicago’s top tourist destinations, and are the perfect combination of sightseeing and transport. Destinations include Chinatown, Museum Campus, Willis Tower, Michigan Avenue, Union Station, and Navy Pier. Find Chicago Water Taxi and Shoreline Water Taxi fares and route maps.
Shuttles and Limo service
Traveling with a large group or are simply looking to travel in style? Find shuttle and limousine services.
Chicago is a city made for cycling. There are over 200 miles of protected bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, conventional bike lanes, dashed/advisory lanes, marked shared lanes, and neighborhood bike routes throughout the city.
Divvy, Chicago’s bike-share program, offers over 580 stations and 5,800 bikes across the city, available for rent 24/7. Users simply pick up a bike from a self-service docking station and return it to a station near their destination. Find Divvy locations and rates. Get the Divvy app: Android and iOS.
Driving in downtown Chicago? Here are some useful resources and apps:
- Interactive map of public parking facilities in downtown Chicago.
- iParkit: Allows you to reserve a guaranteed parking spot.
- Millennium Garages: Visit the site for pre-purchase and drive-up rates.
- ABM Parking: Find convenient parking lots all around Chicago.
- ParkChicago: Allows you to create an account linked to your car’s license plate; then you can enter the zone number on any Chicago street meter car parking sign to pay.
- SpotHero: Parking spots across the city accessible from your phone.
- ParkWhiz: Find parking, compare prices, and reserve a space from your phone.