Take the ‘El’, the
Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)
The CTA Blue Line is the best, easiest and cheapest way to get downtown from O’Hare Airport. If you’re absolutely drained, you’re traveling in a group with other cranky human beings, and it’s the middle of the night – you get a pass to take a taxi. But if it isn’t — c’mon just do it already.
From the Baggage Claim area (ground level), follow the signs that indicate “Trains to City.” It’s underground, no coat required.
Buy a Ventra card from the machines at the CTA station. They’re available in one- , seven- or 30-day passes. You can also load a Ventra card with a specific dollar amount. I’d recommend getting one of the day passes so you don’t have to worry about reloading the card with money, monitoring the money level or making transfers from bus to train or vice versa.
You must have a Ventra card to ride the CTA trains. Cash is not accepted on CTA trains.
However, cash is accepted on CTA buses (though change is not made). You can use the Ventra cards to ride both the CTA trains and buses and the PACE (suburban) bus system, too.
O’hare is the end of the Blue Line. Therefore, you’ll get on in the direction of Forest Park to go downtown. The Blue Line runs all the time, 24/7.
The first stop downtown is Clark and Lake. The platform is in the underground portion of the mammoth State of Illinois building. From here, you can connect to the Purple, Green, Brown, Pink and Orange Lines.
If you want to connect to the Red Line, disembark at the Washington stop.
If you have access to the Internet, the other cool thing is you can use the public transportation directions feature on Google Maps to get from place to place (Click the little bus button instead of the car or walking person button). The CTA also offers a free train and bus tracker app, but they require smartphones with data/Internet access.
Or just ask a local. We’re Midwest Friendly.
- CTA’s page of all their maps, including downloadable PDFs.
- CTA’s full system map of trains and buses [PDF]. You can’t ask for more than this. You’ll notice our lovely city is laid out in a grid. ¡O, en Español [PDF]!
- CTA’s downtown sightseeing guide [PDF].
p.s.: Chicago has TWO AIRPORTS.
The CTA has stops at both of them. Midway Airport is our second airport and the CTA Orange Line serves it.