Although Chicago is one of the most walkable cities in the country, it’s sometimes simpler to take public transportation. Taking a train or bus through the city can help you get to your destination faster, spare you from the bone-chilling cold in the winter, and save you money from taking your vehicle. However, there are some ins and outs you may find helpful to know before venturing out for the first time.

Our team at American Auto Insurance wants to help make your exploration around the city easier, so we’re sharing tips on how to use public transport in Chicago.

Taking the Train

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is the second largest public transportation in the country, and it encompasses the well-known “L” and CTA buses. The “L” train got its name from being an elevated train to relieve traffic from horse-drawn carriages rather than vehicles. There are 140 train stations and eight train rails, taking you in, out, and around the city. Each rail has a color for a name, and they are:

  • Red line.
  • Blue line.
  • Brown line.
  • Green line.
  • Orange line.
  • Pink line.
  • Purple line.
  • Yellow line.

To begin your journey riding the “L,” you need to figure out when the train is coming and where to wait for it. The CTA has a train tracker you can access via text message. When you text the number, it sends you the estimated arrival times, allowing you to plan your schedule around the train. Here’s how to use the train tracker using your texting app:

  1. Use the CTA website to find your stop code.
  2. Text “ctatrain” [your stop code] to 41411.
  3. Get your estimated arrival time.

Once you know when the train will arrive, the next step is figuring out where to wait. Use the text’s information to tell you where the train will be. The texting service uses abbreviations to share details about the train, so use the CTA’s website to help learn the shorthands for the different stops.

After arriving at your train station, purchase a ticket to get on the train. There are a few ways you can purchase fare. You can buy a single-ride pass, a one-day pass, a three-day pass, or a Ventra Card. CTA accepts cash and card. When you know which type of fare will work best for you, go to the turnstile or gate at the train station. Tap your Ventra Card, Ventra Ticket, or bank card onto the gate’s reader, and it will let you through.

Each train station has a Ventra Card vending machine you can use to purchase the card or ticket. You can also load more money onto your card at these stations. After you’ve paid your fare, go to the boarding area. Throughout the train stations, some signs help you find the right platform, or you can ask a train station staff member for help. Then, once the train arrives, double-check the sign in the window that it’s the right one and hop on. Most trains have accessible seats and services.

Getting on the Buses

The CTA bus system has several bus routes and stops. Knowing which one to get on is essential to ensure you get to where you need to be at the right time. For example, you might be at the correct bus stop, but if it’s a popular area, many routes may stop by it. So double-check the bus’s sign or with the driver that you’re about to get on the right one.

Getting on the buses in Chicago is like the train riding process. The buses also use a text messaging service to help you keep track of the routes. You can find helpful information, such as your stop ID, by looking at the bus stop’s sign. It will tell you the number toward the bottom of the sign. Here’s how you can use the text messaging service:

  1. Locate your stop ID.
  2. Text “ctabus” [your stop ID] to 41411.
  3. Get your estimated arrival time.

When you know the time the bus is coming, head to the bus stop listed in abbreviations on the text. At the bus stop, make sure you’re standing close to the stop so the bus drivers can see you. Often, when bus drivers don’t see people waiting at the stop, they keep going, and you don’t want to miss your bus. Once the bus arrives, make sure it’s the right one before getting on.

Then, pay your fare. You can use the same methods, such as Ventra Cards and Ventra Tickets, to pay for your fare. If you’re using cash, the bus requires exact change. When the bus makes stops, it announces them audibly and visually.

Tips for Riding Chicago’s Public Transportation

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when riding Chicago’s public transportation so you can ride like a local:

  • Notify a customer assistant or security guard to help you if you bring your bike on the train.
  • Use elevators when you can in the train station with your bike.
  • Look for other cyclists when you get in the train car because the CTA only allows two cyclists per car.
  • Avoid riding your bike on CTA property.
  • Pull the bus’s cord or press a stop button when requesting the bus stop and let you off.
  • Get your fare ready before entering the bus.
  • Watch for weather closures.
  • Prepare ahead of time for your events when using public transportation. Expect delays.

So there you have it, our team’s top tips for how to use the various public transportation in Chicago. What do you think of our suggestions? Do you have questions about something we didn’t cover? Contact us, and ask us about it. Here at American Auto Insurance, we care about our clients and want to ensure you’re well-equipped to get around our iconic city.

We believe that finding affordable insurance shouldn’t be difficult, and we do our best to help you save money on your insurance. If you’re seeking assistance with car insurance, obtaining vehicle liability insurance, like an SR-22 quote, or looking for a free insurance quote, call us at 800-483-4868.


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