The great thing about living in a big city such as Chicago is that you have many different options when it comes to getting around the city. Chicago is the U.S.’s third largest city by population, and a lot of people compare it to New York City (the largest). Here’s a look at the four main ways to get around in Chicago, and the good and the bad associated with each option.
#1: Public Transportation
Chicago’s public transportation system, the Chicago Transit Authority (or CTA) is one of the best transportation systems in the country. That’s saying a lot since public transportation usually never has a good reputation in most places. The train and bus lines of the CTA are easy to follow, making it a virtually hassle-free experience in most cases. This is good news for tourists who aren’t familiar with the city.
The biggest advantage of Chicago’s public transportation system is that it’s the most affordable option for tourists. It’s also used regularly by many locals because an unlimited ride pass is offered. On the other hand, traveling via public transportation can be a little more dangerous at night— especially for tourists. And this option isn’t completely hassle-free, as both the trains and buses have occasional delays.
#2: Driving and Rideshares
Contrary to popular belief, Chicago (and many other big cities) is a driveable city. While public transportation is popular among the locals, the majority of locals drive as their primary way of getting around. Driving your car in Chicago gives you a little more flexibility, and it’s cheaper than using a rideshare option. However, it can be overwhelming at times— especially if you’re not comfortable driving in a big city.
Rideshares like Uber, Lyft, and Chicago’s taxi service called Curb are a great alternative to driving if you’re not comfortable driving in a big city. Rideshares are convenient and generally safe, but they are a little more costly than driving yourself. Also, both driving and using rideshares come with the risk of being involved in a car accident, which can cause minor or serious injuries.
#3: Riding a Bicycle
Biking is a surprisingly easy and convenient way to get around Chicago, as Chicago is one of the U.S.’s most bike-friendly big cities. Divvy Bikes (by Lyft) allows you to rent bikes to ride if you don’t have your own. Bikers in Chicago are treated like drivers according to Illinois law, so if you choose this option, make sure to follow all traffic laws. Biking is also one of the most environmentally friendly and healthy transportation options.
On the other hand, biking can be very taxing on the body, so you must be physically able to bike long distances. It’s also not the best option if you have to carry a lot of items or other passengers with you. Inclement weather conditions can also make the roads dangerous to ride on, and you have to be aware of distracted car drivers that cause bicycle accidents. Even though Chicago is a bike-friendly city, bicycle accidents are still common.
Chicago is also a very walkable city with plenty of designated walking areas. Even though it’s a rather large city, you’re able to access a lot of places as long as you stay within the main neighborhoods. There are also plenty of scenic walking trails for nature lovers, so you can walk for recreation or as a mode of transportation.
Waking is a great way to see the city because you can go at your own pace. Like biking, it’s also a great form of exercise and more environmentally friendly than using a car. However, you need to be physically able to walk long distances and the weather has to be permitted, also like biking. Walking can also be more time-consuming if you’re in a hurry, so it’s better to bike, take a car, or use public transportation if you’re under a time constraint.
There are both good and bad associated with all of the main forms of transportation in Chicago, so you’ll have to weigh the costs and benefits for yourself to determine what’s best for you. You can also use a combination of different transportation methods, which many locals of Chicago do. Even as a tourist you can benefit from multiple forms of transportation. No matter which method of transportation you choose, it’s important to be safe as all of these methods can be more dangerous at night.