Travelling can be either a smooth transaction or set you off into the worse rage. Especially when it comes to metropolitans like Chicago, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or curious about the best way to save your money. Knowing that wholehearted, I decided I’d devote a handful of posts to the different options you can find out here. Recent announcements like Uber branching out further into the suburbs mean there will be even more decisions to come.
If you’re unfamiliar with public transportation in the Chicagoland area, let me give you a breakdown along with tips and tricks. Today, I’m going to focus on Metra. That’s because a) I know the most about it and b) it can get you throughout the state quite easily. First of all, bookmark this website as well as this website.
Metra is the main train line that gets you from the outer suburbs into downtown Chicago (this is not to be mistaken with the “elevated” aka L train lines). Tickets prices are determined by the zone you get on the train in and the zone you are trying to reach. Metra recently did a price increase, so make sure you check the rates.
There are a variety of ticket choices, along with discounts for select populations. The standard ticket options are as follows:
Best option if you are planning to use other transportation options and just wanting to cut down on part of your trip.
If you’re just going into the city/suburbs for the day, this is your option.
Have a number of items on the agenda? Perhaps you’re taking advantage of the City Pass? This gives you unlimited rides for Saturday and Sunday.
This tends to be used mostly by two groups of people: a) work commuters like myself and/or b) those visiting in a group during the work week.
Unless you’ve moved downtown or travel regularly between the city and suburbs, save the cash. The only reason I choose the 10-ride over this is because 10-ride tickets aren’t month restrictive (they don’t expire until a year from the purchase date). So if I didn’t go into work for a few days, I haven’t “lost” those days so to speak. It’s a preference questions and a number of us commuters take sides on this one.
You can buy tickets on the train, but will get hit with fees if you were at a station that was open. This is a lovely reminder you here on the intercom as well as from the conductor when he/she is checking tickets. Metra hasn’t yet joined the Ventra card system, but it is in the plans.
General Travel Notes
Train schedules are displayed at each station via hard copy and digitally, when available (most times at origination and termination stations only). You can also make use of mobiles apps like MetraOnTime or Transit. I will note, with the former app, it displays the scheduled times and not the real times (say, if a train is running late). For the latter app, it’s a live update based on your estimated GPS location.
With the number of train lines you can choose between, it really is a nice way to get around. More regular users do have some stresses, but it’s something that can’t be avoided with public transportation in general. I hope this helps those that need it!