I'm leavin' on a MetraTrain
October 16, 2010 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Help me understand how to commute from Chicago to Elmhurst on a daily basis.

I got a job in Elmhurst, but I live in the South Loop (21st and Indiana). I have a car, but I'd rather not spend hours in traffic on I-290 each day in rush hour. I'd prefer to take the Metra, but I can't really tell if it'll be crazy expensive to combine CTA with Metra. Should I drive to a specific station and park and then ride to Elmhurst or take CTA to the downtown station and then ride? I need this to be as economical as possible.

posted by santojulieta to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
On the Union Pacific-West line (which is the one you want, there are only two stops in Chicago proper: Ogilvie, and Kedzie. Parking at both of these locations is likely to be expensive. The next stop after Kedzie is Oak Park, which is halfway to Elmhurst already, so I'm not sure you'd be saving yourself terribly much commuting time there. However, if you're interested you can take a look at the station listings for the UP-W line; there's a separate page with info about each station, including a map of local parking availability.

To be honest, though, it looks like the CTA–Metra combo is your best bet. Look into monthly passes for both services.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:10 AM on October 16, 2010

Born in Elmhurst, here.

You really, really don't want to drive during rush hour. Even on a "normal" day that's a cruddy drive, but factor in weather, accidents, etc. So I'd definitely opt for the Metra - it's not a bad ride, and you can count on it pretty well to be on time-ish (though do leave yourself a little wiggle room..."due to construction, we have been routed to a speed-limited track" is more common than is preferable).

I definitely throw my vote behind the train. Unfortunately, I'm not as well qualified to tell you how best to get to Ogilvie.

Oh, and you would do well to become a regular patron of Red Dragon chinese once you get off the train - it's right by the station in Elmhurst. Great folks running it and Best. Chinese. Ever. I long for it regularly out here in Ohio.
posted by Rallon at 9:12 AM on October 16, 2010

Having just looked at the maps, you might be better off driving. Half your commute will be navigating out of the downtown area, so doing that just to sit on a train probably won't do you any good.

And there is no cheap/free parking that I know of near Ogilvey. It looks like you'd have to ride the green line to the pink line to washington and then walk to ogilvey, wait for a train, then walk to your office once you get to Elmhurst.

You are in a reverse-commute situation, sort of (since the Eisenhower is unpredictable). But on a good day you can probably do it in 30-45 minutes. Hint: do not get on 90/94 to transfer over to 290. Go up State (or Indiana to State, I forget) (or LSD to Columbus) and take Congress to 290. Always faster.
posted by gjc at 9:22 AM on October 16, 2010

You're right to have noticed that your commute is now somewhat inconvenient. You're going to be taking the Union Pacific West (UP-W) line to Elmhurst, which originates at the Ogilvie Transportation Center downtown.

That's inconvenient for you, because from your cross-streets, you'll have to take two CTA buses to get there. That being said, yes, it is CHEAPER to take the CTA to Ogilvie and then take the Metra to Elmhurst. Get a monthly CTA pass for $86, and it'll cover unlimited rides and be more economical than driving downtown and parking at Ogilvie, which can cost you hundreds of dollars a month.

Here's a parking map of downtown Chicago if that's helpful in you making your decision.

In terms of speed, if you're set on taking the bus, you'll likely be best served taking the #3 at Michigan & 21st, and transferring to the #14 at Congress, which will drop you off in front of Ogilvie.

Alternately, if you live in one of the big new developments like Prairie21, you can try posting a sign near your mailboxes seeking a carpool in the morning to Ogilvie, offering to split parking costs. Someone might take you up on it, making it more economical for you.
posted by juniperesque at 9:24 AM on October 16, 2010

Are you going to ride the metra five days a week? The last time I checked, if I was going to take fewer than 10 rides on the metra a week, it was cheaper to buy the 10-ride pass than the monthly one.
posted by sugarfish at 9:25 AM on October 16, 2010

current elmhurst resident here.

as someone who's made the same commute you're doing now i have to say that yr car is really the best option. the problem with any mass transit for you is that you're doing a reverse commute and service tends to be sketchy--even metra.

that said, the cheapest way is to use a cta pass for one of the el lines and then take a pace bus to your location. unfortunately pace buses aren't very common and run on a schedule. missing one often means waiting an hour. the blue line can access york road via river road station, oak park redline goes to lake street and forest park blueline can take you to st charles road. use at your own risk.

gjc is spot on about getting onto 290. go up to congress. also, when you get bored or tired of the eisenhower, take the stevenson. once you get to 294 it's a short trip north. i'd recommend getting off at roosevelt road as the 294 to 290 ramp is really slow.

if you're really adventurous you can take some of chicago's main streets. lake street's pretty scenic but has problems in oak park. it's been a few years since i've taken roosevelt so i don't know how that is. i imagine it's got a lot of refugees from 290 due to the construction. ogden might work too, but i've never taken it. please note that some people do not consider these routes safe.
posted by lester at 3:05 PM on October 16, 2010

I commute from Ukrainian Village to Oak Park (usually via CTA Green Line), but opt for North Ave. if I am driving. It is much less sketchy than Chicago Ave. or Lake St. in my opinion, both of which make me nervous due to safety reasons. We have often taken North Ave. out to Elmhurst (to visit family, so never at 7:30 am) in an effort to avoid the highway and traffic. It's worth a try.
posted by shrimpsmalls at 6:09 PM on October 16, 2010

How far is your office from the Elmhurst train station? How are you going to get there when you get off the train? I'd just bite the bullet and drive. Download audio books from the library to listen to in the car. Or, you know, think about moving to Elmhurst.
posted by Joleta at 8:18 PM on October 16, 2010

Hey there, neighbor! The 129 stops at Cullerton and Indiana and goes straight to Ogilvie.
posted by january at 10:24 PM on October 16, 2010

Thanks January!
posted by santojulieta at 7:26 PM on October 17, 2010

Someone I know who takes a combination of Metra and the CTA to work (although not on the lines you'll be on) has a special deal where his monthly Metra pass also includes a transfer onto the bus or L. I believe it was only good for "commuting hours" but it was cheaper than paying full CTA fare in addition to Metra. I don't know if this is only available for the NW line or all lines but its something to look into.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:31 AM on October 18, 2010

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