Where to live this summer, and how to commute?
April 2, 2005 11:33 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be working in Schaumburg, IL this summer - should I take the company provided housing (at $750 a month)? I'd rather be near an L line for easy city access, but then I have to figure out how to reverse commute. Where should I live in the Chicago metro area, and how should I get to work each day?

I just got a job offer for a summer internship at Motorola's Schaumburg, IL facility. The facility is here (google maps).

I need to figure out where I'm going to live. They're offering to provide housing in a 2 bedroom apartment "near the work facility" for 750$/month, filling the other bed in the apartment with another summer intern. The apartment would be fully furnished with TV, phone, kitchen, etc.

The problem is, I don't have a car, and I'm afraid spending the summer in Schaumburg would be mind-numbingly boring. It's far enough away from the city (31 miles to city center, along I90) that I'm afraid I would never make it into town, and just sit in my apartment all summer. There's some
stuff to do in Schaumburg, but it sounds like without a car, it wouldn't be very accessible. I don't need/want to be in the city center, but I'd love to be on the L.

So - where should I be looking for housing in the Chicago metro area? I'm happy to deal with house/roommates, and pay at least as much as I would be paying to live in Schaumburg (750/month).

How might I would get to work every day? I might be able to get a car - how bad is the reverse commute out I90? I'm also very happy on trains and buses. There's a metra station here (google maps) that seems do-able, but it's about a 50 minute train ride from city center. Are there any reasonable neighborhoods along that train line?

Finally - should I just grow up and accept that I might not be able to have easy access to a city this summer? How hard is it to get into town on a regular basis from Schaumburg? Is there anything to do in Schaumburg on nights/weekends? I've checked various stats about the area (note the huge valley around my age range) and it's not helping me get excited about being there, but the bottom line is it'll be a great situation no matter where I land.
posted by heresiarch to Work & Money (23 answers total)
Hey heresiarch, one of my friends was a Motorola intern and eventual employee for awhile, so I'll harass him for his opinion on this (look for an update later today).

From MY point of view, commuting sucks. Why catch the train out to Schaumburg every day when in the reverse situation you'd only do it on weekends? Also, double-check with Motorola to make sure they don't have a Shuttle of some sort that runs between the city and their Schaumburg base.

What sort of things are you looking to do in the city? Do you see yourself hitting bars/clubs/shows/movies 3-4 nights a week? Knowing this will probably help us help you...

Oh, and congratulations!
posted by onalark at 12:30 PM on April 2, 2005

One important thing that you should know about Metra is that it is first & foremost a commuter rail service. In other words, if you're going into the city in the mornings, or out of the city in the afternoons/evenings, trains are frequent and plentiful... but if you're not, trains can be rather infrequent (i.e. one or less per hour.) Of course, I'm not familiar with the Schaumburg line per se, only the South Shore line.

You might try the Wicker Park neighbourhood to live in, although it's getting rather gentrified (read: expensive) these days. Taking the Blue Line out to Jefferson Park or Irving Park and then transferring there might work well. The Lincoln Park neighbourhood isn't too far from the Clybourn Metra stop either, and is nice to live in if you don't mind being surrounded by yuppies. But it'll cost you.

Good luck! We'll have to have a meetup over the summer.
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:38 PM on April 2, 2005

I'm not a big club person - what I like most about cities is easy access to places to hang out, good cheap food, movies (not just major releases), and good music venues. It's nice not having to worry about a car. Generally, I really love the buzz of being in a city, and feeling like I'm part of something bigger. I go to school in an MA suburb (Needham), and going into town always feels like an event. When I was living near a T station, the activation energy for doing stuff was really low - it was easy to wander into downtown Boston to hang out at the library, or whatever, without having to worry about train schedules. It's sort of a visceral thing, I guess. It's not really rational.
posted by heresiarch at 12:47 PM on April 2, 2005

And thanks for the support/congratulations!

A meetup would be great. I'm pretty new to the MeFi community, but I've lurked for a while. This whole ask.mefi thing is pretty amazing. I've spent a long time on google trying to understand my options, but info from locals is hugely helpful in ways that generic sites really can't be.
posted by heresiarch at 12:53 PM on April 2, 2005

Schaumburg is definitely the epitome of suburbia. Hard to get around without a car, and not the liveliest place on earth.

I've done the reverse commute in Boston (Cambridge to Norwood), but not in Chicago, though my experience with the system and others' comments indicate it'd be similar. It's an okay thing to do, for, like, a summer, as you're planning to do - the trains are infrequent but empty, and being able to see the city is excellent.

To make the time pass, the train ride can be best combined with your normal morning routine - run out the door with breakfast and the paper, rather than dealing with it at home. If you want to live in town, do it. It's not forever!
posted by whatzit at 12:58 PM on April 2, 2005

I'm pretty sure that you want to be looking at this train line rather than the one you were linking to. It goes through Schaumberg.

If I were in your shoes, I'd probably try to make my daily commute to work as painless as possible, but have as easy access to the Metra station as possible. True, the train runs less often outside of the rush hours, but you can still have a good time going in and coming back at off-peak times. Plus, I'd bet you'll meet some people (either other interns or not) who will have a car and you can tag along with them when the train is not convenient.

As for what to do in Schaumberg, I only know of the shopping opportunities, which will probably not interest you. The Streets of Woodfield and the Woodfield mall are a soccer mom's mecca. (No offense to soccer moms intended.) There is a Gamestop there, and the huge multiplex there has a digital screen, if that is your sort of thing. Most of the dining in that area is franchise, but it is decent. Also in the general vicinity is the largest Ikea in the US, if you need some cheap furniture for the summer.

I'm sure Schaumberg has some decent places to hang, but it sounds like you'd be happier exploring Chicago. It's not as far as the 31 miles implies. Plenty of people opt to take the train downtown instead of driving. It is worth it just to save on parking, imo.

Good luck.
posted by achmorrison at 1:03 PM on April 2, 2005

heresiarch - live in the city. Schaumburg is a hole, whether compared or not, to the city and the 50 minutes you spend commuting on the train each morning will present you with the opportunity to get to know so much more about homan beings that you ever thought possible.

The Ukrainian Village is close, but cheaper than Wicker Park. Ravenswood is close but cheaper than Andersonville. Lincoln Center is close, but cheaper than Lincoln Park and all of these neighborhoods are close to "L" lines which can get you to the Metra stations.

Lived in the city proper, on the northside for 30 years before relocating to the SW. LOVED every minute of it. Ping me if you want more info, but I'll be out of touch til Monday.

And good luck!
posted by FlamingBore at 1:12 PM on April 2, 2005

Oh, heresiarch. Schaumburg is the land of malls. I have good friends who used to live in Needham and Schaumburg is its polar opposite. Argh.

Okay, so public transportation. You can see that Schaumburg is connected to Chicago via the Milwaukee District West Line.

The closest liveable area of the city to this Metra Line is probably Logan Square, which is located closer to the Hermosa Metra Stop (the stop needed to grab the right Metra train...Healy is on a completely different route.) Bucktown is a way east of Hermosa (closer to the action, but further from the Metra). You can take Metra down to the Western station (south of Chicago Avenue), but I'm not sure of the neighborhood down there these days. The closest EL stop to the Western Station seem's to be the Green Line's California stop...and even that is not very close.

You might want to talk to people who live near Humboldt Park or Garfield Park about this area, because Western's station is between those two and the Loop.

You will definitely want to be downtown on the weekends. I lived close to Schaumburg for 9 months before I almost died of boredom and had to flee back to the city. And I had a car! You won't want to drive I-90 for a commute between the city and Schaumburg...I-90 was voted one of the nation's 5 worst freeways for commuting. So stick to public transportation if you can.

The best of both worlds would be to live by work and bunk with a local friend in Chicago on the weekends.
posted by jeanmari at 1:41 PM on April 2, 2005

Since parking in Schaumburg is basically free compared to the city (maybe motorola provides a lot for corporate housing?) , I'd encourage you to buy a $500 car (and liability insurance only) and use it only for trips to the city or local entertainment. When the car breaks, just hit it with a baseball bat until you feel better. If you make it all the way through the summer without any car trouble, list it in the Reader for $1000 and then take a reasonable offer. You may end up getting the insurance for free, so to speak. Seriously though, the point of my suggestion is that living in Schaumburg without a car will be like living underwater without gills. This is why all the 18 - 24 year olds swim upstream to spawn and only come back when they can affords Jettas and townhouses.
posted by idontlikewords at 2:06 PM on April 2, 2005

Hmmm. Motorola doesn't seem very close to the Schaumburg Metra Stop. You might ask them if they run a shuttle from the Schaumburg campus to the Palatine Metra Station.

If that is the case, you have a few more options for places to live. Edison Park, while a little further out, is a very nice neighborhood. Jefferson Park is where the El's Blue Line and this specific Metra Line intersect...that makes for easier access between the two.

If you don't want to live in Jefferson Park, you can switch from Metra to EL there and basically live anywhere off of any EL line (including Logan Square, Wicker Park, and Bucktown which would all be close). Just know that the more times you are transferring and the further you ride, the longer the trip will take and transferring may make it exponentially so.
posted by jeanmari at 2:06 PM on April 2, 2005

Using the CTA trip planner, I plugged in the address of a main interection in Bucktown as well as the address of the Motorola Campus in Schaumburg.

If you do this, you can see the different intineraries they give, the distance and the amount of time it would take to arrive if traveling early on a Monday morning from the city out to Schaumburg.

Close to two hours one way. Yeck.

I'm inclined to throw my vote in with IDon'tLikeWords. Buy a beater for the weekends. Still find someone to hang with downtown on the weekends so you won't have to go back and forth.
posted by jeanmari at 2:15 PM on April 2, 2005

Just a word on driving to Schaumburg:

I've done this several times b/c Ikea is there, and it SUCKS. Worst drive ever if there is even the slightest bit of traffic. It can take an hour and a half easily, even on weekends. You have to pass by O'Hare and there is always a bottleneck. Coming into the city is actually usually faster, possibly because by the time we get back it is always later at night.

I was thinking that Metra is likely faster but jeanmari's answer above makes me think not so much.

As for the idea of driving in on weekends: the other upside to this idea is that you'd have a car to drive around in Schaumburg, which, since it is full of malls, is likely not very pedestrian friendly.

On the other hand. . . $750/mo is a lot of one bedroom in a two bedroom place, IMO. I mean, yes I live in Hyde Park, which is full of cheap palatial digs, but I have friends in Ukranian Village paying only $500/mo each to share a two-bedroom.
posted by mai at 3:01 PM on April 2, 2005

Oh my yes. The drive to Schaumburg is so very evil that we went to Ikea once and vowed to never, ever, ever go again. Cheap Swedish furniture is so not worth it.

If you can get your commute to an less than an hour each way, I would live in the city and ride the train. A summer's worth of commuiting vs. a summer's worth of living in suburban limbo just out of reach of a really, really fun city seems like a no-brainer to me. Look at train time as relaxation time. Get a cup of coffee, put on your mp3 player, and read your favorite books or take a nice nap. By the time you get to work, you'll be fully awake and ready to face the day. By the time you get home from work, you'll have already relaxed and be ready to hit the streets for something fun and interesting.

And if you're a drinker at all, and you want to drive into the city on weekends, how are you going to get home? Is it really realistic that you'll drive into the city for a show or to hang out with friends and not have a beer or two?

(Sorry. I'm heavily biased against the burbs, and Schaumburg in particular. If there's any way you can work living in the city proper, I encourage you to do so. I'll even take you out for drinks when you get here. :))
posted by jennyb at 7:57 PM on April 2, 2005

Heh. I don't actually live in Chicagoland for the nonce, but I was just in Schaumburg this morning! And I have done the reverse commute thing before.

I can all but guarantee you that Motorola runs a shuttle to the UP-Northwest line Metra stop in Palatine. You can ask their HR people to be certain. If not, there is definitely a suburban bus that will take you down to the UP-Milwaukee line in Elgin. As a Metra passenger you can get a "Link-Up" (commuter) or "Unlimited" sticker allowing transfers to Pace. Note that having a backup plan is essential since cab fare is, for daily commute purposes anyway, astronomical. (Well, there's always the chance that some taxi services have a flat-rate deal with (M).)

Another thing to check into is the Transit Chek program -- you can get a tax-deductible deal on your monthly train ticket (and for commuting, get the monthly, except as an intern you may have a partial month -- then get the 10-rides).

I definitely agree -- live in the city if you can. Schaumburg's motto "Progress Through Thoughtful Planning" is widely considered to be an ironic in-joke classic cluelessness -- it's the absolute pits, the most characterless suburb in the entire metro area. Unless you savor getting drunk with your big-M mates ...

There are plenty of places to live, though, that are within walking distance of Metra stops. The Irving Park and Jefferson Park neighborhoods are dull but just a CTA Blue Line ride away from more interesting places. (The Milwaukee district Metra offers fewer options I'm sure of, i.e. possibly-dicey neighborhoods, and less convenience to the CTA.) The biggest problem both Metra routes have is that the downtown terminal isn't convenient to the "L".
posted by dhartung at 9:20 PM on April 2, 2005

I live in Chicago and used to work at the Schaumburg campus.

Yes, Schaumburg may be the most boring town I've ever stepped foot in. I'm from Iowa so I know what I'm talking about.

Yes, living in the city is great. There are great shows, food, people, block parties, diverse culture, etc. I don't know how a young person without kids could want to live in the suburbs.

Don't fool yourself. There is no longer any reverse commute. It's ~1hr in and up to 2 hours back into the city. It's especially bad on Thursday and Friday during the summer.

If you don't have a car and live in the city you have to:
1) Get to the Metra station
2) Take the train to the 'burbs
3) Take a shuttle to Moto from the station. These shuttles only come and go at certain times so your work day pretty well set.
It takes a little over an hour each way for this scenario.

I don't know your priorities, but when I interned my goal was to save as much money as possible so I didn't have to live on Ramen for the next semester. You're not going to find a furnished apartment in the city for $750/mo that you'll want to live in. You could check craigslist for a room but I don't think you'll have the time to check these places out...

All that being said I would live in the corporate housing. It's convenient (you will need to go to work every day), it's cheap, and they'll take care of all the planning for you. Moto does a lot of get to know each other events for the interns. You may find someone else who wants to spend time in the city. Not only do you have a new friend but a ride.

Finally, a little Chicago-ese for you. The "el" is a train system that runs throughout the city. It's short for elevated train. The Metra are the trains that connect the city to the suburbs.
posted by srburns at 9:18 AM on April 3, 2005

Take the corporate housing. Schaumburg sucks, but the drive on I90 is horrendous. It would also be tough to find anything furnished for $750/month for only a few months, unless you caught a good subletting deal from a student. Again, I second the notion that it would be easier to take the train into the city twice on the weekends than out of the city five times during the week. I realize that you'll be a lowly intern, but most of my friends that work at Motorola usually put in over 40 hours per week, so I doubt that you'll be goofing off much in the evenings.
posted by MrZero at 12:43 PM on April 3, 2005

Much closer than the city, Naperville has a lot to offer as well. I've enjoyed the time I've spent there. Might look there.
posted by TeamBilly at 6:31 PM on April 3, 2005

So, here's what I'm going to do.

I don't think I'm going to be able to get a cheap car that I trust to make the drive to Chicago here, and I'd rather not have to deal with buying a car there, plus the headache of worrying about a car. I've never owned a car before, and I'd rather not start worrying about it on top of everything else.

With that in mind, the corporate housing is pretty much out. They don't provide transport to the facility, and having to be dependent on a roommate for work and recreation transport is no fun for anyone.


I'm going to see if I can get corporate housing that's near the main train line (either in Schaumburg or Palatine). If I can get that, I'll take it. Then I get shuttles to work, and trains into town on the weekend.

I doubt they'll be able to guarantee that, so I'm now in overdrive mode trying to figure out a place to sublet for that time frame in the area that jeanmari pointed out. Thus far I've had basically no luck on craigslist, but I'm hoping something will turn up. Naperville also sounds like a good possibility. Then, hopefully, I'll have a commute that's not too bad (it's about a 50 minute ride from that neighborhood, with an extra 10-15 on the Motorola end. This is definitely doable - I commuted from Providence to Boston daily one summer, and the train ride was nice.

Thanks so much for the help! It was extremely useful in figuring out how this will all work. I'll definitely be trying to make it to a meetup - if only for the chance to repay everyone's generosity of local knowledge with a round.
posted by heresiarch at 9:14 PM on April 3, 2005

From my fraternity brother:

"Yeah, I too went through the Motorola intern program for three years, and ended up working there in Schaumburg for a year afterward. I did intern housing for one year, and commuted from the city for two. There are advantages to both. When I lived in Schaumburg, I had a car, but I know a few guys who biked the couple miles to work every day, and one of them even beat me there when I raced him. I had loads of fun that summer wreaking suburban havoc with my intern roommates. Also, chances are one of your roommates would have a car, and as long as they're not going to another Motorola campus, they may be able to give you a ride to work as well.

As far as the commute, I must say that I absolutely loved my time riding Metra. I read novels, learned 3D animation on my laptop, slept... from the city, it's a great hour-long chunk of tranquil, uninterrupted time. I lived on the South Side (Bridgeport), and just took the Green Line to Clinton, where the Metra station is. For the entire time I did my commute, Motorola provided two morning shuttles and two afternoon shuttles from the station to Schaumburg Campus. In the morning, the shuttle picked us up from Palatine around 7 and Arlington Park at 7:58, although that may have changed by now. The travel time comes out to about 2 hours: approximately 30 mins for CTA [El], 60 mins for Metra, 15 mins for shuttle, and 15 or so in-between transportation modes

PACE, the suburban bus service, blows, and should not be used in conjunction with Metra at any time.

Living in the city is wonderful in the summertime, and I'd definitely recommend it, with the festivals, music, activity on Lake Michigan, and all that. "

He's also got a book of Motorola shuttle passes (one-way ride is $1) lying around that he'll give you for free if you're going to need them.

Additionally, we know a couple opportunities for housing you might be interested in (one in Bridgeport, another in Palatine). Shame on you for not putting an email in your profile! Drop me a line if you're still looking for a room.
posted by onalark at 11:46 PM on April 3, 2005

Another place to look for summer housing...Chicago Reader.

They also have excellent reviews of live music, bars, festivals, films and theater.

Best of luck to you.
posted by jeanmari at 5:08 AM on April 4, 2005

p.s. Here are the Housing to Share ads...
posted by jeanmari at 5:12 AM on April 4, 2005

Naperville also sounds like a good possibility.

It's not. I'd say it's a good 45 minutes or more from Schaumburg, and it's culture is lame compared to the city. And 355 if going to be under construction this summer.

I live in Wheaton, work in Oakbrook, and take the metra into the city on weekends whenever I can. But I'm married. If I were single, I'd probably want to live in the city.
posted by goethean at 8:27 AM on April 4, 2005

Live in the City dood. Schaumburg sucks. Sounds like the car option is out for you, so the Metra it is. I'd definitely plan to bring my laptop back and forth if it's light enough to lug daily. Then you can "bill" the hour on the Metra if you want to / need to. Coding, answering emails, whatever -- it's like getting to work everyday with an hour of work already done.

If Logan Square or Bucktown are possibilities for you, I'd jump at them. I visited many a nice bar up there (Empty Bottle! Map Room!) when I lived in Chi-town.
posted by zpousman at 2:16 PM on April 12, 2005

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