What's the easiest way to get from O'Hare to downtown Chicago?
June 26, 2014 12:05 PM   Subscribe

My family and I (2 adults, 2 kids, probably 3 pieces of luggage) will be arriving at O'Hare around 4:30 pm. What's the easiest way to get to a condo in downtown Chicago?

I'm getting weird advice from my parents about maybe you have to pre-order a taxi? I don't know how complicated public transportation is. I'm willing to pay for a taxi if it's significantly easier than trying to deal with busses/trains if it's not absurdly expensive.
posted by leahwrenn to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (25 answers total)
The subway is by far your best bet, especially given the timing of your arrival. It's much faster than other alternatives at pretty much any time of day, but around rush hour it's ideal.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:07 PM on June 26, 2014 [8 favorites]

There's a subway right at the airport. Take it downtown, and get a cab from there if you don't want to hassle with all the people and luggage.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:08 PM on June 26, 2014

Yes, take the train. Google Maps does a good job of showing the most efficient ways of getting around via public transportation with regards to transferring trains/buses/etc.
posted by papayaninja at 12:29 PM on June 26, 2014

Thirding the Blue Line train - though a Chicagoan would call it the El, not the subway.

On preview: fourthing the train….
posted by brianogilvie at 12:30 PM on June 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Unless you are arriving after say 9:00pm, it is not even close as to what the fastest, easiest, bestest route would be. It is the El. It took me about 5 trips to and from ORD to appreciate that my car or a taxi sucked compared to the train.
posted by 724A at 12:32 PM on June 26, 2014

If you're actually downtown and not just somewhere else in the city that you're calling downtown, definitely train
posted by mike_bling at 12:32 PM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, not sure how often your kids ride a train or subway, but mine loved the experience when they were new to it.
posted by 724A at 12:33 PM on June 26, 2014

I'm getting weird advice from my parents about maybe you have to pre-order a taxi?

Gosh I love this so much. This is, like, the most stereotypical fretting-parent-big-city concern. Pre-order a taxi. This is utterly delightful.

Listen, these people are all right that the train, the Blue Line, is going to be the absolute best way to get yourself out of ORD. But even if you make a game time decision to go with a cab instead...there will be plenty of them just sitting there waiting for you. You may have to wait in a cab line for a bit, but no, you don't need to pre-order anything.

Depending on where your condo is, you may want to take a cab at some point. The Blue Line is awesome for getting you anywhere near the Blue Line, but if you route it out on google maps and google is telling you to transfer to a bus at some point, you may find it easier with 4 people and luggage to take a cab.
posted by phunniemee at 12:34 PM on June 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Yeah, if downtown means downtown proper (within or near the Loop), the Blue Line will be very direct. Sometimes I hear people from the suburbs use "downtown" to mean "within the city limits of Chicago, not in a suburb"--so if you're not actually going to the Loop, you might have to transfer across several trains and buses, and then it might start to make more sense to take a cab. If you do (or if you just prefer a cab), there is no need to pre-order. There are cab stands at the airport where you wait in line but I've never had to wait very long.
posted by enn at 12:39 PM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Depending on your final destination, I'd at least take the El to get away from the outlying areas. Even if you end up having to actually call a cab from there dial (312)TAXI-CAB.
posted by answergrape at 12:51 PM on June 26, 2014

Best answer: If where you're going is within a few blocks of a blue line stop, then this is a no-brainer, take the train. (If you feel comfortable telling us a close major intersection we could help you figure that out.)

You could also look into Airport Express. It's a van shuttle service to/from O'Hare. I don't think you even have to arrange in advance, you may be able to just go to their counters in the baggage claim areas, tell them where you're going, and catch the next available van. I used to use them when I was in college because it was cheaper than a cab to get to Evanston.

I've never used that Uber service. But the thing is, with an arrival time of 4:30, you're talking driving in rush hour traffic on the Kennedy Expressway to get downtown. And though you may think "wouldn't an evening commute be worse in the outbound direction?" the Kennedy is just as likely to suck in the evening as in the morning.

In short - take the Blue Line.
posted by dnash at 1:04 PM on June 26, 2014

Well, to be fair to the "pre-order a taxi" concern, sometimes there is a VERY long wait at the arrivals taxi line and there are employees who make damn sure you don't jump line. But if you have pre-ordered a taxi, you don't have to wait in the taxi line. Which can be VERY long, sometimes.

But yes at that time of day, don't get on the expressway. Take the blue line to the stop nearest your final destination, then either hail a cab on the street or transfer to a bus.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:23 PM on June 26, 2014

Re: Uber, I think the company is currently not allowed to make pickups at O'hare. I could be wrong but that was the last I read.

Not sure if this is relevant, but the Blue Line still has some more weekend repair work scheduled this summer. There will be shuttle buses taking passengers between the closed stations. Anyway, if you are coming or going on the weekend, schedule extra time.
posted by mullacc at 1:24 PM on June 26, 2014

Response by poster: The condo is about a block from Lake Shore Drive on E. Chestnut St. near the intersection of E. Chestnut and Dewitt Place, according to Google Maps.

I'm originally from Springfield IL (so, downstate!) and currently in Alaska...I don't know if this is actually downtown Chicago. Pretty sure it's not a suburb.

The transit website seems to think that we would need to transfer from the El to bus 66. Is it going to be ok to try to hoike 3 big suitcases (ok, possibly 2 suitcases and a carseat) on a bus? It would be a hassle in Seattle, for example...
posted by leahwrenn at 1:25 PM on June 26, 2014

Best answer: leahwrenn: " I'm getting weird advice from my parents about maybe you have to pre-order a taxi? "

You don't HAVE to anymore but in Chicago for a long time you had to specifically phone a taxi from O'Hare for pickup (there were huge phone banks for this) because they weren't allowed to do curbside at the airport (for a variety of complicated reasons). Many Chicagoans, very used to system, just call their cab when they get to baggage claim and go meet it, rather than hailing one at the taxi stand. (O'Hare DOES have a taxi stand.)

Fares into Chicago run $30 to $40. (Fares into the suburbs are regulated and it's just a flat rate to a particular suburb no matter what. ... basically Chicago used to have a really serious problem with cab fraud in the 80s so the regulations are strict. It's fine now. But a lot of us are used to the weird leftover rules form back then.)

It is perfectly possible to hail a taxi at the taxi stand -- make sure you go to the official stand and let the dude do it for you. But if you decide to call ahead when you get to baggage claim basically you call and say "I need a taxi from O'Hare to E. Chestnut and Dewitt in Chicago" and they'll type for a second and then say "Okay, taxi number 1062, in 10 minutes" and you go stand by the place for pre-called taxis (the airport taxi guy will tell you where to go, it's right next to the hail-a-cab stand) and you watch for American Taxi cab #1062 (it's in big numbers on the windshield) and wave to that guy when you see him and off you go.

The El is probably quicker (and then you can cab from downtown to the condo, no big deal), but personally when I'm hauling kids around I value being able to just get into one form of transit and not have to transfer, so I'd probably call a cab. YMMV based on your kids and luggage.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:33 PM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's the Gold Coast, in the city, near my office. That's the easiest route and a simple transfer. But the 66 is a busy bus route, particularly at rush hour (though by the time you get there, it won't be rush hour anymore and is always single (non-accordian) buses. Although there is room at the front of the bus for luggage, it's not going to be easy on the 66 and it may require you to raise the seats which can be raised to accommodate wheelchairs.

Personally, I would take a cab from the blue line and I'd get off at Division.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:36 PM on June 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yes, you're very much "downtown" in Streeterville. Take the Blue Line L train to either Division or Washington, then come up to street level and transfer to a cab, is my advice. At that point you're so close that the convenience of the cab easily outweighs the few extra bucks to take a cab.
posted by heyho at 1:37 PM on June 26, 2014

crush-onastick is right that you should get a cab from a Blue line stop. You can get off either at Division or Chicago--they are both approximately the same distance from your destination.
posted by yellowcandy at 1:39 PM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

[Oops, I meant Chicago, not Washington.]
posted by heyho at 1:42 PM on June 26, 2014

Division also has a cab stand that will probably be occupied by ~3 cabs - when you go through the turnstiles to exit take the left stairway, as you get above ground turn left, they should be waiting about 30' in front of you.
posted by kaytwo at 1:47 PM on June 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Never ever take a cab from O'Hare!

They cost about 8X the fare of the train. Subjectively, they are hell. You get on a highway and sit in traffic. The best you can usually hope for is light traffic but still traffic. They are no faster than the train and often much slower. There are good cabs and there are bad cabs. There are more bad than good and the train is as comfortable as the good cabs.

My key advice for travelers is that if your suitcases are heavy make sure you get off at a stop with elevators (look for handicap access - the L trains are pretty shit for accessibility - expect to carry luggage up or down stairs). Depending on the duration of your stay get a ventra card and put day passes on it so you can transfer for just a small fee rather than paying twice plus you will have them for tooling around for the rest of your stay (you can register at your parent's address(?) to get the $5 card fee back - as credit on the card - NOTE for other readers - VENTRA does not accept international addresses because America).
posted by srboisvert at 3:01 PM on June 26, 2014

Best answer: A cab will be slower. But my personal hell is sweating it out, exhausted from travel, and sitting on the blue line while trying in vain to keep track of a bunch of little exhausted people and all my belongings in a brand new place. Instead, in a cab, you'd be enjoying the air conditioning of an SUV taxi, which will take you directly to your specified address. Save the CTA party for the duration of your trip. There's a cab line up outside O'Hare and signage pointing you in that direction. You'll wait in a line of other travelers and the flagger will flag down a cab appropriate to your party size. I might be wrong, but as far as I remember, O'Hare trips in a cab are a fixed price.

The blue line subway is most definitely faster and cheaper, but personally, after going through the hell that is dealing with multiple airports and security, let alone sitting on a plane, I want nothing more than to sprawl out in a quiet, cool cab, even if it means being stuck on the highway.

As a daily CTA bus rider, I kinda loathe people who bring on giant suitcases at rush hour (though I understand their choice). The bus is not for hauling large amounts of stuff. Just large amounts of people.
posted by theraflu at 3:39 PM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I want nothing more than to sprawl out in a quiet, cool cab, even if it means being stuck on the highway.

Your experience of Chicago cabs is vastly different from my experience of Chicago cabs.

Agreed about the bus though -- unless you have no other option, please don't haul your suitcases onto the #66 bus. It won't be fun for you or anyone else on the bus.
posted by devinemissk at 6:40 PM on June 26, 2014

Best answer: The easiest choice would be a car service who will wait for your flight to get in and then pick you up immediately upon your arrival. When I have used this type of service at O'Hare, it has cost about $80 (pre-tip) to get to downtown. I cannot tell you the relief I felt the time I sat on the tarmac at Midway for 4 hours and had a driver to pick me up right after I got off the plane...especially after seeing the line for a taxi.

I've also taken taxis from O'Hare to downtown and it has generally run about $45 (pre-tip) in light traffic.

Public transportation stresses me out, but my friends have told me it's easy to take the blue line from O'Hare to downtown. If you're not easily stressed out by being around crowds of people after getting off a plane, then the El is the way to go since it's inexpensive and might be faster than taking a car during rush hour.
posted by parakeetdog at 8:47 PM on June 26, 2014

Response by poster: So, I didn't ever ride on the Blue Line while I was in Chicago, but I did ride on the red and green lines, and I can't imagine trying to wrangle 3 big suitcases plus a big bag of booster seats on those train cars. With two kids strung out from a long day of travel that started at midnight the day before. During rush hour. I'm sure the blue line would've been faster and cheaper, but I don't think I would opt for that unless I was traveling by myself with only a small suitcase or I was significantly more used to the CTA.

We went with the Airport Express; it cost $54 for the four of us. Totally worth it.
posted by leahwrenn at 6:57 AM on July 27, 2014

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