Sweet home Chicago... suburbs?
April 25, 2016 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I will be working in Chicago. I do not want to live in Chicago. Where can I live and have a commute that's not a total nightmare?

I am going to be working in Chicago, near Goose Island. I would prefer NOT to live in the city, but rather in the surrounding areas/suburbs where there's more breathing room. I am also on a budget ($1000-$1200 a month, maaaaybe $1300 if absolutely necessary) and I'm hoping that will go further in the outskirts. Roommates are not an option!

I realize Chicago traffic is nuts, and the commute will be bad, but maybe there are places where it's less bad? Probably goes without saying that I'm looking for safe, non-sketchy areas as well.

As an added challenge, I currently live in California so I'm having to do all my research online, which is proving difficult. All help is appreciated!
posted by christie to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
My brother lives in Wheaton, which has direct train access to downtown at two different stations. I think his apt is a bit expensive, maybe like 1200 a month, not sure about other expenses, I think that's just the rent. It's a nice suburb and I'm sure you can find something around there for a bit less, though it is a little pricey in general.
posted by amcevil at 2:42 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is 1200 per month your budget for just rent or for everything?
posted by Kalmya at 2:48 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


The trip out and from the fast west suburbs like Wheaton takes at least an hour by train each way - more if by car. Be sure you want to spend a whole bunch of your time getting to and from work.
posted by answergrape at 2:50 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Can you give a comparable in California? What is comfortable to you? Suburbia or Exurbia.
posted by readery at 2:50 PM on April 25, 2016


What kind of commute are you envisioning-- car or public transportation? Is your workplace a comfortable distance from the Clybourn Metra station? That would open up a whole variety of suburbs, although with the catch that walking distance to the train = higher rent in most suburbs.
posted by BibiRose at 2:52 PM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


What's your limit on commute time?

I'd check around the Metra train stops and see if there are any communities around there that look good to you (Arlington Heights, Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Hanover Park, etc). This will be an easier commute than driving in, unless your work hours are like 6 am - 8 pm, or second shift or something.
posted by Fig at 2:56 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


I just checked listings for a few places along the northern and northwest Metra lines and there are indeed apartments available in your budget in places like Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Palatine. Personally, I would sooner look harder and get something smaller in Evanston or Rogers Park, or indeed certain parts of Skokie or Niles, but that is my preference. That first list is classic "bedroom communities."
posted by BibiRose at 3:06 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


For taking Metra to Goose Island, you basically want to be able to walk from Clybourn, which means the Union Pacific North and Northwest Lines.

The North line features a bunch of posh suburbs without much apartment stock (because then "poor" people might live there, you see). Evanston has plenty of apartments (and has CTA access), but if all of Chicago is too dense/urban for you, Evanston, especially the denser parts, probably is too. North of there, apartments will be fairly scarce until Highland Park and Highwood.

Nothing suburban on the NW line is a place I think of as having apartments, but I could be wrong.

You can also take the El from Skokie. There's not a whole lot of parking at the Evanston Metra stations, so Skokie's not too practical for taking the train (and the Morton Grove station is on the wrong line).
posted by hoyland at 3:14 PM on April 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oak Park!
posted by miyabo at 3:26 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Great questions, all. Some answers below:

Kalmya - $1000-$1200 is just for rent.
readery - I can't really give a comparable in California... I've only lived here a couple of years. But suburbia is what I'm looking for.
BibiRose - I was envisioning commuting by car. The office I'll be working at doesn't seem convenient to the Metra, unfortunately.
Fig - I was hoping to keep it around a half hour, but feel free to laugh at me and point out the error of my ways if that's unreasonable. I will (supposedly) have flexible hours, which should help.
posted by christie at 3:35 PM on April 25, 2016


Another vote for Oak Park, which shares a boundary with Chicago. It has a metra stop, but more conveniently, has the blue line and green line trains which go directly into/out of the city. Forest Park is close by too, a little cheaper, and has access to blue and green lines. Tell us more about yr interests and needs. Chicago suburbs are quite diverse in types of housing, proximity to city, politics, nightlife, kids, etc.
posted by j810c at 3:35 PM on April 25, 2016


Most suburbs would be a far greater commute than half an hour. My commute was over half an hour within Chicago.
posted by answergrape at 3:43 PM on April 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


BibiRose - I was envisioning commuting by car. The office I'll be working at doesn't seem convenient to the Metra, unfortunately.
Fig - I was hoping to keep it around a half hour, but feel free to laugh at me and point out the error of my ways if that's unreasonable. I will (supposedly) have flexible hours, which should help.


Unfortunately no, these two things don't really square in the Chicagoland region. If your hours are *extremely* flexible, as in, 11-8 or some such, then it might be possible. Suburbs like Oak Park could potentially have that short of a commute but they are (for the most part) rather costlier than your budget allows.

Is your office near the Red or Blue lines? The blue line especially travels to some areas that, while nominally "in Chicago" are very suburban-feeling, such as Jefferson Park.

Also, what is your size requirement for an apartment? If you're willing to live in a studio, you'll have a lot more options than if you need, for example, a 2-bedroom.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:56 PM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


A rule in the area is the farther northwest you go the cheaper it becomes. You may find something on the northwest side in Chicago that doesn't feel too city for you. Look around 90/94 as you would take that in. I wouldnt drive down Milwaukee in the morning if my life depended on it.

The oak park suggestion isn't too bad for the commute in, it is the commute back that is really really slow. If your hours are or can vary from the 9 to 5 or 8 to 4 mode you will fare so much better.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:56 PM on April 25, 2016


There is no way to live outside of the city of Chicago and have a commute to Goose Island that is around half an hour--even if you begin and end your work day at odd times, especially by car. You're unlikely to find a place outside of the city with a commute of only an hour one way to Goose Island, even by car.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:01 PM on April 25, 2016 [14 favorites]


Pilsen, might be a good city location where you can find a decent 1 or 2 bed in your price range of you dont mind an artsy scene and lots of spanish. The thing about pisen is its close to 290 and 90 94, and you would drive against rush hour which will cut your commute time in half.
You can also hit lake shore drive using lower wacker which will cut some commute time (also would from oak park) provided you are willing to drive underground.
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:04 PM on April 25, 2016


Is your office near the Red or Blue lines? The blue line especially travels to some areas that, while nominally "in Chicago" are very suburban-feeling, such as Jefferson Park.

Or Edison Park.
posted by SisterHavana at 4:37 PM on April 25, 2016 [5 favorites]


I just want to add, if you really are willing to drive in an hour plus daily (at around 10 mph tops, but obviously a lot of people do it), you should consider the parking issue, if your employer doesn't have a dedicated employee lot. It's kind of a nightmare, and expensive (not sure what kind of parking is around Goose Island). Then there's winter. In my opinion, it's really better all around to take a train of some sort (Metra or CTA).
posted by WesterbergHigh at 5:03 PM on April 25, 2016 [4 favorites]


You should take the train and use other public transportation from there! You should live near the train station. Even in the far northwest suburbs, it can take half an hour to go four miles at 6 am. I do not consider driving around the Chicago suburbs to be an acceptable part of life (YMMV) because I want to drive to target in less than an hour minutes and not get cut off 50 times at 7pm on a Tuesday. Take the train (or don't move here). Palatine may meet your criteria. It is not uncommon to have a 2 to 3 hour each way commute and still have it be faster than driving if home or work is not train convenient.
posted by Kalmya at 5:37 PM on April 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


As a former Chicago resident, I'm going to nth that while a car can be very helpful for errands and suchlike, it's going to be more trouble than it's worth to use one to commute to work in the city, especially in the winter (unless you like driving in blizzards and dealing with your car when it decides to stop working in -2F temperatures).
posted by thomas j wise at 6:12 PM on April 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


If all you want is the FEEL of the suburbs (houses, lawns, space, greenery, very little public transport, easy street parking) and not the amenities (school districts, different police force, etc) then there are A LOT of communities in the northwest that feel like suburbs but are located well within city limits. The City-data forum would probably be the best place to ask about those. There are a couple of neighborhoods where the city employees all live that truly look like Pleasantville USA, though finding a rental there might be very difficult.

I will say, pretty much nowhere near the lake is going to feel suburban. That includes Pilsen down south and Evanston up north (although Evanston does feel suburban in parts -- just not the parts near the lake, barring the huge multimillion dollar homes)
posted by mylittlepoppet at 6:30 PM on April 25, 2016 [8 favorites]


Another thing to consider is the character of the burbs. Many are very conservative compared with the more liberal city of Chicago.

For example, Wheaton is home to Wheaton College, and it is very conservative. If you're single, and you're looking for other people and a night life that is not necessarily religious, you may have a VERY hard time.
posted by answergrape at 2:58 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]


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