View Full Version : Public Transportation in Chicago
05-16-2007, 02:05 PM
My fiance and I are moving to Chicago this summer, and I know how great public transportation in Chicago is, from the times I've visited. But how possible is it to live for an extended period of time with no car at all? We're contemplating both selling our cars, and I was wondering if some of you could chime in with the pros and cons of owning a car in Chicago. We plan to live in the city as close to an El stop as possible, but what other hurdles might we face?
05-16-2007, 02:06 PM
Surly and incompetent CTA employees.
That's a start.
05-16-2007, 02:21 PM
I've lived in Chicago now for almost four years without a car and I've done just fine. I'd suggest living off of one of the 24 hour lines, like the Red line. Get used to going grocery shopping more frequently, but buying less each time so you can carry it home.
05-16-2007, 02:22 PM
I personally find that having one car is very helpful. My wife and I had two cars before we moved, so we sold one. Sometimes you might find a job that isn't convenient for CTA travel (i.e. something in or near the suburbs).
Also, I like the freedom of knowing that if we want to take a trip outside of the city we don't have to rely on renting a car.
Be warned though that some neighborhoods are nightmarish to park in.
I know people that use CTA as their sole means of transportation though, and they get along just fine. A car is a nice perk if you can have one though.
05-16-2007, 02:25 PM
I know a ton of people who live in Chicago (myself included) who don't own a car. In general, if you live close to public transportation in MOST neighborhoods, the city is pretty accessible for routine things like work, general errands like groceries, drug stores, restaurants, movies, music venues, etc. But there's obviously a little more walking involved for some of these activities. Definitely research the neighborhoods and talk with any personal friends you may have here. If you're going to be doing any sort of comedy when you move here, the bulk of that happens on the North Side of the city (Lakeview, Old Town, Uptown)...all accessible from the Red or Brown Lines on CTA.
The CTA is currently in the midst of a pretty large renovation project for the next couple of years and some stations are closed for chunks of time. Check out the CTA website for info...
Also, if you don't own a car, there are definitely going to be times when a car would help out a lot (trips to Target, IKEA, larger shopping ventures of that sort). Chicago also has some daily/hourly car rental options to check out. I've never used them, but most people say they're pretty convenient.
if you have to fight a crazy high black guy on the train, try to use a keylock or an armbar. they don't know how to defend or reverse the hold. also the top of a CTA train seat is good for helping to choke him out and take away his wind.
all the best-
05-16-2007, 03:13 PM
I would recommend I-Go over ZipCar for a monthly rental service. I-Go is not-for-profit, and they offer very fuel efficient cars such as Civics, Elements, and Priuses. My girlfriend uses I-Go and swears by it.
I've had a car in the city for several years, but started out without one. I could probably do without it, but I'm loathe to give it up. Grocery shopping, jaunts to the suburbs, the trips that would take an hour on public transit as opposed to a 15 minute drive...those are the things I keep my vehicle for. Also handy for picking up friends at either airport.
05-16-2007, 03:20 PM
It should be mentioned that all of the major improv theaters are located reasonably close to an El stop.
You will not need a car to get to any of the Improv theaters in Chicago.
05-16-2007, 03:24 PM
Also, some downsides of having a car in the city...
-Digging it out in deep, deep snowbanks.
- Dealing with salt erosion from the salting of the streets.
-Buying frequent parking passes.
-Paying parking tickets.
-The hassle of finding a parking space.
-The tragedy of your car being vandalized or broken into or stolen.
-Coming out of some quick stop to see that you've been towed without any warning and the whole unpleasant process of getting it back from the towing company.
-The ass-raping that you take at the gas pumps.
-Sitting in traffic on the highways.
-Driving with other similarly hassled and potentially angry other drivers.
-Dodging Cab Drivers.
For me, the hassles of having a car FAR outweighed the convenience of driving the car three blocks to my grocery. It's cheaper to avoid the car and use Peapod.
05-16-2007, 03:33 PM
yeah, i've been without a car for years, and it's rarely a hassle. I had one the first 2 years or so, and it was nothing but a pain in the ass.
When I need to go out of the city (like to Ikea), or do something that requires a car (like go to Target and buy chairs), I use I-GO, which is super easy.
All the negatives Biddle mentioned, I pretty much had to put up with when I had a car. Unless you work in the 'burbs, it's probably not worth it.
05-16-2007, 04:04 PM
Public trans in Chicago is often dodgy.
What makes it worse; waiting for trains or busses in subzero weather.
In general, as well as Chicago is connected by the trains and busses, it's still a sprawling cow town compared to East coast cities. It can take a while to get from place to place if you're riding busses and transfering.
If you're going to keep a car in the city you'll be paying higher insurance rates, even for simple liability. You'll also have to deal with the parking. I live up in Rogers Park, which has pretty available street parking, even by the lake. But I'm also a block from the Red Line, so I can choose to train it or drive anywhere.
It's a little far north for some, but I've known improvisors who've lived up here as well as further up in Evanston. It's only a 15 minute trainride down to Belmont & Sheffield on the Red line. The Purple line is even faster with no stops between Howard St. and Belmont.
If you can get by with simple liability insurance, it's worth having a decent vehicle just for the extra freedom it affords you. Just shop for an apartment that offers a parking spot in the lease, or find a neighborhood where there's plenty of parking.
05-16-2007, 07:51 PM
What neighborhood you live in will determine the feasibility of owning a car in the city. Lincoln Park for example is a nightmare to park in. Some neighborhoods are better as certain times than others.
I have had a car for over 3 years in Chicago with little trouble parking. . I work in the burbs and the Trains were not an option as much as I wanted them to be. I did pick my neighborhood with that in mind though. I drive home a lot and I also find the buses unreliable. Especially as of late with the political wrangling getting in the way of fixing the problems.
Welcome to Chicago.
05-16-2007, 10:03 PM
I sold my car to finance my move to Chicago. I live near the redline and I can get anywhere in the city I want to go.
You save so much money by not having to pay insurance, tickets, random damage from vandals and criminals, and of course GAS.
05-16-2007, 11:58 PM
I haven't had a car in 7 years; 6 years off the Red Line and 1 year off the Brown Line. Get a bike and your options open up even more.
Being sans car is definitely doable...but factor in the occasional taxi trip home when it gets DAMN cold and you don't want to wait for CTA or when you're too drunk to chance late night walkabouts.
05-17-2007, 12:48 PM
I'm in the same situation as Jim above--work in the burbs, train's not a viable option, and I live in a neighborhood where I can usually park right in front of my door. The downside, though, is that if I don't want to drive--to iO, shopping, etc., then I'm at the mercy of the buses, and they're a pain in the ass. You'll wait 20 minutes just to see a clump of four buses show up. I end up driving a lot more than I'd like, just to save 45 minutes. A bike makes all the difference, I've found, but that's not a 4-season solution.
But yeah, if you're by the red or brown lines, and most of what you need is near a stop, then you won't need more than an iGo membership to get by.
"Public transportation is for losers and lesbians."
05-17-2007, 04:19 PM
Where I live (in Andersonville) there is plenty of FREE parking and easy access to the Red Line, Clark bus, and Foster bus, plus two supermarkets. Thus your transportation needs are covered by car, rail, bus, and foot. I used to have a car, but I found I got around just as well (and much cheaper) after it broke down and I sold her for scrap.
By the way, I am completely biased about my great neighborhood, so my advice to live here is thus completely unreliable.
05-18-2007, 02:49 PM
This is fantastic information and exactly what I was looking for. My fiance and I both have cars (a completely necessity in DFW, where we currently live), and have decided we will definitely sell one of the cars, but are still deciding if we want to sell the other or not. The consensus seems to be that living by the red or brown line will make it much easier to live sans car. And that for easy daily rentals, I-Go is the way to-go.
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