I recently made a trip to Old Town to find a quiet place to study on a Friday night. The trip itself turned out to be quite the adventure.
First, I took the Green Line at IIT/35th to Clark/Lake where I was planning on transferring to the Brown Line and get off 2 blocks from my destination. Well, I forgot the Brown Line was under construction, so there was a shuttle bus running the same route. I left the train station at Clark/Lake and walked around the block to find the shuttle, which then drove me through the Brown Line route.
I studied for a couple hours and then decided to head back. I went back to the same train station where I was originally planning on getting off of the Brown Line because I knew there was a Purple Line stop that could take me back to the Loop. I could then transfer to the Green Line and get back to IIT/35th. Well, the Purple Line only runs on the weekdays and this was a Friday night. I could have waited for the Brown Line shuttle to take me back to the Loop, but I didn’t feel like waiting; I called an Uber.
The Uber then took me to the Loop where I got into a Green Line station planning on taking it back to IIT/35th. However, at this point, it was about 1:30 a.m. The last Green Line train had already left. A CTA official told me the Green Line trains were no longer running and that if I needed to take a train South, my only option was the Red Line. I walked a couple more blocks to get to the nearest Red Line station. I then waited about 15 minutes for the next train South. At this point, it was almost 2 a.m. and I was tired and ready to be home. Eventually, the Red Line train came and I rode it to Sox/35th. I walked back to ICO, arriving around 2:30 a.m.
The point of this rant is that transportation through the city can be confusing and challenging at times. This little adventure got me thinking, “What is the best form of transportation to get around the city?” The most common ways students use are cars, trains, buses, taxis, and Uber.
Cars: If you have a car on campus, you probably won’t use it much. Parking in the city is not convenient and rush hour seems to be all day. If you are heading away from downtown, sometimes it isn’t so bad. Or, if you are making a grocery run on a weekend, it also isn’t that bad, but most of the time there are better options. The only places I have driven to since arriving here are to get food in Bridgeport and to go to Target.
Trains: The train is my personal favorite way to get around. It’s fast, reliable, convenient, and inexpensive. The downsides of the train are only that you get your occasional homeless guy asking for money, it is usually crowded, and the lines and stops can be confusing. Once I figured out the train routes, it became my fastest and most favorite way to travel. You can get on a Green Line at IIT/35th (which is two blocks East of the school) and pretty much get to anywhere you need to go in the city by transferring lines and walking a few blocks.
Buses: I don’t usually take the bus. I don’t really like it unless I am not going that far. The few times I take it are when I have extra time on the weekends and know the routes. This is because the bus stops about every block, it seems, so it can take a while. Plus, traffic gets thicker the closer to downtown you get. Also, the bus routes are MUCH more confusing, in my opinion; there are over 60 buses that all make stops at the same places. It’s easy to get on the wrong bus and end up on the other side of town if you aren’t careful. However, there is a bus stop directly outside the RC which is very convenient. Maybe over the next 4 years I’ll figure, out this system. For now, I just stick to the train or Uber.
Uber: This is by far is the most convenient way to get around regardless of where you’re going. All you do is link a credit card to the app on your phone the first time you download it, order an Uber, it comes to where you are, you get in and tell the driver where you want to go, he drives you there, and the fare is charged to your credit card. You can even split the fare with your friends by sending them a notification via phone number through the app. The problem with this is it’s easy to get used to the convenience of Uber. Before you know it, you check your bank account and realize you’ve spent $50 on Ubers over the weekend.
Taxis: These are similar to Ubers, but they dont really come near the school unless you call and order one. I have never personally taken one while in Chicago, but I have taken them in New York City and Detroit. They are convenient if you want to go several blocks and dont feel like walking.
Everyone has their go-to way to get around the city. Some might prefer Uber, while others like the public transportation systems. Whatever you are into, Chicago has options. The more time you spend in the city, the more you understand the public transportation systems and the easier it is to get around. It can be intimidating to think about getting around the city, but in the end, everyone figures it out. Good luck!