How to Take the Train Around Chicago

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The city has eight train lines, each named for a different color, all of which converge downtown to form a circle which constitutes Chicago’s famous “Loop.” From downtown, trains spread out like tentacles to all areas of Chicago. Fortunately, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) makes getting around Chicago by train easy and fun.

Step 1
Find your nearest train station on a CTA map. These maps can be acquired at many grocery stores, currency exchanges, libraries and other public places, or found on the CTA’s web site. Google Maps also has integrated CTA map information into its system.

Step 2
Inspect the map to plan your route. To reach a specific destination, determine the shortest route between your station and the station nearest your goal. If you need to use multiple train lines, you can usually ride into the Loop and change trains there. The CTA map indicates which stations provide transfers between which train lines.

Step 3
At the station, insert cash into the fare card machine and retrieve your card. This card stores the value of whatever cash you insert, and can be reloaded later. Normal fare is $2.25. Transfers within the train system are free, but if you wish to transfer to a bus, you may do so within two hours using the same card, for 25 cents. 
Alternatively, preloaded passes may be purchased at many grocery stores and currency exchanges, as well as passes good for unlimited rides for a predetermined period, such as the seven-day pass.

Step 4
Insert your fare card into the slot in front of the turnstile. The electronic display atop the machine will indicate the amount deducted. Push against the metal bars and proceed forward.

Step 5
Pick the train going in your direction. This can be tricky, and even long-time Chicagoans sometimes get it wrong. Every train station has trains going in two directions, and the two sides of the platform are labeled with the name of the last station in that direction. Therefore the Blue Line train heading northwest is marked “O’Hare,” and the Red Line heading south is labeled “95th/Dan Ryan.” Trains themselves are also marked in this fashion. Check your map to see the ultimate destination of your train to make sure you go to the right side of the platform.

Step 6
When your train arrives, enter carefully. Conductors look to make sure customers are clear of the doors before closing them, but occasionally riders become caught in the doors, so be careful. Now grab yourself a seat with a good view, and enjoy your ride around Chicago.

Students, customers with disabilities and children aged seven through 11 can purchase reduced-fare cards. Seniors, active military members and children below age seven can ride free.


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