By Samantha McCarthy

Since I’m usually running fashionably late, I like to think of myself as a professional when it comes to finding the fastest and most economical way to get somewhere. Although, sometimes I must admit that I take the easy way out and cab it. It’s so simple to just ask your doorman to turn on the cabbie light, and wait inside in the warm/dry/air-conditioned building. Take a look through these easy – and cheap – ways to explore Chicago. People watching required.

Chicago Transit Authority (aka CTA)


For just $2.25 per ride you can get to any location in the city or, you can buy an unlimited CTA pass for $86. Fantastic deal if you ask me, just think about all the cab fare money you are saving. Also, with the new Smartphone’s and Google Maps, it makes it twenty times easier to find out where to get on a bus or the “L,” and when the next one is coming.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock



I wasn’t originally a fan (hello stop lights), but I’ve learned the bus will take you a lot closer to where you need to go than the “L” in most cases. Plus they have express routes, like the United Center Express, that will drop you right at the front door. You can also check the bus routes that are near you, and when the bus is coming online.

Train (aka the “L”)


Chicago’s fast-paced train system runs in every direction, making it one of the most efficient ways to get around town. My favorite part about it is that it takes you directly into Midway and O’Hare Airport. There aren’t many cities that offer public transit that is so convenient for traveling. Many times, you only need one transfer. Note: like the bus, you can look up routes and timetables online.

While the “L’s” main purpose is transportation, it’s also one of my favorite people watching spots in the city (specifically the red line). Just the other day, my friend ran into a homeless man claiming to be a great poet. He gave her a choice of poems and she bought one entitled “I Feel No Pain.” It went something like “I feel no pain when it rains,” and it was about as good as you are imagining.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

Metra Rail

If you need to head to the Chicago suburbs, the Metra Rail will take you just about anywhere within a 70-mile radius. It’s also fairly inexpensive. You can purchase Monthly Unlimited tickets, a 10-Ride Pass (which is discounted 20% off regular fare), one-way, round-trip or a $7 Weekend Pass. Just make sure when you board the train, you’re not on a “quiet car.” My cousin and I recently made this mistake on one of our adventures to my parents house and were shushed the whole ride home. I’m not sure who was more annoyed- us for being on the quiet car, or the man sitting next to making a show of holding up his finger.

Do you have any funny stories or insider tips about Chicago public transportation? Leave your comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

Samantha McCarthy is a freelance writer living in downtown Chicago.