Want to know the fastest and most cost-effective means to navigate Chicago and its surrounding suburbs? Look no further than the CTA and Metra train systems — two very different and efficient ways to travel.

When to use the CTA

The CTA — or ‘L’ — provides train and bus service within Chicago’s north, west, south and downtown areas. If you’re planning a trip to Chicago’s museums or sports venues, the CTA is generally the least expensive mode of transportation, as there is no need to pay for parking or taxis at many of these locations (a full map is accessible here).CTA_Chicago

Fares start at $2.25 (at most locations) for a one-way, single-use ticket with the option for multi- day, unlimited ride passes. There are two primary ways to pay for your CTA fare: You can buy single-ride or one-day Ventra Ticket, or a multi-day, reusable Ventra Card at any train station (Ventra is the service Chicagoans use to purchase and pay for each CTA ride, and ticketing information can be found here). It’s important to note that all CTA passes can also work on our vast bus system, which also services many points of interest. Ventra

When to use the Metra

Metra trains are the commuter rail division of Chicago and its surrounding areas. If you’re

planning a trip to Chicago’s surrounding suburbs, or are simply looking for a quicker way to get

from Chicago’s downtown area to the north, west and south sides, Metra is generally the fastest

mode of transportation (a full map is accessible here).

Fares start at $3.25 for a one-way, Zone A ticket with the option for multi-day and ride passes.

There are three primary ways to pay for your Metra fare: You can buy a single-ride or multi-day

pass online, at participating Metra stations or while you are riding on the train (ticketing

information can be found here).

Airport Transportation

Taking the ‘L’ is the easiest way into and around both O’Hare and Midway Airports. Not only are there train terminals located in walking distance from each individual airport, but there are ticket machines located in each airport train station. CTA riders can purchase new multi-ride Ventra passes or single-ride tickets at these ticket machines (a full map is accessible here).

Besides the expansive train system, there is a taxi service available from each airport — although this will likely be more expensive than train travel, and depending on where you’re heading, it could take longer than travelling by train.