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CHICAGO TRANSPORTATION 101

Planes, trains and automobiles are just the beginning. Here’s everything you need to know to navigate Chicago’s ever-expanding transportation options like a pro.

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Let's face it: transportation logistics can make or break a meeting, whether you're tasked with coordinating a group of 5 or 5,000. The good news? We're here to connect you with the pros and solutions that will take the guess work out of getting around Chicago. Here's everything you need to know to navigate Chicago like a pro.

ARRIVING IN CHICAGO

Chicago leads the way when it comes to accessibility. We rest conveniently in the center of the country, and boast two first-class airports with approximately 1,450 non-stop arrivals from 245 domestic and international destinations — allowing attendees to travel from almost anywhere. Nearly 50 carriers (and their regional airline partners) serve O'Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport, which means attendees can easily travel on the airline of their choice.

Both airports are linked to the city by Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) trains. From O'Hare, the Blue Line makes the trip to downtown Chicago in around 45 minutes, while the Orange Line connects Midway to the Loop in 20-25 minutes. Current fare is $2.25 per trip from Midway and $5.00 from O'Hare.  

O'HARE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

O'Hare is just 18 miles from downtown and is one of the busiest airports in the country. As of September 2015, the airport has 1,104 daily direct flights to 161 U.S. destinations and 132 daily direct flights to 59 international destinations. Fifty five airlines serve O'Hare.
  • Terminals 1, 2 and 3: Each terminal features outstanding dining options, from Chicago restaurants to your favorite national food franchises. Shop national brands, boutiques and convenience kiosks, or relax and enjoy services from three spas. Other amenities include Wi-Fi (available for a small fee), power stations located throughout the terminal, an indoor urban garden, a yoga room, rooms for nursing mothers, and a service animal/pet relief room.
  • International Terminal 5: In 2014, O'Hare unveiled the new $26 million International Terminal 5. Features include 24 luxury retail and dining destinations, a redesigned TSA checkpoint, a 10,000-square-foot flagship duty-free store, luxury restrooms, and dynamic lounge-style seating with outlets and USB ports.

MIDWAY INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

A mere 10 miles from downtown, Midway is a premier point-to-point airport, offering leisure and business travel to 77 destinations with nearly 270 daily flights on six airline carriers. Midway has three concourses, each filled with a wide variety of dining options and shops, plus a food court at Midway Boulevard (located just past security) with Chicago favorites like Potbelly's Sandwich Works or Illinois Bar & Grill. Midway also offers a yoga room and a room for nursing mothers in Concourse C.

AIRPORT & INTERCITY TRANSPORTATION

In Chicago, there are limitless ways to get your guests from Point A to Point B. Consider the following options for transporting attendees downtown from either airport, to and from meeting venues or to dinners or outings.

AIRPORT SHUTTLES

Shared-ride shuttles are a cost-effective and comfortable way to get to and from the airport — often half the cost of a taxi. GO Airport Express, a Chicago transportation company since the horse-and-carriage days, is one of the leading shuttle services. Tickets can be pre-booked or purchased at their airport kiosks, located in Baggage Claim.

BUS/COACH SERVICE

Several Chicagoland vendors offer group transportation for airport transfers, chartered tours and conference travel throughout the city. Here's a breakdown of the various sizes of coaches, buses and shuttles you can reserve for your Chicago meeting:
  • Motorcoach (38-57 passengers)
  • Mini-coach/Shuttle Bus (Up to 40 passengers)
  • Party Bus (10-22 passengers)

Where To Book:
For transportation fit for a king or queen, consider Royal Excursion, which specializes in high-end buses and coaches. Case in point, the ultra-luxe "rockstar" motorcoach, which fits 46 passengers and has leather wing-back seats, Wi-Fi and a beverage galley. Royal Excursion also offers chartered tours, shuttle bus service, limousines and chauffeured car service.

Aries Charter has a full fleet of buses and coaches, as well as a 24-passenger limo bus with leather seats and an entertainment system, and a transit bus with combined seated and standing for a total capacity of 53.

Van Galder is another option for chartered bus service throughout greater Chicago.

LIMOUSINE/PRIVATE CAR SERVICE

Ideal for transporting guests to their in-town destination from O'Hare or Midway, limos and chauffeured cars make a memorable first impression upon arrival in Chicago. They can be pre-arranged to pick up individual guests or small groups arriving together.

Expect the following passenger capacities from most of Chicago's limo services:

  • Limousines (Up to 16-20 passengers)
  • Private Car Service (Up to 6 passengers)

Where To Book:
Named "Best Transportation Provider" by Meetings + Events magazine for seven consecutive years, Windy City Limo has a fleet of more than 250 late-model vehicles, including sedans, hybrids, SUVs and limousines.

Crown Car Limo is the only green-certified limo company in Chicago, and offers airport, corporate and convention transportation for individuals or small groups in plush Lincoln Navigators, Mercedes Executive Vans and Cadillac sedans.

Metropolitan Limousine has provided chauffeured car service since 1972. They're based in the South Loop, but pick-up and drop-off service can be arranged virtually anywhere in the Chicagoland area, and vehicles include Mercedes Sprinters, BMWs and Lincoln limousines.

 

UNIQUE TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS

Some modes of transport in Chicago aren't just functional, they're downright fun. Think outside the bus and consider some of these ideas for creative meetings, team building and off-the-clock excursions.

TROLLEY

Complete with gleaming brass rails, oak benches and authentic Chicago trolley bells, the The Trolley Car & Bus Company is a great option for a team celebration. The trolleys accommodate up to 52 guests and can be tailored for individual events.

HELICOPTER

Impress important clients and take team outings to new heights with a helicopter excursion — a small meeting venue with serious wow factor. Book a daytime, twilight or nighttime tour and get Chicago views that top even Willis Tower.

At Chicago Helicopter Experience, packages for small groups can be arranged with catering and ground transportation. Vertiport offers luxury tours with custom itineraries for up to six guests. You can also treat VIPs to a "sky limo" ride from O'Hare or Midway to Vertiport's downtown heliport. (Talk about making an entrance.)

WATER TAXIS/ TOURS

Put Chicago's waterways to good use with Shoreline Sightseeing Water Taxis or Chicago Water Taxi, a fun way to hop between major tourist landmarks along Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. Or, book a group tour or charter and host your own event on the water for up to 200 guests.

 

MCCORMICK PLACE TRANSPORTATION

The largest convention center in North America, McCormick Place has a few transportation secrets of its own (hint: it's easier than you think). Here are a few tips and tricks for navigating this city-within-a-city.

MCCORMICK PLACE BUSWAY

Known variously as the "magic road" and the "bat cave," the McCormick Place Busway was unveiled in 2002 as a shortcut for convention attendees. Open only to charter buses, the Busway begins at the north end of Millennium Park, then dips underground and travels alongside the Metra tracks before completing the 2.5-mile trip to McCormick Place — completely bypassing commuter gridlock. If you arrange rooms near the Busway entrance (nearby hotels include Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago, Hyatt Regency Chicago and Fairmont, Chicago Millennium Park), the commute to McCormick Place will be around eight minutes.

METRA ELECTRIC

Another hassle-free way to get guests to McCormick Place is on the Metra Electric Line. Metra Electric picks up passengers at Millennium Station (located at the northern edge of Millennium Park) and whisks them to the McCormick Place Grand Concourse in around seven minutes. 

TAKE THE 'L'

Located just blocks from the convention center, the new Cermak-McCormick Place Green Line station is a 20-minute trip from the Loop.

  • From downtown: Hop on the Green Line along Lake Street or Wabash Avenue towards Cottage Grove.
  • From McCormick Place: To travel downtown and connect to all rail lines, take the Green Line to the Loop. Transfer at Clark/Lake to access the Pink, Brown, Orange and Blue Lines or stop at State/Lake to transfer to the Red Line.

Van Galder Bus - A Coach USA Company
715 S. Pearl St.
Janesville, WI 53548
(608) 752-5407
Metra
547 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60661
(312) 322-6777
Midway Airport
5700 S. Cicero Ave.
Chicago, IL 60638
(773) 838-0600
O'Hare International Airport
10000 Bessie Coleman Dr.
Chicago, IL 60666
(773) 686-2200
Shoreline Sightseeing Company
Navy Pier
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 222-9328
Metropolitan Limousine
1836 S. Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 808-8000
Windy City Limousine
2801 S. 25th Avenue
Broadview, IL 60155
(847) 916-9300
Crown Cars & Limousines
2440 S. Wolf Rd.
Des Plaines, IL 60018
(847) 803-0005
Royal Excursion
12807 McKinley Hwy.
Mishawaka, IN 46545
(574) 257-8540
McCormick Place Complex
2301 S. King Dr.
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 791-7000
Chicago Helicopter Experience
2420 S. Halsted St.
Chicago, IL 60608
(855) 414-8687
Go Airport Express
1200 W. 35th St.
Chicago, IL 60609
(773) 843-3053
The Trolley Car & Bus Company
226 Park St.
Bensenville, IL 60106
(630) 350-7433
Aries Charter Transportation
Serving Chicago and suburbs
Chicago, IL 60624
(888) 305-8700