Chicago For Dummies: Commuting

For those looking to live in Chicago and not feel like a complete tourist-in-the-headlights for the first month, AptAmigo brings you Chicago for Dummies. These posts will include all of the tips and tricks I wish I knew when I first moved to Chicago. I put in the man hours and made the mistakes so you don’t have to.

Today’s topic is: Commuting


When it comes to riding the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) there are a few key things to note.

1). First of all the train lines are color coded (none of this alphabet nonsense like New York). Let’s break down the lines:

Blue - Runs 24 hours, goes to The Loop, ride this if you want to get to O’Hare Airport.

Red - Runs 24 hours, goes to the loop, probably the most used line. Can get packed during Cubs or White Sox game days.

Purple - Only runs on weekdays during rush hour. It circles the loop to help alleviate the red and blue lines from getting so packed.

Brown - You might use this one to get to farther out places like Ravenswood, tends to have a lot of express trains during commuting hours.

Green - Can be helpful to get to Green street.

Orange - Use this if you want to go to Midway Airport.

Pink - Can be sketchy.

Yellow - In case you ever feel the sudden urge to go to Skokie.

2). Maps - There are maps in all of the cars depicting every stop on that line. However, in order to keep from looking like an absolute tourist, limit yourself to quick glances and use the google maps app on your phone.

3). Express trains - Try to listen over the sound of your music for an announcement of an express train. Usually a flashing red light will blink in the window as well to warn you. A train may go express if it’s running late. If it is going express past your stop, simply get off and wait for the next train.

4). CTA Etiquette - To avoid looking like a complete newby make sure you:

Take your backpack off of your back, place it between your feet. Why? Because I don’t feel like standing behind you with my back arched like an inverted letter "C."

Do not put your bag on the seat next to you to block someone from sitting down, we all hate that person. Don’t be that person.

When waiting on the platform, head towards where the front of the train will stop, there are usually more seats/emptier cars.

If you see an empty car on an otherwise packed train DO NOT get on! The empty car more than likely has a smelly or weird person on it driving everyone away.

WARNING: If you’re commuting to the loop during rush hour at any stop South of Belmont or North of Cermak-Chinatown you WILL be smushed into a standing room only car with someone's onion bagel breath on your neck. The cars are usually so packed that getting to first base with at least three of your fellow commuters is completely normal.

The best advice I can give to anyone is to download the CTA app on your phone along with Google Maps. These two combined will make navigating Chicago a breeze.

The Necessary Evil that is Lake Shore Drive

If a cab driver asks if you would like to take LSD on your way to your destination he’s not trying to sell you drugs. Lake Shore Drive (LSD) is both the fastest and slowest route to get anywhere in Chicago. Here are some clues that will help you decide wether or not to take Lake Shore Drive:

1). Avoid LSD during heavy commute hours during the weekdays.

2). Avoid LSD when there is any kind of event EVER in the city (concerts, Hawks/Bulls/Cubs/White Sox games, Obama’s in town, etc).

3). There is an inner and outer LSD. It’s usually safer to take Inner LSD, there are lots of stop lights but at least you will move at a steady pace.

4). When all else fails, refer to the CTA.

Oh and did we mention outer LSD is right next to the lake?


If parking was an Olympic sport, Chicagoans would take home the gold medal every time. The biggest piece of information you need to know is about saving spots during the winter months. We take our parking “Dibs” very seriously around here. You would too if you had just spent an hour digging through 4 feet of snow in -14 degree weather. How do we call Dibsies? With random objects of course!

And we aren't afraid to get creative with it.

So if you see a shoveled out spot with dibsies, don't be an A-hole, move along.