The public transportation system in Chicago is operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and is largely accessible to the disabled and wheelchair users. It does present some challenges. Wheelchair users can access all parts of the city by using one or more of the public transit options, it just may not be the fastest or most direct route that would otherwise be available to the able bodied.
Elevated Train “L” System
The Chicago L is a largely accessible elevated rail rapid transit system with eight lines and 145 total stations in the city of Chicago. With an annual ridership of more than 200 million, the system is the third busiest in the United States.
Trains are easily accessible from station platforms for both powered and manual wheelchairs. Blue line trains sit higher than the platform at many stations, but ramps are available like the one pictured above.
Unfortunately, many stations are not equipped with an elevator. The following CTA ‘L’ train stations are NOT wheelchair accessible. Users of wheelchairs and those who cannot ascend long flights of stairs should not attempt to utilize these inaccessible stations, many of which are in the downtown “Loop.”
- BLUE Line — Addison, Austin, Belmont, California, Chicago, Cicero, Clinton, Damen, Division, Grand, Harlem, Irving Park, LaSalle, Monroe, Montrose, Oak Park, Pulaski, Racine, Washington, Western
- BROWN Line — LaSalle/Van Buren, Randolph/Wabash, State/Lake
- GREEN Line — Adams/Wabash, Austin, Madison/Wabash, Oak Park, Randolph/Wabash, Ridgeland, State/Lake
- ORANGE Line — Adams/Wabash, LaSalle/Van Buren, Madison/Wabash, Randolph/Wabash, State/Lake
- PINK Line — Adams/Wabash, LaSalle/Van Buren, Madison/Wabash, Randolph/Wabash, State/Lake,
- PURPLE Line — Adams/Wabash, Central, Dempster, Foster, LaSalle/Van Buren, Madison/Wabash, Main, Noyes, Randolph/Wabash, South Boulevard, State/Lake
- RED Line — Argyle, Berwyn, Bryn Mawr, Clark/Division, Harrison, Jarvis, Lawrence, Monroe, Morse, North/Clybourn, Sheridan, Thorndale, Wilson
- YELLOW Line — All stations on the Yellow Line are fully wheelchair accessible.
The train cars themselves have areas for wheelchair users to park, but securement straps/tie downs are not available. Priority seating is also available for those with disabilities.
The L system’s Blue line offers service to/from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). The Orange Line provides service to/from Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW). Both airports have accessible L stations only a short walk from the airport terminals.
CTA fares and passes can be paid by cash, credit card or with the reloadable Ventra card. Ventra cards can be purchased or reloaded at any L train station, including the O’Hare and Midway airport stations. Additional information on public transit fares is available below.
City Bus Service
The Chicago Transit Authority city bus system operates throughout the greater Chicago area and serves more than 12,000 stops across 140 routes. Buses are equipped with numerous accessibility features which make them entirely accessible to the disabled and wheelchair users.
The accessibility adaptations on Chicago city buses include:
- All buses kneel or lower and are equipped with lowered floor ramps or lifts.
- Two wheelchair securement areas with tie-downs are located on each bus.
- Audio stop and intersection announcements are made on each bus.
- Lowered yellow accessible stop/alert buttons are positioned at each wheelchair securement area.
The CTA bus fleet is being continuously updated, modernized and improved. Buses entered the fleet no earlier than the year 2000 and those currently older than 10 years are being replaced. More than 300 of the 1,800 buses operate using hybrid or fully electric technology.
Fares, route maps and schedules
Fares on the L trains are $2.25 each way and bus fares are $2.00 per ride, if paying via the reloadable Ventra card. Fares paid by cash/coin on the CTA buses are $2.25. Transfers between the L train and CTA bus routes are permitted twice per two hour period at $0.25 per transfer. CTA one-day passes are available for $10.00, three days for $20.00 and seven days for $28.00.
All L train fares originating at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) are $5.00. Fares from Midway Airport (MDW) are the standard $2.25.
Discounted fares for seniors age 65+ and for those with disabilities are available, but require a reduced fare permit and application. Details on the application process and reduced fare amounts can be found at www.transitchicago.com.
- For a map of the L elevated train system, CLICK HERE (PDF).
- To check for elevator outages at L train stations, CLICK HERE.
- For bus times, schedules and directions, CLICK HERE.
- For information on the city’s ADA Paratransit service and to see if you qualify, CLICK HERE.
Due to the rapidly changing nature of accessibility of the world’s public transit systems, please use the comments section at the bottom of this page to share your experiences and any changes you may have noticed in Philadelphia.
Amtrak rail service is available to/from Union Station in Chicago. For routes, fares and tickets, visit www.amtrak.com. A 15-percent discount is available to the disabled and wheelchair users. All Amtrak trains are wheelchair accessible. I have personally taken a trip from Chicago to Milwaukee on Amtrak.