Family Travel Stories

Is Mass Transit for Everyone?

As we make our way across the country, we want to experience different ways to get places – mass transportation. We live in an area in New Hampshire where traveling by automobile is the most convenient method. While in the Chicago area we had the opportunity to try many forms of transportation.

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Lucas and Franklin riding the train for the first time in Chicago, IL.

We were staying in Union, Illinois and had to travel about 65 miles to get to Chicago. To go to Wrigley Field, our options were to drive into the city and find a place to park or to take the train. We decided to take the train from Crystal Lake (near Union) to the city. The train ride was smooth and quick. It took us about 50 minutes to arrive at our destination on the outskirts of Chicago. We then had to walk about a quarter of a mile to get to a bus stop. Once at the bus stop, we took the bus (remember to have plenty of change with you) to within a few blocks of Wrigley Field. The bus ride was jerky with the constant take CTA_bus_line_56offs and braking. There was nowhere to sit at first so we all stood. The bus was very crowded.

After our tour of Wrigley Field, we wanted to go into downtown near Museum Park. We took the transit train across town. Once we got to our stop we still had to walk almost a mile to our destination. The view of Chicago from the Park is very nice and worth the trip. Now tired of all the walking, we wanted to get dinner in downtown. We thought of the different options we had to get there – transit, bus, taxi or bike. The City bike sharing program is a nifty way to get around. You simply rent a bike from one station, ride to where you want to go and then just return at another station. This option does not work well however with small children. Taking the transit or bus meant that we would need to walk to the next station. We opted for taking a taxi.

My cousin introduced us to the “Uber” app when we were in Boston. This is a really cool app where you can essentially order your taxi from your phone. You can then track their location and know when they are about to arrive, plus it is YOUR taxi. They ask your name before you get in to confirm. You also pay through your smartphone so no need to carry a lot of cash.

Once we had our meal and finished walking around downtown, we decided it was time to head back. We looked at the schedules for the bus, transit and train to coordinate locations and times. That can be a chore when you are not used to the mass transit system. Due to the time constraint to make the train, we took a taxi to one of the stops, and sprinted to the train. We caught it just in time. Then we relaxed for the ride back to the vehicle.

Mass transit was expensive and a lot of time was spent on or waiting for the different modes of transportation. In retrospect, I think next time we will research discounted day passes and stick to one mass transportation system. This would be a better option. For example, drive closer to Chicago and get an all-day transit pass. The transportation systems we experienced in Chicago seem to be good for commuters or for those heading into the city for a special event. This was tough for us as sight-seeing tourists.

I would point out that we drove to Chicago two days later (both days were weekdays) to go to the Field Museum. We parked in the parking garage by Solider Field without too many difficulties with traffic. After the Museum (around 4:00 pm), we drove to see U.S. Cellular Field (home of the White Sox), then drove through the city to get dinner. The buildings and architecture are amazing! We parked right on the street. After dinner and a bit of walking, we drove home.

Overall, driving was definitely better and cheaper than the previous day.

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