Chicago has an extensive transportation network comprised of the city’s rail service, buses, commuter trains and expressways. Most commuters in Chicago choose to drive even though there’s an ample public transportation network. Local officials are making it more costly for drivers to park in the city, however. If one were to casually survey a group of Chicagoans about the cost of street parking or garage parking, their answers would paint a picture of rising costs associated with personal vehicles in the city. From city permit stickers to a recent tax on rideshare services near downtown, the fees associated with driving in Chicago are steadily climbing.
Many apartment renters rely on the city’s rail and bus network operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to get around. The CTA, also known as the ‘L’ among locals, has seven rail lines that extend from northern suburbs to south side neighborhoods closer to the Indiana border. The ‘L’ also runs service from Chicago’s two main airports directly into downtown Chicago, a major perk for tourists and apartment renters who need affordable transportation to either O’Hare International Airport or Midway Airport.
Commuter rail service like the Metra trains are operated by another entity but they have terminals in downtown Chicago. These commuter rail networks stretch out much farther than the local CTA trains; apartment renters can ride these trains to Wisconsin or Indiana.
Living Near the ‘L’ in Chicago
The ideal scenario for many Chicago renters is living within sight of the ‘L’ but not so close that they have to hear the train passing during rush hour. Being able to walk to the CTA station in 10 minutes or less is a highly sought-after location. For that reason, transit-oriented developments have garnered a lot of steam among both community leaders and builders in Chicago.
The winding elevated tracks of Chicago’s train system are idiosyncratic and practical at the same time. To spare residents the inconvenience of street-level train crossings, the tracks were hoisted up about two stories above grade and primarily run above commercial streets. The end result was neighborhoods that weren’t bisected by train crossings (although there are a couple exceptions where the train crosses at street level). The residential feel of side streets was preserved and the transportation was simplified from an old patchwork of streetcars, buses and trains.
If renters look up in neighborhoods where the ‘L’ operates they will see the unmistakably Chicago scene of the train zooming overhead. But the uniquely Chicago sight of aluminum train cars snaking their way past an apartment or office building’s second floor also comes with a cautionary note: renters may not be thrilled to live right next to the tracks. Living near a stop is grand, but having only a brick wall separating the apartment from the train tracks isn’t a ton of fun.