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River North Public Transit Guide: Navigating the CTA in Chicago's Trendiest Downtown Neighborhood

River North CTA Transit Guide

Chicago's River North neighborhood is a bustling hub of culture, business, and entertainment. For both daily commuters and potential home buyers, understanding the public transportation options in this vibrant area is crucial. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the various modes of public transit available in River North, making your commute smoother and more efficient. Whether you're a seasoned Chicagoan or considering moving to this lively neighborhood, this post will help you explore all your public transportation options, ensuring you can get around with ease.

Why Opt For Public Transportation in River North?

Public transportation is more than just a convenience; it's a lifestyle choice. In River North, using public transit can save you time, money, and the stress of navigating Chicago's busy streets. The neighborhood is well-served by various transportation options, making it easy to get to work, visit local attractions, or explore the city. Plus, with the growing emphasis on sustainability, choosing public transportation helps reduce your carbon footprint.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Buses

One of the most reliable and extensive public transportation options in River North is the CTA bus network. With multiple routes crisscrossing the neighborhood, buses provide an accessible and affordable way to travel.

  • Key Routes: Several key bus routes run through River North, including the #147 Outer Drive Express, #22 Clark, #36 Broadway, #65 Grand, and #156 LaSalle. These routes connect you to other parts of Chicago, ensuring you can reach your destination with minimal transfers.
  • Schedule and Frequency: CTA buses operate frequently, especially during peak hours. Most routes run every 10-15 minutes, making it easy to catch a bus without a long wait.
  • Accessibility: The CTA bus system is designed to be accessible to all. Buses are equipped with ramps or lifts for wheelchair users, and priority seating is available for seniors and people with disabilities.

For more information on CTA bus service in River North, check out the official CTA Bus Tracker to view current locations of buses and route maps. 

The 'L' Train System

Chicago's iconic 'L' train system is another excellent way to get around River North. The neighborhood is served by several lines, making it easy to access other parts of the city quickly.

  • Red Line: The Red Line is one of the most popular options for River North residents. It runs north-south through the city, connecting you to destinations like the heart of downtown Chicago to a number of north side and south side neighborhoods, like Chinatown, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and others.
  • Brown Line: The Brown Line offers convenient east-west travel, with stops at key locations like the Merchandise Mart and the Loop.
  • Blue Line: Although the Blue Line doesn't run directly through River North, it's easily accessible via connections at nearby Loop stations. This line is ideal for those traveling to O'Hare Airport or the Near West Side.

Merchandise Mart Brown/Purple CTA Station

Address:350 N. Wells St., Chicago, IL 60654 Type | Connections: CTA Bus #37, #125

Merchandise Mart is a notable transit station in Chicago's River North neighborhood. Conveniently located at 350 N. Wells Street, the station is part of the Chicago Transit Authority's 'L' system and connects riders to the Loop and a number of neighborhoods on Chicago's north side, including Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and Lincoln Square. With a rich history dating back to its opening on December 5, 1930, the Merchandise Mart Station serves as a vital part of Chicago's downtown transit system.

Chicago Avenue Red CTA Station 

Address: 800 N. State St., Chicago, IL | Connections: CTA Buses #36, #66 (also, walk 2 blocks east to Michigan for #143, #146, #147, #148, and #151)

Originally opening all the way back in 1943, the Chicago Avenue Transit Station, known as the Chicago/State station is a vital part of the Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line. Located on the edge of Chicago's bustling River North and Streeterville neighborhoods, the Chicago Avenue Station is the busiest station on the Red Line north of the Loop, boasting over 5.25 million boardings in 2014. It's situated beneath the intersection of State Street and Chicago Avenue, a mere three blocks from the northern section of the famed Magnificent Mile, with the renowned Chicago Water Tower at its core. Not only is it conveniently located close to the iconic John Hancock Center, Holy Name Cathedral, and the vivacious Rush Street entertainment district, but it also provides excellent access to Loyola University Chicago's downtown campus and the Chicago campus of the Moody Bible Institute.

Grand Avenue Red Line CTA Station

Address: 521 N. State St., Chicago, IL 60610 Connections: CTA Buses #29, #65, #36

Conveniently situated in the River North neighborhood, Grand is a key "L" station on the CTA's Red Line. It boasts an enviable location underneath North State Street at its intersection with Grand Avenue, just a block away from a bus line leading to Navy Pier on Illinois Street. In addition to servicing Navy Pier and the iconic Magnificent Mile to the east, Grand station's central position also provides access to a plethora of Chicago's significant landmarks. Truly, it's a gateway to the best the city has to offer.

Divvy Bikes and Bike Lanes

For those who prefer a more active mode of transportation, Divvy bikes are a fantastic option. Chicago's bike-sharing program allows you to rent bikes for short trips around the city.

Divvy Stations: River North is home to numerous Divvy stations, making it easy to pick up and drop off bikes. Key locations include Hubbard Street, Kinzie Street, and Grand Avenue.

Bike Lanes: The neighborhood boasts several dedicated bike lanes, ensuring a safe and smooth ride. Streets like Kinzie and Wells feature protected bike lanes, keeping you separated from traffic.

Subscription Plans: Divvy offers various subscription plans, including daily passes and annual memberships. This flexibility ensures you can choose the plan that best fits your commuting needs.

Water Taxi Services

Given River North's proximity to the Chicago River, water taxis offer a unique and scenic way to get around. These boats provide a relaxing alternative to traditional modes of transportation.

  • Routes: Water taxis operate on specific routes, connecting River North to destinations like Chinatown, Michigan Avenue, and the Loop.
  • Schedule: During the warmer months, water taxis run regularly, with frequent departures throughout the day. This makes them a reliable option for both commuting and leisure travel.
  • Benefits: Taking a water taxi isn't just practical—it's also enjoyable. You'll get to experience Chicago from a different perspective, taking in views of the skyline and riverfront.

Water Taxi Transit in River North Chicago

Thinking of moving to Chicago's River North neighborhood? Start searching River North condos for sale and River North apartments for rent, or contact the River North real estate experts with the Seventy7 Group now for all your home buying, selling, or renting needs!

Car-Sharing and Ride-Hailing Services

While public transportation is often the most convenient option, there are times when you may need the flexibility of a car. In these instances, car-sharing and ride-hailing services can be invaluable.

  • Car-Sharing: Services like Zipcar and Enterprise CarShare have vehicles stationed throughout River North. These cars can be rented by the hour or day, giving you the freedom to drive when you need to.
  • Ride-Hailing: Uber and Lyft are widely available in River North. With just a few taps on your smartphone, you can summon a ride to take you anywhere in the city.
  • Advantages: Both car-sharing and ride-hailing services offer flexibility and convenience. They're perfect for those times when public transportation isn't practical, such as late-night outings or trips to areas not well-served by transit.

Parking Options for Drivers

While public transportation is highly recommended, there are times when driving is necessary. Knowing where to park can make your experience in River North much smoother.

  • Street Parking: Street parking is available throughout River North, but it can be limited, especially during busy times. Be sure to check parking regulations and meter times to avoid fines.
  • Parking Garages: Several parking garages are available for those who need more secure or long-term parking options. Locations like the Mart Parc Orleans and InterPark on Kinzie Street offer convenient parking solutions.
  • Residential Parking: If you live in River North, consider obtaining a residential parking permit. This can make it easier to find parking near your home.

Safety Tips for Public Transportation Users

Safety is a top priority when using public transportation. Here are some tips to ensure your commute is secure and stress-free.

  • Be Aware: Always be aware of your surroundings, especially when waiting for buses or trains. Keep an eye on your belongings and avoid distractions like texting or listening to loud music.
  • Travel in Groups: If possible, travel with friends or family members, particularly during late-night hours. There's safety in numbers, and it can make your commute more enjoyable.
  • Report Suspicious Activity: If you see something unusual or feel unsafe, don't hesitate to report it to authorities. The CTA and other transit agencies take safety seriously and have measures in place to address concerns.

Special Services and Discounts

Public transportation in River North offers several special services and discounts to make commuting even more accessible.

  • Reduced Fare Programs: Seniors, students, and individuals with disabilities may qualify for reduced fare programs on the CTA. These programs offer significant savings on regular fares.
  • Monthly Passes: For frequent travelers, monthly passes provide unlimited rides on CTA buses and trains. This can be a cost-effective option for daily commuters.
  • Tourist Discounts: If you're new to Chicago or just visiting, consider purchasing a tourist pass. These passes offer unlimited rides for a set period, allowing you to explore the city without worrying about individual fares.

Read more about the CTA and Chicago's public transit system to get a better idea of where to begin your new home search.

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