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Baby don’t you wanna go?

September 3, 2013

Back to that same old place, sweet home Chicago! Of all the cities I have traveled to Chicago is the one I am most familiar with. With more than half of my family living here Chicago is like a second home to me. Chicago can best be described as a more livable version of New York; Chicago is urban, has great and comprehensive transit, and has a killer lakefront. The layout of Chicago is rather simple, with the Loop at the center and the neighborhoods and suburbs radiating out in a semi-circular fashion, with the lake forming the straight edge of the semi-circle. The loop is the cultural and business center of the city; it is so named because of the loop of elevated transit lines that circles the neighborhood. All streets and transit in Chicago originate here and radiate outwards. Chicago Transit Authority is the main transit system, consisting of buses and a heavy rail transit network. Metra provides an incredible commuter rail network originating at four primary train terminals downtown.

Chicago at its roots is an intermodal city. It was where cargo from the west arrived by train and left by sea…err lake in this case. The primary intermodal hub in Chicago today is Union station. The main hall of union station is a magnificent monument to times past and was featured in The Untouchables. The concourse and ticketing level, however, leaves much to be desired. The waiting area is small, cramped and is an architectural horror straight out of 1971. Union Stations biggest flaw is the fact that it is not a through station and is, in fact, a double terminal station. With only one utility track making a connection to the north tracks and south tracks. It is also a multi-block hike to reach the elevated trains, and with the often windy and cold Chicago weather, that can be a problem. The station is served by Amtrak, Metra, Greyhound, Megabus, and CTA buses.

A cool note about Chicago is that many of the transit stations are very old and are about as opposite as you can get from Marta palaces. They are small, minimal, and often contain a retail component on the street level.

 

Overall Chicago gets a: B

 

Chicago Union Station

 

Cramped waiting area

 

Mixed use CTA stop.

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