Last time, I wrote a blog post about how to get around campus. I strongly encouraged people living in the residence halls against bringing cars to campus. Afterwards, I realized, what if people want to bring cars because they don’t know how they would get home otherwise? That leads into this blog’s topic: how to get to and from the Chicagoland area.
To start, I am from Lemont, a small southwest suburb of Chicago. Normally, the drive is 2 hours from my house to campus. I was super lucky freshman year in that, whenever I wanted to go home, my parents would make the drive down here to drop me off. I felt so bad for making them drive 4 hours, so I looked into other options on how to get down to campus.
There are two main ways that I now use to get to and from campus (other than getting a ride from friends, of course): charter buses and trains. Well, Chicago is big, right? Yes, but I can guarantee that no matter where you are, you could get to and from a pick-up location for the train or bus easily. Both the buses and trains run daily, and if you book ahead of time, tickets can be as low as $15. I’ll go more in-depth about each.
There are multiple different companies that offer pretty similar routes back to Chicago and its suburbs. They even make stops through Bloomington, airports, and other cities along the way. The most popular charter bus company is Peoria Charter. I have ridden with them plenty of times and can say they are pretty reliable. They have 3 pick-up/drop-off locations on campus: the Ikenberry (home to many residence halls), ISR, and Altgeld Hall. As for off-campus pick-up/drop-off locations, there are MANY. From my house alone, I have 2 locations where I can go that aren’t too far of a drive. They also pick up at O’Hare Airport. I am not sure about Midway, but you can find answers on their website.
I don’t tend to ride Peoria Charter unless I am coming from the suburbs. I often go to Chicago to visit friends, and when I do, I take the Amtrak.
Amtrak is a train that makes daily trips through Champiagn-Urbana coming to and from Chicago. You can also take the train down to New Orleans if you are interested! The Amtrak picks up and drops off from the Illinois Terminal. This is the off-campus terminal. Multiple MTD buses can get you there in less than 15 minutes. I often ask friends for rides there since it’s a quick 10-minute drive. Other than being off-campus, I love the Amtrak, and it’s my preferred way of getting to Chicago. If you buy enough ahead, tickets can be as low as $15, and they offer a student discount! They are normally always 15 minutes behind, but the train conductors are so funny they make up for it. They make multiple stops after Champiagn, often stopping in Rantoul, Kankakee, and Homewood. The last stop is always Chicago Union Station. Even if you live in the suburbs, you can hop on a Metra train after the Amtrak that can get you closer to home. Multiple L trains are near the station that can bring you all over Chicago.
When it comes to what mode of transport I take, it really depends on where I want to go and the cheapest way to get there. I will say that Peoria Charter does offer more time options than Amtrak (which is useful when you’re not sure when you’re coming back). During school breaks, Peoria Charter goes into overdrive and often has an option to leave every hour. I would caution you guys to definitely buy your tickets ahead of time. The Amtrak late-night train is almost ALWAYS sold-out the week before it runs. Peoria Charter, from what I have experienced, is rarely sold-out, but it does happen.
Overall, don’t stress if you don’t have a car on campus. It’s pretty simple to get to and from Chicago. I would highly suggest asking friends for rides first and THEN reverting to one of the options above. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a friend is going home the same weekend, and you can hop on and chip in some gas money.
Moral of the story: Don’t bring a car—make friends with people who have them.
Till next time friends,