Braving Public Transportation

With MAPH starting in a few weeks and the colloquium reading assignments just around the corner, I don’t think we’ve stressed enough how important it is to get out of Hyde Park while you still have the time to do it. Last year, my plan was to explore a different area or attraction of Chicago every weekend during the program but, even with the best intentions, it gets harder and harder to make the trek into the city once you have papers and thesis topic proposals looming over you. Needless to say, I’m now having fun, post-MAPH exploring Chicago because of my poorly executed plan. So, those of you who are here now…take advantage of this time!

A-J already posted his important annual exhortation stressing the need to get out of Hyde Park, but you still might be wondering how you actually go about doing that. There are a plethora of options to get into the city and up north from Hyde Park, but there are really only three viable ones if you want to get there within a reasonable time frame and feel safe doing it. (More on the three options after the jump…)

1. #6 Bus: Jackson Park Express to Wacker and Michigan

While unfortunately a bit unreliable as far as timing goes, the #6 is probably the easiest and most convenient way to get out of Hyde Park at all hours. It runs fairly frequently (every 5-10 minutes during rush hour and every 15 or so during the other hours of the day), stops decently close to the University (on Stony Island at both 57th and 59th streets), and weaves its way up Hyde Park and Lake Park before driving express down Lake Shore Drive to Michigan Avenue. It will let you off at almost every corner along Michigan until you hit the Chicago River at Wacker and then the bus driver kicks you off. Downside: the schedule is quirky because it’s often late and usually very crowded. But once in a while you’ll get lucky and it’s still your best bet to get into the city.

Hooray for Chicago’s fun accordion buses that can hold too many people!

2. #2 Bus: Hyde Park Express to Navy Pier

By far my favorite bus…this beautiful bus route snakes its way through Hyde Park, goes right along 60th behind the University, and runs Express down Lake Shore Drive into the city. Then, once it’s in the city, the #2 runs up State Street, which is really helpful if you’re planning to jump on one of the trains from there. Downside: it’s a rush hour bus–roughly 6-9 AM and 4-7 PM–so, if you’re not a morning person, you’re probably out of luck with this one until much later in the day.

3. Metra Train: Metra Electric District Line

The Metra will make you feel elegant…like you’re stepping back in time to the old days of train engineers and lace gloves. Well, not really, but it is perhaps a step up in comfort and class from the buses and definitely the fastest way to get in to the city. If you jump on at the 55th St. stop and ride it to Van Buren, you’ll be downtown standing next to the Art Institute in about 12 minutes. Downside: unless you catch it during rush hour, it only comes every 45 minutes or so.

As far as fare goes, both the buses and the Metra will cost you about the same amount, but unfortunately the buses use CTA cards and the Metra uses separate train tickets. There are plenty of good ways to save money on both by buying monthly passes, taking advantage of transfer rates, etc., so feel free to pick our brains about the various options!

8 thoughts on “Braving Public Transportation

  1. Scott DeGregoris

    Jeez…is the #15 bus to the Green Line, and the Green Line/51st stop, really considered THAT sketchy of a route out of the island that is Hyde Park?

    I guess I understand. I know the Green Line/51st stop can be a bit…uh…frenetic at times (the entrance shares a doorway with a liquor store after all), but as long as it is daytime, I don’t think there’s THAT much to worry about…I guess.

    MOST “heads” that may be lurking there, are simply neighborhood people who aren’t looking for anymore trouble than any innocent MAPHian is. The Green Line is super convenient, and can be used to transfer (for free) to any of the other trains in the loop, and is also useful for a number of other stops on its own. Just figured I’d put that out there.

    Of course, just like ANY place in a big, mean ol’ city like Chicago, you have to use your common sense…and perhaps even have a little faith in the inherent goodness that is in ALL of us, no matter how latent–if not downright nonexistent–it seems sometimes in some…

  2. wsperrazza Post author

    Scott makes an excellent point. The green line and red line El trains both run directly into Hyde Park and I did fail to mention them. Both are easily accessible from the #15 and #55 bus routes (that run along 51st and 55th respectively) and will get you into the city fairly quickly. However, they are a bit further west and it has been my experience that the #6 along Lake Shore is a more direct route into the city. But, of course, you are welcome to use any method you find preferable and definitely let us know if you want more information about the green and red lines.

  3. Sara Cole

    How reasonable is it to bike to destinations outside of Hyde Park? I guess reasonable (exertion and danger wise)is sort of subjective, so let’s put it this way: could I get to interesting places in more or less one piece from Hyde Park in an hour/hour and a half or less biking? Initial web research on the matter hasn’t yielded a clear answer.

  4. Maren Robinson

    The #192 bus is also a nice option when Lake Shore Drive is a mess. It is also rush hour bus. It leaves from the UChicago Hospitals and takes you to the Red/Green/Orange Roosevelt train station and to Union Station. Just be aware. This is the only bus stop in the city where people queue in a tidy fashion and they will protest if you cut the line.

  5. wsperrazza Post author

    Hyde Park (and most of Chicago) is really great for bikers, actually. There’s a bike path that runs along the lake front that goes all the way into the city (and perhaps even further north, but I’ve never gone beyond Navy Pier). You can get to the path from any of the cut-throughs that get you out to the Point and to the Lake and it only takes about half an hour to ride into the city from there. There are some fantastic views of the skyline as you ride up, too. Let me know if you need more info!

  6. hilary

    thanks for this post, whitney!

    scott: thanks for your comments -it’s good to raise the questions you’re gesturing toward. conversations about public transit are inherently political and about race and class as well. you’re right to point that out. i think whitney’s advice is meant in part for people coming to maph who don’t have a lot of experience with public transit in general. and for that i appreciate her caution. happy to talk with you more about this in person

    sara, you should check out the active transportation alliance for some good chicago bike info. also the city will send you a free bike map which lets you see all the bike routes, the boulevards and other options besides the (beautiful) lakefront trail. you can get a long way in the city if you’re willing to ride your bike for an hour –and buses all have bike racks on the front if you get too tired to pedal home!

    marybeth, almost the entire office staff lives on the near north/near west side, i.e. logan sq and environs. i like to go bus to the loop (#2, 6, 28x or 192) and blue line from there – there’s a logan sq stop. my 12 years of cta commuting experience says that’s faster than bus to red line or green line to blue line.

    for all that people like to disparage the admittedly mismanaged cta, it works a lot better than it could. so i say, go forth, however you feel comfortable. explore. get a cognitive map of this city that hopefully includes more than campus, jimmy’s and the loop. and wear your helmet if you’re on your bike!

  7. Scott DeGregoris

    Cheers Hilary, and perhaps I’ll take you up some time on that “more about this in person,” as I’d be interested to hear more of your thoughts. And I do indeed appreciate your perceiving what could aptly be considered my “gesturing” (what a wonderful way to put it) although I really did not mean to sound as political as I perhaps did.

    But, you’re correct about the inevitability of meandering into a political, racial, or–to some of us, more important than anything else–class discussion, when confronting what it means to leave Hyde Park in general, whether it be on foot, bike, skateboard, and/or public transit.

    That is why I threw an “i guess” in, here and there, because I would never want to be–even indirectly–responsible for something happening to somebody. Because to be honest, a stop like the Green Line/51st stop can be a bit “hot” at times. Plain and simple. And I can completely appreciate the fact that many of my fellow entering MAPHers are new to all of this. And in this respect, I too appreciate Whitney’s caution.

    And finally, Whitney, I hope I did not come off critically or combatively, or ANYTHING like that because that in no way was my intention. The “Jeez” at the beginning there, was supposed to be more of a “gee whiz” kind of jeez, and not a “Jesus” kind of jeez…if that makes any kind of sense. So…yeah…

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