Chicago’s Midway Airport, a hub for low-cost carriers like Southwest Airlines, often finds itself in the shadows of the much larger O’Hare. But while both of the main airports in the Chicago area are well-connected to Chicago’s public transit system (CTA), Midway finds itself closer to the downtown, making train and bus transportation to the Loop and certain South Side destinations even easier. If you’re unfamiliar with Midway because you’re used to O’Hare, or if you’re wondering how easy it is to take public transit to and from the “other” airport, this brief guide is for you.
Midway Airport and Train Transportation
The CTA’s Orange Line, which began service in 1993, connects Midway Airport to the downtown via train transportation. Midway is the terminus of the line, which traverses the southwest portion of the city before ending up in the Loop and cycling back to Midway again. Though it does not run 24-hours a day (like the Blue Line does to O’Hare), the Orange Line train to and from Midway Airport has extensive hours, currently operating from about 4:00am until just before 1:00am. Throughout most of the day, the train runs at 8 to 10 minutes intervals, with service more frequent during rush hours (every 5-6 minutes) and slightly more sparse late at night (every 15-20 minutes).
When people hear about taking train transportation to or from Midway Airport, they often write off the idea, assuming that the train merely runs “near” the airport and that they’ll have to take a shuttle bus to connect. But the Orange Line train station is immediately adjacent to the airport entrance: you simply leave the train station by exiting some doors, and the parking/terminal entrance is a few feet ahead of you, perfect on a rainy, windy day. Depending on where you begin/end in the Loop, the trip to/from Midway Airport is 25-35 minutes. That’s pretty fast, especially compared to a backed-up Stevenson Expressway (I-55) during rush hour. And, of all CTA train transportation, the Orange Line is least prone to delay because it has very few stops.
Train transportation in Chicago is also cheap. Even with recent fare hikes, a ride on a CTA train will only run you $2.00, as opposed to the average $23-25 solo cab ride between Midway Airport and downtown Chicago. Fares may be paid in cash, though you can also buy a tourist card that allows unlimited CTA rides for a specified period of time (for example, $9 = unlimited rides for 48 hours).
Midway Airport and Bus Transportation
Taking the Orange Line to and from Midway is certainly the fastest way to get downtown (and points north) via public transit, but if you’re visiting a different location, it’s possible that a bus might be a better – or the only – choice. Adjacent to the airport terminal and the CTA Midway train station is a mini bus depot through which a number of CTA buses run. The 55 and 59 buses, for example, are easy routes between Midway and the Hyde Park / University of Chicago area. Fares are $1.75 in cash, with $0.25 for a transfer.
For more detailed information about CTA train and bus transportation options, visit www.transitchicago.com. For more information on Midway Airport, visit www.flychicago.com.