Chicago’s CTA trains operate above and below ground throughout the Chicago metro area. If you’re a new rider, see the tips below on how to ride. Note that trains are fairly frequent, so looking up schedules usually isn’t necessary. However, only the red and blue lines operate 24 hours a day, so plan accordingly if you plan to be out late on the other rail lines.

1. Get to a Station

View the interactive CTA map with streets to get an overview of Chicago’s rail lines and stations. For trip planning, use Google Maps with your start and end address to see your commute options — select the train icon to get transit route information and schedules.

If you are visiting Chicago, it’s best to stay at an Airbnb accommodation or hotel near a station so you can walk or bike to a train. Otherwise, a few stations outside the city have daily parking lots and spots for monthly permit holders. Call 888-578-PARK to learn more.

2. Purchase Rail Fare

There are several ways to buy CTA fare:

  • Via vending machine at all stations
  • Via mail (allow 7-10 business days)
  • At a retail store (card only, load fare online or via the Ventra App)
  • Via Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay or contactless bankcard (fare deducted from your accounts, no ticket purchase required)

Note: Fares are added to either a paper ticket or a Ventra reloadable card unless you use contactless payments ( contactless payment wave ) or mobile wallet.

Things to Know

  • Choose from one-way fares or passes (see all fare options).
  • Paper tickets only hold a one-way fare or a one-day pass.
  • You can buy multiple tickets at one time.
  • There are reduced fare programs and kids under 7 ride free with a paying adult.
  • If you’re going to a large event such as a sports game or festival, always purchase or have a round-trip fare.

3. Ride the Train

Enter a rail station by tapping your fare card, contactless bank card or device with mobile pay on the fare gate reader. Walk to the desired train platform based on your direction of travel. Trains and platforms are marked with the end-of-the-line station, so it is good to be familiar with the CTA rail map. Google Map directions include information on which train to board — a great option if you aren’t good with directions and want simple instructions.

Popular Train Labels

  • Loop (to downtown Chicago)
  • Midway (to airport)
  • O’Hare (to airport)
  • Howard (red line north)
  • 95th/Dan Ryan (red line south)

More Information

CTA Station Guides
How to Ride Metra Trains
10 ‘L’ Stations for Tourists
Chicago Attractions Near CTA