America’s cities have a lot to offer, but what makes living in Chicago stand out in particular is that we have one of the best transit systems in the country. We ranked just number 6 in a WalkSource study of “The 25 Largest U.S. cities by the Usefulness of their Transit Systems” that came out last April. Our 24-hour transit system, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) moves 1.6 million people daily and serves Chicago and 40 surrounding suburbs, as well as cities in Indiana and Wisconsin.

Riding public transportation can sometimes be a fun experience or a daunting task, but there are still ways to get places and make it as smooth of an experience as possible.

Presenting…Four tips on navigating the CTA:

Tip #1. Know your payment options. Know that if you are paying with cash, the fare for one ride on any bus or any train is $2.25. If you get a fare card, which is available at almost any subway or el station, the cost to ride the bus is $2.00, however, the trains are still $2.25. If you only use the CTA once in awhile, it’s best to just get a fare card and pay per ride. You can reload them, and for 25 cents you can ride twice more within two hours of your first ride (which is called a transfer).

If you take three rides per day, a 30-day pass is the way to go. It’s a pricey $100 for unlimited rides for 30 days, but it will save you a lot of money and the grief of constantly reloading your card in the long run. If you take four rides per day, a 7-day pass is sufficient. It costs $28, but ends up costing you a lot less per ride. Just think, if you pay for four rides in one day every day of the week, you are spending up to $9 each day. That means you’re spending $63 a week, instead of just opting for the 7-day pass, which gives you unlimited rides. It’s great, especially if you have any unexpected errands. Click here for a full list of CTA fare information.

#2. Utilize the website to get directions via the CTA. If you go to, they have a Trip Planner where you can enter the address of your starting point and destination and it will list all available ways to get there. Click on the different tabs to see trips by bus or train, or bus and train, depending on what you prefer.

#3. Use available tracking apps. There are tracking apps available for iPhones, Androids, and Windows phones. They are:

Android: Transit Tracks (free)

iPhones: ChiTransit (.99 cents)

Windows: Transit Chicago (.99 cents)

You can use these apps to enter your stop and it will list the number of minutes before the next bus or train. This is a great tool during the arctic, windy winter months when you can plan ahead and wait inside if the app tells you the bus will not be showing for another 15 minutes.

#4. Be Ready. Always have your card loaded with money and ready before you get on the bus so you don’t have to deal with the embarrassment brought on by an unsympathetic bus driver or riders. Check your balance before you get on, so you know if you have to reload your card. And remember to look out the window at the sites and enjoy the ride!