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Travel Tips for Riding CTA, Metra, and Pace

Service Providers

  • Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) - Provides bus and rail services within the City of Chicago and nearby suburbs.
  • Metra - Provides commuter rail services to downtown Chicago, outlying Chicago neighborhoods and surrounding suburbs.
  • Pace Suburban Bus - Provides service within Chicago's suburbs, and some express service between the suburbs and downtown Chicago.

Riding CTA Buses

CTA buses usually stop every two blocks at posted signs, similar to the one below. These signs show the numbers, names and descriptions of routes which stop there, and sometimes the direction of travel.

CTA Sign

The destination sign above the bus windshield shows the route number, route name, and destination. If it's the bus you want, remain on the curb and indicate to the operator that you intend to board.

CTA Bus Windshield Sign

Pay your exact fare into the farebox. Dollar bills go into one slot, coins into another, and Transit Cards and Passes go into the slot closest to the windshield, from which they can be returned to you. Show passes to the operator.

When using a Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus card, touch the card to the designated pad and go.

Riding CTA Trains

At station entrances, signs (usually overhead) list the train routes serving that station.

CTA Entering the Station Sign

Buy a full-fare Transit Card (minimum $2.25 purchase, no change returned) from the vending machine using U.S. currency. Your Transit Card will allow you to pay for a transfer charge at the time you begin the second ride within two hours. No "second card" is issued. Your third ride using a Transit Card within two hours of the first ride is free.

Unattended Stations: Use Chicago Card, Chicago Card Plus, Transit Cards or passes at auxiliary entrances to stations equipped with turnstiles or high barrier gates. At the platform level overhead, signs show train destinations, matching the signs on the end and side of train cars.

When a train arrives, look at the destination shown on the front and side signs, and decide whether to board. Please let exiting passengers leave the train before you board.

Aboard trains, maps are displayed above doorways. Stops and connections are announced at each stop.

Riding Metra Trains

In Chicago neighborhoods and the suburbs, signs similar to the one shown here point the way to nearby Metra stations.

When the train arrives, simply get on board, find a seat and place your ticket in the metal clip in front of you. (If you are riding on the upper level, the clip is on the side of the privacy panel.) Let the conductor know it's your first time traveling aboard Metra, and they'll be happy to help you if you have any questions or concerns about your trip. Announcements are made before each stop. When you hear the message announcing the approach of your stop, pick up your ticket and any items you brought with you and head to the vestibule to disembark at your final destination. Customers who are hearing impaired may want to notify a conductor of their stop during ticket collection.

Metra Sign

Riding Pace Buses

Pace bus stops are marked with this sign. In Chicago, drivers will only stop at these marked stops. On most routes in the suburbs, a Pace bus will stop at any safe location along the route - just signal the driver to indicate that you want to board.

Pace Sign

Accessibility Guide

RTA transit services provide a high degree of accessibility to persons with disabilities. All CTA and Metra trains are fully accessible, with most stations fully accessible or have partial ADA accessibility. All CTA bus routes are fully accessible to customers with disabilities. Lifts and ramps on all buses are available for use upon request by anyone who has trouble with steps, even temporarily. All Pace routes are accessible for persons who use mobility aids.

For more information on accessible services by carrier, including lists of accessible routes and stations, please click one of the following logos:

  • Chicago Transit Authority
  • Metra
  • Pace

Paying for Your Ride

General Information

Single-ride tickets and multiday passes are available for use on transit in the Chicago area. Fare cards and multi-day passes can be purchased at stations, or online. Many multi-day passes can be used on CTA buses, the 'L', and on Pace buses in the suburbs. Purchase Metra tickets at the Metra stations.

For CTA Buses & Trains

Full Fares

  • Chicago Card, Chicago Card Plus and Transit Card: $2.00 on buses and $2.25 at rail stations. Transfer for 25 cents allows two additional rides within two hours after the first boarding.
  • Cash: $2.25 (accepted on buses only); Use exact fare, no change is returned. No transfers are issued when paying with cash.

Reduced Fares

  • Cash: $1 (accepted on buses only); Use exact fare, no change is returned. No transfers are issued when paying with cash.
  • Reduced Fare Transit Card: 85 cents on buses and at rail stations. Transfer for 15 cents allows two additional rides within two hours after the first boarding.

Reduced fares are offered only to those customers who are eligible. Click here to find out if you qualify for Reduced Fare. CTA Reduced Fares

For Metra Trains

Unlike the CTA and Pace, which charge fixed fares, Metra fares are calculated on distance, using a zone system. Use Metra's Fare Check to calculate the cost of your trip. You can buy a pass at Metra station ticket booths, or just enter a train and pay the conductor for your fare (for an extra $2 surcharge).

For Pace Buses

  • Regular full fare = $1.75
  • Transfers = 25 cents (a second transfer within two hours is free)
  • Children under 7 ride free.

Pace buses accept exact cash, Pace 10-ride tickets or Club Cards, and other Pace media. You can also use CTA farecards, and the CTA 7-day and 30-day passes on Pace buses. Pace's fares vary depending on the type of route.

CTA Fare Detail | Metra Fare Detail | Pace Fare Detail

How can I pay for my ride?

The easiest way to pay for CTA and Pace services is to buy a Transit Card. These can be purchased at CTA rail stations as well as at selected currency exchanges, sporting events and special events. Basic Transit Cards are interchangeable between CTA and Pace services.

Metra riders require a ticket that can be bought at any downtown station, some outlying stations or on the train.

CTA, Pace, and Metra all accept cash payment (exact change is required on CTA and Pace).

On buses, pay your exact fare into the farebox. Dollar bills go into one slot, coins into another, and Transfer Cards or Transit Cards go into the slot closest to the windshield.

For CTA rail buy a full-fare Transit Card (minimum $2.00 purchase, no change returned) from the vending machine using U.S. currency of $20 denomination or smaller.

You can buy Metra tickets at any station with a ticket agent or pay cash for a ticket on the train. There is an extra $2.00 charge for purchasing your ticket on the train if you board at a station with a ticket agent.

If I transfer to another bus or train do I have to pay?

If you plan to transfer between CTA services or between CTA and Pace, it will cost you an additional 25 cents for the first transfer and the second transfer will be free. Transfers are valid for two hours from the start of your trip. You will need to present a Transfer Card or Transit Card when you transfer.

If you are paying cash for your trip, be sure to pay the additional amount for the transfer at the start of your first ride in order to get a Transfer Card

If you use a Transit Card, the transfers are deducted automatically when you board the second and third vehicles.

Are there any special deals for visitors?

YES! CTA offers a Visitor Pass that allows you to use transit for flat daily rate. You can enjoy unlimited rides on all CTA and Pace services (no Metra rides) with 1, 2, 3, or 5-day Visitor Passes. Your pass activates the first time you use it and is good for the number of consecutive days shown on the front of the pass. One Pass required per rider - no sharing.

Metra offers Weekend Passes, good on Saturday, Sunday and often on adjacent holidays. These are good for unlimited rides anywhere on the Metra system (except the South Shore), and cost $7.00 per person. You can buy them on the train without penalty.

CTA Visitor Pass Detail | Metra Weekend Pass

I am 65 or older. Do I qualify for a reduced fare?

Senior Citizens aged 65 or over living in the RTA service region (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties) qualify for free transit on fixed routes operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra, and Pace.

RTA Seniors Ride Free Program

Transit to I-GO

Chicago Card Plus/I-GO Card

In 2009, CTA partnered with I-GO Car Sharing to create the Chicago Card Plus/I-GO Card, which provides access to CTA trains and buses, Pace buses, and I-GO vehicles.

I-GO Car Sharing is a local non-profit service that provides an affordable, convenient, and environmentally responsible transportation alternative through the use of shared vehicles. Members have 24-hour self-access to a diverse fleet of cars in reserved parking spaces located in 35 Chicago neighborhoods and six suburbs. Many I-GO cars are located next to CTA rail stations, and many more are within close proximity to CTA bus routes, making it easy to transfer from public transit to I-GO.

I-GO cars can be reserved in increments of 30 minutes at or at 773-278-4446. Cars are accessed with an electronic key card; networked keypad consoles inside the vehicles link to members' online accounts and record trip data. I-GO pays for gas, premium insurance, reserved parking and 24-hour assistance.

Apply for the Chicago Card Plus/I-GO Card today!

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