Chicago is a major transportation hub in the United States. It is an important component in global distribution, as it is the third largest inter-modal port in the world after Hong Kong and Singapore.
Six of the seven Class I railroads meet in Chicago, with the exception being the Kansas City Southern Railway. As of 2002, severe freight train congestion caused trains to take as long to get through the Chicago region as it took to get there from the West Coast of the country (about 2 days). About one-third of the country's freight trains pass through the city, making it a major national bottleneck. Announced in 2003, the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) initiative is using about $1.5B in private railroad, state, local, and federal funding to improve rail infrastructure in the region to reduce freight rail congestion by about one third. This is also expected to have a positive impact on passenger rail and road congestion, as well as create new greenspace.
Chicago is one of the largest hubs of passenger rail service in the nation. Many Amtrak long distance services originate from Union Station. The services terminate in San Francisco, Washington D.C., New York City, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Portland, Seattle, Milwaukee, Quincy, St. Louis, Carbondale, Boston, Grand Rapids, Port Huron,Pontiac, Los Angeles, and San Antonio. An attempt was made in the early 20th century to link Chicago with New York City via the Chicago – New York Electric Air Line Railroad. Parts of this were built, but it was ultimately never completed.
The Metra service provides commuter rail service. It has 11 lines radiating north, west and south.
Nine interstate highways run through Chicago and its suburbs. Segments that link to the city center are named after influential politicians, with three of them named after former U.S. Presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan) and one named after two-time Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson. When referring to the expressways, local citizens tend to use the names of the expressways rather than the interstate numbers, primarily because the names denote certain sections of the interstate(s).
The Kennedy Expressway and the Dan Ryan Expressway are the busiest state maintained routes in the City of Chicago and its suburbs.
The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) coordinates the operation of the three service boards: CTA, Metra, and Pace.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) handles public transportation in the city of Chicago and a few adjacent suburbs outside of the Chicago city limits. The CTA operates an extensive network of buses and a rapid transit elevated and subway system known as the 'L' (for "elevated"), with lines designated by colors. These rapid transit lines also serve both Midway and O'Hare Airports. The CTA's rail lines consist of the Red, Blue, Green, Orange, Brown, Purple, Pink, and Yellow lines. Both the Red and Blue lines offer 24 hour service which makes Chicago one of the few cities in the world (and one of only three cities in the United States of America) to offer rail service every day of the year for 24 hours around the clock. A new rapid transit line, the Circle Line, is also in the planning stages by the CTA.
Metra, the nation's second-most used passenger regional rail network, operates an 11-line commuter rail service in Chicago and its suburbs. The Metra Electric Line shares its trackage with Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District's South Shore Line, which provides commuter service between South Bend and Chicago. Pace provides bus and paratransit service in over 200 surrounding suburbs with some extensions into the city as well. A 2005 study found that one quarter of commuters used public transit.
Greyhound Lines provides inter-city bus service to and from the city, and Chicago is also the hub for the Midwest network of Megabus (North America).
Chicago offers a wide array of bicycle transportation facilities and events, including several miles of on-street bike lanes, 10,000 bike racks, 170 miles (270 km) of bike route signage, a state-of-the-art central bicycle commuter station in Millennium Park and the annual Bike Chicago festival. The network has 100 mi (160 km) of on-street bike lanes and 50 mi (80 km) of off-street trails. Bicycles are permitted on CTA trains and their fleet of over 2,000 buses that have been equipped with racks that carry bikes. The successes of the Bike Program are due in large part to Mayor Daley's leadership and the incorporation of bicycling into the mandates and programs of the Chicago Department of Transportation, CTA, Chicago Park District and the Mayor's Office of Special Events, in partnership with the Active Transportation Alliance. The Chicago Park District maintains an 18-mile (29 km) multi-use path, popular with bicycle commuters, along Lake Michigan called the Lakefront Trail.
Chicago is served by Midway International Airport on the South Side and O'Hare International Airport, the world's second busiest airport, on the far Northwest Side. In 2005, O'Hare was the world's busiest airport by aircraft movements and the second busiest by total passenger traffic (due to government enforced flight caps). Both O'Hare and Midway are owned and operated by the City of Chicago. Gary/Chicago International Airport, located in nearby Gary, Indiana, serves as the third Chicago area airport. Chicago is the world headquarters for United Airlines, the world's second-largest airline by revenue-passenger-kilometers and the city is a hub for American Airlines. Midway is a hub for low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines.
The Port of Chicago consists of several major port facilities within the city of Chicago, Illinois operated by the Illinois International Port District (formerly known as theChicago Regional Port District). The central element of the Port District, Calumet Harbor, is maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
- Iroquois Landing Lakefront Terminal: at the mouth of the Calumet River, it includes 100 acres (0.40 km2) of warehouses and facilities on Lake Michigan with over 780,000 square meters (8,390,000 square feet) of storage.
- Lake Calumet terminal: located at the union of the Grand Calumet River and Little Calumet River 6 miles (9.7 km) inland from Lake Michigan. Includes three transit sheds totaling over 29,000 square meters (315,000 square feet) adjacent to over 900 linear meters (3000 linear feet) of ship and barge berthing.
- Grain (14 million bushels) and bulk liquid (800,000 barrels) storage facilities along Lake Calumet.
- The Illinois International Port district also operates Foreign Trade Zone #22, which extends 60 miles (97 km) from Chicago's city limits.