Regional Transportation Authority
The RTA is the financial oversight and planning body for the three public transit operators in northeastern Illinois: Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Metra commuter rail and Pace suburban bus. RTA administers the Reduced Fare Program for seniors and persons with disabilities and determines certification for ADA Paratransit, now run by Pace. Details on these programs are available on the RTA website or by calling 312-312-663- 4357 or 312-913-3122 TTY.
Planning an accessible trip is easy using the RTA trip planner website listed above. One can specify if one needs accessible transport, whether buses or trains are preferred and how much walking is manageable. For convenience, all the main attractions in Chicagoland are listed as destinations. RTA also provides trip-planning assistance over the phone.
Chicago Transit Authority
CTA Customer Service (including Elevator Updates)
CTA runs buses and elevated/subway trains serving the city and 40 nearby suburbs. All buses on the 153 CTA routes are equipped with lifts or ramps and securement systems. They also have an audio/visual system that uses GPS technology to automatically announce each upcoming bus stop, both audibly and on a visual display. On the rail system, most train cars have accessible doors and each train has a minimum of two accessible cars. Dozens of rail stations have elevators or ramps with additional stations being renovated on the Brown and Red lines. A list of accessible stations and those equipped with TTY phones appears on the back of the CTA Bus & Rail Map as well as online.
- For detailed information on accessibility, request a "CTA Accessibility" brochure from CTA Customer Service, available in large print, Braille, audio cassette and computer disk. It is also online in English and Spanish, in both pdf and text-only versions.
- A series of 6 captioned videos on CTA's Accessible Services is available online at www4.yourcta.com/welcome/adamedia/. They cover general access information, trip planning, how to file a compliant and tips for persons with physical disabilities, hearing and vision loss.
- CTA train lines are identified by color. The direction the train is going is indicated by the name of the last station on the line.
- Before using the "L", one should call the toll-free number above and select prompt 5 to check that elevators are working at the stations you plan to use. This can also be checked online.
- Portable ramps or "gap fillers" are available in accessible stations. To summon assistance, there are Customer Assistance Call Buttons near station turnstiles and on each platform.
- When boarding, advise the Customer Assistant of your destination so that they have the gap filler ready. Each rail car also has a call button so that one can alert the rail operator in advance of your stop.
- All platforms at CTA stations have bright blue tactile edges for detection by people who are blind or visually impaired.
- At stations serving more than one train line, announcements are made to identify each arriving train. Onboard the train, an automated system announces each upcoming stop and whether the doors will open on the left or right.
- On CTA buses, drivers will deploy the lift or ramp for anyone who requests it, not just those using mobility devices. They will also help with securement if assistance is needed.
Metra operates the commuter rail system in Northeastern Illinois, made up of 12 train lines. Diesel trains, which connect Kenosha, Joliet, Aurora and Elgin with downtown Chicago, have a wheelchair lift, spaces for 3 wheelchairs in the accessible car and accessible restrooms adjacent to the wheelchair seating area. Electric trains, which operate between Chicago, University Park and Northern Indiana, use ramps to bridge the gap to the platform. Each car has spaces for 2 wheelchairs.
Metra currently has 166 stations that are fully accessible with not only wheelchair access but also a visual public address system. 23 additional stations are partially accessible and usable by most people with disabilities. Where other accessible public transport is not available within a half mile, a shuttle service is in place to take passengers from inaccessible stations to the nearest accessible one.
There are 4 downtown Chicago terminals. The diesel terminals-Chicago Union Station, LaSalle Street Station and Ogilvie Transportation Center-are fully accessible. The electric terminals each have one accessible entrance. For the Randolph Street Station, wheelchair access is via the 225 N. Michigan Ave. building on South Water St. For the Van Buren Street Station, the accessible entrance is at Michigan Ave. and Van Buren St.
For full details, request a copy of the "Rider's Guide for Customers with Disabilities" and "System Map for Customers with Disabilities." The latter is available in a large-print format. In addition, Metra provides fact sheets for each station. This information is also available online.
- On diesel trains, the accessible car or cars with lifts are identified by an access symbol. At downtown stations, conductors will direct customers to these cars. At non-downtown stations, platforms have clearly identified accessible boarding areas for passengers who require the lifts.
- On electric trains all cars are accessible and the conductor can use the bridge plate on any car.
- To facilitate exiting, passengers who need to use the lift or bridge plate should advise conductors of their destination stop.
- All platforms have bright yellow tactile edges for detection by persons who are blind or visually impaired.
- Audio announcements alert passengers to the next train stop. Customers who are deaf or hard of hearing are encouraged to advise the conductor of their stop since there are no visual announcements.
Pace operates fixed-route suburban bus service in a 6-county area in Northeastern Illinois. Buses on all routes are wheelchair accessible and equipped with either a ramp or lift and securement devices. As of 2006, Pace is also in charge of administering the Chicago ADA Paratransit services. Information for both types of service is available on the website above. As noted elsewhere, ADA Paratransit certification is carried out by RTA.