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Crash Course in Chicago Driving

Written by Ysmay.

Wells Street Brige by Vincent DesjardinsWells Street Brige by Vincent Desjardins

Driving in Chicago leaves something to be desired between construction, pedestrians, and commuters. ItHighway.com provides a map of traffic conditions and highlights construction sites.

We feel it's a lot easier to just take public transit anytime you need to go anywhere in city to avoid the numerous headaches that come with driving in Chicago. Traffic is bad not just during rush hour, but gets tangled up frequently in between rush hours. The public transit system in Chicago is one of the best in the country, and taking advantage of it will a save yourself a lot of headaches.

Here's a crash course - excuse the pun - on Chicago roads, driving, and parking to get you started.

Road Names

Most roads within the city of Chicago follow a naming convention. All north-south streets have names, not numbers. Sometimes small groups of streets within an area all begin with the same letter, and nicknames for the communities are derived from this.

Interestingly, and perhaps confusingly, for the first mile west of the Indiana/Illinois border you'll find Avenue A through Avenue O, which makes up the "A" group of streets. Around mile 2, where the "B" roads should be, you'll find a series of streets that don't follow the naming convention. The community was already well established at the time the city got around to a naming convention, so streets from mile 2 to mile 10 (where "B" - "J" streets should be) were left alone.

The alphabet naming convention continues with K-Town, an area of Chicago past Pulaski Road where all the streets for about a mile start with the letter "K." The letters progress mile-for-mile moving away from the border up to the letter "P."




Chicago Parking Meters by Seth AndersonParking in Chicago leaves much to be desired. Marty Casey even clued us in to the parking fiasco where the city privatized the parking meters. "The city of Chicago sold the parking meters to a private company and privatized it, and they sold it for $5 billion when it was worth $15 billion and now I swear if you're 2 minutes over the meter you get a ticket."

It's worth noting the meters aren't actually meters. Almost all traditional meters you'll see are left there as a place for bicyclists to lock up their bikes. Perhaps the city is unaware of how easy it is to lift a locked bike up and over the top of the meter, but we digress.

Parking Pay Box in Chicago by VXLAParking Pay Box in Chicago by VXLAParking meters are now operated by way of digital pay boxes much akin to those you'll see in the Embarcadero district of San Francisco. To use them, park your car and pay attention to the number of the spot you're in. This is normally painted on the curb. Walk to the pay box which is somewhere within that block, and enter your spot number. Payment is accepted either with coins or a credit card. After you've paid the meter, you'll get a slip of paper. Take the slip of paper and put it on the dashboard of your car.

Forgetting to put the slip of paper on the dash will result in a hefty ticket.

Parking in garages averages about $30 a day. Parking in residential neighborhoods is sometimes meter-free, but will often require a residential parking permit. Read the signs very carefully before parking your car in Chicago.

Never park in a spot or against a curb that says "Tow Away." Your car will be towed, and getting it back is both annoying and expensive.



Road Aliases

Often roads in Chicago have multiple names by which they are known. This can be confusing if someone is giving you directions. Here are some of the names roads are also known by.

  • Edens Expressway = Highway 94.
  • 51st Street = East Hyde Park Boulevard.
  • 67th Street = Marquette Road.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Drive is known simply as King Drive.
  • Narragansett Avenue = Ridgeland Avenue in the suburbs.
  • Pulaski Road = Crawford Avenue in the suburbs.
  • Rose Street = 25th Avenue.
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