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A Guide to Commuting to Chicago from the Arlington Heights & Barrington Areas

Why Commute to Chicago?

Many Illinois residents who work in Chicago opt to commute from nearby suburbs like Arlington Heights and Barrington. One of the biggest reasons people choose this commute is that Chicago’s suburbs offer a lower cost of living and a comfortable, residential vibe while the city proper offers plenty of job opportunities, particularly in areas like manufacturing, printing, publishing, insurance, transportation, engineering, sales, financial trading and services, food processing, and more. 

Below, we’ve outlined popular routes and transportation options for commuting from Arlington Heights and Barrington to Chicago. If you take public transit, remember to follow CDC guidelines for the health and safety of yourself and those around you.

Commuting Options from Barrington, Arlington Heights, and the Nearby Areas

TO CHICAGO BY CAR

The fastest way to commute from Arlington Heights and Barrington to Chicago is by car on I-90 E. Note, you'll want to be sure that you are leaving the suburbs around 6:30-7:00am to avoid traffic and leaving the city between 3:30-4:00pm or after 7:00pm to avoid rush hour traffic. From Barrington, get on I-90 E in Hoffman Estates from Barrington Road, follow I-90 E and I-94 to W Ohio Street in Chicago, then follow W Ohio Street to N LaSalle Drive and N Clark Street to S Federal Street. Depending on traffic, this route takes approximately 47 minutes one way. Note: this route has tolls. See all route options here.

From Arlington Heights, you’ll take this same route, but you can get to I-90 E in Elk Grove Township from N Arlington Heights Road. Depending on the time of day and traffic, this route takes approximately 38 minutes one way. Note: this route has tolls. If you want to avoid tolls, you can take the longer commute via I-290 E. See all route options here.

Visit the Illinois Tollway website for information on routes and fees. Remember that you can always carpool with coworkers who are on a similar schedule to save on tolls, reduce pollution, and - last but not least - get to know your teammates better. 

Pros of Commuting by Car: There are multiple benefits to commuting by car. The car is usually the fastest mode of transportation, provided you avoid rush hour traffic. It also allows you the comfort and privacy of having your own space where you can begin and end the day comfortably, listening to music or podcasts, or just enjoying the silence. Beyond this, cars also generally get you closer to your destination. Finally, commuting by car generally reduces the spread of germs, which has become a priority for many commuters since the advent of COVID-19.

Cons of Commuting by Car: Commuting by car also comes with a cost. You’ll need to calculate expenditures related to tolls, gas, parking, car insurance and upkeep, and, of course, the cost of the car itself. Commuting times may also vary depending on traffic, especially during construction, so car commutes can be less predictable than taking public transit. Cars also add more pollution to the environment.

TO CHICAGO BY TRAIN

If you prefer not to own a car or else to utilize your commute time to accomplish some work in transit, you can take the train. In Barrington, you’ll start in Metra’s Union Pacific Northwest (UP-NW) and end at Olgilvie Transportation Center. You can find detailed information on schedules, maps, fares, and stations/parking here. Please note that COVID-19 has changed route times and frequency, as well as a few processes and procedures. 

From Arlington Heights, the Metra connects to this same line but starts at the Arlington station located at 45 W. Northwest Highway. The average commute time from Arlington on this route is 45 minutes. View more information on the schedule, maps, fares, and more here. As mentioned above, the coronavirus has altered processes and schedules, so be sure to go to the Metra website for the latest information.

Pros of Commuting to Chicago by Train: Taking the train allows you to reduce costs related to car travel. It also allows you to work during your commute for higher productivity, possibly enabling you to cut some of your in-office time. Of course, public transit is also better for the environment.

Cons of Commuting To Chicago by Train: You won’t have as much privacy when you take the train, and you may still need to own a car so that you can get to the train station. The commute will also be a little longer by train, and you may not be dropped off as close to your destination as you would like.

TO CHICAGO BY BUS

While you can also commute by bus from Barrington and Arlington Heights to Chicago, few people utilize this option since the routes are much longer and frequently impractical. From Barrington, the commute takes approximately 3 hours and involves several bus changes. From Arlington Heights, the commute takes approximately 1 hour to 1.5 hours and also involves changes.

Pros to Commuting to Chicago by Bus: While the length of the commute makes it much harder to think of pros for taking the bus, keep in mind that the bus may be a good option for you within the city itself to get closer to your work destination, particularly if you commute with a heavy briefcase or other cumbersome equipment. Don’t rule out a hybrid commuting approach.

Cons to Commuting to Chicago by Bus: The biggest con to taking the bus is, of course, the length of the commute itself, as well as the many bus changes involved. It’s also harder to work on your commute when you take the bus because of these many stops.

Work From Home near Chicago

While some industries and companies require your physical presence at a central office, more and more companies are switching to a work from home model, either temporarily or permanently. If working remotely is a possibility for you, you may enjoy having that extra time in your schedule and saving money (and the environment) by not commuting at all!

With working from home becoming more prevalent, you may be interested in remodeling a certain room as you will be seeing it more often or even working in an office room. Creating a nice work environment from home can make work much more enjoyable, keep you working productively, and potentially increase your homes value! 

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Written By Katie Finn