Building easy access to the Midwest’s global gateway O’Hare was the world’s "most connected" airport in 2022, meaning it has the most options for connecting between flights. But getting to O'Hare from Chicago, the suburbs, and nearby cities can be a nightmare. Driving...
Few Midwesterners know they can take Metra to O’Hare Airport.
And if they did, they’d find a tiny station, an unpleasant walk to the airport’s people mover, which then connects to the terminals.
This long journey, available only to those who brave Metra’s infrequent schedule, has led to a forgotten station at O’Hare.
It could change if the City of Chicago built a train station directly connected to the terminals..
For inspiration, let’s turn to Dusseldorf.
Like O’Hare should, Germany’s third largest airport boasts two train stations. A local train station next to the terminals offers service to downtown, comparable to the CTA Blue Line. Similarly, Dusseldorf also has a train station capable of handling many types of service, connected to the terminals and a parking garage with a people-mover.
Dusseldorf’s second station is a busy transportation hub – and a model for O’Hare’s transfer station.
To start, the station features a commuter train, which connects directly to Dusseldorf and other major German cities like Essen, Duisburg and Bochum. This service runs at frequent intervals, and could be a model for a future Metra line ferrying millions of annual riders from the South Side, the Loop, and the Northwest Suburbs to O’Hare.
Dusseldorf’s Airport station also supports conventional and high-speed trains from across Northern Europe. Directly from the airport, a passenger can step on a high-speed train and arrive in central Brussels two hours later. The German ICE services also share the station with conventional inter-city trains (like Amtrak) from destinations across Germany.
Beyond serving the airport, the Dusseldorf station allows for quick transfers between the different train services, increasing connectivity for the entire region. In this way, the Dusseldorf area uses the critical mass of airport passengers to build something much bigger – and more useful.
At O’Hare a similar arrangement is possible. In the near future, Amtrak trains from destinations like St. Louis, Milwaukee and Detroit could stop at O’Hare – providing a much-needed service to communities across the region. In the future, high-speed trains could stop at the station, replacing wasteful, inconvenient connecting flights.
Like Dusseldorf, Chicago can enjoy the convenience of facilitating smooth connections through the entire transportation network.
Its time for Chicago to build a high-speed rail station at O’Hare.
O’Hare can do the same
While Europe and the midwestern United States have obvious cultural and geographical differences, HSRA sees lessons from Dusseldorf that could be applied to high-speed rail from Chicago’s O’Hare International. We’d see less congested interstates, more pleasant regional travel and a positive impact on the environment.
Let’s take a page from the airport in Dusseldorf, as well as Copenhagen and Paris – and be ready to support actions in upcoming federal or state legislation that will help bring high-speed rail to and from the Midwest’s busiest airport.
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