O’Hare Needs a Train Station

A British Airways A380 is landing at O'Hare.

Building Easy Access to a Global Gateway

Want a fast, reliable, and eco-friendly way to get to O’Hare? So do we. It’s not an impossible dream.

Fast, frequent, and affordable trains are the answer.

man boarding airport train

Most cities have convenient rail links to their airports. Photo: Boarding an airport train in Milan, Rick Harnish.

ORD Paths

An Economic Engine

O’Hare is a critical component of the nation’s aviation network. Its the second busiest in the world in operations.

Over 42 million passengers boarded a flight there in 2019.

So, its not surprising that the City of Chicago and the US Department of Transportation just committed to a $7.1 billion terminal expansion to compliment a recently completed, multi-billion runway expansion project.

The Challenge: O’Hare Is Hard To Get To

It is surprising that so little thought has been given to how people get to it.

Pick your poison: traffic jams or unreliable feeder flights, getting to O’Hare can be the worst part of the trip.

Chicago should protect its investment by adding a railroad station to its expansion plans.

CrossRail O'Hare Tunnel illustration

Unfortunately, a new railroad station was NOT included in the O’Hare AIR21 modernization plan.

Who Would Benefit?

Airport Worker

Airport Workers

Business travelers get most of the attention when trains to O’Hare are promoted.

In truth, they are just one segment of many that need good access to O’Hare.

The good news is that when done correctly, good trains serve many markets at once—including O’Hare’s many airport workers.

Travelers

With the right infrastructure, airport trains could serve a mix of stations around Chicago like Barrington, Blue Island, Hyde Park, Pullman, and Antioch.

Amtrak connections could serve many cities like Bloomington, Champaign, Grand Rapids, Madison, and Indianapolis.

Getting to and from the airport would become easier, more affordable and more reliable.

Man With A Backpack In The City
Puddlejumper On Tarmac

The Airport

O’Hare does long-haul domestic and international flights really well.

So it’s odd that much of its capacity is devoted to small feeder planes that shuttle people to O’Hare from around the Midwest.

Replacing feeder flights with trains will open capacity for big planes and long-haul domestic and international flights.

Because O’Hare earns more landing fees for big planes, the airport will bring in more money.

Since longer flights are more profitable than puddle jumpers, more of them means more revenue for the airlines, too.

Three Steps: Station, Tracks, Trains

1. A Train Station at the Airport

A recently opened parking garage is part of the ongoing O’Hare expansion.

It is also the home of rental cars, hotel shuttles, and regional buses. It connects to the terminals by the airport transit system.

It also happens to be right next to the tracks that host Metra’s North Central service.

Building a new train station into the garage to replace the existing Metra O’Hare Transfer station would be the most expedient way to get trains to O’Hare. Trains from all over the Chicago region and around the Midwest could stop here.

Suburban residents could park here to catch a regional train too.

O'Hare Transfer Station
OHare Access Options

A New Station Under the Field is Also Needed

Ultimately, a new tunnel should be dug under the airport so that high-speed trains from around the Midwest can serve the airport directly.

2. Track Upgrades

By adding track to existing Metra lines, trains from around the Chicago region—and the entire Midwest—can stop at O’Hare.

Coming from Barrington? Easy. Blue Island? No sweat. McCormick Place, Hyde Park, the south suburbs? It’ll be a one-seat ride to O’Hare with our CrossRail Chicago proposal.

And what about those puddle-jumper flights? Trains from Champaign, Bloomington, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, or South Bend could extend their trip past downtown Chicago and take you directly to O’Hare.

With the later addition of new high-speed track, these trains from around the Midwest can even be faster than flying. Until then, trains will definitely be easier, more comfortable, cheaper, and greener than short connecting flights.

Learn more about CrossRail Chicago

Map of potential route of airport express trains linking O'Hare airport to downtown and suburbs.
Airport Train Interior Luggage

3. New Trains

Once the station and tracks are in place, the trick is to run the right kind of trains.

The aging cars that Metra and Amtrak use today require you to climb stairs, which is difficult when you’re carrying luggage.

Modern train equipment has bigger doors with fewer or no steps to climb. New trains have luggage racks near the doors and wide aisles that make it easy to get on and off. They also have spaces for bikes and are easier for people who use wheelchairs or crutches.

With modern locomotives, trains are quieter, cleaner, and more fuel-efficient. Or, the trains can have the engines distributed throughout, so a separate locomotive isn’t needed. Either way, modern train designs start and stop faster, and they’re safer, too.

Learn more about airport trains

High-Speed Rail is a Game Changer

A midwest high-speed rail network would put 45 million people within a 3-hour train ride of O’Hare.

Most trips will take much less than that, of course. Instead of idling in traffic jams or sitting in the airport and on runways, travelers can work on the train—or just relax.

And, because O’Hare charges more in landing fees for big planes than small ones, Chicago will also bring in more money. That’ll help pay for the airport’s ongoing expansion project, while allowing O’Hare to do what it does best: focus on long-haul flights. Since longer flights are more profitable than puddle jumpers, more of them means more revenue for the airlines, too.

The infrastructure that makes this possible also means better trains between O’Hare and the rest of Chicagoland.

Learn more about 220 HSR in the Midwest

300 South Rendering

You Can Help

Our immediate goal is to get trains from around the Chicago region and the Midwest running to and from O’Hare.

The ultimate goal is to create a regional high-speed network with the airport at its heart.

How does starting with O’Hare lead to our big vision? See our Illinois Fast Track Initiative, which includes CrossRail Chicago, the “spine” of the regional network.

Ready to take the train to your plane? Send a message today. We’ve made it easy to tell your elected officials in Washington, D.C. (and Springfield, Illinois) that O’Hare needs trains!

The Latest from HSRA

Our Latest Blog Posts

Check out the latest news, updates, and high speed rail insights from our blog!

What is needed to go fast?

What is needed to go fast?

The speed at which a train can travel is limited by the type of track it travels on. Bringing high-speed rail to North America will require building new high-speed lines that can accomodate frequent 200+ mph service. These new high-speed segments connect to and...

Making Shared-Use Work

Making Shared-Use Work

Change Relationship between States, Amtrak and Railroads Unlike Europe and Asia, most of the rail infrastructure in the U.S. is privately owned. Amtrak and other publicly-owned passenger railroads must negotiate with privately-owned railroads for use of their lines....

Needed Policy Changes

Needed Policy Changes

Building high-speed rail with the Phased Network Approach requires that we change some of the long-standing policy assumptions that have hampered passenger rail in the United States. Today, high-speed rail and conventional passenger rail are seen as two separate...

What makes high-speed rail successful?

What makes high-speed rail successful?

High-speed trains dramatically shorten travel time between stations. This effectively expands the areas that each station can serve.Speed is just the first ingredient Taking a train makes more sense if the travel time is competitive with flying or driving. What...

It’s a Beautiful Country

Let’s see it. Let’s clean it. Let’s build it. Let’s make high speed rail a reality.

Donate Today