A Multi-Purpose Crosstown Express

Extending the O’Hare Express to the Southside serve the whole city much better—not just commuters and fliers.


A regional train is stopping at Frankfurt airport station in Germany. Woman is rolling luggage to get on train.

Airport express trains are a core amenity in cities around the globe. Here, a “regional” train is stopping at Frankfurt Airport.

O’Hare Express

A Multi-Purpose CrossTown Connector

O’Hare is one of the region’s top traffic generators—yet it isn’t convenient to take a train there. That’s a huge missed opportunity.  Fixing it is critical to the region’s future.

And, O’Hare is key to filling a big gap in Metra’s network: a CrossTown express train that ties separate Amtrak and Metra lines into a unified system.

Trains to O’Hare need to be included in a statewide, integrated rail plan.

Many types of riders will benefit—including air travelers, airport workers, and suburban travelers catching a downstate train.

What an express train should achieve

Map of existing Amtrak and Metra routes with a potential CrossTown Express route overlaid.

One potential Metra CrossTown Express network.

Serve multiple communities

O’Hare Express proposals have been limited to serving the Loop. Yet people travel to O’Hare from all over the region.

By extending the route beyond the Loop—into the southside—Metra trains could serve both air passengers and regular commuters.

Key connecting stations will allow travelers to easily transfer to many existing Metra lines.


Serve many types of travelers

These trains could serve multiple purposes and many types of riders at once—including business travelers, people with lots of luggage, airport workers, and regular commuters.

One option would be to have two types of cars in one train.

A) Economy class—with regular, Metra style seats and luggage racks. Fares would fit into Metra’s regular fare structure.

B) Business class—with more spacious seats, luggage racks, and other amenities to better serve air travelers. Passengers would pay a premium for these seats.

Airport Train Interior shot showing large luggage racks.

Airport / CrossTown Express trains should have larger luggage racks.

Departures board at Shinagawa station in Tokyo showing a departure to Henada airport every 10 minutes.

Trains to Tokyo’s Haneda airport depart Shinagawa Station every 10 minutes.

Be useful for early-morning and late-night flights

That would mean early-morning and late-evening train departures in both directions.

Trains would need arrive/depart twice an hour—at minimum—throughout the day.


Metra train leaving Ogilvie Station viewed from end of platform, 500 W Madison in background.

An Ogilvie-O’Hare shuttle maybe a good place to start.

Getting Started

It’s time for Chicago to move beyond talking about an airport express train and get it done.

Service can be phased in and expanded as infrastructure is added and upgraded.  It may make sense to start soon with a simple shuttle between Ogilvie Station and the O’Hare Transfer station.

Success will require coordinated action from several players—including Amtrak, Metra and several suburbs.  Two parties need to lead the process:

Chicago Department of Aviation

The Mayor should instruct the Department of Aviation to take leadership by designing a new station at the airport and helping to acquire right-of-way.

Illinois Department of Transportation

The Governor should direct the Department of Transportation to coordinate the projects as part of an Integrated Rail Plan.

Key Infrastructure Projects

Some key investments are needed to reach full service levels:

Critical Chicago-Area Projects

These projects are building blocks towards creating the nation’s high-speed rail hub.

The Capitol Building in Springfield, IL

Get Involved

The Illinois General Assembly is debating the future transit and regional rail right now.  The package should include a State Railway Program to invest in bridges, trainsets, and better track.

Learn how you can get involved