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...
O’Hare is the Midwest’s global gateway and single greatest transportation asset. As a hub for both United and American airlines, it offers nonstop service to about 150 domestic and 60 international cities.
O’Hare and the airlines could serve customers even better—and maximize their revenue—by offering more long-haul flights, especially international flights. These generate much more income than short regional flights, but the challenge is that O’Hare is capacity limited. The Federal Aviation Administration monitors its air-traffic demand and must approve its schedule.
Trains can help solve this challenge by connecting O’Hare to scores of communities across several states. European cities have already demonstrated the power of this model. In cities that have strong air-rail links, the evidence shows a significant substitution effect—trains for planes—for flights up to about 600 miles. That is, when people have the option of taking a fast train to the airport, short-haul flights decline—but passenger traffic and the total number of flights increase. Long-haul flights drive the increase.
Each day, there are about 175 departures to cities within 350 miles of O’Hare. Many of these short flights could be replaced with fast, frequent, and affordable trains, which would open up runway space for high-value, long-haul flights—especially international flights.
And there are great opportunities for the airlines to partner with rail operators to provide seamless connections between travel modes. For example, customers could buy a single ticket good for both legs of their journey—the train and the flight—which would make the whole experience of getting to the airport even more convenient and low-stress.
It’s time for Chicago to build a high-speed rail station at O’Hare.
It’s time to build 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 means navigating congestion and high parking fees. Feeder flights are infrequent, unreliable, and inefficient.
Millions of people need a better way to get to O’Hare: executives in downtown Chicago, students in Champaign, orthopedic device designers in Warsaw, Indiana, and many others. We all want a fast, reliable, and low-stress way to catch a flight.
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