Home to 2.7 million people, Chicago is a thriving metropolis at the center of America’s Midwest. Known for its museums, beaches, and pizza, the city is also lauded for its accessible transportation services. Chicago’s public transportation system, the CTA, includes a light rail train system, busses, and a commuter rail. The city also offers private and semi-private transportation through cabs and rideshare services, and the city’s two airports connect passengers worldwide. No matter where you may live in the city, there is likely a bus, L stop, or commuter rail stop nearby.
The city has hundreds of amenities, and there are countless animal-friendly transit options pet parents can utilize at their convenience. Cat and dog owners appreciate that nearly every mode of Chicago transportation has a pet-friendly option or alternative. Our Chicago pet travel guide is designed to take you through the city’s most popular transit options to help you determine which works best for you and your four-legged friends.
Chicago Pet Travel Options
Traveling with Pets on Trains and Subways
If you are traveling into or out of Chicago, you will likely need to utilize Metra—the city’s commuter rail agency. This commuter rail services Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake, Kane, and McHenry counties, providing convenient access to the city’s suburbs. The network allows both urban and suburban residents additional access to resources like airports, wildlife preserves, and beaches.
Metra’s pet policy is similar to most commuter rail services: they only allow pets in enclosed carriers, and these animals are only permitted at certain time. Small pets may ride on Metra during non-peak period weekday trains arriving in Chicago before 6:31AM and after 9:30AM or departing Chicago before 3:00PM and after 7:00PM. Additionally, animals are permitted on all weekend trains. As with most modes of public transportation, there is no guarantee that a Metra car can accommodate a pet. If the train is busy or experiencing severe delays, train crews have the right to refuse pets.
Those traveling within the city will inevitably utilize the Chicago Transit Authority’s services. The “L” is Chicago’s light rail service, and it comprises eight lines: Red, Brown, Yellow, Purple, Blue, Green, Pink, and Orange. Several lines run 24/7, and most neighborhoods are within walking distance of a stop, providing unmatched convenience. Adding to that convenience, the “L” has a fairly lenient pet policy. Per the CTAs website:
“Only small pets in protective carriers are allowed on CTA buses and trains. Carriers cannot take up seats, seating areas or obstruct pathways on buses, trains or in stations and must be able to be carried on or by a single person.”
The CTA imposes an additional rule: animals in carriers should behave in a way that does not disturb others. Service animals are permitted on CTA at all times, and operators reserve the right to remove an animal if they act aggressively or pose a direct threat to other passengers.
Traveling with Pets on Buses
Pieces of Chicago are not accessible via subway, and many residents must incorporate bus rides into their routes. The Chicago Transit Authority, in addition to regulating the “L,” also provides a large fleet of buses to service every neighborhood and major road. CTA bus pet policy is the same as CTA “L” policy; small, domestic pets can ride with you permitted they are carried in a closed container. The animal must not disturb other passengers, and the bus operator reserves the right to remove you and your animal from the vehicle if there is a direct threat.
Taxicabs, Uber, Lyft, and Ride-Sharing Pet Travel
If you have an extra few dollars, a taxi or rideshare service is your most convenient option for Chicago transportation. The city’s wide sprawl creates long CTA rides—even if your route only requires one bus or one train. Taxis and rideshare services are widely available, and their pet policies are often forgiving.
Yellow Cab Chicago, which serves the city and surrounding area, does not charge extra to bring an animal. Dogs are not required to be crated, and they can sit next to the passenger if leashed. Similarly, Chicago Carriage Cab Company, which focuses primarily on the South Loop area, allows dogs in their taxis. However, drivers must know if the dog’s size and if he is in a crate prior to pick-up. Blue Cab, another Chicago-area taxi service offering flat rates to the airport, has no restrictions on dog size as long as they are under control of the owner at all times.
Rideshare companies, such as Uber and Lyft, offer alternatives to taxi services. Rather than being charged for the time it takes to reach a destination, these services provide all fee information before you accept the ride. The companies have similar pet policies: they both encourage, but do not require, the rider to contact the driver immediately after he or she accepts the ride request. Alerting the driver to the presence of an animal will allow them to cancel if necessary. When contacting the driver, we recommend including information such as temperament, breed, and whether the animal is in a carrier.
Uber also offers their uberPET initiative, which allows drivers to automatically accept pets for rides without needing the passenger contact. Where available, riders simply choose the uberPET option, which imposes a $2 surcharge in exchange for a guaranteed pet-friendly ride. This service is scheduled to reach Chicago by mid- to late-2018.
Pet Taxi Services
Chicago offers a variety of pet taxi options. These services guarantee a pet-friendly taxi ride. Riders call the Chicago-based company to request a ride, or you can reserve a car in advance using the company’s website. This is a great option for those with larger animals; you won’t be able to bring your Husky on public transportation, and you may have difficult hailing a cab who is comfortable with such a big dog. If this is the case, a pet taxi is an excellent solution.
Pet taxis are often more expensive than a standard taxi or Uber/Lyft ride. Chicago Pet Transport rides begin at $40, whereas Dogs Deserve It rides start at $30. However, companies like Paws & Claws at Lincoln Square offers significantly lower rates—$4 for 0-3 miles one way, $8 for 3-5 miles, and $12 for 5-9 miles. Weekends and holidays incur an additional $10 expense, but this remains the most cost-effective option.
Pet-Friendly Rental Car Companies
If you are in need of private and flexible pet transit, a rental car might be the best, most convenient option. Those needing transportation for a few hours or a couple of days should consider using ZipCar, a wildly popular service in Chicago. Users can reserve cars for anywhere between one hour and seven days, and there are hundreds of stations scattered throughout the city (with a concentration on the North Side). ZipCar requires that all pets be kept in carriers while traveling in their cars. The company also strongly encourages users to clean all pet hair at the end of the reservation.
If you are coming from the airport or need extended transportation services, consider renting a car from one of the city’s pet-friendly rental car services. Hertz, a popular option, recently introduced a pet-friendly initiative geared toward animal safety; if you make your reservation at least 24 hours prior to pick-up, their staff will install protective grills and dirt protection within the car. Budget and Avis allow animals to ride within cars outside of their carriers, and Alamo requires that all animals travel within containers.
If you use any type of rental car, you should note that companies often require cars to be clean upon their return. Driver failure to adequately clean the space may result in hefty fees.
Chicago Airport and Airline Pet Travel Guide
Chicago is home to two major airports: Chicago Midway International Airport and O’Hare International Airport. Whether you’re traveling to Chicago for business or pleasure, these airports are the gateway to the Midwest. Even if you don’t plan to visit Chicago, the city’s central location makes it a popular destination for layovers and flight changes. Each airport has a separate pet policy and animal-related rules, so recommend reviewing our airport guides before planning your trip.
- Midway, the city’s smaller airport, has two pet relief areas. One is located indoors and in a secured location, whereas the other is outside and before the security screening. Though this sounds inconvenient, the airport comprises a single terminal; no matter your flight or airline, the post-security option is easily accessible. As with most airports, pets must stay within their crates or carriers while on campus.
- O’Hare International is one of the largest airports in America, providing direct flights to 217 destinations in North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. The airport is home to four pet relief areas—three outdoor and one indoor. Outdoor pet relief stations are outfitted with grass, gravel, and/or woodchips, whereas the indoor relief station includes fake grass and a mock fire hydrant. Similar to Midway, O’Hare requires all dogs to be kept in carriers or crates while in the airport.
Airport pet policies are often similar, but airlines are known to impose widely varying rules and regulations. We encourage you to research your Chicago airport options, but you should also spend some time learning about your airline. Some providers offer differing pet transit options, while other have banned non-service animals completely.
Chicago is one of the most accessible cities in the United States. The city boasts dozens of transportation options, allowing you the flexibility and convenience necessary to find a transit option that works for your furry friend. No matter your destination, a Chicago transit provider will get you from Point A to Point B without much hassle.