Your guide to public transit on campus, in Evanston and around Chicago


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Northwestern’s shuttles and Chicago’s public transit system give you plenty of options for getting around Evanston and the windy city.

Saul Pink, Reporter

The abundance of public transportation in Evanston and Chicago will help you move quickly around campus and head downtown to explore the U.S.’s third largest city. But with seemingly endless transit options, finding the quickest and most cost-efficient ways to get around can be daunting.

Northwestern offers two shuttle routes — the Evanston Loop and the Campus Loop  — for when you don’t feel like walking across campus or making the trek to downtown Evanston. The Campus Loop goes from North Campus to downtown Evanston, while the Evanston Loop includes other parts of the city. Both shuttles run from 6 p.m. into the night during the academic year, except for early fall and late spring when the Campus Loop starts at 9 p.m.

These shuttles are free – just show your Wildcard when you get on. 

When temperatures enter the single digits or there’s a wind chill below zero, both buses offer a Frostbite schedule throughout the entire day, so you can get to your class across campus without facing the cold.

NU also offers Safe Ride, which is essentially a free late night Uber. Safe Ride is available from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. via the Northwestern Safe Ride app and covers all of campus and the surrounding areas. On busy weekend nights, wait times can be very long, so you may want to order your Safe Ride in advance of when you want to go home.

Northwestern’s Student Game Day shuttles go from campus to Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan Arena if you want to cheer on the Wildcats without walking more than a mile. 

NU students can get from campus to downtown Chicago for free on the Intercampus shuttle. The shuttle operates in the daytime on weekdays with stops around Evanston and near Loyola University Chicago. It continues to downtown Chicago, with the only stop being the Feinberg School of Medicine’s Ward Building – a 15-minute walk to Navy Pier and a 30-minute walk to the Bean. 

The TransLoc app tracks these various shuttle routes in real time, but is often a few minutes off, so you should show up to the bus stop a few minutes before the app projects the shuttle to arrive.

Chicago also boasts one of the most robust mass transit systems in the country, the Chicago Transit Authority.

The “elevated” trains – known as the “L” – can get you from Evanston to many of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. Evanston’s Noyes station is closest to North Campus, while the Foster and Davis stations are closer for South Campus residents. If you’re looking to get to Chicago, board the Purple Line toward Howard station, and switch to the Red Line at Howard to travel throughout the city. The Purple Line has an express service to downtown Chicago on weekdays.

One ride on the “L” costs $2.50. Any NU student can get a free University-issued Ventra card instead of buying a new card at a station for $5. 

CTA buses offer an additional way to get around the city. A University-issued Ventracard gets you free rides on the CTA 201 bus, which goes from the Howard CTA station to the Westfield Old Orchard Mall in Skokie, with stops throughout Evanston. 

The Ventra app is essential for navigating public transit at NU. Not only can you track your favorite train and bus lines, but you can add transit passes to your card. 

The Metra is a commuter train that travels to Chicago from surrounding suburbs. To get from Evanston to downtown Chicago, board the Union Pacific North Line at the Davis Street station and take it to the Ogilvie Transportation Center. While the Metra costs more than the CTA, it can zip you from downtown Evanston to the Loop in less than 30 minutes. 

If you’re unsure of the best route, Google Maps is a good place to look. It will map out a few routes to choose from and you can customize it based on when you’d like to depart and arrive. 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @saullpink

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