Getting Around

When determining housing and getting to/from campus, you may want to consider public transportation options, such as the U-Pass. Evanston is a great hub for public transportation that includes buses, shuttles, and trains. Northwestern’s campus is in a good location for accessible transportation, including University shuttles that provide transportation around Evanston and to the Chicago campus.  

Below are listed some transportation options:

Through the Graduate School, graduate students utilize the CTA U-Pass program that provides a reduced fare card used on all Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) transportation (the El system and buses). A mandatory student activity fee of $110 is charged to a student's account each quarter; most of that cost is allocated to the U-Pass.  

The El
The “El” is Chicago’s elevated train system and is probably one of the cheapest ways to get around Evanston and Chicago. It’s operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). You will be able to use your U-Pass on the El. One-way fare options are available as well as multiple-ride passes. There are stations at Howard, Main, Davis, Foster and Central Streets in Evanston. Kellogg is located at the intersection of Foster and Sheridan. The El has different lines that run, and these lines are distinguished by color. Evanston is on the purple line of the El system. Check online for more information regarding the services that are provided.

Please note that care should be taken when riding the El at night. Unfortunately, safety is a concern. Be smart and travel during rush hours when people are present. If you have to take the El at night, try to ride with a friend.

The Metra train is faster and more comfortable than the El, but it runs less frequently and is more expensive. Metra fares are NOT covered by the U-Pass. There are Metra stations at Main, Davis, and Central Streets in Evanston. Check online for information regarding the services that are provided.

There are numerous bus routes throughout Evanston, and the U-Pass provides you with savings on bus fares. The CTA offers several options and destinations and a list of their schedules is found online.

Along with the CTA bus routes, there are also PACE buses. PACE is a suburban bus service that runs throughout Evanston and most other Chicago-area suburbs.

Northwestern University Shuttles
Northwestern offers several shuttles for Northwestern students, faculty and staff. The Northwestern Intercampus shuttle is a bus that takes students to various destinations on the Evanston and Chicago campuses. The shuttle is free to Northwestern students and employees who provide a current WildCARD (Northwestern ID card). The shuttle services run year-round from Monday through Friday, except for University holidays. A copy of the schedule is available online.

CTA bus #201 provides transportation from Ryan Field – lots of parking there! – to the Jacobs Center and other points in Evanston. With your WildCard (NU ID card) you can ride this bus for free through June 30th.

Airport Shuttles 
There are two airports that service the Chicago Community:  O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport.  O’Hare is the closest to Evanston. For transportation to the airport, you may want to consider shuttles. GO Airport Express, a shuttle services for O’Hare and Midway Airports is recommended by Northwestern. They offer a 15% NU discount.  For reservations, call 800-284-3826 and use corporate discount code "NWU", or visit their website.  

SafeRide is a service provided to members of the Northwestern community as a safe and free alternative to walking alone after dark. SafeRide drivers provide rides to and from destinations in and around Evanston. Here is information on service locations. The use of SafeRide is limited to Northwestern faculty, staff and students, and you must have a WildCARD to use SafeRide. Because SafeRide is a safety service rather than a taxi service, they cannot accept large parties. Please consider other options such as walking as a group or Northwestern's shuttle services. 

For those of you in need of a taxi, Susan Jackman recommends the services of 303 Taxi. 303 is a dispatch taxi service. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes there are taxi drivers at the airport who take advantage of those not familiar with the area and the general cost of a taxi. You will be safe using 303.

The phone numbers vary depending on where you are calling from. From O’Hare or Midway Airports, the phone number is 773-763-0303. O’Hare is the closest airport to Northwestern’s campus. For the northern suburbs, the phone number is 847-256-0303.

Driving a Car and Parking on Campus
Students can also drive to campus. Students living off campus and outside the walking zone are eligible for a Northwestern parking permit available from the Parking Office. When choosing a place to live, you should keep in mind the designated walking zone. To be eligible for a parking permit, one must reside north of Central Street, west of Ridge Avenue (not on it) from Central Street to Emerson Street, west of the Metra tracks from Emerson Street to Lake Street and south of Lake Street (not on it).

There is another option for parking on campus and that is parking at Ryan Field, the football stadium. Ryan Field permits are sold during the fall and winter quarters only and cost $25 for the year. CTA bus #201 provides transportation from Ryan Field to the Jacobs Center (Kellogg School of Management). With your WildCard (NU ID card) you can ride this bus for free through June 30th.

Please note: Parking on campus is free after 4:00 p.m. on weekdays and free on weekends.

Obtaining an Illinois Driver’s License
For those who do not have a driver’s license or need an Illinois driver’s license, they should contact the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. Drivers moving to Illinois may use their valid driver's license from their home state or country for 90 days. You may obtain an Illinois driver's license only if you are becoming a legal resident of Illinois. Illinois does not recognize the international driver's license. You must change your vehicle registration within 30 days by completing a form at a Driver Services facility.

The Secretary of State’s Office provides a list of services on their Web site. This Web site has links to “frequently asked questions,” how to obtain a driver’s license and license plates for your car, “rules of the road,” Secretary of State facilities, etc.

International students who are not eligible for a Social Security Number in year one because they are not working would have to apply for a Temporary Visitor Driver's License as a foreign national. There are certain Secretary of State Offices that provide this temporary license, so take a look at the locations provided online. The “Chicago North” facility would be the closest to Evanston/Chicago.

Vehicle Sticker
Like other Illinois communities, the City of Evanston requires all vehicles registered to an Evanston address to pay an annual wheel tax and properly display a valid city vehicle sticker. Every resident must purchase a vehicle sticker for each vehicle registered with the Secretary of State, State of Illinois, to an address within the City of Evanston. Vehicle stickers expire every year.