There’s around 7,000 official medallion holding licensed taxicabs operating within Chicago’s central districts. This makes signalling for a taxicab fairly quick, especially in the busier neighbourhoods. Taxi drivers are also instructed to pick up the closest passenger they see and may not refuse any fare to or from anywhere in the city.
In addition, there are thousands more alternative taxi service providers like private hire, suburban taxi or limousine airport transfers all serving the greater Chicago areas.
Getting to Chicago O’Hare Airport
O’Hare Chicago International Airport is the main airport serving the Chicago area and is located at the furthest northwestern-point of the city. Chicago is the third largest city in America with an estimated population of almost 3,000,000 residents, one of these residents is none other than Barack Obama, the President of the United States himself.
Tourism is an important industry for Chicago, with over 46 million travellers visiting Chicago in 2012. Chicago O’Hare International Airport is the primary hub serving those travelling to or from Chicago. An estimated $31.8 billion dollars was added to Chicago’s local economy through means of tourism in 2011.
Chicago is also home to another airport, Chicago Midway International Airport, which is closer to Central Chicago (The Loop), but acts as a secondary strip for the city mainly featuring lower cost airline providers. Southwest Airlines for example are very active at Chicago Midway Airport.
Taxis in Chicago
As briefly mentioned earlier, there are just over 6,800 medallion owning taxi drivers who work throughout Chicago’s central districts. The city of Chicago regulates the distribution and use of these medallion taxi licenses and every two or three years they auction any unused medallions in order to maintain a consistent number of taxis servicing the streets of Chicago.
The taxi medallion permits are acquired via purchase, lease or rental of a taxi medallion which is then displayed in the top right of the taxi. The operations of these medallion owning taxi drivers are controlled by their own private companies but are administered and standardised by the city of Chicago, Illinois itself.
There are also at least 14,000 other taxi companies who provide airport taxi services within Chicago and offer an alternative to a medallion taxi service. Other preferred taxi options include: suburban taxi, private hire and limousine services. There are, however, additional restrictions or special purposes for each of these services.
The medallion owning taxi drivers are, for example, the only service legally allowed to pick up hailed down fares from the roadside. Although open to roam the city, the medallion taxicabs tend to operate the busier central Chicago districts as taxi services are in higher demand there. This has lead to many alternative taxi companies operating in those areas not served by the medallion taxicab firms.
Depending on the pick up location and destination of your journey, an alternative taxicab service could be the best choice for you. Other taxi services are also a preferred choice when the passenger is looking for a more executive airport taxi transfer such as a limo taxi service or for shared and group taxi transfers.
Airport transfers to or from Chicago O’Hare or Midway airports are a major portion of business for most Chicago based taxi services.
There are so many different types of airport taxi services available that it is often difficult to understand which is the best option for each journey.
Taxi Costs in Chicago
Taxicab fares and rates within the city of Chicago are fixed and set by the Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department of the City of Chicago.
The licensed cabs use a fixed standard rate of $3.25 for any taxi journey, with an additional charge of $1.80 for every travelled mile. Further fees and rates do apply for various other circumstances such as additional passengers, stops or pick-ups and any toll charges that may occur.
Here is an official breakdown of the taxi prices you can expect to be charged:
|36 seconds of time||$0.20|
|First additional passenger (aged 13-64)||$1.00|
|Each additional passenger after the first||$0.50|
|Vomit in taxi||$50|
|Airport Arrival/ Departure Taxi||$2.00|
*These taxi price rates were correct for the city of Chicago as of September 2013.
A tip of 15% of the total fare is considered the standard by many when travelling via a Chicago Cab. If the driver has also gone out of his way to improve your trip, then an additional tip is often also given. However, these tips are only an extra and should not be expected as a compulsory gratuity. If you feel your journey was not efficient or you experienced an unpleasant trip, you are entitled not to contribute a tip. A quick summary would be that an additional 15% gratuity donation is considered the norm but as the passenger you have the right to tip or not to tip as you see fit.
Chicago taxis actually have one of the lowest standard rates for cab fares in the country. An average taxicab fare in Chicago would cost an estimated $12.72. This is much cheaper than an estimated taxi fare in New York or Los Angeles would cost. An average fare is based on a 5-mile journey, which includes 5 minutes of waiting time.
For any length of a journey, a medallion service which drifts into a suburban area of the city would charge an additional 50% of the standard rate. Suburban taxi services are charged at normal rates in these areas so if your trip starts or ends in a suburban postcode, then a suburban taxi service will probably work out considerably cheaper.
Which Airport Taxi Service is best for me in Chicago?
The taxi system works slightly different in the United States compared to other countries, mainly due to the terms used. We suggest reading our guide to understand each type of taxi service so that you know what taxi is best suited to your needs, which will ensure you are getting the best taxi transfer deals for your journey.
Here is a definition of each type of taxicab service:
Medallion Cab – These are the official city cabs which follow strict pricing rates authorised by the city’s taxi service governing body. Similar to a Hackney carriage in England. Also known as Public Hire, Hailed or Street Taxis. City licensed taxis can be flagged down by anyone throughout the city and neighbouring areas. Medallion taxi drivers are required by law to pick up the first or closest passenger they see, they are also not permitted to refuse a fare to anywhere else within the city.
Medallion licenses are bought from the city of Chicago for an average sale price of around $350,000 so far this year, 2013.
Suburban Taxis – These taxicabs are available for pre-booking but are not permitted to wait on the street for their passenger or pick up any hailing fare. They are also restricted by where in the city they are allowed to operate. Basically, if an airport is based within the city centre, then either the pick up or drop off locations has to be located in a suburban district.
Private Hire – These vehicles are often referred to as minicabs or private hire taxis. Private Hire vehicles are licensed for pre-booked journeys only. What differentiates this service from a suburban service is that a private hire is authorised to travel anywhere within the city.
Limo Hire – Specialised rental vehicles licensed for transfers via pre-booking, often used by executive travellers or for a special occasion journey such as a honeymoon. Not necessarily always a limo vehicle, limo hire services can also often provide standard sedan executive vehicles such as a Mercedes or similar.
Taxibuses – Operate on preset routes with preset prices. They travel through multiple stops and often with a shared party of passengers. Similar to a shuttle bus service but in the USA they are also known as Jitneys.
Gypsy Cabs – These are ‘taxis’ that are licensed only for pre-bookings, possibly registered as a legitimate private hire or suburban taxi service but often cruise the streets illegally looking for passengers. Previously commonly referred to as illegal taxis.
Shared Chicago Airport Taxis
A shared transfer includes services such as: Taxibuses, Jitneys and Shuttle Coaches. There are also standard cabs available from designated pickups which allow passengers to share a ride to popular destinations for a fixed flat rate per person.
Shared Taxi Fixed Prices
|From||To||Price per person|
Downtown Chicago is classed as 22nd Street to Fullerton Avenue, Ashland Avenue to Lake Michigan and also includes McCormick Place.
All journeys from or to the airport from a suburban address are charged at a straight meter fare plus 50%. For journeys such as this, the passenger would be better off using a private hire or suburban taxi service.
Group Airport Transfers in Chicago
When travelling in a larger group, the standard taxi or limo services are unable to cater for such parties in a single vehicle. It would be possible for the group to split up and take separate cabs to their destination but a group travel service such as buses or coaches will not only work out cheaper but would also be much more efficient as all are travelling in a single vehicle. Such services can often seat up to 100 passengers although smaller minibus vehicles are available for average-sized group transfers.
Coach and Bus hire with driver transfers are often charged at an hourly rate. Such services are also a great way to travel as a group around there city on various sightseeing tours.
What are Chicago Suburban Taxis?
This type of taxicab service is perfectly legal but does operate with further restriction than an official, medallion holding, taxicab driver. For example a Suburban taxi service is not allowed to pick up hailing passengers from the side of the road. They are also not permitted to wait at the curb for a pre-booked journey.
So, if wanting to travel via a Suburban taxi service, it is important that you ensure you pre-book your journey as well as being outside for the time of arrival. Also, the pickup spot or destination must by law be a suburban area such as Arlington Heights and Brookfield, both of which are located in the Chicago metropolitan area but classed as suburb locations.
For a taxi journey that starts or ends from a Suburban address a suburban service will usually work out much cheaper than a medallion cab. This is because a medallion cab charges the standard rate plus an extra 50% for any mileage in a suburb area.
A suburban taxi service to or from a suburban address would, however, cost considerably less than an official medallion licensed taxicab. If unsure of whether your destination/pickup is in a suburb or not, it is probably worth asking a potential taxi provider.
What to do in Chicago
Chicago is a popular tourist destination. This is mainly to do with all the great attractions within the city.
Chicago’s Magnificent Mile was the nickname given to parts of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue many years ago. The Mag Mile is still as popular today and is well renowned for it’s great nightlife. The Magnificent Mile also includes Chicago’s biggest shopping district as well as many landmarked buildings and towers.
The Skydeck Chicago Experience at Willis Tower, or Sears Tower as it was previously and is still more commonly known as, is another of the more popular events in Chicago. Willis Tower is central to Chicago and a taxi from anywhere within ‘The Loop’ would probably only cost around $4-$5.
The historic original highway ‘Route 66’ which stretches across almost the entire USA actually begins in Chicago just outside the Art Institute of Chicago.
Coincidentally the Art Institute of Chicago is a great attraction for any art enthusiast as they house one of the world’s most extensive collections of post-impressionist and impressionist paintings in the world. A standard taxi fare from Chicago Union Street Station to the Art Institution would cost about $5.