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Travel To Chicago Cheap

From Southeast Wisconsin To Downtown Chicago
For As Little As $8 Round Trip



When people in southeast Wisconsin want to travel to downtown Chicago, whether for a day trip or on business, they typically take the Amtrak Hiawatha service from Milwaukee or Sturtevant. However, if you're willing to do a bit more driving there is a much cheaper way of getting to downtown Chicago.

Amtrak recently raised their Hiawatha fare to $50 round-trip but you can take a Metra train on the Union-Pacific North Line from Kenosha for $19 weekdays and $8 on weekends round-trip. The Amtrak train goes to Union station in downtown Chicago while the Metra train goes to the Ogilvie Transportation Center ("OTC") which is only three blocks north of Union Station near the corner of Washington and Canal Streets.

The Metra train station in Kenosha is approximately 8 miles from I-94 located close to Kenosha's lake front.

Kenosha Metra Train Station
Click to enlarge map

If taking I-94 you can take exit number 342 which is State Highway 158 (52nd Street) which goes straight east to the train station. However, if you approaching from the north your GPS may have you get off at exit number 340 which is State Highway 142 because 38th Street is 45 mph further into Kenosha than 52nd Street so you'll get the train station a bit faster.

Exit number 340 State Highway 142 actually puts you on Burlington Road across from the Mars Cheese Castle. Burlington Road runs into 38th Street which then becomes Washington Road.

Whether you take exit 340 or 342 you'll want to: The addresses of the train station are:
5414 13th Avenue
Kenosha, WI
https://metrarail.com/maps-schedules/train-lines/UP-N/stations/KENOSHA

Kenosha Train Station

Several key things to note about this Metra station:
  1. There is no heated or air-conditioned waiting room.
  2. There is no agent on duty and no ticket vending machines.
  3. As a result of the above you'll have to buy a one-way ticket from the conductor on the train ($9.50 cash only) or by using the Ventra app on your smart phone (the conductor will scan the barcode on your phone).
There is ample parking around the station for $5/day (it costs $8 at the Milwaukee station).

Kenosha Metra Train Station Parking
Parking Lot Entrance on 13th Ave
Click photo to enlarge
Kenosha Metra Train Station Parking
Parking Lot South Of Station
Click photo to enlarge

You pay for parking using one of the kiosks in the center of the station's circular driveway and leave the receipt on your dash.

Kenosha Train Station Parking

There's a walk-way on the north side of the train station that leads to a tunnel. This tunnel is UNDER the Metra train platform. Do NOT go all the way through the tunnel. Half-way through the tunnel on your left are stairs that go up to the Metra platform. On the right is an elevator that goes up to the Metra platform.

Kenosha Metra Train Station
Tunnel Under Metra Platform
Click photo to enlarge
Kenosha Metra Train Station
Stairs To Metra Platform Half-Way Through Tunnel
Click photo to enlarge


Metra Kenosha Train Platform
Metra Kenosha Train Platform
Click photo to enlarge
Metra Kenosha Train Platform
Metra Kenosah Train Platform
Click photo to enlarge

Using the Kenosha Metra station can save you a lot of money but it's not all beer and Skittles. There are drawbacks. Here's a comparison with the traditional Amtrak Hiawatha service.

  Amtrak Hiawatha Metra UP-N
Location Milwaukee Kenosha
Round-Trip Fare
$50 $19 ($8 on weekends)
All-Day Parking $8 $5
Buying Tickets On line or agent Conductor or smart phone
Number of Trains per Day
total in both directions
(Weekdays / Sat / Sun)
14 / 12 / 12 18 / 12 / 6
Approx Train Travel Time 90 minutes Varies by train (90 to 100 minutes)
Facilities Indoors / Agent / Food / Restrooms Outdoors / No Restrooms
WiFi Limited (no streaming) No

The number of trains is based on a mid-2016 schedule so you'll want to check the current schedule posted at the Kenosha station near the stairs or on their Web page for the UP-North line. Note that the travel time for the Metra train does not include the time it will take you to drive to the Kenosha station.

If you like the idea of saving money but really want ammenities like agents, food and restrooms and/or more frequent trains there is one other option available to you. You can drive a little further to the Waukegan Metra station. Trains run much more frequently, it also has all-day parking for $5, and the round-trip fare is only about $15. By comparison, the Kenosha Metra station is 40 miles from the Milwaukee Amtrak station while the Waukegan Metra station is 55 miles from the Milwaukee Amtrak station. However, having driven to both stations I can tell you that it takes considerably longer to get to the Waukegan station because of the truck traffic on US Highway 41, the fact that its harder to find the Waukegan station, and it takes longer to go through Waukegan that it takes to go through Kenosha.

If cost isn't your top concern there are benefits with taking the Amtrak Hiawatha service. Better facilities, limited WiFi and, if you live near Milwaukee, faster overall travel time and the convenience of not having to drive to Kenosha are all factors you'll want to consider. That being said, a $42 savings per round-trip ticket on the weekends is hard to pass up, especially when two or more people are traveling.



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