Summary of transportation and transit changes because of NATO summit


The Lakefront Trail will be closed from Balbo Drive to 31st Street. 

The upcoming NATO summit will greatly alter how people travel in the Loop, South Loop, Museum Campus, and Bronzeville areas May 19, 20, and 21 (Saturday to Monday). Travel on the Kennedy, Dan Ryan, and Stevenson Expressways will be affected. Transit agencies and other news sources have posted all the relevant information, linked on this page. If you are traveling to these areas, or normally travel through these areas, spend time reviewing the below webpages. This post will be updated as information changes.

How will these changes affect you?



The CTA expects that all ‘L’ service will operate normally. Existing bicycle rules remain: disallowed on all trains from 7-9 AM and 4-6 PM (although crush loading sometimes lasts longer making it uncomfortable and unwieldy through which to carry a bike).


Metra’s travel page. The restrictions (no backpacks, parcels, closed stations, and others) apply to ALL train runs on ALL lines and seem quite excessive. Metra will be closing an inordinate number of Metra Electric stations on all three days – see closure map (PDF). 5 stations will be closed Saturday and Sunday. 27 stations will be closed Monday. The Chicago Tribune has information on their reasoning.

South Shore Line

Many train runs are cancelled on Monday and other train runs on Saturday through Monday are affected. Read details on the Chicago Tribune or read the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District’s inaccessible PDF.


No notices on their website. The Chicago Tribune reports that Amtrak will increase the number of bomb-sniffing dogs.


Metra is banning on-board bicycles on ALL train runs on ALL lines for May 19-21.

The Lakefront Trail will be closed starting on Saturday, May 19, through Monday, May 21, at 6 PM, from Balbo Drive south to 39th Street. See more details on Active Transportation Alliance’s website. The Chicago Park District is publicizing this alternate route: “The South bound alternate route is Balbo to State Street. State Street to 39th Street back to the trail. The north bound alternate is 39th Street to State and State to Balboa back to the trail.”


See Lakefront Trail information under Bicycling.


CTA’s travel page. The following bus routes are affected (with temporary reroutes): 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 12, 14, 18, 21, 22, 26, X28, 29, 35, 36, 55, 60, 62, 126, 129, 145, 146, 147, 151, 192. Existing bicycle rules remain.


View the Chicago Tribune’s maps. There are many street closings and parking restrictions.

As visitor motorcades move from O’Hare airport to McCormick Place and other event sites, there will be intermittent lane and ramp closures.


View the Chicago Tribune’s maps

Social media

For the most up-to-date information on Twitter, we expect that @CTA, @Metra, @Amtrak, and @ChicagoDOT will provide good information. For updates via radio, there are usual suspects: WBBM 720 and WBEZ 91.5.

Updated May 15, 11:08, to provide new information about South Shore Line. Updated May 16, 11:09, to provide new information about Lakefront Trail closing. Updated May 18, 16:48, to reflect latest CTA bus reroutes (some no longer rerouted, new ones rerouted). 

6 thoughts on “Summary of transportation and transit changes because of NATO summit”

  1. Generally staying home/in the neighborhood.  Not going to go anywhere near the cf downtown.  Working from home on Monday.

    That metra stuff is way overboard.  I understand doing that on the Electric and South Shore that actually go under McCormick Place, but for the other lines?  A commenter on CTA Tattler mentioned that the conductors on the UP North line must be really looking forward to telling the reverse commuters from the north side and Evanston going to the north burbs (ie people whose commutes don’t take them anywhere near downtown) can’t have coffee on the train.

  2. I think the Metra restrictions are really oppressive.  It’s going to cause a lot of ugliness and delays.  I could *maybe* understand this level of restriction for lines going under McCormick Place.  For the other lines, it’s ridiculous.  Seems like they’re trying to ensure that they have as few passengers as possible for the weekend.  

    I don’t think they realize the number of people who use Metra to get downtown to connect to the CTA blue line for O’Hare travel or the orange line for Midway travel.  Some of them come from the far ends of the Metra lines.  All those people are going to be screwed out of one of their best transit options.  How many of them will be forced to drive instead because there’s no other viable option?  Brilliant!

    After a meeting downtown tomorrow night, I’m going to boycott Metra for a week, use CTA for any Loop-bound trips, and mostly do things in other parts of the city. I guess they don’t really want our business.

  3. I need to get to Midway on Saturday morning.  The least hassle transit option would have been taking Metra-Rock Island downtown, then switching to the orange line to Midway.  However, Metra’s NATO restrictions won’t allow for baggage.  I’m traveling light, but a 15″x15″x4″ bag will not hold enough for a long weekend.  One backpack would do, but backpacks are excluded by the restrictions.

    Now I’m looking at CTA bus combinations to see which would be the fastest, with fewest connections.  The idea of spending an hour or more riding buses doesn’t thrill me, but it seems to be the most viable option since Metra is out of the question.

    By the time I get back, the NATO mess will be over.

    1. Would two train lines save that much time?  Trains are faster but you would also have to go a greater distance.

      1. I believe the reliability of the two trains (Rock Island and Orange Line) is greater than the bus. Or at least the perception of their reliability is higher (which is more important to many travelers, and real-time information, while available, is not presented in ways that help people make bus-train, bus-bus, or train-train connections).
        I take that back. There’s one app that does use real-time information to help people make connections. Transit Genie for iOS:

        1. It’s a combo of reliability and comfort.  You never know what your real travel time will be on a CTA bus if you’re traveling more than a couple of miles, especially if that bus route passes any railroad grade crossings.  Using 2 trains instead of 2 buses *is* a longer overall distance, but I can actually read on the trains, making the ride more enjoyable.  

          Buses are the only form of transportation that can give me motion sickness (and I’ve been on boats in some seriously rough water).   🙁  If I don’t attempt to read on the bus, it decreases my chances of motion sickness.  Hopefully the “people watching” aspect of the ride will offer some entertainment.

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