Flying To/From/Through Chicago O’Hare (ORD) In 2019? Give Yourself Some Extra Time

by SharonKurheg

Chicago O’Hare (ORD) is a huge airport. In fact, with nearly 80,000,000 passengers annually, to say nothing of an average of 2,400 aircraft operations per day, it’s ranked as the 6th busiest airport in the world.

ORD has four terminals that are connected by an inter-terminal train called the Airport Transit System (ATS). ATS has been running since 1993 and after a few delays, it’s finally in the midst of getting a well-earned rehabilitation.

The rehab goes way, WAY beyond a simple paint job. In fact, as part of a larger, $782 million project that also involves a new integrated transit center, the ATS is undergoing a $310 million modernization and expansion that includes:

  • replacing the existing 15-car fleet with 36 new Bombardier vehicles
  • extending the line about 2,000 ft to the new Multi-Modal Facility
  • upgrading the the previous infrastructure

But to make this reconstruction happen, the ATS, which normally operates 24/7, is 100% out of service through, as of this writing, Fall of 2019. A fleet of buses will take its place until the ATS is back online (literally and figuratively).

From the Chicago Department of Aviation:

The O’Hare Airport Transit System (ATS or “people mover) is closed 24/7 to finalize modernization efforts and expansion of the system.

In order to maintain a travel connection between all of O’Hare’s terminals and parking lots, the CDA will operate shuttle buses to transport passengers and employees between terminals (Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 5) and from the terminals to each economy parking lot (Lots E, G, H); the Multi-Modal Facility, where rental cars are housed; and the Metra O’Hare Transfer station. The buses will operate continuously to ensure prompt and reliable service while the ATS is closed.

If connecting between domestic Terminals 1, 2 & 3, you DON’T have to take the shuttle buses, you can walk. Simply follow in-airport signage.

The CDA is committed to providing a quick and reliable bus shuttle service as the ATS modernization is finalized. The new ATS is scheduled to open Fall 2019.

“Travelers are advised to monitor developments to the situation and anticipate longer transit times between terminals.” Well, that’s the understatement of the year 😉

So take note and give yourself some extra time if you’re going to/from/through ORD; it’s very possible you’re going to need it.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary



JRG March 4, 2019 - 6:32 pm

Thanks. I’m transiting there next month. Good to know info.

SharonKurheg March 4, 2019 - 6:34 pm

Glad it was helpful!

Kye March 5, 2019 - 1:44 pm

Chicago has four terminals.

SharonKurheg March 5, 2019 - 1:48 pm

Thank you. Fixed.

Lara S. March 5, 2019 - 4:30 pm

Bummer. Why not figure out a way to run the buses plane side so people can stop having to go outside to transfer and then back in through security at the next terminal? I’ve had to take those buses before when the train was down and the lines were abysmal with most people just jumping ahead and going to the doors instead of trying to figure out where the enormous snake-like line ended.

SharonKurheg March 6, 2019 - 12:20 am

I wish I knew, Lara. It sounds like a mess.

Zap March 6, 2019 - 12:12 am

The ATS hasn’t been operating since January and only operated on weekends all fall. This isn’t new or timely news.

SharonKurheg March 6, 2019 - 12:19 am

Thanks for writing. For people who keep abreast of what’s happening at ORD it probably wasn’t new info. But for those who will be flying into the airport in the next several months and haven’t had the ATS construction on their radar, I suspect the info was helpful to them.


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