The US economy this year has been dominated by one story – rising gas prices. From January 3 to July 4 of this year, the cost to fill up your tank in Chicago has increased by 68% on average (EIA 2022). These rising transportation costs affect every driver, but even more so they affect teenagers who are just starting to drive and earn their own money and need a car for essential transportation.
Luckily for teens living in Chicago, there are many alternatives to driving. The Chicago Transit Authority offers 8 train and 129 bus routes, serving 150 stations and over 10,000 stops (CTA 2017), with discounted fares for high-school students. One high-school senior at Walter Payton described how he doesn’t even have a driver’s license, because “it’s so much easier just taking the bus or train everywhere. I don’t have to worry about gas money, traffic, or parallel parking.”
The number of people biking in the city has almost tripled since 2000, with an average of 125,000 bike trips happening each day (Active Transportation Alliance, 2022). This is a fast-growing slice of the population as the city government invests more and more in safer, faster bike routes. Especially in these hot summer months, biking is a great, cheap way to move throughout the city. “This summer I decided to bike everywhere instead of driving, and it’s super easy with all of our bike lanes and is a great workout too,” says Neil Rockey, a 16-year-old Chicago resident. Even for youth who don’t have their own bicycle, the Divvy system boasts over 500 bike racks around the city to borrow bikes for daily tips, for only $10 per month (Divvy 2022).
Chicago was designed around the automobile, which makes it difficult to avoid spending a good part of your paycheck on gas. But with a little bit of ingenuity, there are plenty of other options that await you across the city.