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The Road to/from McCormick Place at HIMSS15

The Road to/from McCormick Place at HIMSS15

When Paul Simon sang “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” he may as well have been talking about leaving Chicago’s McCormick Place. Just like the wry tune goes, Jack, it sometimes seems a lot easier said than done. That’s because of the distance between the convention center and the Loop, where most people stay and want to be in the evenings. It’s just a couple miles or so, but during heavy traffic hours in the morning and evening, the shuttles can feel like a bus trip to Sheboygan.

Yet many attendees of the 2015 Health Information Management Systems Society’s (HIMSS) 2015 Annual Conference and Exhibition will find that getting around will be easier than ever, thanks to a new Green Line El stop. And there is where we’ll begin our list of transportation modes:

  • El Green Line. Many cities have subway systems, but Chicago’s equivalent is in elevated tracks in many locations, which has earned it the famous “El” nickname. Business travelers have long lamented the lack of a close El stop, especially on getaway days when connecting to Midway and O’Hare airports with stacked rollerbags and briefcases. Lament no more, as a new stop went online two blocks from McCormick Place last month. It’s called “Cermack-McCormick Place” on your map. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) runs the El, the bus system for those gluttons for transfer punishment, and is a sister agency to Metra (more on that below) that provides bus and commuter rail transportation to the suburbs.
  • Shuttle buses. There’s no doubt most HIMSS conventioneers will default to this mode of transportation. It’s free, convenient to access and offers networking opportunities the other options don’t. Just be patient in the mornings and evenings when you’re waiting in line with 40,000 of your closest friends, and commuter traffic is gumming up the roadways. Also, save some phone battery to alert your dinner party you’ll be running a tad late.
  • Metra commuter rail. My super-secret favorite for big shows like HIMSS and RSNA. There’s a station below the North Building, halfway down the Grand Concourse. It runs like clockwork and connects to 18th St., Museum Campus, Van Buren St. and Millennium Stations. For free, typically. Just ask the folks at the Chicago information desks on the Grand Concourse, and they often hand out passes for unlimited Metra rides for the duration of the show.
  • Taxis/Uber. If your expense account is bottomless, knock yourself out. Pro tip: Going to McCormick Place, if your taxi is equipped with a wonky credit-card swiper, there’s no way it will work if the cab is dropping you off under Lakeside. Plan ahead with cash or give the driver a heads up you’re going to need to run the card before going into that concrete jungle.
  • Airport shuttles. Several operators working out of McCormick Place can get you to the airport less expensively than taxis when it’s time to leave HIMSS for good. How does free sound? According to the HIMSS site, “Complimentary airport transportation from McCormick Place to Midway and O’Hare airports will be provided Wednesday, April 15 from 4:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. and Thursday, April 16 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.”
  • Water taxi. One of these days, I’m going to do it: Walk to Chinatown, a nice little bit of exercise, and ride the river back up to the hotel. Not this time, though, because it opens up after HIMSS ends. But if you’re hanging around a couple extra days in Chicago, it becomes an option on 4/18.
  • Walking. Yes, it can be done, and you get to see the museums and Soldier Field. In fact, I did it once, having been overcome with Fitbit pique. In a suit, with roller briefcase in tow, from a hotel on the southern border of the Loop. Never again. Chances are, you’re going to need wheels or rails to be “Homeward Bound.”

Photo credit: L Train via photopin (license)

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