It’s an exciting time to be in Chicago. With NATO in town there are political powerhouses around every corner, community organizers spreading their messages with megaphones and grassroots protesters practicing their first amendment rights.

Unfortunately, all of this energy has the potential to cause delays and frustrations as you travel to your Chicago Cares projects across the city. There are no direct restrictions at any of our sites, however with security on high-alert for all mass transit options and closures within the Interstate system, it’s a good idea to give yourself extra time to navigate the city.

The CTA has created a helpful webpage where you can find the schedule of necessary bus re-routes. The ‘L’ is expected to run normally since it operates on a private right-of-way. However, an increase in riders may cause some delays, so it’s best to plan accordingly.

If you travel by Metra, be sure to take a moment to review their revised schedules. Metra has implemented a wide range of safety measures during the NATO Summit. Passengers may see an increased law enforcement presence and K-9 units.

In addition, the following safety measures apply to riders of all Metra lines during the three days (May 19, 20 and 21) of the summit:

  1. Riders may be subject to search and/or screening before boarding or while en route.
  2. Riders may carry only one bag not exceeding 15 inches square and 4 inches deep. Boxes, parcels, luggage, backpacks and bicycles will not be allowed on trains. Banned items cannot be stored at Metra stations. They must be removed or they will be disposed of.
  3. Riders may not carry any food on the trains. Liquids and personal effects (such as makeup) must be less than three ounces in size. This includes coffee and other beverages. Breast milk can be carried but is subject to inspection and should be declared during any screening.
  4. Riders may not carry any type of tools, pipes, stakes, wood or weapons, including pocket knives and pepper spray, on the trains.
  5. Law enforcement personnel must identify themselves and present their credentials and any weapons. Armed security guards will need to provide proper credentials and be subject to verification prior to boarding.

Failure to comply with these safety measures or instructions from law enforcement personnel, or attempted avoidance of screening, will result in ejection from the station or further police action.

To get up to the minute information about traveling in Chicago, you may want to consider signing up for Notify Chicago. This free subscription will provide you text or voicemail alerts related to traffic disruptions, weather alerts, health alerts and major incidents.

It may take a little longer but you can still have a great weekend volunteering in Chicago. Just be sure to plan your route, check for last-minute alerts and fill your iPod with some new podcasts to keep things interesting if you end up delayed.

Safe travels!