Airport Transit System

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Airport Transit System
Airport Transit System (logo).png
19960524 03 O'Hare Airport (5437782448).jpg
Type People mover
Locale O'Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois
Termini Airline Terminal #1 (westbound)
Remote Parking (eastbound)
Stations 5
Opened May 6, 1993[1]
Owner Chicago Airport System
Operator(s) Chicago Airport System
Character Elevated
Rolling stock 15 VAL 256-type cars
(12 in service)
Line length 2.7 mi (4.3 km)
Track gauge 1,880 mm (6 ft 2 in)
Operating speed 50 mph (80 km/h)
Route map
Consolidated rental
car facility
Mannheim Road
Remote parking
Terminal 1
Terminal 2
CTA station
Terminal 3
Blue Line
Terminal 5
The O'Hare Airport Transit System with the on-airport Hilton Hotel in the background

The Airport Transit System (ATS) is an automated people mover system at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. The 2.7-mile (4.3 km) system was built by Matra at a cost of $127 million,[2] and began its operation on May 6, 1993.[1] It can accommodate up to 2,400 passengers per hour.[3]


The ATS normally runs 24 hours a day, but ongoing extension/modernization of the ATS requires the shutdown of the ATS from 2200 - 0800 the next morning. Shuttle buses provide service when the ATS is not running. The ATS/shuttle bus service is free and connects the terminals to remote parking and rental lots. Each ATS station is fully handicapped accessible, and features access to the elevated ATS tracks.[4]

The entire system uses platform screen doors, which means that all the stations are enclosed with doors along the boarding area. When the train arrives at a station, the doors of the train and the station align and open in sync with each other. This method prevents people from leaving the platform, falling on the tracks or tampering with restricted areas. Climate control is also ensured since the four terminal stations are directly connected to the airport.

Trains are operated with either two or three cars depending on the expected load [5], and each car can hold 57 passengers, most of them standing, and 8 seated.

The previous bus system took twice as long when traffic was light, and even longer during congestion.[2]


The system has two tracks, and each train stops at all five stations traveling in both directions. Its west end is at Terminal 1, at the west end of the terminal core, and makes a counterclockwise loop around the parking garage, with stops at Terminal 2 and Terminal 3. Parking Garage A (the main garage) is accessible from any of the three terminal stations, as is the O'Hare station of the CTA's Blue Line. Parking Lots B and C are only accessible from Terminal 1 and 3 stations, respectively.

Outside the terminal loop, the ATS travels east to Terminal 5, currently the airport's international terminal. It then turns north, crosses over the main access road and Blue Line, and reaches Parking Lot E. The station also features a Pace bus stop and a "Kiss 'n' Fly" drop-off area. A shuttle bus also connects this station with the O'Hare Transfer station on the North Central Service, providing Metra service to Union Station inbound and Antioch outbound during service hours.[6]


The ATS uses the French-based VAL technology, which features fully automated, rubber-tired people mover cars. The system is capable of traveling at speeds of up to 50 mph (80 km/h), and was the first to use the 256-type vehicle, named for its width of 2.56 m (8 ft 5 in).[7] The airport originally obtained 13 256-type cars to be used in the system, and two additional cars later were purchased from Jacksonville, Florida's JTA Skyway after the Jacksonville Transportation Authority decided to switch to a more cost-effective technology. Out of the system's 15 cars, only 12 of them are utilized at any moment, with three held in reserve.[8] Currently, the ATS is one of two systems in the world to use the 256-type cars, with the other being the Wenhu Line of the Taipei Metro.[7] Bombardier has been awarded a contract to replace the present cars with 36 Innovia APM 256 vehicles.

Reconstruction and extension[edit]

As part of a larger, $782 million project involving 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 INNOVIA vehicles,[9] upgrading the previous infrastructure, and extending the line 2,000 ft (610 m)[10] to the new consolidated rental car/parking facility across Mannheim Road where lots F and G were prior to construction. The ATS normally operates 24 hours a day, but the rehabilitation requires the shutdown of the ATS from 2200 - 0800 the next morning. Free shuttle buses provide service when the ATS is not running.[4]

The ATS extension will end at a new integrated multi-modal transit center, a facility that will completely alter ground access to O'Hare. Rental customers will proceed to the new transit/rental center, as will customers seeking shuttle transportation to off-airport hotels or parking; travelers accessing long-term parking will also take the ATS. All shuttle bus service to the terminals will end with the opening of the integrated transit center, eliminating 1.3 million vehicle trips a year into the terminal core. The center, scheduled for completion in late 2018, is a five-level, 2,500,000-square-foot (230,000 m2) structure containing 4,200 spaces for rental cars and offices for all airport-franchised ("on-airport") rental car firms, as well as 2,676 additional public parking spaces.[11] The center will also connect the ATS to the Metra station; currently, a shuttle bus is necessary to transport passengers between the ATS and Metra. The intermodal transit center and the related ATS extension are being paid for by an $8/day airport-imposed fee on car rentals at O'Hare.


  1. ^ a b Fornek, Scott (May 6, 1993). "Moving Experience Ready at O'Hare". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 4. Retrieved January 16, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Ziemba, Stanley. People Mover Is Getting Around O'hare Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1993. Accessed: January 3, 2011.
  3. ^ "Airport Transit System (ATS) at O'Hare". Chicago Airport System. Archived from the original on September 6, 2010. Retrieved June 14, 2007. 
  4. ^ a b "Notice to all O'Hare International Airport Transit System (ATS) Users" (PDF). Chicago Department of Transportation. Retrieved 12 April 2018. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ "O'Hare International Airport Visitors Guide" (PDF). October 2005. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 27, 2007. Retrieved June 14, 2007. 
  7. ^ a b Gary, Dennis; Art Peterson. "A technology alternative to the VAL system on the O'Hare Airport Transit System (OATS)" (PDF). PB Rail & Systems, Inc. Retrieved June 14, 2007.  Paid subscription
  8. ^ Hilkevitch, Jon (February 19, 2007). "Inside Chicago's plan to get you to O'Hare". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 14, 2007. 
  9. ^ "Bombardier to Supply INNOVIA Automated People Mover System to Chicago O'Hare International Airport". Bombardier Transportation. Retrieved 1 April 2018. 
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-01-07. Retrieved 2018-01-06. 
  11. ^ Spielman, Fran. "Dynamic pricing, frequent parking programs coming to O'Hare Airport". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 12 April 2018. 

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