Why does Google say that the driving distance between O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and Downtown Chicago is 20.5 mi and 1 hour 17 minutes?

It doesn't make sense that a 20-mile drive will take me an hour 17 minutes. Am I missing something?

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  • 11
    That doesn't seem implausible. Chicago rush hour traffic is a nightmare. Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 1:38
  • 59
    I agree this doesn't make sense. In most major US cities, a 20 mile drive around peak hour (which it was when you made this post) would take at least an 1h40m, possibly 2 hours...
    – Doc
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 2:42
  • 4
    I hadn’t realized google was considering the time I did the search. Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 4:52
  • 4
    @IrvingandRalph - as traffic info is not switched on in the above pic, you can't tell if there was a 10-mile tailback on the Kennedy because of an accident, forcing the algorithm to choose a longer route to take a shorter time. Usually, Google presents three alternatives to choose from, one highlighted, 2 in grey [which of course with local knowledge you can use to your advantage, but as a stranger you just have to pick one] BTW, if you're ever in London, expect those times to double ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 13:28
  • 5
    @IrvingandRalph Google is accounting for traffic, you are not. There's a reason it recommended this route: The Kennedy would be worse. Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 18:35

4 Answers 4


Because that's about how long it takes at this time of day during the week.

On that route, in addition to the almost-always very heavy traffic (shown by the red areas on the Google Maps route) there's also frequent construction zones, which are often lane reductions to boot.

Too, this moment on Friday is right in the middle of "rush hour" (a phrase that hasn't been accurate in perhaps half a century). Adjust the Google choices to show a departure tomorrow (Saturday) at the same time, or in the middle of the night on a Tuesday, for instance, and the driving time reduces.

  • 10
    I didn’t realize google was considering the time. Now it makes sense. Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 4:53
  • @fdkgfosfskjdlsjdlkfsf Plus, it's also a holiday weekend, so it may be exta bad Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 17:02
  • 1
    The clue is the red and orange bits on the route. That's signifying current traffic. Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 12:01

Heavy traffic in busy cities is normal. It would be similar if you were trying to get in and out of NYC or Boston or San Francisco at this hour. Is this news?

The smarter way is a perfectly nice train that runs from O'Hare to downtown Chicago straight shot: $5. It'll let you off blocks from anywhere in the Loop, or you can get an Uber at that point.

When you're in a city like this, a car is a huge impediment, an albatross around your neck. Paying hundreds of dollars to rent a car, plotz in hellscape traffic, pay to store it in a downtown parking garage, risk parking tickets if you're not savvy about parking in cities, etc. -- that's a lot of money and time sunk. At least evaluate transit.

I always use transit in NYC, Philly, DC, Chicago and Toronto. Never driven in any of them, never expect to. I'm also fond of staying in hotels right next to suburban train stations for 1/2 to 1/3 the nightly cost of a downtown hotel.

  • 2
    Take 90 to Harlem, to Foster, to 90 (or Elston). 290 is out of the question. Avoid Milwaukee Ave at all cost. Between 2:30~6PM... take the train.
    – Mazura
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 19:48
  • 2
    If u use the blue from the airport. It takes 35 min. Get a day pass $10. Or a 5 dlrs one way. Its 2.50 in other areas. O'hare it's higher. 1 312 836-7000 Transit info. Also 3 n 7 day pass.24/7 blue line. Also red line 24/7. All others shut down around midnight. This is the fastest way. Kennedy a nightmare. Even at night.
    – Pete
    Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 7:35

The red areas show traffic. There is currently construction which adds 12 minutes and there is a road closure.

This graph shows traffic statistics for this route:



You may also have "Avoid Tolls" selected in your Google Maps settings, as that route is using surface roads (River, Harlem) instead of the expressways for the first half of the trip. But, given the time of day and typical delays/accidents on either expressway routes (I90, I294/290) it's possible that was the fastest option.

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