Over the last year alone, I’ve taken the train to or from the plane in Hong Kong, Atlanta, Sydney, New York, San Francisco and Washington DC. I really wanna give the new airport train in Denver a go. Ever since United moved its NYC flights to Newark, I’ve been a regular on the trains that connect EWR to Penn Station in Manhattan. Even though I love my Lyft rides, I’m kind of an airport train freak.
A new study examines the speed and efficiency of airport public transit systems worldwide, and finds that – to no one’s surprise – most of the best are in Asia.
The world’s best public transit option is the Tokyo Monorail from Tokyo Haneda to downtown. Rounding out the top five are Delhi’s Airport Express Line in India; the Shanghai Maglev train to Shanghai Pudong; the Shanghai Metro Line 2 to Shanghai Hongquiao; and the Sprinter/Intercity line to Amsterdam Schiphol.
The study by Milecards.com looked at four factors: time saved vs. driving; passenger fares; frequency of departures; and convenience (e.g., availability of luggage storage on trains, etc.).
Looking only at U.S. airports, Milecards.com judged Atlanta’s MARTA to be the best, followed in order by Chicago’s CTA Orange Line to Chicago Midway; Chicago’s CTA Blue Line to Chicago O’Hare; Denver’s new University of Colorado A Line to Denver International; and New York City’s Long Island Railroad/JFK AirTrain connection to Kennedy Airport.
Seeing Atlanta rated as number one in the U.S. made me wish they had included service reliability as a factor in this ranking. I’ve had such bad results in ATL recently that I’ve almost stopped using it. Newark’s NJ Transit/Amtrak connection to Manhattan is not beautiful, but it’s very reliable, at least in my experience. What about you? Please leave your comments below.
U.S. airport public transit has “plenty of room for improvement,” Milecards.com said. “Only six of the public-transport options are generally faster than driving.
Looking only at public transit travel times vs. taxi/Uber/driving times in the U.S., “Just six of the 50 busiest airports are served by transit options that can save time on a typical weekday afternoon, and that’s usually because they bypass a lot of congestion, rather than because they’re fast express lines,” Milecards.com said. “On a good, congestion free day you’d be hard pressed to find an airport transit line in the U.S. that rivals drive times.”
That’s probably why the SFO’s BART train ranked as one of the LEAST time saving airport transit lines in America– the report shows car/taxi rides take 21 minutes between airport and downtown, while BART takes 29 minutes.
The “least time-saving airport transit lines” in the U.S. are led by San Jose, the study found, where taking the VTA Route 10/Light Rail is 216 percent slower than driving (30 minutes vs. 10 minutes). Public transit travel time beats driving at New York JFK, Atlanta, Chicago Midway, Los Angeles (LAX FlyAway) and Oakland (BART), the study said.
By contrast, the overseas airport with the most time-efficient public transit is Shanghai Pudong, where a ride to city center on the 14-year-old Maglev train takes just eight minutes, vs. 50 minutes for driving. (Why? Because that magnetic levitation train can hit top speeds of 267 mph.)
Ranking second and third were London’s Heathrow Express trains, which takes 15 minutes vs. 45 minutes on the road; and London’s Gatwick Express (30 minutes vs. an 80-minute drive time). Anyone who travels to London frequently knows that roadway traffic can be horrendous…especially in the central city, so the cab ride from the Heathrow Express station at Paddington frequently takes longer than the train ride from the airport.
Click here to see the full study results and charts for worldwide and U.S. public transit options.
Besides being generally slow, U.S. airports’ public transit options are facing a growing threat from ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, which provide door-to-door airport trips that eliminate the schlep to a transit station. In recent months, Bay Area airports including Oakland and San Francisco International have been seeing declines in public transit ridership even as passenger traffic at the airports increased. That loss in market share was generally seen to be going to the ride-sharing companies.
Which train to the plane is your favorite? Least favorite? Please leave your comments below.