Chart of the Day: Airport Travel Time for US Cities, Transit vs. Cabs

Here’s a chart from Doug Mack’s Twitter feed and FiveThirtyEight (thanks Jeb!):


The yellow is the drive time  from the airport to downtown (with a 10-minute wait, which makes all the difference) and the blue is the transit time. It’s rare to see Minneapolis at the top of a list, and this one is actually pretty cool! Check out some of the disaster airport travel times at the bottom.

Anyway, good job Blue Line!

PS. I’m not sure where this chart came from. If anyone can send a link, I’ll add it.

8 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: Airport Travel Time for US Cities, Transit vs. Cabs

  1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    Not that I’ve cabbed from there too often – the biggest obstacle to me is the ridiculous cost of local cabs – but I’ve never had to wait for a taxi at Terminal 1. Maybe because of the cost?

    But I think they might be over-estimating the wait time for the Blue Line too, which really is a fast, cheap and easy way to get downtown.

    1. Jeb RachJeb Rach

      Yeah, the original article does have some detail on how they’re calculating it. Essentially, they picked 6 random times throughout the day (8 a.m., 10:08 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 2:52 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.) and then looked at what time the quickest option would arrive at City Hall. The average of those six travel times (including waiting time) equals the time to get downtown. The taxi was simply Waze travel time during those times + 10% extra time (since Waze didn’t differentiate weekdays and weekends) + 10 minutes.

      MSP turns out well because the light rail is convenient and fast and goes pretty much directly to City Hall. I’m sure if it was a random not-downtown point (or even something on the south end of Nicollet Mall) it’d look a fair amount worse.

  2. Anon

    I do MSP to Chicago several times per year (downtown to downtown) and I always use public transport if I’m going alone. In groups, people always want to Uber. I usually go to ORD, but the orange line to MDW is even faster.

    I always direct my out-of-town vendors to take the train to the airport. Many find public transport to be a novel experience and feel like they’ve discovered something new. Lots of road-warriors take uber from the airport, not because they want to save time, but because they don’t want to think about navigation.

    Sometimes my out-of-town-guests arrive in MSP airport and arrive downtown (where I live) with a rental car. Then, I have to figure out where to put the car for the duration of their stay. Expensive waste of time.

    I wonder why they pair San Francisco to Oakland airport, not SFO. Either way, I think public transport is faster than the times they list to either airport -if you take the Bart. By bus, it’s a long haul from SFO, and IIRC, the bus fare is doubled when you go to the airport rather than two downtown. So, might as well take the BART back if you are traveling to SFO.

  3. Aaron IsaacsAaron Isaacs

    I think some of their info is out of date. Dallas opened its LRT to DFW at travel time to downtown is 50 minutes. Denver opened the commuter rail to the airport and it’s 37 minutes from Union Station.

  4. GlowBoy

    I frequently ride Portland’s MAX line between PDX and downtown, and take issue with their 60 minute figure. It’s exactly a 40 minute ride to Pioneer Square, arguably the most “central” downtown stop. That means they’re figuring an average wait time of 20 minutes (which in turn means an average headway between trains of 40 minutes).

    That makes no sense. MAX doesn’t run on the nifty 10 minute intervals of Twin Cities MT trains, but headways between MAX Red Line trains don’t even reach 30 minutes except after 10pm and before 6am. Maybe picking six “random” times through the day isn’t a very fine-grained method of figuring out wait time. A better method would be to look at median headways during common travel hours and divide by two.

    Also, pairing SNA with Los Angeles is absurd; no wonder it shows the worst result. No one would attempt that. If your destination is central LA and transit is an option, you fly into LAX or Burbank, not Orange County. It’s too far away. You only fly into SNA if your destination is Orange County or San Bernardino county. SNA-to-Los Angeles makes about as much sense as pairing Rochester airport with downtown Minneapolis.

    As for the San Francisco-OAK pairing, I can see that. SFO is also listed, and paired with San Francisco. Flying into Oakland (or San Jose) airport may make sense for SF-bound travelers, and I have done so myself, finding it (as with Burbank/LA) to be often a cheaper and lower-hassle option.

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