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STRATEGY

When You Fly, Take the Train!

Taking a second look at travel to and from the airport can help you save big.
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For the budget-conscious businessperson, managing the cost of travel is more than savvy shopping for discounts on big-ticket items like airfare and hotel rates. The real killers are in the details. (If you have ever dropped $50 on cab fare from the airport to downtown, you know what I mean.) The time spent using ground transportation is not a trivial factor. Just consider the amount of time and money you spend in relation to your flight time and costs:

A seven-day advance-purchase roundtrip ticket from San Francisco to Newark costs about $300 and takes about five hours and 16 minutes. Not bad, but that's not where the costs (in time and money) end. You can still find yourself shelling out nearly as much once you're on the ground. Roundtrip cab fare from Newark to midtown Manhattan will cost about $100 and, assuming the inevitable heavy traffic, will take about one hour in each direction. You've now just spent a third of your airfare and 15 percent of your travel time on that cab.

You have options. Consider the Newark AirTrain, which runs $11.55 for a one-way ticket and takes about 35-45 minutes in travel time to Penn Station. From there, you can grab a cab or walk to your hotel. (By the way, if the taxi line is dauntingly long at the station, just walk around the corner to Seventh or Eighth Avenue) That's just 3 percent of your airfare and less than 15 percent of your travel time. You will save about $75 by taking the train.

Riding the rails has become an increasingly reliable option in many of the nation's largest urban areas and at most trafficked airports. Today, nine of the 30 busiest U.S. airports offer a rail service option to and from major downtown centers. Three -- Newark, JFK and SFO -- just launched their services in the past two years. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport expects to feature light rail service to downtown Minneapolis in October 2004. Dallas-Fort Worth Airport has scheduled light rail service for completion in 2008. And Miami International Airport hopes to add rail service around 2012.

The bottom line is that if you are interested in saving money -- and in most cases, time and hassle -- take the train. For a birds-eye comparison, check out the accompanying table showing how cab fare and travel time line up with train fare and travel time at nine major airports. One caveat: train travel time does not include wait time for scheduled trains, which in some cases can add 15-30 minutes.

Airport/City Cab Fare (does not include tips) Travel Time via Cab Train Fare Travel Time via Train Rail Service
Hartsfield to Atlanta $25 20 minutes (30 minutes rush hour) $1.75 16 minutes MARTA
Logan to Boston $15-$20 20-25 minutes (45+ minutes rush hour) $1 15 minutes MBTA Subway
O'Hare to Chicago $33-$37 30 minutes (40+ minutes rush hour) $1.50 45 minutes CTA or Metra
National to DC $8-$17 10 minutes (15 -20 minutes rush hour) $1.20 15 minutes Metrorail
Dulles to DC $44-$50 45-60 minutes (up to 2 hours rush hour) $10.50 55 minutes Metrorailvia Washington Flyer Shuttle
Newark to Manhattan $38-$58 35 minutes (1 hour rush hour) $11.55 35 minutes AirTrain via New Jersey Transit or Amtrak
JFK to Manhattan $39 45-60 minutes (1.5 hours rush hour) $7.00 to $11.75 35-65 minutes AirTrain via LIRRor subway
Philadelphia Airport to Philadelphia $20 20 minutes (25-35 minutes rush hour) $5.50 15-20 minutes SEPTA
SFO to San Francisco $39 20 minutes (40-60 minutes rush hour) $4.70 30 minutes BART

Remember: Not all train-to-plane experiences are created equal. Riding New Jersey Transit with luggage during rush hour can be, at best, trying. In this case, you may be better off opting for the slightly more expensive Amtrak option.

If you are looking for more helpful tips and information on saving time, money and hassle in business travel grab a copy of my book The Business Travel Almanac!

About the Business Travel Almanac: Praised and recommended by the New York Times, the Business Travel Almanac is a must-have tool for any serious business traveler.

Content is extracted from the Business Travel Almanac (ISBN 0-7897-2934-2, $19.99 USD, Que Publishing) with permission from Pearson Education.


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Last updated: Jun 1, 2004




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