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Take the train to the plane (someday)

Tory relates a story of a quick but expensive cab ride from the airport to his hotel in Boston versus a cheap but slower trip back via mass transit, and asks:

What do you think Metro’s trip times to IAH and Hobby will be when the system gets built out? That’s a heck of a lot more than 3 miles. That said, it was obviously a popular route. But I’ll bet a lot of people on that bus were thinking, “Why didn’t I just ask a friend to drive me?…”

Let me turn that question around: How long does it take you to drive to IAH today? On a good day, if I’m simply dropping off or picking up, it takes me about 25 minutes. If I’m driving myself, and parking at the airport lot, add in about ten more minutes to find a parking spot, and another ten to walk to the security checkin. (It’s about the same amount of time if I park in a satellite lot, since I’m dependent on their shuttles to get me to the terminal; that also adds in an extra random luck factor, which mostly manifests itself on the trip home.)

Now, I don’t know what the eventual Metro train to the airport experience will be like. If has limited stops, and drops you off right at the terminal, it will probably be a reasonably short ride. From my perspective, it doesn’t actually have to be faster than driving and parking to be worth taking – if it’s a fairly predictable duration, then I’ll gladly trade a little extra time for losing the frustration that comes with the randomness of parking and shuttling. And needless to say, it’ll be a heck of a lot cheaper.

(By the way, a cab ride between my house and IAH is about $45, tip included. It’s very much a last resort.)

As for the “why didn’t I ask a friend to drive me?” question, all I can say is that going to and from IAH is a big enough PITA that I generally don’t ask that particular favor of others. I figure, however, that when taking the train to the plane is a reality, bumming a ride to the station will be a much smaller burden. Let’s just say that I look forward to the day when it’s an option.

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  1. Cory says:

    How long does it take you to drive to IAH today?

    Do you mean the drive there, or winding through traffic dodging the parking busses that weave through traffic like they’re in the chase scene from the Italian Job?

    Like you, I’ll gladly take a longer commute time to save on cost, and on headache.

  2. Kevin Whited says:

    It takes me about 15 minutes to get to IAH paid parking from Midtown via 59 (one perk of living where I do is that it’s convenient for my travel bug).

    Given Yellow Cab’s prominent if unofficial role in setting airport transportation policy in this city, don’t look for any sort of METRO express solution that will get you to the airport from downtown/midtown in less than 45 minutes. That’s not ever going to happen (and that’s your best case scenario, since METRO’s only existing train line takes that long to cover its 7.5 miles end to end and METRO does not believe in building express lines due to expense).

    An hour is more likely, at best. And I could be wrong, but I don’t see many people making the trip into downtown with their bags, either parking or getting dropped off, waiting to board the train in an uncovered stop, and taking an additional 45-60 minutes to get to the airport, in, say, August in Houston (90 degrees with 90% humidity! what fun!).

    I certainly wouldn’t trade the convenience and ease of access I have to IAH or Hobby for a 45-60 minute (at best!) train commute to the airports for most travel (even though train access would be close for me), and I doubt most Houstonians who live further out than me would either. That’s sort of the point raised in Tory’s post.

    It would make the city more tourist friendly, though. I don’t know if business travelers on expenses would use such a train or not, but I’m guessing not. That’s why I think METRO probably is right to focus on connecting the core before airports.

    Incidentally, the limited-point airport shuttles (i.e. Texans Shuttle) were a pretty good airport transit option, but Yellow Cab needed them to be put out of business so they could take over broader point-to-point airport shuttle operations. Those services were/are at least as efficient/convenient as any rail line METRO’s going to build to the airport. It’s always curious to me if people who want a rail line to the airport have ever used those services?

    Have ya’ll?

  3. Fifteen minutes from midtown on 59? Really? I used to live right near the Shepherd entrance to 59, and I’d swear it used to take me 30 minutes to the airport. Maybe things are better now.

    I don’t recall taking the Texans Shuttle any time recently, but I have recommended it numerous times to folks who were coming in but not renting a car. I never got any negative feedback on it, so I presume it was a decent service.