Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Airport Direct on the way out

You can’t say they didn’t try.

Metropolitan Transit Authority officials have decided to eliminate express bus service to George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Canceling the airport service was one of a dozen suggested route changes that were discussed at a public hearing Tuesday. Metro officials concluded after the hearing that they should proceed with plans to end the service, a decision that doesn’t require board approval, spokesman Jerome Gray said.

The service is expected to stop late next month, Gray said. The local Route 102 bus, which also provides service from downtown to Bush Airport, will continue to operate.

Metro president and chief executive officer George Greanias said the agency had worked hard to make the service succeed, including lowering the fare in January from $15 to $4.50 for a one-way trip.

“Our concern for Airport Direct stemmed strictly from the costs of the service versus revenues we could realistically achieve, not its desirability or our personal wish that it succeed,” Greanias said in a prepared statement.

Metro doesn’t have the cash flow to keep trying to make this work. They gave it a shot, and under other circumstances they might have been able to keep tinkering with it, but this was clearly the responsible thing to do.

Which isn’t to say that there couldn’t be some way to make a service like this be either self-sufficient or only in need of a modest subsidy.

Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the conversations with Metro had provided a good beginning for new ideas about transportation service to Houston’s airports.

“I think that what needs to happen now is go back and get all the interested parties to retool, think a little bit outside the box and think how we can put together a good, solid express not only to Bush but also to Hobby,” he said.

Ortale said some meetings are planned in the next two weeks to discuss a future airport bus service.

As long as there’s limited exposure for any public funding, I’m okay with taking another crack at it. It really does seem like there ought to be a way.

Related Posts:

7 Comments

  1. EM says:

    Damn! Excuse the language. As a poor student who nevertheless travels a lot, I depended on this service. Guess I’m back to begging rides from friends, because I’m not about to sit for 2 HOURS on the 102! As IF that is really an option for most people!

    The major problem is still culture. Practically everyone in this city would rather drive their fat a**es around in SUVs than, god forbid, share a ride with a poor person. Ugh. Can’t wait to leave this place some times.

  2. EM says:

    Also want to add that they did not “try everything”. A sensible option would have been a SMALLER bus (that thing was huge, and 95% empty, every time), or even a Metro Shuttle, that ran hourly (most people are willing to arrive a little extra early). Charge $8 – $10. I think this could be profitable with some effort at advertising at the airport and on the IAH webpage.

  3. Ross says:

    EM, you are whining. We don’t owe you a cheap ride to the airport.

    A better solution, that’s market based, would be for the City to kill Yellow Cab’s near monopoly on taxi service, and let a multitude of operators offer jitney service around town. That would make a big dent in the pocketbooks of Yellow Cab’s owners, but I’m not particularly bothered by that.

  4. EM says:

    Ross,

    Your “market solution” might work for people who can afford a $70 cab fare to IAH but not to the people making 20k/year (and we’re a big segment of the population). What is your plan going to do, save me $5 off of that? Great, I still can’t afford it.

    In so much as we have a public transit system that is supposed to serve the needs of the populace, I think I AM owed a reasonable way to get to the airport. But more importantly, it makes NO PRACTICAL SENSE to have it be this difficult/expensive for visitors.

  5. Ross says:

    EM, in a true market situation, the cost of a ride to the airport would probably be $10 or so, because there would be competition. Currently, Yellow Cab has a near monopoly enforced by the City. I find this situation ridiculous, and bad policy.

    You can check out Super Shuttle, which will get you to the airport for $25 or less. Or, surely one of your fellow students has a functioning vehicle, and can give you a ride.

  6. EM says:

    Yes my friends do have cars, but for work and family reasons I travel about once per month and asking your friends for rides gets old fast.

    I’m still not grasping how taxis are going to go from $70 (what I paid in an emergency late-night situation) down to $10. I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen, considering the gas cost is at least a few dollars. If you meant through a ride-share, super shuttle type of program… well I don’t see how a taxi monopoly has any bearing on that. If it were profitable, someone would do it already, isn’t that how your theory works? In fact the exorbitant taxi cost would seem to encourage it. I’m interested to hear how you think the $10 fare will come about.

    There should be a public option. It need not be perfectly convenient (hourly, as I outlined in my second comment above, would be fine), but it should be efficient (high usage when running) and cheap. I agree it shouldn’t be subsidised, but I disagree that it CAN’T be profitable.

    Lastly, Ross — are you a libertarian? How do you classify yourself?

  7. Ross says:

    Taxis cost $70 because Yellow Cab has convinced City Council that that is the price necessary to make a profit. City Council has also granted Yellow Cab what amounts to a monopoly on taxis in Houston. Other than a few limo services, which charge as much as taxis, and the Super Shuttle, there is no competition to Yellow Cab allowed by law. I find that pretty disgusting, as it artificially inflates the price of a trip to the airport, and puts more money in Yellow Cab’s pockets than they would make with competition. The only regulations on taxis ought to be on safety and condition of the vehicle used, and the licensing of the driver.

    I’m generally libertarian with some paleo-conservative tendencies. I believe in transparency enforced by regulation where necessary. As one writer put it, let hem sell snake oil as long as the oil in the bottle was obtained by squeezing a snake, along with a warning that says the contents probably have no use, and may, in fact, kill you. I tend to see government as the solution of last resort, with very few problems requiring government intervention other than to provide transparency and truthfulness. Government also provides a buffer against the tendency of unrestrained capitalism to put human flesh up for sale, and mitigates the desire of the monopolists to use regulation as a barrier to entry for competitors.