Metro’s Airport Direct service

The good news is that the people who use Metro’s Airport Direct service from downtown to IAH really like it. The bad news is that not nearly enough people use it.

The scarcity of passengers on the Airport Direct service has prompted Metropolitan Transit Authority leaders to consider changes such as limiting the service to peak hours, reducing trip frequency and picking up passengers at multiple downtown locations, officials said.

“We think this is a service that is valuable,” said George Greanias, Metro’s president and chief executive officer. “We just need to figure out a more cost-effective way to do it.”

Airport Direct, launched in August 2008, costs Metro $1.9 million a year and yields about $452,000 in fare revenue, for a net cost of just under $1.5 million, according to figures provided by the transit agency. Fare for the service is $15 each way, or $10 with a Continental Airlines boarding pass or other proof of travel.

The buses depart daily every half-hour from 815 Pierce to the airport’s terminal C and back — a total of 60 daily, one-way trips. The first bus leaves downtown at 5:30 a.m. and the last leaves the airport at 8:40 p.m.

In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, an average of 114 riders per day, or 1.9 per departure, used the service. The buses seat 52.

Doing the math, if 114 people take it daily and that generated $452K in fares, then the average fare is $10.86; in other words, nearly everyone gets the discount. Assuming that same average fare, Metro would need 479 riders per day to cover the $1.9 million annual cost. That’s eight riders per bus, which ought to be achievable. Even if everyone paid the lower $10 fare, only 520 riders per day – less than nine per bus – is needed to cover the nut. I don’t know how much of getting that is marketing and how much is tweaking the service, perhaps so that it has more points of departure, but it really ought to be doable.

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2 Responses to Metro’s Airport Direct service

  1. Peter Wang says:

    METRO has not taken into consideration the first mile / last mile problem.

    I can get picked up / dropped off at the exact location I am going Downtown for $23 from SuperShuttle, one-way to/from IAH.

    That extra $8 I pay to use SuperShuttle… is worth its weight in gold, relative to what I would have to do if I wanted to use METRO. I’d have to get me and 40 lbs of bags to METRO (rollaboard suitcase and my heavy engineering laptop computer), then wait to make the connection. How much of a cab ride would $8 buy? And I’d still have to connect.

    Sorry, I’m way out in front if I use SuperShuttle.

    And SuperShuttle will go door-to-IAH to any far-flung suburb, too. METRO will never do that.

    METRO should partner with SuperShuttle somehow to get SuperShuttle users to get on METRO, once they’ve made it to their Houston destinations and need to get around.

  2. Pingback: Metro tries again with Airport Direct service – Off the Kuff

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