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March 21, 2005

“The Airport Shuffle”

They used to say that “getting there is half the fun”. Whoever “they” were, they haven’t endured the challenges and indignities of air travel post-9/11.

Even getting to the airport can sap your strength, if not your wallet. Consider the alternatives.
A car service is certainly convenient. But at $120 one way to LaGuardia and $140 to JFK, getting to the airport can cost more than your air fare. Couldn’t solo travelers share a car with others? Is one passenger in a Lincoln Town Car an efficient use of limited space on I-95?

How about Connecticut Limousine? Now there’s a misnomer! Since when is a bus or cramped van a limo? And try explaining that receipt on your expense account to an out-of-town client.
On a few occasions I’ve actually rented a car at the airport, driven home and then dropped the car the next day in Stamford. A day’s car rental is about half the cost of a car service. OK… so call me cheap.

Some regular flyers hire neighborhood teens to drive their own car to the airport, drop them off and drive home, repeating the process on their return. That’s cheaper than a car service, but puts a lot of miles on your car.

My preferred airport transfer is in my own car. Airport parking is $24 a day ($10 - $12 a day in more distant long-term parking.) Not cheap, but certainly convenient. And nobody complains about my pre-flight cigar enroute to the airport.

Another alternative, believe it or not, is Metro-North. Get off at 125th Street and catch a cab and you’re at LaGuardia in about 15 minutes. Future plans call for some Metro-North trains to travel over the Hells Gate bridge, through Queens and into Penn Station. That could be a great chance to add a LaGuardia station with shuttle bus service to the terminals. But it’s a rail link our kids might see in their lifetimes, not ours.

And if you’re heading to Newark, definitely consider Amtrak. Most Northeast corridor trains stop at Newark Airport where a convenient connection to the airport monorail has you at the terminals in just minutes.

The proponents of ferry service on Long Island sound keep tempting us with talk about direct service to LaGuardia, but I’ll believe it when I see it. The old Pan Am Water Shuttle couldn’t make a go of it carrying business flyers from the Marine Air Terminal to midtown, so I’m skeptical that operators could fill ferry boats to Stamford and Norwalk. And do you really want a sea cruise in the winter?

Mind you, New York’s three airports aren’t the only choices. Westchester County airport offers non-stop jet service to many hub cities. Bridgeport’s Sikorsky airport used to get you to such cities as Philadelphia and Newark, but expansion of both of these airports is challenged by local residents. Hartford’s Bradley Airport offers another alternative, including low fare carriers like Southwest… if you don’t mind a two-hour drive.

Clearly, the trip to and from the airport can start and end a trip on a very sour, and expensive, note.




JIM CAMERON has been a commuter out of Darien for 14 years. He is Vice Chairman of the CT Metro-North / Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council, and a member of the Coastal Corridor TIA and the Darien RTM. You can reach him at jim@camcomm.com or www.trainweb.org/ct

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