Monday, February 04, 2013

Why Public Transport Beats Airport Taxis

Such a minivan is almost always bloody crowded, but almost 90 times cheaper than a taxi ride to Antananarivo. 

It is often convenient to take a taxi to or from the airport. But there are in my opinion also reasons why you should rather pick public transport. At least eleven of them. 

1. Taxis are almost always more expensive than public transport. That doesn't necessarily mean that taxis are expensive. To take a taxi to or from Antananarivo from Ivato International (TNR) only costs 16 USD, but that is still 87.5 times more than the cheapest public transport option. To or from Newark outside New York, the difference is only 3.75 times. See more examples at the bottom of the article. 

2. Public transport often actually saves you time. In many cities with dedicated train or tram lines, taxis are slower or much slower due to traffic and a longer travelling distance thanks to more turns and hills. The Maglev Train from Pudong International Airport in Shanghai has a top speed of 431 km/h. Unfortunately it stops a little outside the town centre, so you will in most cases have to take a taxi anyhow. Travelling that fast by train is still definitely worth it! The speedometer is visible from all seats, as a bonus and a photo op.

3. If you take a taxi, it is you and your driver. You will not meet anyone else. In a bus or a train you meet new people and get an early introduction to your destination and the culture there from your fellow travellers. If nothing else just by seeing them or overhearing conversations. But you can always be a little more adventurous and ask someone for recommendations.  Most locals are more often than not eager to tell you about their area or country. 

4. Public transport will rarely take you exactly where you are going, as opposed to taxis. You think that is a bad thing? I disagree as long as I am not in a rush. It gives you the possibility to explore a new area on your way to your accommodation, a great way to discover shops, cafes or restaurants that you may want to revisit later. Not to mention the excercise. Keep fit between all those trains, planes and automobiles. 

5. Buses and trains in more and more locations offer free Wi-Fi zones on board to attract more passengers. That gives you a great opportunity to as early and cheaply as possible update your social media statuses or check on your mails.
6. Bus or train drivers won't fool you by taking a detour or overcharging. They follow their schedules. 

7. Taxis don't offer refreshments. Some buses and trains do.

8. There are no toilets inside taxis. It may not usually matter, although it will certainly be essential if you have run into food poisoning on your journey.

9. Public transport is a greener alternative. Al Gore will be proud of you. 

10. You can't walk around in taxis. You can in metros, buses and trains. Unless it is rush hour in Tokyo, Asmara or Mexico, of course. Being able to move may be much wanted after 14 hours in a cramped economy seat.

11. The pressure to tip a taxi driver is much higher than to tip a bus driver. If you give in, the price goes up even more. If you don't, expect a nasty look or a colourful oral reply.

Comparative costs

I earlier mentioned comparative costs between taxis and public transport. So, what is the taxi – public transport price ratio, given that you travel alone? Examples follow below. Among them are Antananarivo in Madagascar where it costs almost 90 times more to go by taxi than to go by bus. That is the biggest difference that I have discovered, although it doesn't mean that taxis are expensive. It only costs 16 USD, going by bus is just dirt cheap.  And many of the taxis in Antananarivo are very cool and worth taking. Old Citroens or Renaults will take you back in time. 

Any better or worse examples from around the world? Please share your comments below. 

Ivato International Airport (TNR) – Antananarivo

Taxi: 35,000 MGA
Shuttle bus:14,000 MGA
Bus: 400 MGA (requires you to walk 150 meters from the terminal)
Ratio: 87.5 (times more expensive by taxi)

Schipol (AMS) – Amsterdam

Taxi: 48 EUR
Train: 3.90 EUR
Ratio: 12.3 

London Heathrow (LHR) – London

Taxi: 60 GBP
The Tube (metro): 5.50 GBP
Ratio: 10.9

Oslo Gardermoen Airport (OSL) – Oslo

Taxi: 890 NOK (if you use the right taxi company and ask for a fixed price in advance – otherwise you may pay double or even more)
Airport express train: 170 NOK (half price for kids, students and the elderly)
Airport bus: 150 NOK (80 NOK for kids, students and the elderly) 
Ratio: 5.9 

Newark (EWR) – Manhattan

Taxi: 60 USD
Shuttle bus: 16 USD
Ratio: 3.75

Any better or worse examples? Please share below.