Should You Take Public Transit to the Airport?

Metro station–Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington, DC
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Public transit can be a useful alternative to driving, especially when you are heading to the airport. However, there are times when taking public transportation to the airport is not the best way to get there.

There are several reasons to consider using public transit to get to the airport. In many cases, leaving your car at home can save you time, money, or both.

When Is Public Transit a Better Way to Get to the Airport?

When you are traveling In a high-traffic area, public transportation can be the best option.

City traffic can slow cars and buses down, but subways and light rail systems operate at the same speed all day long. If you are heading to the airport from a high-traffic area, taking the train or subway can save you a lot of time.

Tip: Consider taking the bus, too, if your city offers dedicated bus lanes during rush hour.

You Will Be Away for Several Days

Airport parking fees can add up quickly. If you take public transit to and from the airport, you can save quite a bit of money simply by avoiding those parking costs.

You Must Travel Through a Road Construction Zone

Summer is construction season in many parts of the world, but road construction can affect travel at almost any time. If road repairs are slowing drivers down in your area, taking the train or subway to the airport could be a better, less frustrating choice.

You Have a Reliable Way to Get to the Station or Bus Stop

Most of us do not live right next to a bus stop or subway station. If you want to take public transit to the airport, ask a friend to take you to the station or bus stop so that you do not have to walk a long way with your bags. If no friends are available, consider using Uber, Lyft, or a taxi.

Tip: Use Google Maps to find the best route to the station or bus stop, decide which line(s) to use and order an Uber to get you to your final destination.

When Should You Look for Alternatives to Taking Public Transit to the Airport?

There are definitely times when taking public transit to the airport might not be your best option. The following are some examples of why not to take public transportation.

Your Bags Are Difficult to Carry

If you are taking several pieces of luggage to the airport, or if your suitcases are large and heavy, dragging them onto a subway car or public transit bus might be difficult, especially if you are traveling during rush hour. Subway stations do not always have elevators, so be sure to check.

You Must Travel During Rush Hour

While traveling by subway, light rail or commuter train during rush hour can actually help you save time because you avoid traffic jams. But you will have to contend with very crowded train cars, busy stations and, on rare occasions, overcrowding that causes delays.

If you are traveling by bus during rush hour, you will be stuck in the same heavy traffic that you would face if you drove yourself to the airport, and you will have to pay for the privilege.

Your Flight Is Scheduled Outside of Public Transit Operating Hours

Many public transit systems shut down for part of the night. If you need to get to the airport extremely early or very late at night, buses and trains might not be running when you need them. This is especially true on holidays.

You Are Traveling in a Strike-Prone Area

If you are flying out of a strike-prone city during the spring and summer months, you should have a backup plan in case train operators, Metro employees, taxi drivers, or bus drivers go on strike on the day you must travel.

You Are Traveling by Train or Subway During a Heat Wave

During periods of intense heat, steel rails are more likely to curve out of shape or buckle. Rail and subway system operators must slow down their trains on very hot days to minimize the risk of track buckling. This means that you will spend more time on the train—sometimes a lot more time—to get where you need to go.

You Absolutely Must Use an Elevator

Not all subway systems offer elevator service at every station, either because elevators just don't exist or because elevators are broken and must be repaired. If you can only get to the airport by subway because there is no bus service from your area and you need to use an elevator because you use a wheelchair or scooter or have multiple bags, public transit may not be your ideal option.

Tip: Check your transit system's website for up-to-date elevator outage information.

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