Nerdy Thoughts about Driving to the Airport

How do you get to the airport? Most major airports have at least two options: driving and taxis. Some airports have public transit services (either by rail or local bus).

On my last trip to the airport, I started thinking about evaluating the cost for each option. I crunched some numbers based on the airport that serves my home, Savannah Hilton Head International (SAV). It is 11 miles from downtown, and has a public transit option provided by Chatham Area Transit. (Full disclosure, I work for this transit agency.)

There are two key variables that impact the ground transportation costs: the number of passengers and the length of the trip. The table below assumes that trips last two days, parking costs $8 per day, and all trips begin & end downtown. You can view the table in google docs.

Mode Passengers Cost per Passenger Premium
Transit 1 $8.00 n/a
Drive 1 $17.50 119%
Taxi 1 $60.00 650%
Transit 2 $8.00 n/a
Drive 2 $8.75 9%
Taxi 2 $30.00 275%
Drive 5 $3.50 n/a
Transit 5 $8.00 129%
Taxi 5 $12.00 243%

The price premium for a taxi is over 200% in each of these scenarios – and over 600% in the case of a single passenger. This table does not illustrate how driving (and parking at the airport) becomes more expensive as the trip length increases.

For passengers who arrive in Savannah without a car, the choice is clear – transit is one third the price of taking a taxi. The only cost is the time you may need to wait for the next bus to arrive.

For locals traveling to the airport from downtown, the results are a bit more ambiguous. The cost of driving and parking may be cost comparable with transit for large groups or short trips. This analysis assumes that your trip starts downtown, so there people who live outside the city’s core may face costs additional for parking and fuel even if they use transit. There is still no reason for locals to use a taxi unless no other options are available.