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Which US Airports have the Best Public Transportation?

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Most major airports in the US will provide some form of public transportation, but some airports are just head and shoulders above others in this regard. That’s right – those are the airports that get you downtown in less than half an hour without charging you a pretty penny.

Let’s look at the US airports with the best public transportation in terms of speed, convenience and cost.

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Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Atlanta (ATL)

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is host to an assigned metro system that’s served by the rapid transit system Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (or MARTA, for short). After arriving at ATL, travelers can get to the city center through the Gold or Red lines inside the Domestic Terminal. You’ll wait for less than ten minutes for the train, and get downtown in approximately 20 minutes, and midtown in 25. And if you’re an international traveler, you can make use of the free shuttle service to get from the International terminal to the 24/7 operational MARTA station outside.  You can easily find space for luggage going inbound to the city on the MARTA train.

Once inside the station, head to the vending kiosk to purchase or reload a Breeze Card for $2, or get a paper Breeze ticket for $1. If you want to purchase one ride ticker, you can buy it from an agent at the MARTA RideStore during business hours.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Oakland International Airport (OAK)

Both SFO and OAK get travelers downtown through the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART. At San Francisco International Airport, travelers will find the BART station inside the international terminal. If you’re a domestic traveler you can easily get to the BART station using the free-of-charge AirTrain.

Don’t worry about getting lost – there’s signage everywhere, and you should be able to follow it easily. You’ll wait for 15 minutes for the train, and get downtown in around 30 minutes. It costs $9.65 to travel from the airport to Powell Street in downtown San Francisco.

At Oakland International, you’ll find the BART station across the baggage claim at Terminal 1. Get to the Coliseum station via the people mover in around 8 minutes, and once there, get on the train going to Richmond. You’ll be in downtown Oakland in just 12 minutes! While travel times can vary thanks to the switch at the station, it won’t take longer than a maximum of 35 minutes to get to the city centre. It will cost $8.65 to travel from Oakland International to 12th Street/Oakland City Center in downtown Oakland.

At both airports, you can purchase tickets from the vending machines located inside the BART stations. The fares are based on distance, but children aged 4 and under travel for free. While there’s no dedicated storage for your luggage on the subway cars, you can use unused space to keep your baggage.

Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)

This airport has several options for public transportation, but the best by far is the Silver Line. It’s a free service linking the airport to the South Station through an underground tunnel below Boston Hahbah. Time do vary, as it’s a bus service, but the trips take no longer than 20 minutes to get to the South Station’s regional transport hub. The buses run every day from 5:30 am to 12:30 am. And as we mentioned, it’s free to ride on the Silver Line as you depart the airport, including the connections to the MBTA subway. You’ll also be able to travel in peace, since the Silver Line has a dedicated rack to store baggage.

Besides the Silver Line S1 buses, there’s also the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which connects the BOS to the Blue Line subway. Travelers will have to take the Massport shuttle (it’s free!) from the airport to the Blue Line Airport Station.

There they can buy subway fare and continue on their way to the city center. The fare on the MBTA is $2.75 for a single ticket – you can purchase this at the Airport Station’s vending machines. You could also buy a Charlie Card for $4 – it’s reloadable, and usage allows you to pay $2.25 per trip for every subsequent ride. While the MBTA has a dedicated rack for luggage storage, the subway cars have limited storage, so mind your baggage!

The third option is the most scenic one! You can travel from the Airport dock by ferry to the Boston-Long Wharf. Just make sure to check the ferry times. The fare is $9.25, and you can purchase the ticket on the dock.

While the ferries are spacious, they don’t have dedicated space for baggage.

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Denver International Airport (DEN)

Denver International Airport’s commuter rail service is brand new, having been installed in 2016. This shiny service capably connects the airport to multiple destinations downtown. Dubbed the Regional Transportation District or RTE, it has a rail line 23 miles long (the A line). With six stops along the way, it takes around 37 minutes to get to Union Station downtown. Peak hours are 4:15 am to 6:30 pm, with the train leaving from Union square every quarter of an hour. During non-peak hours, it runs every half hour, and the last A train departs at 1:30 on weekdays, and at 2:00 am on Friday and Saturday.

Before the installation of the rail service, travelers were forced to either take an overcrowded bus to the city, or spend nearly $80 on a taxi. Now, however, they can purchase tickets for just $9 at the sales outlet or through the vending machines on the platform. The trains all have luggage towers and overhead storage, as well as bicycle racks. More importantly, they’re wheelchair-friendly, and allow you to roll your baggage on easily.

Portland International Airport (PDX)

Operated by TriMet, the Metropolitan Area Express Red Line is located right outside the baggage claim at PDX. It takes you to Pioneer Square downtown in 38 minutes. At 4:43 am, the first train arrives at PDX, and at 12:18 am, the last one departs from PDX. Trains leave every quarter of an hour during peak hours, and every half hour during non-peak hours. Tickets cost $2.50, although youth and senior tickets are discounted at $1.25. You can also purchase unlimited passes for just $5 a day.

The trains contain partial storage for luggage, but do have bicycle racks. That said, it’s not usually hard to find space for your luggage when entering the city, since the airport is the trains’ last stop. Plus, they’re wheelchair-friendly and allow you to roll your baggage on easily.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)

The Light Rail Transit LRT is the answer to all travelers looking to get to the city center from Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. The Metro Blue Line LRT trains stops at both terminals of the airport, and gets travelers to the Mall of America in no more than 12 minutes. You can get to downtown Minneapolis from the airport in less than 28 minutes. During peak hours, trains leave every ten minutes, running from 4:20 am to 2:15 am to the city center. If you’re going to St. Paul, you can use the Route 54 flyer’s bus service, which has a bus depart every quarter of an hour.

You can purchase tickets at the vending machines inside the rail stations for $2.50 during peak hours, and $2 during non-peak hours. Children aged 5 and under get to ride free of charge. The tickets also allow you to transfer for free on Metro transit buses, as long as you do so within two and a half hours. The Route 54 bus costs you the same as the LRT tickets do. Every door of the train has level boarding, allowing for wheelchair accessibility and making it easy to roll your luggage on. However, besides limited ground storage, there’s no specially allocated area to store your baggage.

Philadelphia Airport (PHL)

Travelers to Philadelphia can make use of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA’s, Airport Line to Center City from all terminals. There’s only one scheduled stop, meaning you can get to downtown Philadelphia in around 25 minutes. The line runs every day, beginning at 5:00 am all the way to 12:00 am.

Trains leave every half hour, but that could actually amount to a shorter wait time than at the queue for taxis during rush hour. There are three SEPTA bus routes that serve the airport (37, 108, 115), stopping outside the baggage claim area on the Arrivals Road’s Zone 1.

The Airport Line costs $6.75, with the Quick Trip fares available at the fare kiosks on the terminal platforms. Each Quick Trip can only be utilized on the Airport Line. You can also buy cash tickets for 8 dollars, and single ride bus tickets cost $2.50. All SEPTA stations have escalators and elevators for easy accessibility.

The Airport Line’s stops are wheelchair-friendly, with platforms at high levels that allow you to board easily even with a lot of luggage. While there are plenty of overhead racks and luggage compartments, there is no added storage for heavy luggage.

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE)

The Cleveland Rapid Transit Authority’s Red Line connects the airport to downtown Cleveland. Conveniently located downstairs from the main terminal, the RTA station has trains depart downtown every quarter of an hour. Making 8 stops along the route, the trains get to the Tower City Station in Cleveland’s city centre in less than 30 minutes.

Operating every day from 4 am, the last train leave the airport around 12:30 am. It costs passengers  $2.50 to purchase the fare card from the vending machine inside the station, and this must be activated before boarding, as the Red Line needs proof of payment. You can also purchase all day passes for $5.50.

The station has escalators and elevators for easy accessibility. The stops are wheelchair-friendly, with platforms at high levels that allow you to board easily even with a lot of luggage. What’s more, the train cars on the Red Line have open areas that can accommodate wheelchairs and strollers. You can use these spaces to store additional luggage if they’re not in use.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Travelers to LA can make use of the the FlyAway bus running without stops from the airport terminals to Hollywood, LA Union Station, Westwood, Van Nuys or Long Beach. The FlyAway fare is around $8 to $10, and it costs $9.75 to get to Union Station. It takes between half an hour to 50 minutes, depending on the traffic situation. There’s an undercarriage you can use to store your luggage.

Alternatively, they can take the Metro G bus at the airport’s transportation centre to the LAX/Aviation light rail station. Get to the Rosa Parks and WillowBrook stations via the Green Line, and to 7th Street and Metro Center stations downtown via the Blue Line. The light rail costs $1.75, and will get you to your destination in 75 minutes. It has enough floor space for you to store your baggage.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)

Passengers from the O’Hare International Airport’s terminal can get downtown in an hour using the CTA Blue Line rail. And that too for just $2.25! Moreover, they can also use the free shuttle that goes to O’Hare Transfer Metra commuter rail station.

Passengers should keep in mind that the Metra is not frequent. Seven stops later, the Metra service will take you to Chicago Union Station. The Metra fare is $6. There’s enough floor space for your luggage on both options.

John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

Make use of the A train subway to JFK Station or Howard Beach. The E, J and Z subways go to Archer Avenue, Sutphin Boulevard and JFK station. The Long Island Rail Road, which is a single stop from Penn Station goes to Jamaica station, allowing you to get to the JFK AirTrain monorail that takes you to the terminals.

It takes half an hour to an hour to travel by LIRR, and 15 minutes via subway from Manhattan. The AirTrain costs $2.75, with additional subway charges of $2.75. The LIRR costs $14, and $16 during rush hours.

Make your travel experience as hassle-free and affordable as possible using these public transportation services.


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