COMMENTARY: Getting to the airport is expensive — and not much fun

The old Cunard line used to say that “Getting there is half the fun.” But anyone who’s endured the challenges and indignities of air travel know that getting to the airport can sap your strength, if not your wallet. Consider the alternatives.

A car service is certainly convenient from my hometown of Darien. But at $110 one way to LaGuardia, $140 to JFK and $150-plus to Newark, getting to the airport can often cost more than your air fare. (Mind you, these are the advertised rates, so I wouldn’t be shy about asking for promotions and discounts when you call to book. It’s a competitive business).

But car services aren’t just expensive, they’re also wasteful. Couldn’t solo travelers share a car with others in a “limo-pool”? Is one passenger in a Lincoln Town Car an efficient use of limited space on Interstate 95?

How about Connecticut Limousine? Now there’s a misnomer; since when is a cramped van a limo? And try explaining that name on the receipt on your expenses to your company’s accountant. “Really boss ... it was just a van!”

Being thrifty, on a few occasions I’ve actually rented a car at the airport, driven home and then dropped the car off the next day in Stamford. A day’s car rental is about half the cost of a car service.

Some regular air travelers hire neighborhood teens to drive their own car to the airport, drop them off and drive the car home, repeating the process on their return. That’s less expensive than a car service, but puts double the miles on your car.

Drive yourself, take the train

My preferred airport transfer is in my own car. Airport parking generally is $39 a day at the New York airports. Not cheap, but certainly convenient. And nobody complains about my cigar smoking en route to the airport.

Another alternative, believe it or not, is Metro-North. Get off at 125th Street and catch a cab or livery and you’re at LaGuardia in about 15 minutes. There’s also a new Express Bus, the M60, that whisks you from 125th Street to LaGuardia in about 20 minutes.

If you’re heading to Newark, definitely consider Amtrak. Many Northeast corridor trains stop at Newark Airport, where a convenient connection to the airport monorail has you at the terminals in just minutes. The train sure beats the Cross-Bronx Expressway and George Washington Bridge any day. And fares are as low as $28 one way.

Other nearby airports

Mind you, New York’s three airports aren’t the only choices. Westchester County’s White Plains airport offers non-stop jet service to many cities on a variety of major carriers including JetBlue. Hartford’s Bradley Airport offers another alternative, including low-fare carriers like Southwest.

One faithful reader extols the virtues of New Haven’s Tweed Airport, where US Air flies to Philly and from there you can connect to most anywhere.

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

Jim Cameron is founder of the Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM, that town’s legislative body. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see