This Thanksgiving, travel times were slated to be the worst since 2005. For a lot of people, this involves making a choice between making the long drive home or taking a plane to get there.
One of the calculations you have to make when choosing to fly is the ever-present question of how to get to the airport. Do you drive there and pay an arm and a leg for parking? Do you beg your friend to drive you and owe them a favor for the foreseeable future? Or do you take public transit?
Airport transit access is not created equally. To help you out this holiday season, we analyzed the top 20 busiest U.S. airports by total passenger boardings to find out which are easy to get to by transit — and which aren’t.
For most of our studies, we use the default MobilityScore algorithm publicly available on our website. This takes any address and analyzes the nearby public transit, bikeshare, carshare, and ridehailing services — how far away they are and how often they come.
However, holiday travel at airports presented a challenge: You definitely aren’t going to take bikeshare from the airport, and carshare isn’t available (or is only one of many car-rental options). And ridehailing waits are usually short, as there is typically a pool of vehicles waiting for travelers to arrive.
For this study, our methodology took into account the public transit options directly accessible at the airport, typical ridehailing wait, and approximate walk time from the baggage claim.
The top 10 airports, once the scores were totaled, were:
- Miami International Airport, 66
- O’Hare International Airport, 63
- Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, 63
- Boston Logan International Airport, 61
- Philadelphia International Airport, 61
- McCarran International Airport, 60
- Denver International Airport, 59
- Charlotte Douglas International Airport, 59
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, 58
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, 56
What gave Miami the edge over the other airports? Well, it certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s fairly centrally located within the city itself. But the real difference? The humble bus.
Most of the top 10 cities have rail stations that drop off at or very near the airport. But Miami Airport Station also includes nine bus lines that run through it fairly consistently and serve many neighborhoods, increasing access versus over airports like Denver or Dallas where transit mostly serves to carry travelers straight downtown. The same variety of transit helped other top spots, including Boston’s Logan airport with its popular Silver Line buses, and several SEPTA lines serving Philadelphia.
So this year, if you’re in one of these cities — save some money, some gas, and some road rage. Leave the car at home!