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Getting to the airport is getting easier

New rail lines, a growth in private shuttles and centralized transportation centers are cutting hours off that trip to the plane.
Image: Greece's new rail line
A train at Athens airport station will link the Athens airport with the main Olympic Stadium and beyond to Greek capital's centerFayez Nureldine / AFPGETTY IMAGES
/ Source: Reuters

The options for getting to and from the world's airports are expanding—good news at a time when both speed and cost considerations weigh heavily on travelers.

Austrian Airlines and Vienna International Airport, for example, recently inaugurated a high-speed train from the airport to Vienna city center, a 16-minute trip that costs 9 euros or about $11.50. Round trips are discounted at 15 euros or about $19. The operators say it makes the run in about half the time it takes a bus or taxi.

Ron Salk, whose Airport Transit Guide bills itself as the only publication devoted solely to ground transportation listings, says he detected a number of small but significant trends in putting together the 23rd edition of the pocket-sized guide covering 456 airports and now about to go on sale.

“In Europe we're seeing more door-to-door shuttle services similar to those we have in the United States,” he said in an interview from his Sunset Beach, California office.

“A half-dozen cities that didn't have them before do now,” he said, “(they are) very competitive and cheaper than taking a taxi.”

The shuttle services he described are vans or buses, which take arriving passengers directly to any hotel or destination. The number of shuttle options has expanded in Paris, he said, and services have been added in Athens and Rome.

“In this country we're seeing more and more centralized ground transportation centers—taxis, buses, car rentals and shuttles all coming into a building,” he said. The trend may be driven by desires to free up valuable close-in airport space for more productive uses, he said.

Salk also has detected a move to more rail connections to airports in the United States. “San Francisco had it last year,” he said, and Minneapolis is due to extend its new light rail system to the airport in 2005.

New York's Kennedy International has AirTrain JFK service to Manhattan via Brooklyn or Queens subway ($5 plus $2 subway fare) and for arrivals at Newark Liberty International, AirTrain Newark links to NJ Transit and New York's Penn Station for about $12.

Such rail connections are often a bargain. For instance a one-way trip from either O'Hare International Airport or Midway Airport in Chicago to downtown costs only $1.75, with running times of about 50 and 30 minutes respectively. A taxi ride can cost up to $35 from O'Hare and up to $25 from Midway, depending on traffic. Shuttle services run about half that.

Salk also says the expansion of regional airports, such as the Long Beach airport in his area, is another trend that is providing travelers with more options.

Researching your options

Information on the guide can be found at http://airporttransitguide.com where sample pages can be viewed. The source for single copy sales at $9.95 each is travel supply seller Magellan's by catalog or http://www.magellans.com.

“This is the one we recommend,” said Magellan's spokeswoman Lynn Staneoff. “We've been carrying it for about eight years now.”

Other information is available in general travel books found in the appropriate section of bookstores or through an Internet search.

Most major airports also have their own Web sites, often with detailed ground transportation information, though it varies greatly by site.

There are also a number of comprehensive sites. Try http://www.worldairportguide.com for information on more than 200 airports in an easy-to-find format.