Public Transportation Isn’t Always The Best Or The Cheapest Option – Your Mileage May Vary

Sharon and I are big fans of public transportation. For most large cities in the world, it’s one of the cheapest and quickest ways to get from an airport to the city center. Heck, when we were in Frankfurt, we got from our hotel to the subway to the airport in less than twenty minutes. When visiting London, we’ve learned that there are several options other than the “express train” to get from the airport to the city.

The last time we stayed in San Francisco, we were at the Palace Hotel and it was right across the street from a BART station. It was easy to get there from SFO and back to OAK for our departing flight. For this visit, I picked a hotel that was reasonably close to the Powell BART station, figuring that would be the cheapest and best way for us to get into the city. Turns out I was wrong.

When we arrived at the BART station at San Francisco Airport, we had to buy tickets to the city. The fare to the Powell St. Station was $9.65 if we had a Clipper card and $10.15 if we chose to get a paper ticket. The fee for a new Clipper card is $3. Since we were planning on using the BART to get around for most of our trip, we each purchased cards, so our OOP cost was $12.65.

Our flight home was leaving SFO at 9:40 on Sunday morning. One little problem. The BART trains don’t start running until 8AM on Sundays.

Oops!

We ended up having to take a Lyft to the airport. Since I had already registered my Sapphire Reserve with Lyft, we got a 15% discount on our ride with Lyft Pink. I also received 10x Ultimate Rewards, 2x Delta SkyMiles for a ride to the airport and 3x Hilton Honors points for our trip.

I paid $23.63 for our trip to the airport and it only took us 20 minutes to get there.  Our trip to our hotel had taken well over an hour. With Lyft, we were picked up at our hotel and dropped off at our terminal instead of having to walk to the BART station from the hotel and take the AirTrain from the BART station once arriving at SFO.

I paid $25 for our trip into town if you include the price of our Clipper cards. That’s more than I paid for a Lyft.

These calculations will change depending on how many people are in your group. For a solo traveler, the BART will still be a cheaper option, but if you’re a family, a Lyft or Uber will probably be a less expensive and more convenient alternative.

Final Thoughts

When planning trips to and from the airport in a major city, I usually default to look for public transportation. As it turns out, this might not always be the most convenient or cheapest option. Next time, I’ll check to see the price for Uber and Lyft before buying our train tickets.

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