Outside Tung Chung Station, Hong Kong by Wpcpey from Wikimedia Commons
Outside Tung Chung Station, Hong Kong by Wpcpey from Wikimedia Commons

Taxi or transit?

By Ed Perkins, Tribune Content Agency

I admit it: I’m a chintzy traveler. So as long as I can remember, I’ve been a big fan of public transit; I like to beat traffic congestion, and I like the prices. So when I want to go someplace within a big city, I almost always head for light rail, metro, or suburban rail rather than a taxi. But my recent visit to China changed my perception. Although public transit is excellent in most big cities, in some of them, taxis are inexpensive enough to prefer them over public transport, especially when you have baggage.

Taxi prices vary widely around the world, so the choice between taxi and transit depends on where you are. To help you decide, the folks at Carspring mounted a nifty table (no longer available) that compares taxi costs in 80 of the world’s top visitor cities.

Airport to city center: The median rate for the 80 cities is $44; the range is $4 to $190. Taxi cost depends on a combination of per-mile rates and remoteness of the airport. Bargain-priced airport taxi rates less than $20 range from $4 in Cairo to $19 in Kuala Lumpur, with intermediate rates, in ascending order, at Mumbai, Tunis, Tallinn, Dubai, Warsaw, Bogota, Jakarta, Sofia, Mexico City, Bangkok, Bangalore, Riga, Hanoi, Lagos, Cape Town, Lisbon, Bucharest, Beijing, Medellin and Antwerp. Even though many of these airports have airport transit service, you’d more likely just hop on a taxi direct to your hotel. The study did not include San Diego, probably the only big U.S. city with an airport close enough for the taxi cost to come in under $20.

Airport taxi fares more than $50 range from $51 in Lyon to $190 at Tokyo. The top rates, for obvious reasons, are at airports a long way from the city center, including London/Gatwick, London/Stansted, Milan/Malpensa, and Tokyo/Narita, where fares far exceed $100; almost everybody takes trains at those hubs. But taxi rates are surprisingly high at several relatively close-in airports, including $52 at Brussels, $54 at Birmingham, $70 at Zurich, $72 at Nice, and $79 at Geneva. Airport taxis are also expensive at Helsinki, London, Los Angeles, Manchester, Marseille, New York, Rome, San Francisco, Seoul, Stockholm, and Stuttgart.

Typical short journey: A trip of 3km, or about 2 miles, is a reasonably good measure of a typical hotel-to-restaurant ride. Rates range from 55 cents in Cairo to $25 in Zurich. Taxi fares are less than $6 in 30 of the 80 cities tested, which means they’re close to break-even for a couple, compared with transit. The places where you really have to go through the Jack Benny routine, “I’m thinking it over,” include London, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Geneva, and, of course, Zurich.

For more details, check rates for a specific trip through sites such as World Taximeter  and Taxi Fare Finder. Taxi Fare Finder now also includes estimated Uber and Lyft costs.

To shed still more light on the topic, Business Insider is posting tables that compare taxi and Uber rates for a 5-mile, 10-minute trip in 21 major U.S. cities under a variety of trip assumptions. Until Uber’s surge pricing kicks in, the tables show, Uber beats taxi prices in most cities — provided you tip the taxi driver 20 percent but don’t tip the Uber driver. But when Uber’s prices rise to surge levels, taxis beat Uber almost everywhere. The website also includes some fascinating animated tables showing the effects of delay you do tip. The downside to this website is that Business Insider requires you to pause your ad blocker; an annoyance.

Often, you have other options, mainly the shuttles available at so many airports. But, overall, the general pattern is clear, especially for a couple or family. The convenience of a taxi is hard to beat when the cost isn’t overwhelming, and even for a single traveler, a taxi looks good when you can get to/from an airport or train station for $10 or less. But it’s you call: Get the figures, then decide.

(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins@mind.net. Also, check out Ed’s new rail travel website at Rail-Guru.com.)

Tribune Content Agency — August 8, 2017

(c) 2016 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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