Getting more people to take the train from the airport


When people fly into Chicago, it seems like most of them take a taxi from the airport to the city, or rent a car that will probably sit parked at the hotel for their entire trip. Since a cab will run you $30-50 or more and the train is about $3, I’m always baffled by this behavior. I can only guess that nobody told them about the reliable and speedy trains from Midway, and the generally passable trains from O’Hare, so they reverted to the familiar option of taking a taxi or renting a car.

Part of the problem is that people make their local transportation decisions well before they get on the plane. Once they arrive at the destination airport, they’re not going to take a chance with some unknown and potentially confusing transit option. So unless you’ve been to a particular city many times, you’ve probably never used the train system there.

The solution is to start marketing the train options to people during the trip planning and booking stages. For instance, the city of Chicago could strike a deal with Southwest Airlines to show train info and pricing on the confirmation page for people who just booked a flight to Chicago. This is similar to how Southwest shows hotel and rental car info right now. Or, the city could buy ads on popular travel portals like TripAdvisor to reach people who are in the trip planning stage. Regardless of the approach, I’m sure that cities could generate additional public transit usage and increase their fare revenues by helping travelers learn what’s available — and educating them about how much money they can save by avoiding taxis and rental cars.