Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Save on airport transportation

A novel idea gains renewed interest during times of inclement weather.

As practically the entire world knows, the Washington, DC area was pummeled by snow a few weekends ago. Reports indicated that possible new records were set as a result. If lucky enough to land at Washington Dulles, the only airport opened then, sharing a taxi ride home with others was the rule of the game.
Consumer behavior under the microscope

The snowfall situation became an interesting study of human behavior, especially when it involved taxis.  Unlike taking a share ride airport transportation method, such as SuperShuttle, when one knows what one is getting into when they sign up for it, sharing a taxi with complete strangers proved to be culturally uncomfortable for some. However, it’s also an easily forgotten strategy to save big money.

Normally, taking a taxi from Dulles International Airport to Washington, DC by one’s self will run around $70 with tip. However, since there were a dearth of cabs available, the airport authority grouped as many passengers as possible to maximize the efficiency of getting travelers home. The unexpected benefits of this act were principally two-fold: reduced waiting time (as it would have taken substantially longer to wait for a personal cab) and a much cheaper ride home (about a fourth of the normal fare). And, a lot more comfortable than a van ride to boot.

Explaining why Washingtonians, or anyone for that matter, would not want to share cabs more often is both easy and difficult to explain.  The easy explanation: despite a difficult economy where just about everyone is looking to save money, especially on something as annoying as transportation, many will sacrifice savings over convenience. The difficult explanation: travelers are obviously not afraid to share an enclosed space (think airplanes), but would rather not be with total strangers on their way home.

Why sharing is better

If all travelers had decided that they didn't want to share a cab, many would have been stranded altogether at the airport or at a hotel. The ultimate cost would have been far greater than having simply shared with others, let alone that $70 ride by one’s self.  By sharing, everyone (save the taxis) won.

The take away from situations like these is that by looking out for others' well being, one can also look out for one's self as well, and save everyone money.