The Best & Worst Airports for Transit — U.S. 2018 Rankings

By Cecilia King

If you are a business traveler then you know every minute counts — one wrong turn could mean missing your connecting flight or getting stuck in a major traffic jam on your way out to the airport.

To help all of you road warriors better maximize your time and be more efficient this year, TravelBank is sharing its list of the best and worst airports for transit in the nation.

air train

In the below study, we sourced drive time, public transportation time and pricing data for journeys to each of the top 30 U.S. airports starting from specific central downtown locations. By analyzing the average drive time and transportation time, along with comparing the cost of public transportation and pre-booked UberX pricing, TravelBank was able to determine the best and worst airports in the country for transit. For more information about our methodology, you can see a detailed breakdown at the end of this report.

The 5 Best Airports for Transit

top 5 airports

#1 Boston Logan International (BOS)

#1 Las Vegas McCarran International (LAS)

Tied for the top spot on our list are both Boston Logan and Las Vegas McCarran. What makes these airports stand out from the crowd are their efforts to boost passenger satisfaction by offering affordable public transit options, along with their close proximity to downtown business centers. Boston in particular shows its strong commitment to passengers by being the only airport on our list to offer a free public transportation service. Las Vegas, on the other hand, has the fastest transit time of all the other airport public transportation networks analyzed, clocking in at only 10 minutes from downtown to the terminal.

#2 San Diego International (SAN)

Coming in second on our list is San Diego International thanks to its close proximity to downtown, similar to both Boston and Las Vegas. Propelling San Diego to the second top spot is also the fact that it has the cheapest Uber fare of $8 from downtown, while the 11 minute public transit time—ranking second best on our list—plays well into its favor. Although LAX and SFO rank #3 and #6 worst for transit on our list, San Diego’s airport proves that not everything in California has to cost an arm and a leg.

#3 Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX)

Clocking the second cheapest Uber fare ride of just $12 helps Phoenix Sky Harbor International rank as the third best airport for transit. The quick average drive time of 12 minutes and the proximity of the airport to downtown also plays into its favor like Boston, Las Vegas and San Diego. In addition, Phoenix has one of the faster public transportation options in the country with it taking only 20 minutes to reach the airport from downtown.

#4 Salt Lake City International (SLC)

Salt Lake CIty International ranks as the fourth best on our list thanks to its speedy public transit time of just 19 minutes and its affordable Uber fare of only $15 from downtown to the terminal. On top of that, an average drive time of 13 minutes and the cheap public transport fare of $2.50 solidifies SLC’s number four spot.

#5 Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL)

With public transit costing just $2 and an Uber from downtown running a mere $14, it’s no wonder that Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International rounds out our top five best airports for transit. Compared to its neighbor down south in Miami, which ranks as 8th best on our list, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood is located closer to the city center and is only a 14 minute drive from downtown to the airport.

The 5 Worst Airports for Transit

Worst 5 airports

#1 Newark Liberty International (EWR)

With the highest Uber fare of $97 and the highest public transportation fare of $15.75, Newark Liberty International ranks as the worst airport in the U.S. for transit. Not a stranger to ranking as the country’s worst airport, Newark Liberty is notorious for traffic jams and train delays, which reflected in its high average drive time of 45 minutes and lengthy public transit time of 75 minutes respectively. And if you’re thinking—“Oh, I can just drive and park at the airport instead”—don’t even think about it, since Newark also landed in the top 5 worst airports for parking fees back in 2017.

#2 New York John F. Kennedy International (JFK)

#2 Washington Dulles International (IAD)

It’s safe to say that if you’re looking for affordable transit options in the New York and DC metro areas then LaGuardia and Reagan are by far you best bets. Coming in second to last place and tieing for the #2 worst airport for transit are both New York JFK and Washington Dulles International. New York JFK in particular comes in as third worst airport for public transportation duration with it taking 67 minutes to reach the airport from downtown. On top of that, the cost of an Uber is tied for the highest on our list with Newark and costs a whopping $97. Dulles isn’t far behind, as it takes 83 minutes from downtown to get to the airport and public transportation fares are the third highest out of all of the airports surveyed, which costs $9.25 for a one-way ticket.

#3 Los Angeles International (LAX)

The second highest average drive time of 50 minutes leaves Los Angeles International ranking as the #3 worst airport in the nation for transit. To make matters worse, LAX also boasts the second highest public transportation price after Newark with a one-way fare costing $9.75. Notorious for traffic jams, and with no rail or subway links out to the airport, it’s no surprise that the LAX FlyAway bus from downtown to the airport comes in towards the bottom of our list.

#4 Denver International (DEN)

Having the fourth highest public transportation fare, which costs $9 one way, is the main reason why Denver International lands towards the bottom of our list as the #4 worst airport for transit. With both the transit time and the average drive time clocking in at 37 minutes, plus a higher than average Uber fare of $41, it’s safe to say that the Mile-High city charges mile-high prices for airport transit.

#5 Chicago O’Hare International (ORD)

Having the highest average drive time of 53 minutes from downtown to the airport means Chicago O’Hare International ranks as the fifth worst for transit. A lengthy public transportation time of 42 minutes doesn’t help either. On the bright side however, at least public transport is affordable with a one-way ticket costing only $2.50.


The Best and Worst Airports in America for Transit

In the table below, see the full data set on the top 30 U.S. airports:

Rank Airport Public Transit Service Transit Time (Mins) Transit Time Score Avg Drive Time (Mins) Drive Time Score Service Fare Service Fare Score Uber Fare Uber Fare Score TOTAL
1 Boston Logan International (BOS) MBTA 14 4 9 4 $0.00 0 18 5 13
1 Las Vegas McCarran International (LAS) RTC 10 3 8 4 $2.00 3 12 3 13
2 San Diego International (SAN) MTS 11 3 10 5 $2.25 4 8 2 14
3 Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX) Valley Metro 20 6 12 6 $2.00 3 12 3 18
4 Salt Lake City International (SLC) TRAX 19 6 13 6 $2.50 4 15 4 20
5 Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International (FLL) Broward County Transit 24 7 14 7 $2.00 3 14 4 21
6 Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) MARTA 16 5 18 8 $2.50 4 20 5 22
7 Charlotte Douglas International (CLT) CATS 26 8 18 8 $2.20 3 16 4 23
8 Miami International (MIA) Miami-Dade Transit 25 8 17 8 $2.25 4 17 4 24
8 Tampa International (TPA) HART 35 11 12 6 $2.00 3 15 4 24
9 Minneapolis–Saint Paul International (MSP) Metro Transit 20 6 22 10 $2.50 4 23 6 26
9 Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA) WMATA 33 10 15 7 $2.65 4 20 5 26
10 Honolulu Daniel K. Inouye International (HNL) The Bus 27 8 13 6 $2.75 4 37 10 28
11 Baltimore–Washington International (BWI) MDOT - MTA 34 10 19 9 $1.80 3 27 7 29
12 Philadelphia International (PHL) SEPTA 23 7 17 8 $6.75 11 28 7 33
12 Portland International (PDX) TriMet 39 12 20 9 $2.50 4 32 8 33
13 Chicago Midway International (MDW) CTA 23 7 28 13 $2.50 4 39 10 34
14 Seattle–Tacoma International (SEA) SoundTransit 35 11 23 11 $3.00 5 32 8 35
15 Orlando International (MCO) Lynx 46 14 26 12 $2.00 3 26 7 36
16 Detroit Metropolitan International (DTW) SMART 52 16 30 14 $2.00 3 40 10 43
16 Houston George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) Metro 57 17 29 14 $1.25 2 39 10 43
17 Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW) DART 54 16 36 17 $2.50 4 37 10 47
17 New York LaGuardia (LGA) MTA 57 17 27 13 $2.75 4 52 13 47
18 San Francisco International (SFO) BART 30 9 31 15 $8.95 14 41 11 49
19 Chicago O'Hare International (ORD) CTA 42 13 53 25 $2.50 4 35 9 51
20 Denver International (DEN) RTD 37 11 37 17 $9.00 14 41 11 53
21 Los Angeles International (LAX) FlyAway 33 10 50 24 $9.75 15 40 10 59
22 New York John F. Kennedy International (JFK) MTA 67 20 42 20 $7.75 12 97 25 77
22 Dulles International (IAD) WMATA 83 25 45 21 $9.25 15 64 16 77
23 Newark Liberty International (EWR) MTA 75 23 45 21 $15.75 25 97 25 94


TravelBank analyzed four factors in order to score and rank airport transit services to and from downtown locations. The four factors are: transit time (minutes), driving time (minutes), transit fare price and the cost of pre-booked UberX rides. Each category was evenly weighted out of a score of zero to 25, giving a highest and worst possible total transit score of 100. The study analyzed the top 30 U.S. airports by passenger volume according to data from 2016.


Transit Time

Using Google Maps, transit time was calculated from a specific central downtown public transportation stop to each airport. An average of the fastest suggested travel route was used in order to provide the most accurate estimate possible if an exact transit time was not stated. The departure for each hypothetical journey was kept consistent, and the “Depart At” scheduling functionality was used for a Monday 8 AM departure in order to determine the exact journey time.

Driving Time

The driving time was also calculated with Google Maps using the same starting and ending point as the “Transit Time” category for consistency. An average of the fastest suggested travel route was used in order to provide the most accurate estimate possible. The departure was also kept consistent and the “Depart At” functionality was used scheduling a hypothetical Monday 8 AM departure just as with the previous category.

Transit Fare Price

A one-way, in-person ticket price was used for this category. Free service was considered the best possible outcome, while $15.75 was the upper limit of the score.

Cost of Pre-booked UberX

In order to compare as accurately as possible with the “Transit Time” and “Driving Time” categories, UberX fares were pre-booked from the same downtown public transportation stop origin point direct to each airport for a hypothetical departure of a future Monday at 8 AM local time. Of note, Charlotte, N.C., did not allow pre-booked Uber fares to be made in the app, so a hypothetical immediate departure of Monday 8 AM was used in order to gather data for the ranking of Charlotte-Douglas International in this category.

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