A Ride to A Flight

As the fall semester comes to a close and many students begin their journeys home for the holidays, the Student Economist for this week will focus on the topic of taxi rides between the campuses of major Canadian universities and airports.

In John Hughes’ 1987 critically acclaimed comedy film Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Neal Page, an advertising executive played by Steve Martin, tries to make it home to Chicago in time to spend Thanksgiving with his family.  When inclement weather strikes Chicago and his plane is forced to divert to Wichita, Kansas, he teams up with Del Griffith, a shower curtain salesman and fellow stranded traveler played by John Candy.  The odd pair use numerous modes of transportation, from trains to milk trucks, in their adventurous quest to make it back home to Chicago.[1]

Though taking a milk truck to the airport is rarely a viable opportunity, Canadian students have numerous choices in finding ground transportation to the airport when flying home for the holidays.  Students in some major Canadian cities have the option of taking public (or public/private) transport in the form of a train (such as the SkyTrain in Vancouver or the Union Pearson Express in Toronto) or a rapid bus service (747 STM bus in Montreal).  However, these options are not always available to all students in all cities; for example, in Quebec City, there is a public bus that operates to Jean Lesage International Airport; however, service is infrequent and most travelers rely on personal cars, ridesharing through apps such as Uber, or taxi services.[2] [3]

Due to the relative ubiquity of taxi services as an option for Canadian students to get from campus to the airport, we will compare the rates, times, and distances between campuses and airports for students at selected major Canadian universities in major Canadian cities.

In analysing the estimated durations, distances, and fares for a one way taxi ride from a campus to a corresponding airport for a small yet diverse grouping of paired universities and airports, it can be seen that the cost per kilometre paid by the passenger (without consideration for tip) generally varies around the two dollar mark with five of the seven selected university-airport pairings situated in the range between $1.90 and $2.10 per kilometre.

Surprisingly, the data also shows that though public transit options at the Quebec City airport are largely non-existent, the estimated cost per kilometre paid by a Université Laval student looking to take a taxi to catch a flight is about 20 cents less than the amount paid by a student at the University of British Columbia looking for a taxi ride to the airport; this disparity exists even though the main campus of the University of British Columbia is located in Vancouver, a city with a developed public transport system including a rail connection to the airport.

An estimated taxi route between Université Laval and Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City. Cost estimated to be $23 one way.  (Courtesy Google Maps)

An estimated taxi route between The University of British Columbia and Vancouver International Airport.  Cost estimated to be $26.40 one way.  (Courtesy Google Maps)

Looking forward, greater amounts of competition within and between ground transportation methods in the market of transporting fliers to and from airports will help to constrain the growth of costs to passengers and ensure basic levels of service.  This effect can be evidenced through the introduction of Uber to New York City which triggered a sharp decline in the price of ordinary taxi medallions allowing more drivers to enter the marketplace and providing a more competitive environment to the benefit of regular consumers.[4] Though competition and the provision of additional transportation options will not provide a completely perfect market, in the long term, innovation and choice are the best tools to form the most efficient market possible for ground transportation as travelers embark on their own quest of planes, trains, and automobiles in getting from Point A to B. 


John Butler

Works Cited

Picture titled, "airport", taken by whity on April 25, 2010, obtained through Creative Commons (https://flic.kr/p/9vsyXa

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093748/

[2] http://rtcquebec.ca/Default.aspx?tabid=95&noArret=5322&noParcours=78&codeDirection=3&date=2016-09-02&language=en-CA

[3] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/jean-lesage-airport-quebec-city-tourist-bus-shuttle-regis-labeaume-1.3855277

[4] http://www.businessinsider.com/nyc-yellow-cab-medallion-prices-falling-further-2016-10