Do shared shuttles really save?

An experience during my recent business trip to Florida illustrated that those ubiquitous shuttles that schlep a half dozen or so travelers between the airport and various hotels are not necessarily convenient or economical.

Shuttles at MCO
In an effort to be a good corporate citizen and save my company a little money, I decided to book a shuttle like those at right instead of jumping into a taxi at the airport, as I normally do. After all, I reasoned, I was arriving late in the afternoon for a conference that didn’t start until the next morning, so I would not be in a hurry and had plenty of time.

I ended up wasting a good portion of that time sitting on a bench outside the airport terminal and in the shuttle van.

Before leaving home, I made and paid for my shuttle reservation on line. I had my printed confirmation in hand as I walked to the shuttle company’s curbside kiosk, expecting to be able to climb aboard. Nope. Had to go to the company’s counter inside the terminal and exchange the confirmation for a boarding pass.

When I returned curbside, the gentleman told me the wait for my shuttle would be “30 minutes or less.” Great. I could have climbed into a cab and been to my hotel in about 20 minutes.

Turned out he was spot on. Twenty-five minutes later, the van pulled up. By the time all the passengers and bags were loaded, another five minutes or so had gone by. But wait; there’s more.

Off to the next terminal to make another pick-up.

By the time we left the airport property, 40 minutes had elapsed since I first reached the curb and bypassed a line of waiting taxis. By the time we got to my hotel – and for some reason, I am almost always among the last to be dropped off – an hour and 10 minutes had elapsed.

I paid $21 for the shuttle ticket and gave the driver a $5 tip for a total of $26. A cab ride would have cost me about $55 with tip and taken about 20 minutes. So I wasted nearly an hour to save (my company) $30. And here’s the real kicker: shuttle vans usually charge per passenger while some, though not all, taxis add a modest surcharge of a buck or two at most for the second and third passenger. If I’d been traveling with another person or two, we could have grabbed a cab and been at our destination far faster – and more economically – than my 70-minute sojourn.

Even traveling solo, however, the extra time I spent doing nothing was not worth the modest monetary savings. After all, our time is worth something.

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Photo by Carl Dombek
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