Beat CT Limo’s monopoly: Take the train to the plane

By now even the hardiest Cancuner has returned to New Haven and has been reminded of how dismal the options are for getting back to campus from the airports — or are they?

It’s common sport at this newspaper to write a “students really hate Connecticut Limo” story whenever a columnist is short of ideas. Instead of that rehash, let’s find some better ways to get to the airport.

First, the problem: most students traveling to or from the airports use Connecticut Limo’s vans and buses. But they’re expensive — at least $28 each way to Bradley and $43 each way to JFK or La Guardia — and slow — the scheduled drive to La Guardia takes an hour longer than a non-stop ride would, and in bad weather, fuhgeddaboutit.

After Sept. 11, with decreased air travel, Connecticut Limo said its business was down 40 percent. The company laid off considerable numbers of its drivers and managers, and now says business has not yet improved.

Oh, they also raised their prices.

Connecticut Limo says the hike was independent of the Sept. 11 slowdown, but it demonstrates a key element of the Connecticut Limo problem: they act like a monopoly. Only monopolies or near-monopolies would raise prices when business was down. They know that nearly the same customers will come, since they have no alternatives.

The only way to improve prices and service is to prove to Connecticut Limo that we’re willing to take the alternatives. In fact, in many cases, the much cheaper alternatives are also faster.

To Bradley, the only feasible alternative is taking a cab. Metro Taxi charges $89.95 for the ride. Compared with the limo’s $28 a person, a cab’s a wash if you can find two other people going to Bradley at the same time and a comparative bargain if you find three others.

To facilitate this process, the Yale College Council is considering setting up a “ride board” at the post office where students could coordinate sharing taxis. Get to it, guys.

According to Connecticut Limo’s sometimes optimistic schedule, it takes 1 hour, 20 minutes, to get to Bradley. A cab can generally do it in less than an hour.

The real savings, though, come at La Guardia.

Here’s what you do: Take Metro-North to 125th Street in Manhattan. The ride costs $11.50 and takes around an hour and a half. A New York City bus, the M60, runs every 10 to 15 minutes from there to La Guardia. It costs $1.50 (or less if you use MetroCard) and takes about half an hour.

So if you have the worst timing possible, you’ll get to La Guardia in 2 hours, 15 minutes, for $13.

You’ll save five minutes over Connecticut Limo and keep $30 each way.

I feel like Ron Popeil.

It’s tough to get to Kennedy by New York City Transit: you have to take the A train for an hour and then a bus. I did it once; never again. So the deal isn’t quite as good for JFK.

But you can still save $23 each way and get there in about the same amount of time as Connecticut Limo would take you.

Take Metro-North to Grand Central Terminal and then the New York Airport Service buses to JFK. They run every 20 to 30 minutes from the train station and take about an hour. The bus ride costs $8.50 each way of a round trip. That’s $20 to Connecticut Limo’s $43, and between 2 hours, 45 minutes, and 3 hours, 15 minutes, to Connecticut Limo’s 2 hours, 55 minutes. (For the real cheapskate, the subway-bus combo from Grand Central is still only $13 total, but is guaranteed over three hours and a big hassle.) You can get to Newark the same way.

Vidhya Prabhakaran ’03, the YCC’s president, was a little concerned that circumventing Connecticut Limo might end up limiting travel choices.

“I really do think something like this would eliminate Connecticut Limo altogether,” he said.

But the service’s director of operations, Mike Booker, called me back twice Thursday to assure me that the company’s not going anywhere.

At least we can get them worried.

Comments