Jeramey Jannene
Urban Ideas

Should Bus Riders Skip Airport Security Line?

They do at Boston's airport. Why not at Milwaukee's?

By - Jul 16th, 2019 01:22 pm
General Mitchell International Airport

Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport. Photo from MMIA.

Would you like to save money and skip to the front of the security line the next time you fly?

Passengers at Boston’s Logan Airport will soon be able to do just that as part of a proposal to improve the efficiency of the airport. Riders who take the Logan Express bus line from downtown Boston will be given a ticket to skip to the front of security checkpoint lines at the congested airport. The move comes after Massachusetts Port Authority recently approved a ban on curbside dropoffs from Lyft and Uber during peak periods, instead redirecting them to a dropoff point.

“By making Logan Express more attractive, we want more passengers to choose these options and help us reduce the traffic congestion we’re experiencing in and around the airport,” said Ed Freni, aviation director at the Massachusetts Port Authority, to the Boston Globe in April. “Adding the priority line at the checkpoint is a great opportunity for people to move quickly.” Fares on the Logan Express have been cut from $7.50 each way to $3 for a round trip.

Could such a perk work in Milwaukee? There is certainly plenty of capacity on the two Milwaukee County Transit System routes that serve Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.

MCTS provides only 270 rides to or from the airport on an average weekday, many of which are taken by airport employees commuting to work. In 2018, the airport had 19,443 combined daily boarding and alightings from flights, including passengers on connecting flights. As of 2018, bus ridership at best serves 1.4 percent of Milwaukee’s airport boardings.

The GreenLine, which connects Bayshore Town Center, Whitefish Bay, Shorewood, the East Side, Downtown, Walker’s Point and Bay View with the airport, provides 4,800-weekday rides, but only 120 to or from the airport. Route 80, which connects the city’s far northwest side via W. Villard Ave. and N. Green Bay Ave., with Downtown, the airport and Oak Creek via 6th Street, provides 4,600-weekday rides, but only 150 to the airport.

And while Milwaukee’s airport has far less congestion than Boston, the cost savings to passengers could be significant.

Rides on MCTS cost $2.25 ($2 if you pay with the smartphone app or MCard) compared to an estimate of $19.36 from 100 E. Wisconsin Ave. or $25.31 from Bayshore Town Center via Uber. Driving alone would costs at least $8 per day in parking fees.

A roundtrip from Glendale to the airport would cost a solo passenger over $50 via Uber or Lyft, while the same trip on MCTS would cost $4. Yes, the bus trip takes longer, but skipping to the front of the security line could save a substantial amount of time and alleviate one of the worst parts of flying.

MCTS has already taken a handful of steps to make the experience more welcoming. Riders can purchase fares from a vending machine in the baggage claim and watch a real-time countdown clock to see when the bus next arrives. Signage has been added to the airport in recent years to guide passengers to the bus stop.

If Milwaukee County, which owns and operates both the airport and transit system, wants to save passengers a lot of money and increase the use of its buses, adopting the Boston approach and launching a marketing campaign for the change could pay dividends.

Categories: Urban Ideas

2 thoughts on “Urban Ideas: Should Bus Riders Skip Airport Security Line?”

  1. David Coles says:

    Excellent idea!

  2. Keith Prochnow says:

    MCTS is simply the best deal in town for airport transport. I fly 2-3 times in an average month and save so much money it’s laughable. It takes me twenty minutes longer than a car would, but for the entire 40 minutes I work, read, make a call, chat with a neighbor, do a crossword. No driving, parking hassle, no shuttle bus nor parking expense, just a leisurely, covered walk from the bus stop to ticketing awaits me.

    Returning is as simple as Jeramey describes. Plus, on the way home, one can get off the bus, enjoy a meal or a cocktail in Walkers Point, The Ward or Brady Street and get back on the bus and finish the ride for free!

    I have been doing this since the inception of the Green Line about a decade ago and it was the last brick in the wall that allowed me to finally sell my last car. Can you imagine keeping all of the money that you currently throw at your car, week after week? It’s great, I can tell you.

    My status with the airlines and the Pre-Check privilege that comes with Global Entry sends me to the front of the lines, anyway, but further rewarding bus riders with a ticket to the front is a great idea ecologically! I will be on the bus, anyway and it is going to the airport with or without you– but when the rest of you come long, there will be dramatic saving in tailpipe emissions!

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