I’ve lived in a number of cities throughout the United States over the past 15 years. It’s kind of strange which cities have had access to the airport via light rail. I currently live in Denver and there is a burgeoning light rail system, but with the airport 20+ miles away from downtown, there is only bus service, which is not terribly accessible from all areas. Denver does not have light rail out to the airport. As I plan to visit Atlanta, where I attended college, there is light rail access (MARTA) from the airport to north-south and east-west transit.
When I think about “progressive” cities, it amazes me that Denver does not have light rail access to and from the airport. Prior to Denver, I lived in St. Louis, Missouri for four years, which does not strike me as a progressive city in terms of mass transit either, but it has a light rail system that stops at the airport. I lived roughly 4 blocks from the light rail for the last year and a half that I was in St. Louis and could easily jump on the light rail to the airport. However, when I returned to my “homewtown” (Los Angeles), I couldn’t do the same. There is no light rail from LAX (or any other airport in the greater LA area) connecting the city to airports.
So far that’s two cities (Denver and Los Angeles) that seem to pride themselves on being environmentally conscious, but do not have light rail going to the airports and two (St. Louis and Atlanta) that do, but may not come to mind when thinking about eco-friendly travel. I’ve written about my attempts to use mass transit in Atlanta and having to give up for a lack of connectivity.
Lastly, New York City. By many measures, it is the most sustainable urban center in the United States. There are fewer cars per capita and carbon emissions are the lowest for any major city, yet there is no subway directly to Newark, LaGuardia, or JFK. I realize that the PATH goes to Newark, but it is still a hassle and that the A train goes (close to) JFK, but you still need to transfer to the Sky Ride. When I lived in New York, the Sky Ride was just coming online. For a city that prides itself on accessibility (I didn’t have a car for the time I lived there), it is shocking to me that the subway doesn’t go directly to the terminal. This leaves me with the city I will call home starting later this month, Minneapolis/St. Paul. Since I don’t know exactly where we’ll live, I’m lumping the “Twin Cities” together. MSP (both the airport code and a shorthand way to refer to the Twin Cities) does have access to light rail from the terminal.
MSP may be more progressive than St. Louis and Atlanta, but it still seems like NYC, LA, and Denver – all world class cities or destinations – have lost an opportunity to really claim the moniker of “world class.”