Baltimore Sun interns raced to BWI to see what was the fastest (and cheapest) way to get there: ride share, Light Rail, MARC train or personal car.

Getting from place to place in Baltimore can be daunting, especially when it seems like the city is constantly undergoing construction.

On June 10 the ground collapsed causing a sinkhole near the intersection of Howard and Pratt streets and cutting off access to the northbound Light Rail toward Hunt Valley.

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According to public works officials, restoring Light Rail service is expected to be the last step in the process of fixing the hole in the street where the sinkhole formed. Last week, they said full transit service will not be restored until late August.

At 2:05 p.m. on a Tuesday in late July, four Baltimore Sun interns carrying one piece of luggage each put four different transportation methods to the ultimate test.

The mission: to make it from the Baltimore Convention Center downtown to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport’s Southwest domestic flights terminal in Anne Arundel County in time to catch an imaginary 5 p.m. flight.

We took a Lyft, personal car, a bus followed by the MARC train, and the Light Rail to see which intern could make it there first.

BWI is the only airport within a 13-mile radius from the city. For those who have a car it’s a seemingly short drive from the Convention Center. For out-of-towners, or people without access to a personal car, it can be a hassle.

But how much of a hassle can it actually be? And, more importantly, how can residents and out-of-towners alike avoid the frustrations?

The winner was a Lyft ride that took 26 minutes, followed by a personal car at 34 minutes. The Light Rail took 60 minutes, followed by the bus to the MARC train that took 108 minutes. By the time the bus reached Penn Station, Christine had missed the 2:30 p.m. train to the airport so she had to purchase an express ticket for 3:25 p.m. Had she gotten to the station earlier, her adjusted time would be 53 minutes, or seven minutes faster than the light rail.

Here’s how we did, from the fastest trip to the slowest.

Baltimore Sun intern Juju Kim, retrieves her suitcase from her Lyft ride in front of BWI-Thurgood Marshall International Airport.
Baltimore Sun intern Juju Kim, retrieves her suitcase from her Lyft ride in front of BWI-Thurgood Marshall International Airport. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Lyft

Trip length: 26 minutes

Cost: $22.00

Passengers: Juliana Kim with photographer Karl Ferron

How was the overall trip?

The overall trip was smooth and easy. No traffic. It dropped me off right in front of the gate. I didn’t have to walk in the heat.

What was the most interesting or strange part?

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My Lyft driver, despite my best efforts, didn’t want to talk to me. Maybe he was camera-shy.

What was the most aggravating or stressful part?

When I put my starting location into the app, it turned out to be inaccurate, so it took a little longer for my driver to find me.

Pros: Convenience. There’s rarely any hassle to this method.

Cons: Price., Depending on the time and pickup spot, taking a cab can be expensive.

Best for: People who can afford a cab or who don’t live near public transportation.

Worst for: People who don’t want to spend too much money on transportation.

2:19:37 PM: Baltimore Sun reporter Giana Han drives to BWI Airport after picking up her car in a parking garage near the Convention Center.
2:19:37 PM: Baltimore Sun reporter Giana Han drives to BWI Airport after picking up her car in a parking garage near the Convention Center. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Personal car

Trip length: 34 minutes

Cost: $14

Passengers: Giana Han with photographer Amy Davis

How was the overall trip?

It was a pretty average trip. It took me about the predicted under 20 minutes to drive there, and the overall trip took around half an hour.

What was the most interesting or strange part?

When you get in the parking garage, the signs that tell you how many spots are open in each section are really helpful. I didn't have to drive up and down lanes looking for a spot and found one quickly. Also, the floors were color-coded to help you remember which one you were on. Unfortunately, our floor was "purple," but the corresponding mural looked red, so we accidentally returned to the wrong floor.

What was the most aggravating or stressful part?

Once I'm there, it's not as simple as getting out of the car and walking in. I have to find a garage (which I also have to pay for) and then shuttle in. I thought I was in the wrong lane for the parking garage because a sign said, "Cell Phone Lot," but the garage is also in that same direction. I had to ask the shuttle bus driver if I was on the right bus to get to the terminal.

Pros: I felt like I was controlling my own fate, up until I got on the shuttle. I was in the comfort of my own car and didn't have to figure out anyone else's timetables.

Cons: The cost of parking. If you're parked long term, it can really add up. There are other options for parking, but those take research.

Best for: People traveling with a group because it’s easier to organize everyone, since you’re working with your individual schedules without the extra public transportation schedule added to the equation.

Worst for: An individual traveler would probably be better off catching an Uber or having a friend drive them.

Baltimore Sun intern Oyin Adedoyin sits on the light rail as she races to BWI airport against other Baltimore Sun interns. Her mode of transport was the Light Rail from Camden Yards straight to BWI.
Baltimore Sun intern Oyin Adedoyin sits on the light rail as she races to BWI airport against other Baltimore Sun interns. Her mode of transport was the Light Rail from Camden Yards straight to BWI. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Sun)

Light Rail

Trip Length: 60 minutes

Cost: $1.90

Passengers: Oyin Adedoyin with photographer Ulysses Muñoz

How was the overall trip?

The overall trip was smooth.

What was the most interesting or strange part?

I learned that there are two BWI stops on the Light Rail., One is called the BWI Business Park Station and the other, called BWI airport, drops you off directly at the airport. Don’t make the mistake of being dropped off in the parking lot because that’s a long walk to the terminal.

What was the most aggravating or stressful part?

The most interesting part was that, due to construction along the Light Rail, the rest stop was closed so people couldn’t use the bathroom, sit in an air-conditioned space or grab a drink.

Pros: It was relatively fast and easy. The Light Rail veterans were helpful and offered me advice and pro tips .

Cons: Due to construction the entire rest station was blocked off so there was nowhere to sit while waiting in the blazing heat for the Light Rail.

Best for: This would be best for younger people who, generally speaking, don’t have a lot of money to spend on transportation.

Worst for: Families or any kind of large group.

Baltimore Sun intern Christine Condon races to get to BWI airport against the other interns, but ran into some trouble waiting for the bus and ended up missing her first MARC train. While the other interns had already made it to the airport, she struck up conversations with people inside Penn Station and on the train to the airport.
Baltimore Sun intern Christine Condon races to get to BWI airport against the other interns, but ran into some trouble waiting for the bus and ended up missing her first MARC train. While the other interns had already made it to the airport, she struck up conversations with people inside Penn Station and on the train to the airport. (Xavier Plater/Baltimore Sun)

CityLink Bus & MARC Train

Trip Length: 108 minutes

Cost: $6.90

Passengers: Christine Condon with photographer Xavier Plater

How was the overall trip? If I hadn’t missed the MARC train, I’m sure it would’ve been great. The trains only come about once every hour, so I had to wait. I ended up on an express MARC train that went straight to BWI from Penn Station, though, so it was a quick journey, and the conductor was friendly. He made the time pass quickly.

What was the most interesting or strange part?

Waiting for the CityLink green bus on South Charles Street was definitely interesting. The bus was parked near the stop and I think the driver was taking a break, so I approached the doors to board and waited outside. As soon as I approached, the bus driver started heading for the stop and I had to quickly run after it.

What was the most aggravating or stressful part?

I’d have to say waiting at Penn Station was the most aggravating part of my trip. If I’d really been trying to catch a flight around 5 p.m., I would’ve been panicking. Plus, there wasn’t all that much to eat at the station, and I would’ve killed for a sandwich.

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Pros: The MARC train is an easy ride to BWI, especially if you get the express train. Plus, it’s cheap. My ticket from Penn Station to the airport was $5.

Cons: Getting to Penn Station to board the train ate up a lot of time.

Best for: If you’re near Penn Station, this route definitely makes sense.

Worst for: People who live farther away from the city.

Had it not been for construction, Christine could’ve also ridden the Light Rail northbound to Penn Station to catch her train.

Baltimore Sun reporters Christine Condon, Giana Han and Juliana Kim also contributed to this article.

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