Second Guessed by an MSP Airport Taxi

While taking taxi home from the MSP airport the other night, a cabbie lectured me about the directions I gave him to my house. To my house!

As a frequent traveler with a frequent traveling wife, I make at least 50 round trips to the airport from my house a year, so I tend to think that I have a pretty good grasp on how to get from these particular Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible. But, upon arrival at my house, the cabbie told me that he knew how to get to my house better than I did.

Here is the route I guided the cabbie through from the Humphrey Terminal at MSP to my home in the Longfellow Neighborhood of Minneapolis (1):

Actual Route Taken: 9.3 Miles

I was checking my email when we left Humphrey, so I didn’t immediately pick up on the fact that he went South on 34th rather than North to Post Rd. After that, I am responsible for the rest of the turns. Hwy 5 to Hiawatha to 46th St E to 46th Ave S to home.

Upon arriving at my home, the cabbie noticed that it’s close to Lake Street and asked me why I didn’t take Hiawatha to Lake Street like this (2):

Cabbie Suggests: 10.5

I told him that it’s a longer route because Hiawatha moves further West as you head North.

He told me that I had wasted his time and fuel by taking him up 46th Ave S instead of Hiawatha. He wasn’t a fan of the stop signs every other block along 46th.

Here are a couple other routes worth considering for this discussion. Google Maps’ driving directions suggests this route of Post Rd and Hiawatha to Lake (3).

Google Maps Suggests: 9.9

This is what I believe is the fastest route to my house from the Humphrey Terminal. Post Rd, Hiawatha to 46th St E, North on 46th Ave S (4):

My Suggestion: 8.7 Miles

And this, I believe, is the shortest distance, although it’s not the fastest since the park road through Minnehaha Park is slower than Hiawatha. Hiawatha to 54th through Minnehaha Park, then up 46th Ave S (5).

Shortest Distance: 8.5 Miles

So, who’s right?

Here’s a breakdown of the distances along with time estimates from Google Maps:

1. 9.3 Miles – 23 Minutes
2. 10.5 Miles – 22 Minutes
3. 9.9 Miles – 20 Minutes
4. 8.7 Miles – 22 Minutes
5. 8.5 Miles – 21 Minutes

One thing is blatantly clear to me: The cabbie’s suggested route (2) is at least .6 miles longer than it needs to be because he goes the long way around Fort Snelling Cemetery when leaving the Humphrey terminal. While that provides faster access to a highway, it’s far enough out of the way to be no faster time wise. However, based on how cabbies are compensated (mileage) it’s pretty clear why he’s choose that route.

Beyond that, it’s very close. Google’s suggested route has the fastest estimate time. However, there is a huge X factor here: Stoplights. The time estimate for taking Hiawatha to Lake Street should have a huge asterisks next to it since that could vary by at least 5 minutes based on whether the lights are being screwed up by the LRT. Additionally, the cab would have to deal with at least 7 lights along E Lake Street. By comparison, from 46th & Hiawatha, taking 46th Street will involve three short lights before hitting 46th Ave S.

The current meter rate is $1.90/mile on top of a $2.50 flag drop and a $2.75 airport fee.

It looks like my optimized route takes the exact same time as what he suggested (although it could be even better based on stoplights killing his route). And my route is almost 2 miles shorter, so around $3.50 cheaper.

However, this is an expensable trip for me. After a long day of travel I just want to get home fast so the $3.50 difference isn’t my main motivator. I just want to get home ASAP.

The Green Angle

So, let’s assume the time would have been exactly the same for the cab ride whether we had taken my preferred route or his. Which route is greener? Could he have saved fuel by taking the longer route? I’m sure this is possible in some scenarios, but could he really drive 13-20% further and come out ahead on fuel consumption? I have my doubts but would love to hear your theories on that.

Negotiating Fares

The cabbie suggested to me that I could negotiate the fare so I could pay him based on my route while letting him drive his preferred route. Not a bad compromise, I suppose, but seems like a lot of work for over $3.50 difference, especially considering how difficult it could be to explain what I’m trying to do to a typical cabbie. And it doesn’t address my primary concern: time.

What’s your take? Is there a clear winner when it comes to route optimization in this situation?

Which route would you pick?

How would you deal with a cabbie who second guesses driving directions to your own house?

16 thoughts on “Second Guessed by an MSP Airport Taxi”

  1. For a total difference of 3 minutes and $3.50, I’d probably not sweat it and let the driver just get me home. Frankly, I’d be more worried about the erratic driving of the cab driver than the minutes I’d save. Plus, isn’t traffic is enough of a wildcard to throw the whole thing off?

    Tangentially, keeping the cab on a route where he or she is least likely to come in contact with pedestrians or cyclists is best. Cab drivers are the worst drivers around.

  2. It’s the absurd principle here, justin.

    Traffic-wise, I think he’s better off on the more residential streets where things are consistent over the inconsistency of Hiawatha caused by traffic, lights, emergency vehicles, etc.

  3. Nice. I like your depth of analysis. I generally feel that as a customer, as long as your requirements are not unreasonable, it shouldn’t matter.. you got what you asked for and paid a fair rate by their own accounting scheme. Obviously you weren’t premeditating the demise of the poor cabbie, picturing his family in destitution while grinning at the image of a new world’s-tallest uber-scraper in Dubai. But when dealing with that kind of personality, no matter what you do you can’t ‘win.’ Next time tell him, “Ha-haaa! I gotcha! eat it!” or “Sorry, next time I guess I’ll drive myself and pay the parking lot folks instead.” 🙂

  4. To be truly green, you need to evaluate the public transit option. According to Ride Guide, you could conceivably make the route in 31 minutes for $1.50. And you’d be passing all those drivers stuck on northbound Hiawatha.

    That being said, anything that avoids northbound Hiawatha is inherently faster. However, I’d wager that going TO the airport would be faster on Hiawatha, since southbound is always a few minutes faster.

  5. What about West River Pkwy? Fewer stop signs than on 46th and still shorter than Hiawatha to Lake. The Pkwy would probably be my chosen route as it is the most pleasant. Should “quality of life,” or something like it, be factored into transportation quandaries?

  6. Nathan, good point about LRT. I was too lazy to be that green on this particular night. I often do take the LRT home.

    Tom, I’ve tested 46th vs W River Pkwy and 46th has won. I think the parkway’s wandering path adds enough additional distance to give 46th a shot. If it’s a prime biking time, such a after work, I avoid W River Pkwy as I wish other drivers would do when I’m biking there.

  7. I take the 54th exit from Hiawatha everyday home from work instead of staying on Hiawatha because I think it’s a lot faster then Hiawatha (if you get stopped at the lights). And once you go around the roundabout, you can stay on the river, and avoid every single light from 54th to your place. Stop signs, yes, but it’s quite nice to make that whole stretch without really stopping.

    In a cab though? I agree with just letting them drive and resting my brain.

  8. I was also corrected by a MSP Airport Cabbie…except this was how to get to my office from my home — a route I’ve driven for nearly three years! It would take some time to explain, but I’ll just say that sometimes it’s better to sit still on 494 than slide up back road shortcuts. I still have trouble “unlearning” my wife from our old route.

  9. Dude, I totally forgot to tip you off yesterday, when we chatted this up on our bike ride, to the fastest route to and from the airport–East River Road.

    You cross the river into St Paul and avoid the Minnehaha Falls and Crosstown traffic knots / stop lights and the stop signs every two blocks on 46th Ave.

    And the scenery is so calming, the cabbie should be tipping you for sharing the better route. 😉

  10. Back when I was a cabbie in Boston, we were taught just two things on how to be a successful cab driver.

    1. Ask “where do you want to go?”

    2. Ask “what’s the best way to get there?”

    If the guy told you you wasted his time BEFORE you tipped him, well, what a loser you had for a cabbie.

  11. This former Minneapolis cabbie is with Collins.

    Sure cabbies get fares based on miles (and to some extent, elapsed time) but the differences aren’t that big in the examples. Where the cabbie really makes money, especially if he doesn’t own the cab, is on the tip, which he doesn’t have to split with the company and may not even split with the government.

    The “flat rate” he offered, at least in the old days, would’ve let him run off the meter, and he might’ve pocketed the entire fare, then done a dead head back to the airport.

    When I had a route that had a shorter (and cheaper) vs. faster but farther option, I always offered the customer both if the didn’t already have a route they wanted me to take.

  12. Quite frankly, it’s none of his GD business *what* route you want to take. If he wants to drive *his* way, he can eat the cost of the ride.

  13. I fascinated by the idea that the cabbie probably took longer to argue with you about the route than the time he thinks he would have saved by going his way.

  14. I have to say I side with the Cabbie…I thinks his route was greener…and probably faster.

    Less stops, less left hand turns (one by my calcs) and probably a better cruising speed.

    That said…I believe the phrase “the customer is always right” comes to mind.

  15. of course the whole left hand turn argument holds no water if were in “no right on red” territory…I might have to rethink my hypothesis.

  16. Hi Im your nieghbor and in the airport service industry. I have to tell you that you are absolutely correct to turn at 46th cut to minnehaha.
    First, the customer is always right, and the driver was suppose to go over the route with you prior to leaving HHH. Second Hiawatha is a joke that does not always move making the meter tick 35 to 39 cents a minute if you are stopped.
    3rd. If the driver knows of alternative or faster way or knows of construction or any blocks that are not open,you should have been told. He or she should ask you if you would like to try that way, and only take that way if it is not an additional cost, if the driver makes the mistake he/she is obligated to make it right with you. That is what they are taught in cab college.
    I own and operate Platinum Airport And Car Service 612-203-7276,We have customers who are neighbors and take that same route everyday, all year. We would be more than happy to take you back and forth to the airport 50 times a year and I will offer you A FLAT RATE, because you are my nieghbor and a very frequent flyer who goes to the same location/drop.
    If you fly that often you deserve better, My name is Darlette and I would be more than happy to offer you a flat rate.

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