I just got home from nearly a month in Germany. I flew into and out of Frankfurt, stayed mainly in Düsseldorf, but traveled to Hamburg a couple of times, and Berlin. I also did day trips to the nearby towns of Oberhausen and Wuppertal.

This was my first trip to Europe, and I was blown away by the rail transit system. Prior to this trip, my experience with rail outside the US was in Sydney, Australia. Not bad there, but Germany's is better.

After arriving at SFO on my journey home, I decided to take public transit from the airport to my house, as an experiment, to contrast with the experience in Germany. Overall, it took nearly three hours to get home, spanning three different rail systems and a 25-minute walk with my bags (not including the small bit of walking at the transfer points).

I'll try to write up some other transit comparisons I've been mulling, but for now, let's compare getting from my hotel to the airport in Germany to getting from the airport to my home in the US…


From Kruppstraße 32, 40227 Düsseldorf (my hotel)
To Frankfurt Ariport
Distance by car 211 km
Time by car 2 hours, 4 minutes
Total time by transit 1 hour, 35 minutes
Transit systems 1
Transfers 0
Tickets bought 1
Total price €55.75 ($70.75)
Walk time outside of airport 5 min
Average speed 133 km/h
Price per km $0.34
Price per km/(km/h) $0.0025


I would've walked one block (5 minutes) and taken a train one stop to the Düsseldorf main station, but I was really late getting ready, so I called a cab. The local train might've not come for five to ten minutes, depending on when I got to the local station, and I was afraid of missing my train connection to Frankfurt. But the comparison is valid. I had about 15 minutes to make it to the main station train platform; an extra 15 minutes and I would've just taken the train. (One nice thing is that when you buy a ticket for the high-speed intercity rail, it's good for free travel in the intracity transit system at either end.)

To be fair, there's a bit of a walk from where the train drops you off at the airport to your gate. It's about a two-minute walk to the checked-baggage drop off from the train, and the agent there told me it was a 25 minute walk to my gate. That estimate was about right, including going through passport control and security (both of which were fairly light). That time might've been a bit less had I driven right to terminal C, but I not much less.


From SFO
To Home
Distance by car 55 km
Time by car 42 min
Total time by transit 2 hours, 45 minutes
Transit systems 3
Transfers 4
Tickets bought 3
Total price $10.75 (€8.47)
Walk time outside of airport 25 min
Average speed 20 km/h
Price per km $0.19/km
Price per km/(km/h) $0.009

To take transit from SFO to my home in Milpitas, I had to:

  • Walk to the BART station at SFO (not a big deal).
  • Take BART to San Bruno, because they don't run to Millbrae during the week.
  • Transfer to a Millbrae train.
  • Transfer at Millbrae to CalTrain. CalTrain runs only once per hour during the middle of the weekday. As it turned out, my wait was 26 minutes.
  • Take CalTrain to Mountain View. 46 minutes.
  • Transfer to VTA Light Rail, 3 minutes.
  • Ride to Tasman, 30 minutes. Transfer time, 4 minutes.
  • Ride to Great Mall, 10 minutes.
  • Walk home, 25 minutes.