A New Record: Guns Caught at US Airport Security Checkpoints

Belt. Off.

Shoes. Off.

Phone out of pocket. Yes.

Laptop and iPad in separate trays. Done.

Guns. Ermmmm…

Methodology

Travellers who bring firearms to the checkpoint are subject to criminal charges from law enforcement and civil penalties from TSA.

Even if a traveller has a concealed weapon permit, firearms are not permitted to be carried onto an aeroplane.

However, travellers with proper firearm permits can travel legally with their firearms in their checked bags if they follow a few simple guidelines to transport firearms and ammunition safely.

The data reported in this post covers all guns identified, which includes both those authorised to be carried on-board as well as guns seized.

Results

Guns identified at US airports

Year Nationwide
2008 926
2009 976
2010 1,123
2011 1,320
2012 1,556
2013 1,813
2014 2,212
2015 2,653
2016 3,391
2017 3,957
2018 4,239
2019 4,432

View full table.

Number of Weapons Identified by TSA at US Airports (2008 - 2019)

Transportation Security Administration officers caught more firearms at checkpoints nationwide in 2019, more than ever recorded previously.

In total, 4,432 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags or on passengers at checkpoints across the country last year, averaging about 12.1 firearms per day, approximately a 5% increase nationally in firearm discoveries from the total of 4,239 detected in 2018.

What’s more, eighty-seven percent of firearms detected at checkpoints last year were loaded.

Worst airports

Airport Weapons Identified
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) 323
Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) 217
Denver International (DEN) 140
George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) 138
Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX) 132

View full table.

Number of Weapons Identified by TSA at US Airports (2019)

View chart.

Firearms were caught at 278 airport checkpoints in the US.

The top five airports where TSA officers detected guns at checkpoints in 2019 were: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International with 323; Dallas/Fort Worth International with 217; Denver International with 140; George Bush Intercontinental with 138; and Phoenix Sky Harbor International with 132.

Improvements

As noted, there is no distinction between guns authorised to be carried on-board and guns carried illegally. Being able to extrapolate how many guns were seized would add a different perspective to the analysis.

tl;dr

4432 guns were identified at US airports security checkpoints in 2019 (compared to just 926 in 2008).

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The Great TSA Robbery

Waiting at a baggage carousel is never enjoyable.

You’ve stepped off the plane, cleared security, and then, the 300 plus people who have just disembarked the plane rush to get as close to where the bags enter the carousel with latecomers forced to pack tightly around its perimeter.

If you’re lucky, or have paid for the privilege, your bag will arrive first. If you’re unlucky, me, you’ll be waiting until the very end.

If you’re really unlucky, your bag won’t arrive at all, and you’ll spend the next hour or two waiting at the baggage information desk to find out what to do next.

In many cases, your bag just wasn’t loaded on your flight, and in such cases the bag will be carried on the next flight.

Though even with highly computerised baggage processes, bags do still inevitably go missing — from hand baggage at security checkpoints to checked luggage at the destination.

But why?

Methodology

The Transport Security Administration (TSA) are responsible for the security of the travelling public in the United States.

This includes everything from checking passengers are not carrying prohibited items into the cabin through to checking bags going into the hold.

The TSA periodically publish claims made against them during a screening process of persons or passenger’s property due to an injury, loss, or damage.

The latest in Excel format is for 2015, and is the version used in this post (I guess it takes them a long time to process and publish claims, as you’ll see even claims from 2015 are still showing as open…)

Results

Overview of claims

Question Answer
Total claims 8667
Total open claims 2066
Total closed claims 3027
Value of all closed claims USD 611,137.05
Mean average payout USD 201.90
Highest claim USD 5,403.46
Lowest claim USD 2.00
Total rejected claims 3574
Most claimed for category Passenger Property Loss (4551)
Most claimed for item type Baggage/Cases/Purses
Most claimed for site Checked baggage (6261)
Most claimed for airport John F. Kennedy International (523)

Full table.

Over $611K USD has been paid out representing just over 3000 claims. 3500 we’re rejected. 200 claims remain open (outcome undecided) for the year 2015.

JFK (New York), the 6th busiest US airport (61 million pax/yr), is the airport that received the most claims from passengers.

Months with most claims

Count of TSA Claims vs Month (2015)

Download chart.

Unsurprisingly the busy summer months (July and August), where passenger traffic is generally at its highest level, saw the most claims.

Most common items stolen

Item Category Count of claims
Baggage/Cases/Purses 1004
Computer & Accessories 736
Clothing 723
663
Other 570
Personal Electronics 561
Jewelry & Watches 509
Travel Accessories 454
Personal Accessories 347
Cosmetics & Grooming 310

Full table.

Computer & accessories, after suitcases and purses, are the items that go missing the most.

Worst airports

Airport Code Airport Name Count of claims (all, inc pending) Value of paid claims USD
JFK John F. Kennedy International 523 50635.31
LAX Los Angeles International Airport 495 28864.61
MCO Orlando International Airport 372 25795.49
ATL Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport 362 17725.27
EWR Newark International Airport 312 32630.15
MIA Miami International Airport 306 22801.2
ORD Chicago O’Hare International Airport 261 17446.55
LAS McCarran International 256 9533.35
PHX Phoenix Sky Harbor International 245 22239.19
SEA Seattle-Tacoma International 244 18362.59

Full table.

The TSA at JFK has the highest number of claims made against them (523). Those claims that have been paid out represent $50k total so far.

Improvements

My assumption is many claims go straight to insurance companies and never reach the TSA (I’d love to see a data set covering claims made to insurers). I estimate no more than $1 million will be paid out by the TSA for all claims made in 2015 — significantly lower than the figures I would expect after analysing other data sources.

If the latest data is 2016/2017, there is a significant lag in publishing statistics. I also wonder how much data is actually missing. It would be interesting to see a longer timeseries of data to see changes in the number and types of claims.

tl;dr

Avoid JFK airport in the summer months if you’re travelling with particularly valuable items.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Please Arrive at the Airport 6 Hours Before Your Flight to Clear Security

It has been a little different over the last few months.

Whilst the holiday you’ve been looking forward to since the start of the outbreak might not be going ahead this year, it will come around.

We’ll all be back flying soon. And so will the familiar, often stressful, journey from car to plane.

Wait to check-in. Wait to drop your bags. Wait until the person in front of you at security empties the backpack full of all their electronics (sorry!).

In this period of travel downtime, I decided to take a look at the best and worst performing airports for security waiting times in the UK and US. Perhaps it’ll change my decision on where to fly from once travel restrictions are lifted.

Methodology

Which? asked asked 4,499 passengers to provide an estimated wait time for security on their most recent visit to the airport in their recent annual airport survey (end of 2019). Note: this survey was conducted before any COVID-19 restrictions were put in place.

The passenger numbers from each UK airport are sourced from CAA figures published for 2018, the latest full year dataset available at the time of writing. Note, the numbers are reported per airport. I could not find individual terminal data as is reported in the waiting time data. Therefore to perform my analysis I simply divided airport passenger number by number of terminals at the airport. Clearly this is not perfect.

For US airport data, I used data from Upgraded Points, who compiled wait time data directly from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) They collected data from late Spring for every hour at each airport to calculate overall averages.

Results

Mean security wait time at UK airports
Mean security wait time at UK airports

Download chart.

This one’s personal. I used to travel to Belfast monthly. I don’t miss the queues.

Belfast International is by-far-and away the worst performing airport for security waiting times, taking on average over 22 minutes  — over 5 minutes longer than any other airport considered.

Compare that with Southend or Southampton, the latter of which I used to fly to and from Belfast coincidently, where queuing can regularly take less than 5 minutes.

Mean security wait (mins) 2019 vs UK airport size

Mean security wait versus airport size

Download chart.

Gatwick and Heathrow have the lowest average security queue times for large UK airports. They are also the only two airports in the UK whose queue targets are set externally – by the Civil Aviation Authority.

They hit their queue targets, which are to get 99% of flyers through security in less than 10 minutes (Heathrow) and 98% in less than 15 minutes (Gatwick).

For a long time, my personal hypothesis was that smaller airports would have slower security primarily due to the fact they often cater for low-cost airlines, and thus people who might not travel as regularly.

How wrong I was.

In fact, larger airports are about 2 minutes slower. When I think more deeply about this, it makes perfect sense. Larger airport, more passengers, slower security queues.

Mean security wait (mins) 2019 vs UK airport passenger number

Number of passengers to add 1 minute to security wait times at UK airports (2019)

Download chart.

Comparing wait times to the number of passengers travelling gives us a better picture of how efficient security at each airport is.

Every 2.68 million passengers adds about a minute to the security waiting times at Gatwick South terminal, making it the most efficient airport considered. The North terminal at Gatwick doesn’t fare much worse with every 2.69 million passengers adding an extra minute.

Compare that to Bournemouth where every 88,000 passengers adds a minute to the security wait times.

Comparing to US airports

Airport Mean security wait (mins) 2019 Country
Southend 5.2 UK
Southampton 5.2 UK
Exeter 6.9 UK
Cardiff 7.1 UK
London City 7.5 UK
Bournemouth 7.7 UK
Newcastle 8.1 UK
Bristol 8.5 UK
Heathrow Terminal 5 8.6 UK
Gatwick South Terminal 8.6 UK
Gatwick North Terminal 8.7 UK
Salt Lake International Airport 9.1 US
Heathrow Terminal 4 9.4 UK
Heathrow Terminal 2 9.6 UK
Liverpool (John Lennon) 10.1 UK
Heathrow Terminal 3 10.3 UK
Dulles International Airport 10.5 US
Edinburgh 10.5 UK
Boston Logan International Airport 10.6 US
Leeds Bradford 10.6 UK
Birmingham 10.6 UK
Luton 11.7 UK
Glasgow International 12.2 UK
East Midlands 12.7 UK
Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport 13 US
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport 13.2 US
Charlotte Douglas International Airport 13.2 US
Philadelphia International Airport 13.3 US
Stanstead 13.7 UK
Denver International Airport 13.8 US
Los Angeles International Airport 14.2 US
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport 14.3 US
Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport 14.7 US
Orlando International Airport 14.9 US
Chicago O’Hare International Airport 15 US
San Diego International Airport 15.5 US
Manchester Terminal 2 15.5 UK
Manchester Terminal 3 15.5 UK
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport 15.9 US
San Francisco International Airport 16 US
John F. Kennedy International Airport 16 US
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport 16.3 US
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport 16.9 US
LaGuardia Airport 17 US
Manchester Terminal 1 17 UK
McCarran International Airport 17.3 US
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport 18.2 US
Miami International Airport 19.6 US
Houston Airport System 19.8 US
Belfast International 22.3 UK
Newark Liberty International Airport 23.1 US

Full table.

The best performing airports based on security wait times are all in the UK. Salt Lake International Airport is the best performing airport in the US (9.1 mins).

The worst airport, Newark Liberty International Airport in New York where average security wait times are 23.1 minutes — about one minute slower than Belfast International.

4 of the 5 worst performing airports are all in the US.

US vs UK airports average security wait times 2019

Download chart.

As a result, US airports security queues, are on average, 5 minutes slower than their UK counterparts.

Improvements

The UK figures are based on estimates. Which? collected the data by asking 4,499 passengers to provide an estimated wait time for security on their most recent visit to the airport in our recent annual airport survey.

This is far from accurate. The analysis would be much improved if I was able to use the actual figures similar to the way they are reported by the TSA in the US, although I could not find anywhere where UK airports reported these numbers.

tl;dr

Belfast International is by-far-and away the worst performing UK airport for security waiting times, taking on average over 22 minutes  — over 5 minutes longer than any other airport considered.

In the US it’s Newark Liberty International Airport in New York, where security queues are a little over 23 minutes on average.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Electric Trains, Electric Cars, or Electric Bikes. Which is best for the environment?

You’ve swapped your petrol car for a plug-in hybrid.

Or perhaps you’ve gone full electric.

Maybe you’ve given up the car entirely to take the train to work instead.

Many of us are playing our part in trying to fix the climate crisis we’re all facing.

Though you might be surprised at the environmental cost of seemingly green modes of transport.

Before you buy that electric scooter, you’ll want read this.

Methodology

travelandmobility.tech have curated a great data set analysing the environmental (carbon) impact of a range of popular transport types.

  • Operation (direct): The environmental impact caused by the direct operation of the vehicle (e.g. abrasion emissions from brake linings, wheels…)
  • Operation (indirect): The environmental impact of indirect operation is determined, which primarily includes the provision of energy (e.g, processes from energy extraction from the environment to delivery to the tank…).
  • Maintenance: All the processes required to keep the vehicle roadworthy during its service life are counted (e.g. changing the tires of cars and replacing consumables in railway trains…).
  • Manufacture & Disposal: This category includes all processes that affect the manufacturing of the vehicle that are not included in maintenance (e.g. raw materials, operating emissions of the production facilities…)
  • Roadway: The construction, maintenance, and disposal of all types of tracks are counted (e.g for road transport these include roads, car parks etc., for rail traffic these include entire lines, safety walls, bridges…)

The impact of each of these factors is measured as carbon emissions in grams per passenger kilometre.

There are a number of assumptions that have been made to compile the data, including average level of occupancy per transport type (although in cases of transport types that carry multiple passengers, this figure if not reported) and the average lifetime (distance travelled) for each transport type.

Results

Operational Emissions

Carbon emissions for transport operation in grams per passenger kilometre

Download chart.

Category Operation (direct) g p/pkm Operation (indirect) g p/pkm Operation total g p/pkm
by Foot 0.00 0.00 0.00
Bike 0.00 0.00 0.00
E-Bike 0.00 1.01 1.01
E-Scooter (Vespa-Like) 0.00 2.28 2.28
E-Kick-Scooter (Dockless) 5.92 0.00 5.92
Tram 0.37 13.63 14.00
E-Bus 1.45 14.31 15.76
Car (Electric) 4.07 12.68 16.75
Car (Plug-In-Hybrid) 20.35 5.68 26.02
Bus (>200km) 32.32 6.31 38.63
Train (Highspeed) 0.03 40.65 40.68
Bus (<200km) 43.30 8.43 51.73
Train (Regional) 9.11 45.15 54.26
Scooter (Gasoline) 75.64 15.15 90.79
Car (Hybrid) 86.22 20.96 107.18
Motorbike (Gasoline) 97.24 24.82 122.05
Car (Diesel) 106.01 20.65 126.67
Autobus 112.25 22.10 134.35
Ferry (<200km) 123.65 23.86 147.51
Car (Gasoline) 130.23 34.11 164.34

Full table.

A gasoline car has the highest direct operating emissions (130.23 grams per pax km) and indirect emissions (34.11 g p/pkm). That’s more than a ferry (123.65 g p/pkm // 34.11 g p/pkm).

High-speed trains are very efficient for day-to-day direct operation (0.03 g p/pkm), though the indirect costs are carbon expensive (40.68 g p/pkm).

Combined, an electric car is more carbon friendly than a train from a direct and indirect operational perspective (4.07 g p/pkm // 12.68 g p/pkm).

Manufacture & Disposal Emissions

Carbon emissions for transport manufacture and disposal in grams per passenger kilometre

Download chart.

Category Manufacture & Disposal g p/pkm
by Foot 0.00
Train (Highspeed) 0.55
Train (Regional) 0.73
Tram 1.38
Bus (>200km) 1.75
Bus (<200km) 1.88
E-Bus 2.80
Autobus 3.28
Ferry (<200km) 3.75
Scooter (Gasoline) 5.40
Bike 5.91
E-Bike 10.96
Motorbike (Gasoline) 16.36
E-Scooter (Vespa-Like) 23.09
Car (Gasoline) 32.69
Car (Hybrid) 37.30
Car (Diesel) 39.48
Car (Plug-In-Hybrid) 42.20
Car (Electric) 62.57
E-Kick-Scooter (Dockless) 63.00

Full table.

Electric powered transport is by far the most expensive to create and dispose of. That said, the carbon cost of this is likely to reduce significantly in future years as technology advances.

Currently, an E-Kick-Scooter is the worst type of transport based on the carbon cost (63g p/pkm) — that’s more than an electric car (62.57 g p/pkm)!

Despite their size, trains and trams have a low carbon cost to manufacture and dispose of (high-speed train 0.55- g p/pkm) – this is almost certainly due to the amount of passengers they carry in comparison to other forms of transport considered.

Lifetime Emissions

Carbon emissions total for transport in grams per passenger kilometre (2019)

Download chart.

Category Total g p/pkm
by Foot 0.00
Bike 7.64
E-Bike 16.12
E-Bus 25.15
E-Scooter (Vespa-Like) 29.84
Tram 37.47
Bus (>200km) 44.64
Train (Highspeed) 49.90
Bus (<200km) 58.20
Train (Regional) 59.64
Car (Plug-In-Hybrid) 82.30
Car (Electric) 92.37
Scooter (Gasoline) 100.57
E-Kick-Scooter (Dockless) 126.00
Motorbike (Gasoline) 145.02
Autobus 145.41
Ferry (<200km) 151.45
Car (Hybrid) 158.06
Car (Diesel) 179.60
Car (Gasoline) 208.28

Full table.

Adding in maintenance and roadway costs, in addition to other factors considered, traditional diesel and gasoline cars are the most polluting over their lifetime (179.60 g p/pkm and 208.28 g p/pkm, respectively).

Plug-in hybrids have half the carbon impact compared to tradition hybrids (82.30 g p/pkm and 158.06 g p/pkm, respectively), and are even more emission friendly over their lifetime than pure electric cars (92.37 g p/pkm).

How far to generate a tonne of C02?

How many km transport type to generate tonne of co2 per pax 2019

Download chart.

Category How many km for tonne co2 / pax?
by Foot
Bike 130,868.61
E-Bike 62,028.67
E-Bus 39,761.43
E-Scooter (Vespa-Like) 33,516.37
Tram 26,685.14
Bus (>200km) 22,401.85
Train (Highspeed) 20,040.19
Bus (<200km) 17,182.13
Train (Regional) 16,767.27
Car (Plug-In-Hybrid) 12,150.77
Car (Electric) 10,826.13
Scooter (Gasoline) 9,943.46
E-Kick-Scooter (Dockless) 7,936.51
Motorbike (Gasoline) 6,895.58
Autobus 6,877.08
Ferry (<200km) 6,602.84
Car (Hybrid) 6,326.73
Car (Diesel) 5,568.01
Car (Gasoline) 4,801.13

Full table.

In a gasoline car it takes on average just 4,800 km for each passenger to contribute a tonne of carbon dioxide. A passenger in an electric car will generate a tonne in just under 11,000 km, and a high-speed train in just over 20,000 km.

Note, it is important to stress, most of the emission are down to manufacturing costs (e.g. a Land Rover Discovery in 2010 required 35 tonnes CO2e for manufacture). See Methodology section for assumptions on lifetime distances.

Improvements

As the authors of the dataset note:

… [the results] not illustrating scientifically-proven results but provides our best guess on average carbon emissions produced by transport type based on existing third-party research that we were able to identify and combine.

It is also clear, air transport is missed. Interestingly, one of the data sources referenced is Lufthansa Innovation Hub.

It is impossible to get true figures for an analysis, there are simply too many variables, that said, the numbers used for analysis in this post could definitely be improved for a more accurate output.

tl;dr

In a gasoline car it takes just 4,800 km for each passenger to contribute a tonne of carbon dioxide. A passenger in an electric car will generate a tonne in just under 11,000 km, and a high-speed train in just over 20,000 km.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The $6,500 Hotel Bed

Hotels should have a bed rating system.

Beds overflowing with soft pillows and a soft mattress. 1*.

Firm pillows and a firm mattress. 5*.

Many hotels beds are far superior to any store bought alternatives.

I remember one of my first ever stays at a high-end hotel for business when flipping through the information book I found the bed was for sale.

For a recent graduate, it wasn’t cheap.

Which explains why an astonishing 49 five-star hotels reported that mattresses had been stolen from their premises since January 2018.

Then I started looking at the prices of hotel beds and quickly realised the bed I saw for sale was, in fact, relatively cheap.

Methodology

I used mattresses from Casper, a popular mattress delivery company, as a baseline. I chose Casper as the company offers three types of mattresses that can be broadly classed into price points; basic to premium.

For hotel mattress prices, I went directly to the hotel for prices. If the hotel was not able to directly provide a price on their website, I did not include the mattress in this analysis. In total I selected 22 mattresses from 6 hotel chains.

All prices used are for full priced California King mattresses (I want total luxury after all!).

Results

Cost of Casper Californian King Mattresses

Cost of Casper Californian King Mattresses (December 2019)

Download chart.

Model Cal King Price (USD)
The Essential $795
The Casper $1,195
The Wave $2,695

Full table (inc. links to buy).

Cost of Californian King Mattresses by Hotel (December 2019)

Cost of Californian King Mattresses by Hotel (December 2019)

Download chart.

Bed name Hotel Chain Mattress Price USD
Omni Suite Pillow Top Bed Omni Hotels and Resorts 1,114.00
Cape Breton Plush Mattress Wyndham 1,323.50
Cape Breton Pillow Top Mattress Wyndham 1,523.81
Hilton Bed Hilton Worldwide 1,795.00
The Sweet Dreams Bed Hilton Worldwide 1,795.00
Hampton Bed Hilton Worldwide 1,795.00
Sheraton Bed Marriott International 1,795.00
The Heavenly Bed Marriott International 1,895.00
Pillow Top Mattress Marriott International 1,989.00
Euro Top Mattress Marriott International 1,989.00
Home2 Mattress Hilton Worldwide 1,995.00
Sofitel Bed Accor Hotels 1,999.00
The Marriott Bed Marriott International 2,150.00
Courtyard Bed Marriott International 2,150.00
The JW Bed Marriott International 2,150.00
Waldorf Astoria Bed Hilton Worldwide 2,195.00
The Ritz-Carlton Bed Marriott International 2,995.00
The St. Regis Mattress Marriott International 3,495.00
The Luxury Collection Bed Marriott International 3,495.00
Signature Mattress Four Seasons 3,999.00
Signature Plush Mattress Four Seasons 3,999.00
Signature Firm Mattress Four Seasons 3,999.00

Full table (inc. links to buy).

Of the 22 hotel mattresses considered, all are more expensive than the Essential Casper mattress ($795).

Only 1 is hotel mattress is cheaper than The Casper mattress ($1,195), the Omni Hotels, Omni Suite Pillow Top Bed.

Perhaps surprisingly though, 6 are more expensive than The Wave Casper Mattress ($2695). The Wave is competing with some high end 5* hotel beds including those offered by the Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis and Four Seasons chains.

The Ultimate Luxury

Item Hotel Chain Mattress Price USD Quantity Total
Signature Firm Mattress Four Seasons 3,999.00 1 3999
Sheet Set Four Seasons 599.00 1 599
Down & Feather Pillow Four Seasons 199.00 4 796
Duvet Cover Set Four Seasons 649.00 1 649
All Seasons Duvet Four Seasons 499.00 1 499

Full table (inc. links to buy).

Now that you’re convinced you need the ultimate in luxury, here’s what it will cost to buy…

$6,542

… and that figure doesn’t include the bed frame.

Cost to kit out a hotel

According to this article (2011), the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, is the largest Four Seasons resort in the world.

The property boasts 444 rooms, 40 Four Seasons Residence Club units, and 90 Four Seasons Private Residence — about 574 beds in total.

Excluding bed frames, that’s $3,755,108 ($6,542*574) worth of bedding at retail price.

Improvements

Price does not equal quality. It would be really interesting, should the data exist, to compare the reviews and prices of hotel mattresses to other retail manufacturers.

tl;dr

A Four Seasons mattress and bedding (excluding bed frame) will cost you $6,542 to bring home.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The $234,650,000,000 (two hundred thirty-four billion six hundred fifty million) subway

In 2018, I declared the New York City subway system “the best”, based on the factors considered.

Cities like London or Moscow have had their subway networks in place for over 100 years. Although both have grown in the intervening time.

Modern day cities like Shanghai have built comparatively new and large systems at an astonishing rate.

New York is planning to have spent around $35 billion between 2005 and 2030 on subway and commuter rail expansion. But it’s only getting 15 km of new tunnel!

Paris is spending a similar amount over the same period: €40 billion, for a total of 228 km, 187 km underground.

Madrid, a much smaller city, spent €10 billion in 1995-2015 on 234 km, around 180 km underground.

Let’s take a deeper look…

Methodology

Pedestrian Observations (Alon Levy) has compiled a comprehensive presentation titled; “What is the Cost of Building a Subway?“.

The figures used for my analysis are taken from that presentation, which uses data from an unreferenced dataset of different urban rail lines and their costs.

According to the presentation, “Costs cover engineering, contracts, and political factors.”

Results

Approximate construction costs by region per km, in millions (USD)

Download chart.

Country / Region USD million/km
East Asia 100
Turkey 100
Mediterranean / Nordic / Switzerland 120
Chile 150
Iran 200
Western Europe 250
China 250
Mexico / Brazil 330
Thailand 475
US / Canada / Australia / Singapore / UK 500
Philippines 1000

Download table.

Think infrastructure project in the Europe / US are expensive?

In Manilla, Philippines, they’ve spent and estimated $1 billion USD per/km. Twice as expensive as the US / Canada / Australia / Singapore / UK ($500 million USD per/km).

Halve that by building in Western Europe. $250 million USD per/km.

Head to Mediterranean / Nordic countries, or Switzerland, and costs plummet even further. $120 million USD per/km.

Approximate construction costs by era per km, in millions (2019 USD dollars)

Approximate construction costs per subway km, in millions (2019 dollars)

Download chart.

Era New York (mm USD 2019) London (mm USD 2019) Paris (mm USD 2019)
1900s 40 30 30
1910s 55
1930s 140 35 30
1960s-70s 700 150
1990s 1500 500 250

Full table.

Who said things got cheaper over time?

Costs to build subways have spiralled.

$40 million USD per km in New York in the 1990s. $1.5 billion USD per km in the 90’s.

While many of you, like me, might assume this is because of political factors or city density, you’re probably wrong.

The author of the presentation notes:

The cost difference seems to be mostly in stations.

To save money, he has uncovered the following cost items that best reduce construction costs:

  • Shallow cut-and-cover construction, disrupting the street for about 18 months. No mining except at undercrossings.
  • No mezzanines. All circulation, including fare barriers, should be on the platform level or at street level.
  • An island platform, ideally accessed from a street median, to avoid duplicating elevators, stairs, etc.
  • No signature architecture. Station designs should be reused systemwide. If art is desired, put on exhibits.

Rebuilding the London Underground in 2020

Est. Build Cost of London Underground Lines using 1990s costs (USD 2019)

Download chart.

Name Length (km) Cost at 1990s cost (mm USD 2019) Cost at 1990s cost (USD 2019)
Waterloo & City line 2.5 1250 $1,250,000,000
Victoria line 21 10500 $10,500,000,000
Bakerloo line 23.2 11600 $11,600,000,000
Hammersmith & City line 25.5 12750 $12,750,000,000
Circle line 27.2 13600 $13,600,000,000
Jubilee line 36.2 18100 $18,100,000,000
Northern line 58 29000 $29,000,000,000
District line 64 32000 $32,000,000,000
Metropolitan line 66.7 33350 $33,350,000,000
Piccadilly line 71 35500 $35,500,000,000
Central line 74 37000 $37,000,000,000
Total 469.3 234650 $234,650,000,000

Full table.

Assuming 1990’s London costs per/km of subway ($500mm p/km), even the 2.5 km Waterloo & City line would cost an estimated $1.25 billion to rebuild — maybe at that cost it would open on Sundays?

In total, it would cost an estimated $235 billion to build the London Underground today.

The London Underground carries about 1.4 billion passengers a year. If every journey cost a passenger $168 (about 12 times the cost of a travel card, which is already expensive!) the costs to build would pay for themselves in a year.

Built at Swiss prices ($120 million /km), it would be 75% cheaper at about $56 billion — a bargain… when compared to New York costs (@$1.5 billion per/km = $705 billion total).

Comparing to HS2 (UK)

HS2 vs London Underground construction costs per km

Download chart.

For those outside the UK, HS2 stands for high-speed 2, a planned high-speed rail network between London, the West Midlands, Manchester and Leeds.

It’s controversial, like many major infrastructure project, though the £307 million / $398 million USD per mile (£190.8 / $247.3 million /  per km) it is expected to cost (today) has been widely reported by the press.

Comparing this to the per kilometre cost of rebuilding the London Tube at 1990s prices ($500 million / km), HS2 doesn’t sound as expensive, though you don’t get as many tunnels for your $247.3 million!

Improvements

I’ve taken aggregated prices from the presentation that have already been manipulated by the author. To get a better insight into build costs and where they were sources from would dramatically improve the quality of my reporting.

tl;dr

In total, it would cost an estimated $235 billion to build the London Underground today. 

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Patient 0 to the World: How Air Travel Makes it Impossible to Contain COVID-19

Corona.

What was once a summer beer is now synonymous with something far less appealing.

COVID-19, or the Corona virus, has sadly led to over 2,500 deaths and almost 100,000 infections as I write this.

Recently I was reading about the World War 1 flu pandemic that claimed an estimated 16 million lives. It is estimated one fifth of the world’s population was attacked by this deadly virus.

Most researchers attribute the movement of people around the world to the fact the flu virus was able to infect so many.

And this was before the days of commercial aviation.

In 2018 there were 4.8 billion air passengers, total. Add in rail, road and sea journeys, and it’s clear the world is incredibly interconnected. There wasn’t even 4.8 billion people on the planet in 1914 (most estimates put it at between 1.5 and 1.7 billion).

From its origin in Wuhan, here’s a simple analysis for how easily it could have been spread around the world.

Methodology

I used a variety of sources to obtain data on air travel in China to estimate and analyse passenger traffic and aircraft movements.

Results

Air Pax Volume China (2019)

China air passenger volume 2019

Download chart.

In total, there were about 660 million passengers flying from a Chinese airport in 2019.

Almost 90% were flying domestically (586 million pax), with 72 million flying out of the country — the equivalent of around 49 million domestic and 6 million international pax each month.

Where do people fly to / from in China?

Download chart.

Rank Airport Passengers
1 Beijing Capital International Airport 100,983,290
2 Shanghai Pudong International Airport 74,006,331
3 Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport 69,720,403
4 Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport 52,950,529
5 Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport 49,348,950
6 Kunming Changshui International Airport 47,088,140
7 Xi’an Xianyang International Airport 44,653,311
8 Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport 43,628,004
9 Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport 41,595,887
10 Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport 38,241,630

Full chart.

Over 100 million passengers flew in or out of Bejing in 2018, or a mean average of 8.3 million per month.

Even the smallest airport in the top 100 by passenger volume, Nanyang Jiangying Airport, saw over 907,000 passengers through its doors in 2018.

Wuhan Tianhe International Airport had 24.5 million in 2019, or about 2 million per month — about the same amount of time before travel restrictions came into place and the virus was widely reported.

How many flights depart from Wuhan each month?

I could not find specific flight data for Wuhan, so let’s get creative.

Given most travellers are domestic, let’s use one of the most popular short/medium range aircraft, the Boeing 737 (ignoring the ongoing MAX 8 problems).

The 737 MAX 8 typically holds around 178 in a 2 class seat configuration.

Assuming only the 737 Max flew from Wuhan, that would mean over 11,235 flights landed / departed. Given there will be larger planes in operation, let’s assume 10,000 plane movements per month.

Divide that by two, to only consider departures, gives 5,000 plane departures per month.

And this is one city alone.

Summary

According to this same calculation using the amount of 737 seats to estimate number of flights would result in the 4.8 billion passengers who flew in 2018 to have done it on about 60 million flights or 5 million each month!

And that’s just air travel.

Without a total ban on travel, I cannot see how COVID-19 will be contained.

To finish, it is important I note this is not meant to be a post designed to scare.  Remember, even if you contract the virus, it is very likely you will survive.

Improvements

These stats are clearly not accurate model of the spread of COVID-19. The post is designed to highlight how interconnected the modern world is.

I’m very interested to see the models that researchers develop as our understanding of this virus increases. I am no where near skilled enough to do this.

tl;dr

With an estimated 5 million flights taking off around the world each month, stopping viruses penetrating borders is an impossible task.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

$5.5 billion down in Vegas

Vegas.

You can easily get lost in the maze of hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas Strip for a week. And there’s no shortage of hotel rooms.

For gamblers, getting lost is not a problem. It’s not hard to find a blackjack table or slot machine to place a bet.

The movies introduced me to $10k+ poker table buy-ins. Though it astounds me that even some of the machines in the casinos accept $10, $20 or even $100 minimum bets!

I’ll gamble when I visit. A grand total of $1 each time. I’m about $10 down at this point… but, as a travelstatsman, the fact I’ve lost money does not surprise me — the odds are the odds.

I’m not the only one who has stood looking over a sea of tables and machines and asked the question; how much is the casino making?

Methodology

All casinos in Nevada are required to report to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Each month the Board published figures that include revenues and win rates for the 445 licensed gambling establishments in the State.

I used the most recent report at the time of writing (April 2019) using figures over a year between April 2018 and April 2019.

Results

Number of Slot Machines

Number of Slot Machines Vegas Strip (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

Did you know? There are around 65,620 slot machines on the Vegas strip.

Number of Card Tables

Number of Card Tables Vegas Strip (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

Did you know? There are over 30 times more Blackjack (Twenty One) tables on the Vegas strip than any other card game!

Las Vegas Strip Revenue

Total Gaming Revenue Strip vs. State (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

Did you know? The Vegas Strip earns over $6.5 billion a year in gambling revenues (making up almost 60% of the entire gambling revenue generated in the State).

Revenue per game

Revenue per game Vegas Strip (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

Over $1 billion was generated by multi-denomination and $1 slot machines.

Baccarat tables were the only other game to generate $1 billion over the year. This is unsurprising as players have the potential to win serious money because of a small house edge.

Revenue per Unit

Revenue per unit Vegas Strip (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

A Sports Pool unit is on average the highest earner for a casino (almost $4 million per unit). Though this is slightly misleading, as gamblers can place bets quickly from a small number of units (just 36).

As there are relatively few Baccarat tables, when compared to slot machines, each table brought in a respectable $3.2 million over the year.

Odds of winning by game

Win % by Game on Vegas Strip (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

The lowest odds are generally on the slot machines (where the odds are fixed) and sports pools (where casinos are cautious with odds due to uncertainty) with classic card games offering gamblers the best odds of winning (3-card poker offers a 1 in 3 chance of winning).

Win / loss total value

Winnings / Losses Vegas Strip vs State (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

Of all $6.5 billion bet over the year period on the Vegas Strip, just $0.96 billion went back to gamblers — the overall odds of winning we’re 14.79% across all games.

$10.1 billion was bet in total in Nevada during the same period. Overall odds of winning for the whole State were slightly lower than the Strip at 14.01%.

 

Winnings / Losses Vegas Strip by game (Apr 2018 - Apr 2019)

Download chart.

You can see just how much higher the losses were for slot games (e.g. 1 cent and multi-denomination) compared to table games (e.g. Blackjack and Baccarat). These four games were by far the biggest earners for the casinos between April 2018 and April 2019.

Did you know? $1.3 billion was bet on 1 cent machines (I guess it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending). That’s 130 billion 1 cent coins. At a weight of 2.5 grams, that’s around 333,000 tonnes of coins! That said, most of it will have been gambled electronically.

Improvements

Many casinos are traded as public companies and have to disclose detailed information publicly, in addition to the aggregate figures published by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

For example, Wynn Q1 2019 10-Q, 2018 10-K, and press releases all contain detailed information including VIP spend, room revenue, and many other interesting data points.

tl;dr

Gamblers lost over $5.5 billion on the Vegas Strip between April 2018 and April 2019. With an average win rate of 14.79% over all games, gamblers took home $0.96 billion.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

The airport car park that earns £141 million each year

People often cite the deterioration of on-board offerings. Smaller seats, less pitch, more cramped, no free food. The list goes on.

Same with airports. Security, expensive restaurants, lack of outside space.

And, yes, people complaining about these things would be correct. Myself included.

Though one thing that’s often overlooked is not the airport terminals themselves, but the car parks that serve them.

I’m not talking about long-stay offerings, including the increasingly popular off-airport car parks.

I’m talking about the short stay car parks. The car parks family and friends picking up their loved ones must use as more airports remove their pickup points.

Why? The cost. Me and my family easily spent over £300 last year, and that’s during a year when I didn’t travel as much as usual.

I’ve decided to name and shame the UK airports minting their own money from their short car parks.

Methodology

Almost all UK airports publish their own parking charges publicly online. For this exercise I used their short stay offerings — the car park someone would typically use to wait for an arriving passenger.

I selected 9 of the UK’s largest airports, including the 5 major London airports; Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and City.

It is clear airports are targeting pick-ups with short stays. Just look at the range of pricing models (note, not all airports offer these pricing tiers):

  • 0-10 minutes
  • 10-20 minutes
  • Up to 30 minutes
  • 30 to 45 minutes
  • Up to 60 minutes
  • Up to 2 hours
  • Up to 3 hours
  • Up to 4 hours

Results

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 0-10 mins

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 0-10 min (2019)

Download chart.

Edinburgh, you win. The only airport to offer a free parking. Albeit for 10 minutes.

I want to hear from anyone who has parked up, collected a passenger, paid for their ticket and left the car park in 10 minutes. I have a lot to learn.

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 0-30 mins

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option up to 30 mins (2019)

Download chart.

30 minutes is more realistic for a pickup.

The budget airports fare worst here. Luton charges £9 for 30 mins and Stansted £8. Some low-cost flights can be purchased for less than this!

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 1 hour

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option up to 60 mins

Download chart.

Stying over 30 minutes will cost you an extra £15.50 to park at London City Airport. Though the £23 cost does buy you up to 4 hours of parking.

You can see there is a large spread of parking charges when we look at one hour stays. Luton and Stansted again come out as second and third most expensive for one hours stay at £16 and £14 respectively.

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option 3 hours

Cheapest UK airport short stay parking option up to 3 hours (2019)

Download chart.

Let’s assume your flight gets delayed, and the person waiting for you has to hang around the terminal waiting. Thanks to all the taxi drivers that have done this for me.

Luton and Stansted cash in. 3 hours of parking will cost £27 at both these airports.

In comparison, the major airports are significantly cheaper. Surprisingly the two major London airports Heathrow (£14.90) and Gatwick (£15) are both almost half the price of their smaller counterparts. They are also cheaper than Manchester (£18) and Birmingham (£16.50). Who said things were more expensive in the south?

Car Park Revenue

Heathrow currently has capacity for 51,500 cars in their car parks.

Let’s assume an underestimate; each one of those spaces brings in an hour of parking each day (£7.50).

If this was accurate, Heathrow would earn £386,250 a day or £140,981,250 a year in car park revenue!

Improvements

I’d like to see how these parking costs compare with other European and American airports.

tl;dr

3 hours of parking will cost £27 at both London Luton and London Stansted airports.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

Christmas Trees for Sale: From €80 per Metre

Merry Christmas, everyone.

This year I decided to write a post for the masses, rather than for the 1% (if you are in the 1% see: Private Jet Buyers Guide).

So what does everyone want for Christmas? A Christmas tree of course.

Nothing beat that real tree smell. Or the time spent cleaning the shed needles. Or the hours spent figuring out how to dispose of it. Bah. Humbug.

But real trees aren’t cheap when compared to fake ones. My parents have owned there’s for over 35 years! At £50 new, that works out to about £1.43 per year.

Assuming you could go shopping anywhere in the world for a Christmas Tree; where would you get the best deal?

Methodology

Bloom and Wild researched Christmas Tree prices in 11 cities around the world.

They researched prices for an “average” real six foot (1.83 metre) tree in these cities.

Results

The most expensive city to buy a Christmas Tree

Christmas tree cost (6ft / 1.83 mtr) by city (2018)

Download chart.

City Ave. Christmas tree cost (6ft / 1.83 mtr) (EUR) Cost per metre (EUR) Cost per year (10 yr)
Prague €11.00 €6.01 €1.10
Salzburg €37.62 €20.57 €3.76
Copenhagen €42.40 €23.18 €4.24
Berlin €49.64 €27.14 €4.96
Aspen €56.35 €30.81 €5.64
Quebec city €64.11 €35.06 €6.41
Strasbourg €64.58 €35.31 €6.46
London €67.85 €37.10 €6.79
Belgium €74.52 €40.75 €7.45
New York €137.89 €75.40 €13.79
Dublin €145.92 €79.79 €14.59

Full table.

Prague is by-far-and-away the cheapest city for a tree. A 1.83 metre tree costs on average about €11, or €6.01 per metre.

Compare that to Dublin, where the same sized tree will cost you €146 or almost €80 per metre! You could buy 13 trees in Prague for the same price.

Assuming you could ship the tree from Prague to Dublin for less than €135 — a figure that sounds plausible — the tree would still be cheaper than buying locally.

The British Christmas Tree Growers state that:

A typical 6 to 7 feet high Christmas tree is between 10 and 12 years old

Assuming a 6 foot (1.83m) tree takes 10 years to grow, that’s is the equivalent of €1.10 per year at Prague prices. Even €14.59 a year at Dublin prices sounds fair to me.

Christmas tree sales (London)

The British Christmas Tree Growers association estimated 7 million trees are bought in the UK each year.

London has around 13% of the UK population, which as a rough estimate (13% of 7 million) could see 910,000 trees sold in London each Christmas (that’s 1,665,300 metres total @ 1.83 metres per tree).

Total value of Christmas tree sales in London: €61,782,630.

Update December 5th: the 80 foot / 24.39 metre tree erected in Trafalgar Square (although donated) would cost €1654.45 at London tree prices. Some would argue it’s not worth that much

If UK Political Parties Sold Christmas Trees…

UK Political Party Potential Christmas Tree Business Revenues

Download chart.

Party Number trees planted /yr Christmas Tree Value @ €67.85
Conservatives 30,000,000 €2,035,500,000
Lib Dems 60,000,000 €4,071,000,000
SNP 60,000,000 €4,071,000,000
Greens 70,000,000 €4,749,500,000
Labour 100,000,000 €6,785,000,000

Full table.

If you’re in the UK, you’ve probably seen the (important) tree planting policies by each party in advance of the upcoming General Election.

Let’s imagine for a moment each of the trees was a 1.83 metre Christmas Tree (Spruce, Pine, etc.) sold at London prices (€67.85)… and that millions more people needed trees (ignoring almost all proposed immigration policies).

Labour could generate tree sales of €6.79 billion every year (or £5.8 billion [December 1st 2019] for the “leavers”).

Improvements

The Bloom and Wild report does not cover any real detail as to how the figures were collected, nor does it cover a large number of cities. Increasing transparency and amount of data collected would make for a more interesting analysis.

I’d also like to compare the value of real trees to their artificial alternatives.

tl;dr

Christmas trees purchased in Dublin are 13 times more expensive (€146) than those in Prague (€11).

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.