View Full Version : AirTrain

TLOZ Link5
March 18th, 2003, 08:07 PM
We all know that last year, construction of the JFK Airtrain was suspended indefinitely because of the very tragic death of a test operator, who was crushed when a concrete block simulating passenger load detached from the floor when the train hit a curve. *Is there any news of resuming construction, if it hasn't already? *Just curious; I was just browsing the Website and there weren't any press releases about the fatality, or for that matter any news about the AirTrain since May of 2001.

March 18th, 2003, 08:27 PM
I thought it was scheduled for possible June operation..

March 19th, 2003, 08:02 AM
Here's a link with some info I posted at the skyscraper forum... threadid=21635

March 19th, 2003, 08:10 AM
How long will it take to get to JFK from Midtown (say, Grand Central) ?

March 19th, 2003, 10:16 AM
Best case scenario: one hour -- and not from Grand Central.

Penn Station ----- > Jamaica ----- > *JFK

To a veteran New Yorker who knows what he or she is doing, no problem. *To a visitor from overseas (remember NYC is the place that bills itself as 'Capital of the Universe'), please imagine how baffling this system is.

Befuddled visitor to JFK employee: "I want to go to Manhattan."
Employee: "Oh, sure, buddy. *Just take the Air Train. *It stops at Jamaica, then you change to a train to Penn Station."
Visitor: "But I want to go to Manhattan."
Employee: "Sure you do. *This train will take you there. *Jamaica first, one stop, then change trains."
Visitor [looks down at his two suitcases]: "Ummm...ok. *How long will this take?"
Employee: "About a hour or thereabouts."
Visitor [strides to nearest exit]: "TAXI!"

If you compare airport accessibility, NYC is about as bad as it can get. *And I can't get excited about a teeny train that speeds visitors *away* from the spot that they want to reach. *

TLOZ Link5
March 19th, 2003, 11:45 AM
According to their Website, it would take about 45 minutes to get from JFK to Midtown. *The PA claims that it will be a seamless transfer from the Airtrain to the LIRR, or the A Train at Howard Beach, or some other subway. *And these trains certainly aren't teeny-tiny; at 10 feet wide and 60 feet long, each car is about the same size as a Model B NYCT subway car. *And last time I checked, Jamaica Station is a bit further west than JFK, not to mention that travel time between terminals will also be reduced.

March 19th, 2003, 12:39 PM
TLOZLink 5, I hear what you're saying, but let's consider it this way:

Before AirTrain, you could take the A subway line from midtown and it would take around an hour and a half. *The Port Authority has now spent over a billion dollars so that understandably confused visitors, laden with suitcases, are going to be told they can take an indirect route -- with a TRANSFER -- to get to Penn Station. *Maybe, maybe if you're a frugal traveler who's staying near Penn Station, this is a sensible arrangement. *But to the vast majority of travelers, many of whom, after all, will not be staying anywhere near Penn Station, this arrangement is a colossal joke.

So...let's go with the very optimistic number of forty-five minutes. *The harried, overloaded visitor is going to pile into AirTrain for ten, fifteen bucks, have the inconvenience of a transfer, arrive in the sewer that is Penn Station, make his way above ground (eventually), only to queue up for a taxi to somewhere on the East Side. *

For a billion dollars, I can't help but feel there had to have been a better arrangement than this. *

March 19th, 2003, 02:38 PM
The system was designed however, for future connection to the city's mass transit lines. *Also, the LIRR will have connections to Grand Central and possible Downtown. *Lets not forget that city residents or even travelers from Long Island could also use the Airtrain. * Connections from Howard Beach and Jamaica provide better access than what was there before. *The Van Wyck Expressway often becomes clogged with trafic, as well as many of the city's other highways. *And there really is no "direct" connection to Manhattan by highway either.

April 2nd, 2003, 07:50 AM
Daily News...(in relation to Airtrain development)

2nd thoughts on S. Ferry

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is rethinking the planned redesign of the South Ferry subway station amid concerns that the construction will tear up part of Battery Park, sources said yesterday.

The plans to revamp the station, which serves the 1 and 9 trains, would tap into the $4.5 billion in federal funds earmarked after the terror attacks to improve transit downtown.

The original plan for South Ferry would have involved tearing up a swath of Battery Park and dozens of trees on its eastern side.

The MTA is now considering several options — including one that would "minimalize" the effect on the park, sources said. Planners want to extend the subway platform so that all 10 cars can pull into the station instead of just the first five.

An MTA spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, rebuilding officials exploring a one-seat ride from lower Manhattan to Kennedy Airport are looking at a plan to create a "hybrid" subway car that could use existing rail lines and the light-rail AirTrain tracks connecting the airport to Jamaica Station, sources said.

April 3rd, 2003, 07:53 PM
From http://www.panynj.gov/airtrain/constructionframe.htm :

AirTrain JFK is over 90 percent complete (overall civil work) , excluding the construction of the AirTrain Terminal at Jamaica Station. Construction progress on each of several major components of the project is as follows:

*guideway - 100% complete

*track equipment - 100% complete

*stations - overall 86% complete

*light rail vehicles - 100% complete

*service & inspection shop, control center, and storage yard - 100% complete

*tunnel under the taxiways and relocated service road - 100% complete

It looks neat and functional.

Central Terminal Area:

Terminal One Station

British Airways Station

Howard Beach:

Federal Circle Station

Howard Beach Station

Van Wyck Expressway:

North view from Foch blvd.

Jamaica Station:




TLOZ Link5
April 3rd, 2003, 08:35 PM
At the very least, it'll improve passenger circulation between the terminals.

April 16th, 2003, 08:26 AM
"Mr. Cracchiolo said that if the remaining tests proceeded as expected, the train line could be in operation by the end of the year, linking the airport's terminals with a hub of subways, buses and rail lines at Jamaica Station in Queens."


April 16th, 2003, 11:44 AM
IT may not be that dream high speed train directly from downtown, but for now I don't mind taking the A train to Kennedy. It's that shuttle bus that is such a nightmare. This will be an improvement no doubt.

April 23rd, 2003, 04:02 PM



April 24th, 2003, 10:33 AM
Two days ago, I rode the LIRR into Penn Station to see the Auto Show. *When we stopped at Jamaica Station, I could see the terminal under construction for the AirTrain, along with the track for the AirTrain. *Now my question, is, are there any plans to rennovate or make any changes to the LIRR part of Jamaica Station??? *Thanks in advance.

April 24th, 2003, 12:49 PM
Yes. I don't know the details.

April 24th, 2003, 01:46 PM
Quote: from TLOZ Link5 on 8:35 pm on April 3, 2003
At the very least, it'll improve passenger circulation between the terminals.

That's what I'm looking forward to the most. Adding the monorail to Newark completely changed the experience of getting around that airport in my mind, and in JFK's case, I've always thought of it as tons of little terminals all spread out over a large area. This'll really unify the airport.

TLOZ Link5
April 24th, 2003, 05:39 PM
Would they design a new subway car for the A Line to more easily accomodate passengers with luggage going to JFK? *On the Piccadilly Line in London, there are large open spaces near the train doors for people going to Heathrow to stow their luggage.

IMHO they ought to make the A an express line from Penn to JFK, and then make it the Howard Beach terminal a through station for the AirTrain elevated. *They could then make a new local line to restore the service the old A had provided.

(Edited by TLOZ Link5 at 5:41 pm on April 24, 2003)

November 29th, 2003, 09:48 PM
November 30, 2003

A Possible Holiday Bonus: The AirTrain to Kennedy Airport May Soon Be Running


The much anticipated AirTrain at Kennedy International Airport was set to open last year, but a crash during testing in September 2002 killed a train driver and dashed the hopes of airport officials.

Now, more than a year later, after an investigation into the crash and a smooth testing period so far, officials from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey say they hope the eight-mile light rail system will open by Christmas, connecting stops within the airport and connecting the airport itself to the city's mass transit system.

The opening will bring to fruition a notion that has been discussed since the 1960's: an efficient rail link from Manhattan to Kennedy Airport.

The train is to run 24 hours a day and leave every four minutes during peak travel periods. The two-track line runs outside seven of the airport's eight active terminals, and at Terminal 4, the main international terminal, it will stop at an indoor station on the mezzanine level. The train will serve as a free shuttle among the terminals as well as parking and car rental areas.

It will also run to the A train at the Howard Beach subway station and to a new terminal in downtown Jamaica, adjacent to the Long Island Rail Road station, to stations for the E, J and Z subway lines and to connections to a dozen bus routes. The Howard Beach and Jamaica trips will cost $5 each way, payable by MetroCard. A monthly pass for unlimited use of the rail line will be $40.

The trip to Jamaica will be a three-mile ride on an elevated track along the median of the Van Wyck Expressway, the main artery serving Kennedy Airport and one chronically clogged with cars, trucks, taxis and buses.

Port Authority officials say that the AirTrain will improve travel within the airport complex and make it more accessible. Kennedy has long been infamous for its inaccessibility because of busy roadways and poor mass transit links. Direct rail links, a staple of European airports, are gaining ground in the United States. But studies have shown that only 4 percent of passengers arrive or leave an airport by mass transit.

The AirTrain will provide "a much more comfortable and convenient way to get to J.F.K.," said Charles A. Gargano, the vice chairman of the Port Authority and chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation. "It's fast, comfortable and predictable, and will save time for millions of passengers a year," he said. "It will tie the separate terminals at J.F.K. together and tie the airport into one of the world's largest mass transit systems."

Mr. Gargano said that the opening would complete the first phase of a long-range plan to ultimately link Kennedy directly to Midtown Manhattan within a decade.

After years of planning and obtaining approvals, construction finally began in 1998 on the train, a $1.9 billion project financed by Port Authority funds and a $3 surcharge on departing passengers at Kennedy.

Work was largely completed last year, when the airport loop portion was scheduled to open. But then came the fatal test crash, and officials spent months exploring its cause. Authorities released a report calling it unrelated to the design and construction of the system and said the train would begin running by the end of 2003.

After the train is running, Port Authority officials estimate, it will attract 34,000 passengers a day to its sleek, shiny carpeted cars that glide quietly along tracks trestled by smooth gray concrete pillars. The AirTrain looks more like a Walt Disney World monorail than the elevated subway trains that clatter through other parts of Queens. Each car has luggage racks and can hold 26 passengers. Trains will be up to four cars long and reach speeds up to 50 miles per hour.

Port Authority officials take pleasure in describing how the train's passengers will whisk past the cars crawling on the Van Wyck below. They say they look forward to silencing the project's many opponents and critics who insisted the AirTrain would not serve enough riders to justify its construction cost.

Officials say that a trip from Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan via the Long Island Rail Road to Jamaica and then by AirTrain to Kennedy will take less than 45 minutes. A ride on the E train from Penn Station will take somewhat longer. In these cases, a passenger would pay the $5 AirTrain fare on top of either the L.I.R.R. fare to Jamaica ($4.75 off-peak and $6.75 peak) or the $2 subway fare.

The AirTrain seems certain to appeal to passengers who have to get to or from the airport during rush hour and those traveling to and from Midtown, but skeptics and transportation advocates wonder if passengers already spending hundreds of dollars on a trip will continue to take cabs.

George Haikalis, president of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, said that frugal passengers would be deterred by AirTrain's $5 fare and impatient ones by the need to change trains.

Business leaders in downtown Jamaica are hoping AirTrain users will help revitalize the area. There are plans for a hotel and conference center near the AirTrain terminal in downtown Jamaica. Currently, a spectacular modern building at Sutphin Boulevard and 94th Avenue is next to an unassuming strip club and around the corner from an adult video store, pawn shops and wig shops.

Airline industry officials also say that the affordable rail link will help draw more frugal travelers to the popular discount carrier JetBlue Airways, which is Kennedy's largest domestic carrier.

"It's going to take time for passengers to get accustomed to it," said Spencer Dickerson, senior executive vice president of the American Association of Airport Executives, in Alexandria, Va. "But with the proliferation of low-fare carriers like JetBlue at Kennedy, a rail link is crucial. If you want to serve the masses, you have to have a way to get them to the airport."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

November 30th, 2003, 09:50 AM
NY Times..

The Beast of Queens

November 30, 2003

The Van Wyck Expressway is a legendary traffic hazard, but it has probably never inspired the sense of imperial doom that it does now. Right down the middle of the highway stands a line of gigantic concrete columns, one after the other, holding up some sort of track. When I first saw it, I suspected a boondoggle, a private highway for those who pay extra on their E-Z Pass. But actually, it's AirTrain, a highly touted monorail system that is soon supposed to whisk riders from Manhattan to Kennedy Airport and thrust the whole prehistoric city toward a gleamingly efficient future.

Not since the days of Robert Moses has such a monumental piece of infrastructure been built in the city, and gazing up at those columns, I couldn't help seeing them as an insult to good urban design. More than that, they frightened me, evoking a disaster movie in which this concrete serpent is the last thing standing amid the ruins of Queens.

Which is probably not far from what the builders had in mind. From their perspective, the design imperative of the AirTrain track is that it stand up, now and forever, come what may. The aesthetics of the Van Wyck shrink in comparison to that concern.

But still -- isn't this supposed to be an enlightened age of design consciousness, when even the shape of a toothbrush somehow matters? Practically every new show on television preaches the transformative power of design, of what can happen when style and good taste shine into drab lives. How could a billion dollars' or so worth of concrete, out there for everyone to see, escape the kind of scrutiny that pitilessly judges everything else? Where's the queer eye on this one?

I resolved to mount my own personal campaign against AirTrain, on purely aesthetic grounds. The fact that the monorail will not directly connect Manhattan to Kennedy (a dreaded ''change in Jamaica'' will be required) is another matter entirely.

When was the last time you were on the Van Wyck? I asked around. Have you seen what they've done? Some people said they had driven to J.F.K. recently but had not noticed anything remarkable on the way. They must have conditioned themselves to limit their sensory intake when on the Van Wyck, a wise defensive tactic.

But shockingly, several people insisted that they liked the columns. One even said they are ''like a Roman aqueduct,'' and that they ''lend an elegance to the otherwise seedy thoroughfare.''

Dumbfounded, I called Kent Barwick of the Municipal Art Society. He had recently clashed with the Port Authority, which oversees the AirTrain, because his group insisted that Eero Saarinen's gorgeous but outdated T.W.A. terminal at Kennedy be preserved as a functioning terminal and not simply as a trophy. The Municipal Art Society won that battle, and P.A. supporters had nasty things to say about its meddling.

Barwick, I figured, might return the favor by denouncing AirTrain's assault on the Van Wyck.

But he would not. ''I'm so pleased we have a transit system to the airport, even an imperfect one, that I'm willing to overlook the aesthetics,'' Barwick said. ''In fact, I have to admit, it doesn't seem that bad to me. My wife doesn't like it, but I think it's kind of impressive.''

Finally one friend had outrage to share, though not the same as mine -- in fact, the opposite. Hers was about a problem of perhaps more lethal consequences: not overlooking design, but fetishizing it. She has lived in SoHo for years -- one of those lucky people who sensed its charms a good long time before Sunglass Hut did -- and lately her loft building has been under siege by the city's landmarks commission. The fire escape that was installed on the front of the building 12 years ago is, according to landmark experts, inconsistent with SoHo's historic fabric: the counterweight tubes are too thick. Never mind that when the building was built in the 1880's, there was no fire escape at all.

Now this might sound like a petty dispute that reasonable people could settle, but not so. The cost of replacing the fire escape is not that expensive, but the building sees no reason why it should be replaced. For this, the owners have received a letter from the city demanding immediate compliance and mentioning, not so casually, words like ''imprisonment.''

The impulse behind protecting SoHo's historic qualities is sound. It was, after all, disregard for the neighborhood's distinctive architecture that nearly got the neighborhood torn down in favor of a Robert Moses highway that might have looked something like the Van Wyck.

But problems arise when aesthetic concerns get turned into a hard rule, a cudgel to beat people into exhibiting what is allegedly good taste. Many have decried those suburban homeowner associations that dictate, say, periwinkle blue for everybody's bird feeders, but as people become more versed in design, you can see more of this happening. Only now the bird feeders will have to be titanium. Watch as the world splits into two zones -- tiny pockets like SoHo, where design enforcement has a militant edge, and then vast unpoliced areas where, among other things, monorails get built.

In light of all this, though, AirTrain seems a lot more palatable. I still think those columns are ugly, but they might not stay that way forever. Consider the High Line, the defunct elevated train line on the West Side of Manhattan. Once regarded as a wretched bit of urban blight and slated for demolition, it has been defended by some of the area's fancier residents. They adore the High Line as a symbol of their neighborhood's rugged industrial past, especially since no trains run on it anymore and the tracks are covered over in thick grass and wildflowers. Couldn't you see something like that happening to AirTrain, its mighty concrete columns blanketed gracefully in ivy? That would be the nicest thing that ever happened to the Van Wyck.

Hugo Lindgren is an editor of the magazine.

November 30th, 2003, 01:02 PM
I say the snake is beautiful.

November 30th, 2003, 01:38 PM
What is this guy talking about? I hate the Van Wyck; the track adds visual interest.

November 30th, 2003, 02:04 PM
It's not a monorail.

Phillip Toledano

November 30th, 2003, 03:49 PM
It's ok. I wish the concrete was coated with something though, to reduce stainage.

November 30th, 2003, 05:31 PM
If I was a graffiti artist, it would be quite tempting.

TLOZ Link5
November 30th, 2003, 10:28 PM
I'd expect the security to be tight. Not to mention that many of those supports have been there for five years and they're still pretty much spotless.

December 1st, 2003, 08:00 PM
a highly touted monorail system

As mentioned it's not a "Monorail", it's a light rail system that operates off third rail and the cars are similiar in dimensions to the BMT division trains.

December 3rd, 2003, 09:46 AM
I don't know if this was posted yet, but JFK AirTrain is scheduled to open on December 17.

AirTrain Makes Its Debut December 17

Dec 2, 2003 5:40 pm US/Eastern

(1010 WINS) (NEW YORK) A train linking Kennedy Airport to stations in Queens will begin running Dec. 17, more than a year after a derailment killed the train's operator and shut down the $1.9 billion project.

Gov. George Pataki on Tuesday announced the opening date of AirTrain, which links the airport's six terminal stations to terminals in Howard Beach and Jamaica Station in Queens.

Three AirTrain cars went off the tracks on Sept. 27, 2002, during a test run around a curve, killing Kelvin DeBourgh Jr., 23. The derailment caused an estimated $4 million in damage, and indefinitely delayed the opening.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found earlier this year that excessive speed was the probable cause of the accident.

AirTrain will cost $5 one-way between the airport stations and the terminals, and is free within the terminal. The eight-mile light-rail system is expected to handle 34,000 passengers a day.

Port Authority officials estimate airport trips that could take more than two hours by car to Manhattan could be cut to 45 minutes on a combination of the AirTrain and subway and the Long Island Rail Road.


December 17th, 2003, 09:04 PM
The Airtrain is open by now. They now have an online brochure on their site describing their connections, price, and other stuff: http://www.panynj.gov/airtrain/index.html

December 18th, 2003, 08:10 AM
December 18, 2003

Long-Delayed AirTrain Makes First Run


The AirTrain on the tracks at Kennedy Airport in its long-awaited inaugural run Wednesday.

A hundred years to the day after the Wright brothers first flew, nearly 60 years after Robert Moses dismissed an early version of the idea, 40 years after Idlewild Airport became Kennedy, and 34 years after man landed on the moon, New York City got its long-awaited train-to-the-plane link yesterday.

Sort of.

Before a phalanx of cameras, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Gov. George E. Pataki stepped off the AirTrain into the gleaming new terminal in Jamaica, a few hours before it opened to the public.

But the carefully choreographed moment was marred when the new train's stainless steel doors closed too quickly on Mr. Bloomberg, causing him to stagger. He was caught by Mr. Pataki.

Righting himself, Mr. Bloomberg pronounced: "The ride was great."

Last night, the train experienced other problems, when an electrical malfunction halted service for about 20 minutes.

The hiccups were in many ways symbolic of this project, which has been studied more than a dozen times over the decades. Transit advocates and politicians have long sought a "one-seat ride" directly from Manhattan to Kennedy Airport.

But community opposition and expense forced the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to settle on the compromise version that opened yesterday.

The opening was delayed for more than a year after a man who was testing the train was killed in a September 2002 accident caused by human error.

The AirTrain is a sleek, computer-operated train that connects Kennedy Airport to local trains and subways at airy terminals in Jamaica and Howard Beach. It can move at 50 miles per hour, and links the airport's nine terminals. But commuters coming from Manhattan, especially those taking the subway, must still endure a long ride and transfer.

Proponents predict that the service will be popular nevertheless, because it will spare travelers from an unpredictable taxi ride that can take as long as two hours in bad traffic or bad weather and costs $35 plus tolls and tip.

"Now you can go to Penn Station and less than 45 minutes later be ready to get on your airplane," Governor Pataki said yesterday.

According to the Port Authority, taking the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station to Jamaica, Queens, and then the Airtrain to the Airport should take 35 minutes, at a total cost of $11.75.

But on the subway, the same trip — either an E train to Jamaica or an A train to the second AirTrain station in Howard Beach, Brooklyn — takes an hour or more and costs a total of $7. The AirTrain alone is $5.

Transit advocates point out that Cleveland got its rapid transit to the airport 30 years ago. Washington, Chicago, Paris and London all have model systems. In London, the trip from the center of the city takes 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Kennedy, which has more international passengers than any other airport in the country, has evolved into one of the nation's least accessible, with chronic congestion on the two main routes to it, the Van Wyck Expressway and the Belt Parkway.

Yesterday, a crowd of about 100 people, mostly just the curious, gathered at the Jamaica Terminal at 2 p.m. to be the first passengers. The trains were free until midnight. Among the handful of actual travelers was Austin Eyer, 21, a drama student at New York University. "I've been waiting for this a long time," he said as he boarded the train.

Mr. Eyer saw a sign on the subway about the AirTrain a few days ago and found out it was opening just in time for him to fly home to Orlando for the holiday break. To save money, he used to ride the A train for an hour to Howard Beach, then switch to a shuttle bus, which could take another 30 minutes making its way around the airport. Yesterday, he rode the E train from Greenwich Village for an hour and boarded the AirTrain for the last leg.

The Port Authority says it takes eight minutes to get from Jamaica to Terminal 1, and just eight minutes to make a complete loop around the airport. But Mr. Eyer's trip to Terminal 6 took about a half-hour, from his arrival at the gate to the AirTrain to the moment he got to the ticket counter for check-in. Still, he was satisfied: he had more than an hour and a half until his 4 p.m. flight.

Many credit Governor Pataki with pushing through the scaled-back plan despite criticism that the $1.9 billion cost was too high for something that was not even a one-seat ride.

Yesterday, an exultant Mr. Pataki said: "We said: `Enough of the studying. It's time to build. It's time for action.' "

The effort to win approval for this plan was not easy. The Port Authority hired a team to lobby the City Council and three community boards. It also had to go to court for the right to use $1.3 billion of its share of revenue from a $3 fee assessed on all air travelers. Airline industry groups had contended that the money should be used only on the airport grounds.

"It really was persuasion on every level," said Robert Boyle, the former executive director of the Port Authority who oversaw the project before he left in 2001.

Ridership was light throughout the afternoon yesterday. Many standing in taxi lines said they did not know about the new service. Others at the airport yesterday said it was not very practical for families with lots of luggage. But when told that the service was free for the day, Lawrence W. Safer, visiting from Los Angeles, stepped out of a taxi line to try what he was told was a New York first.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

December 18th, 2003, 08:34 AM
December 18, 2003

The Best Way to the Airport? It's a Race


The race was on: 42nd Street to Kennedy Airport, the old way and the new way.

The old way was to take a taxi. This required spending some cash — $50, including $3.50 for a bridge toll at $7.60 for a tip — and getting some attitude. Almost the first words the driver, Francique Smith, said when an airport-bound reporter climbed in were, "I don't like to go to the airport."

The new way was to take the subway (or the Long Island Rail Road) to the AirTrain, the $1.9 billion computer-controlled light rail system that went into service yesterday between the airport and Jamaica, Queens.

The new way was cheaper ($2 on the subway, $8 on the L.I.R.R., and nothing on the AirTrain because it was free until midnight). It was attitude-free — the AirTrain is driverless — and it beat the cab. By 12 minutes.

In a not very scientific race, three reporters and three photographers left 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue at 3 p.m. yesterday, an hour after the AirTrain opened to the public. The idea was for a reporter and a photographer to take the subway — specifically, the E train — to the AirTrain station in Jamaica. Another pair would go to Pennsylvania Station and take an L.I.R.R. train to the same AirTrain station. The third pair would hail a taxi. All three would meet at the JetBlue counter in Terminal 6 at the airport.

Heading north on Eighth Avenue, Mr. Smith, the cabdriver, pulled up to the curb as the bells from Holy Cross Church, on 42nd Street, were chiming on the hour. The windshield wipers beat time slowly as he announced the route: Right at 46th Street, left at First Avenue, right at 48th Street, then onto the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive and over the Triborough Bridge. He did not want to loop slightly downtown toward the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. He did not mention the Queensboro Bridge. He figured he needed an hour and 15 minutes.

As he made that first right onto 46th Street, a Queens-bound E train lumbered into station. Five stops and nine minutes later, it was in Queens. Mr. Smith — sounding worried that he might not make it home to Brooklyn in time for a 7 p.m. appointment — still had not turned onto the F.D.R.

The reporter and photographer taking the L.I.R.R. caught a C train at 42nd Street at 3:02. It dropped them at Penn Station at 3:03. The big board over the ticket windows showed a 3:14 to Ronkonkoma that would stop in Jamaica.

So they hopped on the 3:14 to Ronkonkoma without buying a ticket — they decided the lines were too long. The conductor charged each an additional $3.25, in addition to the $4.75 fare, and they stumbled on a party.

The partyers were construction workers, who worried that the AirTrain would change their lives forever, that it would mean no more beer on the 3:14 and that the 3:14 would be a standing-room-only proposition. "This train's going to get very crowded," Jim Martin, a partyer, said. "The luggage is going to come on, and it's going to get ugly."

The train arrived at the Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue station in Jamaica at 3:38. The reporter and the photographer left the construction workers and their beers, climbed a flight of stairs, turned right and boarded the AirTrain.

At 3:38, Mr. Smith's taxi was creeping across the Triborough. The meter was creeping past $15. Mr. Smith was talking about having to budget $4,000 for repairs year after year, how he had replaced the transmission four times and how, as he put it, "some drivers try to kill other drivers to get that person going to the airport."

At 3:38, the reporter and photographer who had taken subway had been in the station in Jamaica for six minutes, but because of confusing signs and a transit worker who gave them wrong directions, they ended up climbing onto the same AirTrain as the two from the L.I.R.R. and listening to Sebastian Lenelle, a Belgian exchange student give AirTrain a rave review.

"It was like we were flying," said Mr. Lenelle, who had gone to the airport — on a bus he described as "very noisy and not that clean" — to pick up his father on a flight from Brussels. Another passenger, Dan Castle, an environmental consultant from Buffalo, was all but gloating. "It's going to be nice to see all the traffic we're not in," he said.

Of course, that included Mr. Smith. At 4:13, when the reporter and photographer who had taken the L.I.R.R. walked into the JetBlue terminal (the pair from the E train got off at Terminal 7 by mistake, and lost four minutes), he was still 12 minutes away. But he was looking up at the AirTrain's elevated tracks.

"It looks pretty cool on the outside," he said.

Reporting for this article was contributed by Nora Krug, in a taxi, Campbell Robertson, on the Long Island Rail Road, and Colin Moynihan, on the subway.



Pack Light. Not for Trip, but for AirTrain.


WHAT would a New York innovation be if it didn't generate an instant debate? Couldn't happen, as witness inaugural day of the new AirTrain, the sleek, new light rail line linking Kennedy International Airport to mass transit at Jamaica and Howard Beach.

Daniela Rapp learned about the new train in news accounts and was one of its earliest passengers on an AirTrain out of Jamaica Station yesterday, about 90 minutes after the system opened to the public at 2 p.m.

"It's great," said Ms. Rapp, who works in the editorial department of St. Mark's Press and was on her way to Italy.

Nancy D. Newcomb, scoping out the system for relatives flying in from Florida on Christmas Eve, was not so sure. "I've looked forward to this, but it may be too complicated for an out-of-towner," said Ms. Newcomb, a volunteer fund-raiser for her Smith College class (1954). "You have to have a lot of confidence in mass transit." (Especially now, given the AirTrain's brief opening-night power failure.)

Ms. Rapp: "It totally works. It took me 45 minutes. If I took the subway and the shuttle bus from Howard Beach, it could take me one and a half hours. Even the express bus can be a pain if you hit traffic."

Ms. Newcomb: "I'm skeptical. If an elevator or escalator is not working and you're lugging a suitcase, you're dead," she said. "There are many steps to this."

Before she got off at the Delta terminal, Ms. Rapp, 34, said she'd be taking the AirTrain again. Ms. Newcomb said she'd report back to her relatives and let them decide if they wanted to be adventuresome.

And so it went on Day 1 — the talk of, and on, the AirTrain. There were people saying it should go directly into Manhattan for its construction price tag of nearly $2 billion, and others saying it was better, at least, than the alternatives. There were tourists wondering if they could figure out the subway connections, and New Yorkers wondering if they could pack lightly enough to carry luggage up and down stairs.

People were starry-eyed at the uncharacteristic handsomeness of the trains, thrilled at their speed — from 9 to 19 minutes between Jamaica and Kennedy and up to 6 minutes to travel from terminal to terminal, as many airport employees do.

"Normally it's a nightmare," said Kevin W. Daley, who works for travel agencies. "The bus can take 25 minutes between American and United."

But. There are significant worries about AirTrain.

"I've been waiting for this for 30 years," said Fern Cano, who greets passengers for a limousine company, often at multiple terminals. "It's like a major employee benefit. But I can't imagine someone would schlep their bags. They'll take a limousine or a cab or a bus. That's the big issue. Luggage."

THAT'S the big issue, indeed.

The question too soon to answer is whether visitors and New Yorkers who do not live in some parts of Queens will accept a halfway solution to the transportation mess at Kennedy Airport, or will reject it despite the cost of $5 a ride as they did its less elegant predecessor: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's old train to the plane. That unsatisfying solution to the problem at Kennedy began in 1978 and died 12 years later because the trips took forever and forced people to carry luggage on and off trains and a bus.

The AirTrain, operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is speedy, so that is one positive change. But it really is a stretch to call it state of the art — "a 21st-century mass transit system," in the words of Gov. George E. Pataki. Not in a world where high-speed trains in major cities like London whisk passengers from airports into the center of town.

Consider the AirTrain's main route: to the Jamaica terminal from the airport. Escalators, elevators and Smarte Cartes can help with the luggage — to a point. But after walking a long corridor in Jamaica (without benefit of people movers) to the Long Island Rail Road or the subway station for the E, F, J and Z lines, those carts have to stay behind.

Elevators connect with the railroad platforms, but pending completion of construction, the entrance to the subway station is outside and down two steep banks of stairs.

Not great, but New Yorkers, weary from promises of the fabled one-seat ride, are big-time copers.

Bernard Clesca and his friend William Viera, residents of South Ozone Park who had been forced to take detour after detour during the lengthy construction of the AirTrain, took a ride on it out of curiosity yesterday. And did they hate the cause of their inconvenience?

"It's an experience," Mr. Clesca said.

No debating that.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

December 19th, 2003, 05:53 AM
December 19, 2003

Faulty Doors at Airport Mar Start of AirTrain


An AirTrain at the Jamaica, Queens, station on Wednesday. A potential passenger, Alan Sirlin of Valley Stream, on Long Island, peered inside.

Just hours after its high-profile debut, the AirTrain system had to be shut down by the Port Authority for two hours Wednesday night because platform doors failed to open and trapped passengers in their trains.

This came after an earlier mishap, more embarrassing than alarming, when the new train's steel doors closed suddenly on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as he stepped off at the opening ceremony on Wednesday, causing him to stumble while cameras rolled. Coupled with some complaints that the trains were slower than billed, it was an inauspicious opening for the $1.9 billion service linking Kennedy International Airport to local trains and subways in Howard Beach and Jamaica, Queens.

The AirTrain seemed to be running smoothly yesterday, and no additional problems were reported. "These are in essence some growing pains," said Pasquale DiFulco, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. "It's a brand new rail system that was built from scratch."

At 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, officials shut down the entire system because problems were being reported with the platform doors in several terminals. They were not opening, even as the trains stopped and opened their doors. AirTrain employees had to open the platform doors manually to let the passengers out.

Engineers worked for two hours to understand the problem, Mr. DiFulco said. The system was restarted sporadically, but did not resume for good until 11:30 p.m.

Paul Sheehan, a Manhattan lawyer, arrived in the middle of it all. At 10:20 p.m., he flew into Terminal 6 on a JetBlue flight from Fort Myers, Fla. After being told the shuttle bus to Howard Beach and the A train no longer existed, he made his way to the AirTrain platform.

With about 30 others, he waited inside a train for 25 minutes, he said yesterday, as an electronic announcement repeated in a drone that the train would be leaving "momentarily." An AirTrain employee on the train suggested that someone might have accidentally pressed an emergency strip on the train that forces it into the next station to await police officers, Mr. Sheehan said.

Finally, at 10:55 p.m., the train left the platform, only to move about 20 feet and stop again for another 20 minutes between terminals.

As a woman fussed unsuccessfully with an intercom system to try to reach someone, Mr. Sheehan wondered what to do. No announcements were coming over the public address system.

Suddenly, the train started moving again, pulling into the next terminal at 11:20 p.m., and the passengers got off there. Unsure of what to do next, Mr. Sheehan wandered over to a talkback system on the platform and pushed an information button. No one picked up. Then he pushed the emergency button. After several minutes, an operator answered.

"I explained we were in Terminal 7," Mr. Sheehan said. "We were trying to get to Howard Beach. He said, `I don't know what's going on.' "

Was another train coming?

"I don't know."

Are the shuttle buses running?

"I don't know."

After a few airport employees flagged down cabs for themselves, Mr. Sheehan and some tourists trooped onto a Q10 bus and rode it to Terminal 3, the end of its route. There, they got off and got on another Q10 bus to Kew Gardens, where he caught the E train to 50th Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. He took a taxi home to the Upper West Side.

The time was 1:40 a.m., 3 hours and 20 minutes after he landed.

Mr. DiFulco said in an interview that the Port Authority apologizes to Mr. Sheehan and others who were inconvenienced. When the system was first shut down, passengers were taken off the trains and put on shuttle buses, he said. The problems reported by Mr. Sheehan and others are still being studied, he said. At minimum, the information button should have connected Mr. Sheehan immediately to a 24-hour operations center, he said.

What happened to him was more exasperating than anything else, Mr. Sheehan said. When they finally pulled into Terminal 7 and were told to get off the train, he said, most of the exasperated riders just started laughing.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

December 27th, 2003, 05:21 PM
Kinda sad, it seems like they spent all this time and money and there's no one who will reap any GREAT benefit from it.

Myself, I live in Brooklyn Heights, so the A train to Howard Beach is interminable, seems like an hour although it may be closer to 45 minutes.

The Shuttle Bus wasn't so bad in my experience. Now I have the privledge of paying an extra $5 when to transfer used to be free shave off what? 5, 10 minutes? YAY!

December 29th, 2003, 12:16 AM
The Shuttle Bus wasn't so bad in my experience.

The shuttle bus was awful in my experience. It usually took me longer to get from the subway station to my intended terminal than the entire A train ride from Lower Manhattan, and the drivers were sometimes unprofessional in their conduct. $5 is a rip-off considering AirTrain is totally free for the people who are parking in the lot right next to the subway, but it's $5 I'll be happy to pay to never have to endure that shuttle bus ride again.

December 29th, 2003, 12:52 AM
The $2b Airtrain is an intermediate solution, albeit an expensive one. Access between/among terminals is greatly enhanced. People from Long Island now have superb access; folks from Manhattan and Brooklyn have slightly better access; folks from Staten Island and The Bronx have permission to cry.

I believe a "link" exists (at least on paper) to the LIRR tracks in Jamaica. The Airtrain lightrail tracks are designed to be compatible with the MTA heavyrail tracks, but also purposely designed NOT to be compatible for MTA trains (Go figure, Port Authority obviously wants a clear division of authority).

IF such a link to the LIRR tracks in Jamaica exists, Airtrain cars could offer a one-seat ride to Penn Station in Manhattan (and, after East-Side access, to Grand Central too). Could a transit tunnel from Lower Manhattan to the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn be part of a plan to bring the Airtrain cars on LIRR tracks to the new transit center downtown? Merely speculation.

January 11th, 2004, 12:59 AM

JFK AirTrain Opening (http://www.railfanwindow.com/gallery/album69)

Howard Beach AirTrain Terminal (http://www.railfanwindow.com/gallery/album70)

January 19th, 2004, 11:27 PM
January 20, 2004

Finding J.F.K. Is Easy: First, Find the AirTrain.


Logistically, things were not going well yesterday for Natalie and Atis Lode, whose attempt to get from Manhattan to Kennedy International Airport started with a ride in the wrong direction on the E train.

The E train was supposed to take them to the new AirTrain light rail service in Jamaica, Queens - and eventually it did, once they reversed course - so they could catch the AirTrain to J.F.K.

Once they finally arrived at Jamaica Station, they wandered about Sutphin Boulevard and Archer Avenue looking for the AirTrain.

After standing in line at the Long Island Rail Road counter at the Jamaica Station, they received directions from an employee. They walked about a half-block to the sleek glass home of the AirTrain's Station D stop, but learned that the ticket machines were not taking credit cards, as they should, and since they had no small bills to pay the $5 fare, it was back to the L.I.R.R. for Mr. Lode, in search of change.

Despite the minor inconveniences, the Lodes, who are from Melbourne, Australia, said they still liked the AirTrain. "We just had a few problems finding it," Mrs. Lode said.

Holiday travel days like yesterday are the days that AirTrain faces a real test: many newcomers are having their first encounter with the system, and with its idiosyncrasies. Despite some confusion, however, most welcomed the new way to get to the airport. The idea is wonderful, riders said. The convenience is great. But first we have to figure it out.

"I think they just don't have all the signage up yet, and they really need that," said Sheilah Navat, who was on her way with her daughter, Aja, 12, to San Francisco.

Ms. Navat did have nice things to say, too.

"The price is fair, I suppose, considering the alternatives," she said. "And I love the big turnstiles."

Some passengers expressed concerns about the weather and traffic and said they chose the train with the hope of avoiding the difficulties that are involved in getting to J.F.K., which is known as one of the nation's most inaccessible major airports.

Port Authority officials estimated that 34,000 passengers would use AirTrain per day in its first year, and that the numbers would grow. So far, after about a month of operation, the train has about 15,000 to 20,000 riders a day, said Tiffany Townsend, a spokeswoman for the Port Authority.

"Over all, things are going very well," she said. "With ridership increasing, we're moving toward meeting our goal. It's still early on."

Ms. Townsend said there were no plans to increase the number of signs along the system or to change their placement. But once a few passenger anecdotes were related to her, she said: "Obviously, this is a customer service. If we feel the need to augment the number of signs or the placement of signs, we will."

Pamela Peralta, a Columbia graduate student who was returning for classes from visiting her family in Lima, Peru, found the view remarkable. "The train was very pretty," she said. "I don't know, maybe it's because it is winter, but it all looked very pretty outside, too."

But, alas, some luxuries are hard to give up, and for Anna Lee, a Barnard student who had recently landed, that meant she was taking a taxi.

"I just recently heard about the train," she said, lugging her bags to the first available cab outside Terminal 4. There was no line. "But I just came from South Korea, I'm really exhausted, and I just couldn't deal with it."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

January 24th, 2004, 10:40 PM
"We just had a hard time finding it."

"First we have to figure it out."

"If we feel the need to augment the number of signs or the placement of signs, we will."

[sigh] A billion dollars doesn't seem to go as far as one might hope. Perhaps by 2030 NYC will have a simple, straightforward connection to its airports. Of course by then other cities (which will still have the modesty not to call themselves "The Capital of the Universe") will have MAGLEV trains and other state-of-the-art goodies.

TLOZ Link5
January 25th, 2004, 04:08 AM
For once, I share your exasperation, JD. At least the new subway maps will have directions to the AirTrain; plus I've seen ads for the AirTrain on the subways that go to Jamaica and Howard Beach, and placards in the stations themselves. It's a start.

Also, from what I've heard Shanghai's maglev train isn't getting much business.

January 25th, 2004, 04:55 PM
I just took the Airtrain and was underwhelmed. The Train was malfunctioning for some reason and it would pause about 15 or more minutes at each stop. Many people got exasperated and hopped off to hail cabs.

It still takes FOREVER to get to Howard Beach via the A-Train. Why not a once an hour express straight from say Atlantic Ave station?

January 25th, 2004, 10:26 PM
Sounds like a lovely experience. *Very* state-of-the-art.

It is nothing short of maddening that a city as scintillating as NYC must have airport access that belongs to the Third World.

The 1.9 billion (probably a conservative estimate) that has been poured into AirTrain should have been saved and put towards a real solution. The money has been wasted, and worse yet, will only push progress another decade or two away. The Port Authority can point to this silly train and say, "Look what we're doing!!" while all the time other metropolises roar away in their bullet trains, laughing at the image of NYC rapidly shrinking away in the rear-view mirror.

January 26th, 2004, 12:57 AM
January 26, 2004

Where's the AirTrain?

To the Editor:

Riders are having trouble finding the AirTrain because it is literally not on the subway map — or on signs in most subway stations ("Finding J.F.K. Is Easy: First, Find the AirTrain," news article, Jan. 20).

Maps in all subway stations, cars and platforms still show the now-defunct free shuttle bus to J.F.K. terminals. AirTrain won't be added to the subway map until Feb. 22, when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority publishes a new version to coincide with major route changes.

There are also few signs in the subways, and that may not change soon. When the M.T.A. ran its own airport service, it had a distinctive logo and was noted in all platform signs on the A, the line used by the Train to the Plane.

The AirTrain is a Port Authority service. But should that make a difference? Since the bulk of the AirTrain customers are coming from M.T.A. facilities, perhaps the Port Authority should help underwrite subway and commuter rail signs.


New York, Jan. 20, 2004

The writer is senior attorney, New York Public Interest Research Group Straphangers Campaign.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

January 28th, 2004, 08:00 PM
the whole airtrain story is a perfect illustration the bizarro-world funding system for mass transit. Port Authority, to make use of federally-controlled airport monies, had to build a train which specifically could be used ONLY for airport transit, and specifically NOT provide any benefit for those not travelling to the airport. Too bad they couldn't find a way to connect it directly to lower Manhattan - to the PATH train at the WTC, thus giving a direct connection between Newark & JFK airports, connecting to the LIRR by passing through the Atlantic Ave. terminal in Brooklyn.

TLOZ Link5
February 2nd, 2004, 10:31 PM
I saw the AirTrain on a new subway map on the 4 Train today. The map also shows the service restoration on the Mahattan Bridge and the PATH to the WTC. The AirTrain route line uses the same icon as commuter rail, (i.e.: |-|-|-|-|-| for tracks, a solid square for a station) but it's yellow instead of dark blue and doesn't show up very well outside of the airport (airport grounds are indicated as a brownish field, while all other non-park land is beige). The stations don't have any names per se, but the stops are indicated by numerals that indicate which airport terminal is which.

February 5th, 2004, 05:06 AM
view out the front window, approx. 60 mph, above the Van Wyck Expressway


April 3rd, 2004, 08:58 PM
April 4, 2004

J.F.K. by AirTrain: Bag the Bus


TRAVELERS using Kennedy Airport have had nearly four months to try the new AirTrain connecting the airport to local railroad and subway lines - enough time to weigh in with their opinions about how well it works.

Based on my trip on the AirTrain on a Friday evening last month, and feedback from others who have taken the train, I'd say it's definitely an improvement over the buses that used to carry passengers between the airport and nearby train and subway stations. The biggest advantage of the AirTrain is that it provides a way to get to J.F.K. entirely by rail, eliminating the variable of road traffic from the complex calculation of how long it will take to get there.

The biggest drawback is that travelers have to take at least one and possibly two other trains to connect to the AirTrain, so it's still complicated to figure out travel times to and from J.F.K. (see the site www.jfkairtrain.com for a few examples). More important, it's a complicated travel experience, involving multiple transfers, multiple ticket purchases using different self-service machines and multiple stairways and turnstiles - without enough signs or instructions to help.

City dwellers will no doubt have a short learning curve to master the challenge, and many will find train service a better option than a bus or a cab. But visitors unfamiliar with the city's transportation system - say, the right way to swipe a MetroCard or how to interpret an announcement like, "The rear two cars will not platform at Jamaica" - might find the experience rather stressful.

In any case, there are a number of variables in the trip from Manhattan that you should weigh when deciding whether to ride the rails ($7 to $12), hop a bus ($13) or spring for a taxi (roughly $45, with toll and tip). Among them: where you're coming from or going to, how much luggage you have and what time of day you're traveling.

There are several ways to get to the AirTrain, so the time and cost of the trip depends on how you make that connection. From Manhattan, the quickest route is generally the Long Island Rail Road from Penn Station, which costs $6.75 during peak periods and $4.75 off peak (more if you buy from a conductor on board) and takes about 20 minutes. Trains run between Penn Station and the Jamaica AirTrain terminal every 10 to 15 minutes most of the day. When you get off the Long Island Rail Road, you may have to hunt for signs to the AirTrain - take the stairs up.

You can also take the E train ($2) to the Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue stop in Queens, which connects you to the same Jamaica AirTrain terminal. One potential pitfall: the E train stations before and after Sutphin Boulevard both have the word "Jamaica" in their names, as if designed to puzzle the uninitiated. My return trip on the E, also on a Friday evening, took about 20 minutes from Sutphin Boulevard to midtown, although the subway is less predictable than the Long Island Rail Road, so that trip could take longer.

Another subway option is to take the A train to Howard Beach, which connects to a separate AirTrain terminal there. It's a longer trip from midtown, about 45 minutes, but one advantage of the subway is that if you live or are staying near one of the lines that connect to the AirTrain (the J and Z trains also go to Jamaica), you only have to change trains once.

At Jamaica or Howard Beach, you can buy a $5 MetroCard to take the AirTrain, or swipe a pay-per-ride card already in your wallet, but unlimited MetroCards (the 30-day card, for example) won't work.

That $5 fee has angered some riders, particularly since people boarding at J.F.K.'s parking lots or car rental locations don't have to pay, and the buses that used to travel these routes were free. Coming from the airport, you have to pay when you get off the AirTrain at Howard Beach or Jamaica, which can be confusing.

Asked about those complaints, Pasquale DiFulco, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the AirTrain, responded, "It costs money to operate the system, so we do have to recover some of those costs." (The $1.9 billion project was financed in part by a $3 passenger facility charge paid by travelers departing from New York City airports.) Frequent AirTrain riders can buy a 30-day pass for $40.

At Jamaica, I had to wait only a few minutes for the AirTrain, which was comfortable, spacious and nearly empty. Of about 20 people I spoke with who have taken the train, no one described it as crowded. So far, Mr. DiFulco said, about 15,000 people use the AirTrain each day, only 5,600 of them paying passengers; the Port Authority expects 34,000 daily riders (11,000 paid) by the end of the year.

According to the AirTrain J.F.K. brochure, the longest passengers should have to wait for a train is 12 minutes (late at night), with a 4- to 8-minute wait typical during the day. Travel time from either Jamaica or Howard Beach to the farthest airline-terminal stop is 15 minutes. It stops at six airline terminals; look for the signs inside each train with the inexplicably small print to find your airline's terminal.

It took me 73 minutes to get from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to the first terminal stop on the AirTrain, taking the subway to Penn Station and the Long Island Rail Road to Jamaica. The return trip, via the E subway, was about 10 minutes longer, partly because the AirTrain I was on stopped for about that long. Three other people I spoke with had similar delays, which Mr. DiFulco said might have been due to winter weather.

IF you take the Long Island Rail Road from midtown, you can probably make it to your check-in counter in an hour or less (the AirTrain brochure says 35 minutes, but that's definitely not accounting for possible delays or time to get your bearings). From other neighborhoods or taking the subway, I'd plan on 90 minutes for the trip.

Most people I surveyed spoke positively about the AirTrain, but there were a few common complaints and cautionary tales: the challenge of dragging luggage up and down stairs or onto a crowded commuter train, the lack of adequate signs throughout the system (Mr. DiFulco said more are being added), and the fact that late at night, an unfamiliar subway station isn't the best place to be standing around with your suitcase or asking for help.

"Coming in at night on the A train as a New Yorker, it's not a big deal," said Maki Isayama of Manhattan, who has taken the AirTrain several times. "But if you're coming in from out of town and you've got this guy talking to himself in the corner, you wonder how people would react to that."

"If you're taking mass transit anywhere, you sort of have to accept that as part of the package," Mr. Isayama added. But he said he'll take the AirTrain again himself. "I'm all for options."

SUSAN STELLIN writes frequently for the Travel section.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 14th, 2004, 09:21 PM

By Clemente Lisi
June 14, 2004

Taking the AirTrain to the plane is becoming a more popular way to get to Kennedy Airport.

Since it opened in December, more than 1 million passengers have used the light-rail link to other transit hubs, and another 2.6 million people have hopped on the free airport inter-terminal portion of the system, officials said.

In May, the Port Authority-run rail line averaged 26,500 passengers a day.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc

December 4th, 2004, 08:47 PM
December 5, 2004


AirTrain's First Year Is Seen as a Success


It was a hard ride through opposition, skepticism and a fatal accident, but last Dec. 17 a proposal for a rail link to Kennedy International Airport finally became a reality: A newly built system called the AirTrain went into operation, connecting several New York City subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road with the airport's terminals.

How is the $1.9 billion link doing after a year? First, some background.

For several decades, city officials and transportation experts cited a need for mass transit connections to Kennedy and La Guardia Airports. But costs and other obstacles thwarted those proposals. Finally, in 1999, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airports, won city approval for a scaled-down plan.

The link would be limited to Kennedy. And instead of the one-seat ride that many officials and experts deemed vital for the system's success, travelers would transfer from subway trains to the elevated AirTrain at either of two subway stations in Queens.

Critics insisted that few luggage-laden travelers would give up cabs or cars for such a trip. The Port Authority said that many travelers would prefer a cheaper ride (now totaling $7 for the AirTrain and subway) to a cab that could cost more than $40 from Midtown Manhattan - and could take up to two hours in heavy traffic, compared with a rail trip that typically takes closer to an hour.

The start of service was delayed for about a year after an accident in 2002 killed a driver on a test run.

More than the first year of operation will be needed to determine the AirTrain's ultimate viability, but a Port Authority spokesman said last week that so far "there's no question it's succeeding."

The average number of people entering or leaving the airport daily on the AirTrain rose from just under 5,000 in January and February to about 8,000 in each of the last five months, said the spokesman, Pasquale DiFulco.

This is less than the 11,000 daily average the agency had projected by the end of the first year, but Mr. DiFulco said that "there's no question that ridership will increase."

This will occur, he asserted, as more travelers become aware of the AirTrain and as airline travel at Kennedy continues its current growth. (Another benefit of the AirTrain, he said, is that more than 20,000 people a day use it for free rides between terminals and other points within the airport.)

Some critics said that as many as half the riders going to and from the airport on the AirTrain would be workers at Kennedy, but Mr. DiFulco said surveys indicated that fewer than 10 percent were workers.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

January 12th, 2005, 03:07 AM
January 12, 2005

Train to J.F.K. Scores With Fliers, but Not With Airport Workers


The AirTrain links terminals at Kennedy Airport and connects with rail stations.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 - In its first year of operation, the AirTrain, which connects Kennedy International Airport with the New York City subway system and the Long Island Rail Road, attracted more airline passengers, but far fewer airport employees, than had been predicted, officials said on Tuesday.

Nearly nine million passengers rode the $1.9 billion rail system last year. Currently, there are an average of 32,000 riders a day, according to two officials of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who discussed the rail system at a transportation conference here.

The AirTrain connections to and from the subway and commuter rail stations in Jamaica, Queens, and the subway station at Howard Beach, Queens, have both become popular with airline passengers, the officials said. Many of those passengers were flying JetBlue, the discount airline that has become the largest carrier at Kennedy.

Daily ridership is 4,500 on the Jamaica connection and 4,000 on the Howard Beach connection, for a combined fare-paying ridership of 8,500 a day. Riders using either of those connections are charged $5 in each direction. The rest of the AirTrain riders - 23,500 a day, slightly more than the 23,000 projected - are users of a free "circulator" that runs continuously in a clockwise loop every eight minutes, connecting the airport's terminals from six elevated stations.

Officials had projected 11,000 daily paid riders, divided evenly between airline passengers and airport workers. But of the 8,500 daily paid riders at the end of last year, only 1,500 were employees, according to Patty Clark, senior adviser for external affairs in the aviation department of the Port Authority, which operates the New York area airports. The ridership climbed from 5,878 a day when the AirTrain opened in December 2003.

The Port Authority, which is seeking ways to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution around the airport, hopes to increase the use of the AirTrain by the approximately 40,000 people who work at Kennedy.

The airport runs an employee parking lot that charges such low rates, Ms. Clark said, that it is less expensive for many employees to drive to work than to use public transportation and the AirTrain. Starting Feb. 1, the parking fees will increase, she said.

The Port Authority hopes that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which collects the $5 AirTrain fares, will devise a discounted special 10-ride MetroCard that workers can use on the AirTrain.

Ms. Clark and another Port Authority official, Joseph M. Englot, the assistant chief engineer for design, said that JetBlue Airways had drawn many budget-conscious passengers who use public transportation to get to the airport.

Ms. Clark and Mr. Englot discussed the AirTrain in separate talks at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board, a division of the National Research Council, which advises the public and the federal government on scientific and engineering matters.

The AirTrain at Kennedy, which began service in December 2003, was a longtime goal of planners and engineers who had been seeking faster and more direct connections between Manhattan and Kennedy since the airport opened in 1948.

The Port Authority's other AirTrain opened in October 2001 and connects Newark Liberty International Airport with a train station used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, which serve Manhattan. That system now has an annual ridership of 12.3 million, with 33,700 daily riders on average. About 30,000 of those riders use the free airport circulator, while about 4,000 riders pay to use the connection to the train station.

From the time it awarded the main contract in 1998 to the time it finished work, the Port Authority heard frequent criticism from people who said the light rail line was not particularly convenient. Compared with the Newark AirTrain, "this system was a lot more controversial in that the New York side of the river really wanted a one-seat ride: you get on at J.F.K. and you get off at Manhattan," Ms. Clark said.

The AirTrain at Kennedy was designed with a platform height and track gauge similar to those used by the subways and the Long Island Rail Road, Mr. Englot said, so that in the future, it could be connected to new tracks leading to Manhattan.

But new rail cars would have to be designed and purchased, he said, because the AirTrain's 32 cars are automated and operate without a driver, unlike those of the subway and the commuter railroad.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

January 18th, 2007, 01:08 AM
AirTrain JFK gained popularity in 2006

By: Pamela Appea
Published: January 17, 2007 (http://www.newyorkbusiness.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070117/FREE/70117010/1066) - 3:26 pm

Once besieged by a barrage of criticism, AirTrain JFK is gaining in popularity with both out-of-town visitors and New York City natives.

Paid ridership for the three-year-old AirTran JFK rose 15.4% in 2006, with nearly four million travelers using the transport system that connects the city’s mass transit system with John F. Kennedy International Airport terminals.

According to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, an estimated 11,000 to 12,000 daily riders travel on AirTrain JFK.

The $1.9 billion AirTrain JFK also serves hundreds of thousands of non-paying riders who are traveling from one terminal to terminal and those who are going to and from parking lots and rental car agencies.

According to Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia, "13% of JFK's AirTrain passengers now use AirTrain's free or paid service to access passenger terminals, while Air Train Newark is the primary ground transportation for 10% of Newark's passengers."

AirTrain Newark, which connects travelers to Newark Liberty International Airport and Manhattan, has also seen a steady increase in paid ridership. In 2006, AirTrain Newark had a record 1.6 million paid riders.

Air Train JFK generated $3.4 million of revenue during the first quarter of 2006, said Port Authority spokesman Pasquale DiFulco, who said that was the most recent quarterly figure available.

However, he noted that the subsequent quarters would likely show increases as first-quarter numbers don’t reflect peak AirTrain usage. In 2005, the transport system’s revenues totaled $15 million.

© 2007 Crain Communications, Inc.

January 22nd, 2007, 08:21 PM
The JFK airtrain is getting a bit seedy, of late. The stations are relatively spotless, but the trains are starting to look like they were just pulled off Atlanta's MARTA system. Filthy carpeting and seats! The cars are already starting to fall apart due to lousy maintenance. Billions for construction, pennies for maintenance...makes no sense.

January 30th, 2007, 04:35 AM
The AirTrain at Kennedy was designed with a platform height and track gauge similar to those used by the subways and the Long Island Rail Road, Mr. Englot said, so that in the future, it could be connected to new tracks leading to Manhattan.

But new rail cars would have to be designed and purchased, he said, because the AirTrain's 32 cars are automated and operate without a driver, unlike those of the subway and the commuter railroad.
Why wait till the future? And why do they need new tracks to Manhattan? What's wrong with the existing LIRR tracks? Filled to capacity?

These suckers should be racing at full speed to Penn Station with maybe one stop after Jamaica --though running them to Grand Central in the new LIRR tunnel would be better still.

What's their top speed?

August 29th, 2007, 10:12 AM
They go pretty fast, especially on the straight sections of track. Your idea for airtrain connection to Grand Central is AWESOME. This way, JFKairtrain can tap into fliers from Westchester and Connecticut, who use MetroNorth. Screw Penn, Penn is for New Jersey. Grand Central (especially after LIRR comes in) will be the New York train station. I would love if they did this.

August 29th, 2007, 11:30 AM
Why wait till the future? And why do they need new tracks to Manhattan? What's wrong with the existing LIRR tracks? Filled to capacity?

These suckers should be racing at full speed to Penn Station with maybe one stop after Jamaica --though running them to Grand Central in the new LIRR tunnel would be better still.

What's their top speed?

The only problem is FRA regulations would prevent automated Airtrain vehicles from operating over Heavy Rail commuter lines, there's also the Union issues involved. Also while similar the power and signal systems are not compatible, which are why you will not see Airtrain operate over MTA tracks.

The proposal to send the Airtrain to Lower Manhattan involves converting the entire Atlantic Ave branch of the LIRR to Airtrain standards, plus the new tunnel. This would mean a one seat ride from JFK to Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan but would mean LIRR travelers would have to transfer at Jamaica from the LIRR to Airtrain for the Atlantic Avenue branch.

August 29th, 2007, 10:45 PM
^ Overregulation?

February 8th, 2008, 03:41 PM

AirTrain hit record ridership in 2007
February 08. 2008 11:37AM
By: Tommy Fernandez

AirTrain JFK served more than 4.4 million paid passengers last year, a 12% increase over 2006, said the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The AirTrain rail systems serving John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International airports both achieved record ridership figures in 2007, officials reported.

AirTrain JFK served more than 4.4 million paid passengers last year, a 12% increase over 2006, said the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. This was the fourth straight year of ridership growth for the line.

AirTrain Newark handled nearly 1.8 million riders, an increase of 13.5% over the previous year. This was the sixth consecutive year of growth.

Moreover, the rail systems combined served more than 20 additional passengers who used the free portions of the AirTrains to connect between terminals, parking lots and rental car areas. AirTrain Newark opened in 2001 and AirTrain JFK began service in 2003.

“We’ve experienced robust year-over-year growth in passenger traffic at Newark Liberty and JFK – from about 59 million passengers at the two airports in 2002 to about 84 million last year,” said chairman Anthony Coscia in a statement. “Our AirTrain systems have played a critical role in accommodating that growth by providing a viable transportation option for travelers and airport employees while greatly easing congestion on roads at and near the airports.”

February 14th, 2008, 03:51 PM
I use it all the time, but for out of towners it could be really confusing at Jamaica station where it connects to the subway. Bad signs, 2 inadequate elevators down to the subway with no directions, just generally lousy planning! To have built this thing without seamless integration with the subway, like in other more sensible cities, was retarded.
Still, from where I live it is sometimes faster than a taxi and much cheaper.

February 14th, 2008, 05:00 PM
^ And much better for the air in the city and the environment as well as helping to reduce traffic.

Those 4.4 million passengers translate into millions of cars that were taken off the roads and tons of fossil fuels saved.

And to think there were nutty people that were against this.

The Benniest
February 14th, 2008, 10:12 PM
If one were to take this AirTrain after getting off of a flight, 1) how far is it from the gate/terminal?, and 2) how long does it take to get from the airport to, for say, the area around Times Square?


February 14th, 2008, 10:35 PM
The AirTrain stops right in front of each and every of the terminals. You take it to the subway. Once you get on the subway, it is about 50 minutes to midtown if the subway runs smoothly. So, altogether slightly more than an hour, less if you are lucky, more if you aren't.

February 14th, 2008, 11:19 PM

Take the airtrain to Jamaica. Skip the A and E/J trains and hop on the LIRR. Its about 15-20 minutes to Penn station. Its pricier than the subway but for 7 bucks (peak) and 5 bucks (off peak) its more comfortable and quicker with fewer stops. its $3 on the weekends if you purchase a city ticket (within city limits only! but jamaica to penn qualifies). From Penn, you can hop on the 2/3 train 1 stop uptown to times square (for an additional $2.00).

Airtrain - $5

LIRR - $7 (peak) $5 (off)

subway - $2

or you can just take the E train from Jamaica or the A train from Howard beach and take it straight to times square. This should take you about an hour and a half(maybe a bit more). The first option should be about 45 minutes.

February 15th, 2008, 12:08 AM
^ The MTA should run some express-only subway trains from the Jamaica and Howard Beach stations. That should cut down on the time it takes to get to Manhattan.

Think about it. How many riders really need to get off at Ralph Ave. or Halsey St.?

Of course knowing the MTA, this is just too sensible for them to do. :rolleyes: :mad:

February 15th, 2008, 11:18 AM
Considering how close the A train is to JFK why didn't they just run a spur into the airport. Seems a lot cheaper than the Air Train.

February 15th, 2008, 12:46 PM
Just another way for the Port Authority to make money. Last month I did the subway/airtrain route on the A train from 175th and Broadway (Wash Heights) the entire trip getting to the airport took twice as long as the actual flight itself... in hindsight I would've been better off using a Chinatown bus