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AirTrain JFK is a 13 km (8.1 mile) rapid transit system in New York City that connects John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to the city's subway and commuter trains. It is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which also operates the airport and AirTrain Newark.

Routes and stationsEdit

AirTrain connects the airport terminals and parking areas with Long Island Rail Road and New York City Subway lines at Jamaica and Howard Beach stations in Queens. The system consists of three overlapping routes:

  • Howard Beach route
  • Jamaica Station route
  • Airline Terminal route

The Howard Beach route ends at the Howard Beach-JFK subway station served by the A train. It stops at Lefferts Boulevard for shuttle buses to long term parking lots A and B and to airport employee parking.

The Jamaica route ends at Jamaica Station on the Long Island Rail Road, next to the Sutphin Boulevard/Archer Avenue-JFK subway station served by the E and J at all times and Z trains (rush hours in the peak direction).

Before separating for their final destinations, both routes stop at Federal Circle for car rental companies and shuttle buses to hotels and the airport's air cargo area. Both routes make a counterclockwise loop through the airport and stop at each terminal.

The Airline Terminal route serves the six terminal stations (Terminal 1, Terminals 2/3, Terminal 4, Terminals 5/6, Terminal 7, and Terminals 8), and operates in the same direction, making a  clockwise loop.

Using AirTrainEdit

AirTrain is free within the terminal area and to the hotel and car rental shuttle buses at Federal Circle. When entering or leaving AirTrain at the Jamaica and Howard Beach stations the cost is $5.

The fare must be paid by MetroCard, which can be purchased with cash, a credit card or an ATM card. There are vending machines at Jamaica and Howard Beach stations where one can pay for the AirTrain and also pay subway and Long Island Rail Road fares. Discounts are available such as a $25 AirTrain-only MetroCard good for 10 trips, and a monthly $40 AirTrain-only MetroCard good for an unlimited number of rides.

There are flight status displays in many AirTrain stations, including Jamaica and Howard Beach. All station stops are announced via recorded messages.

The fastest trip time to Manhattan is via the Long Island Rail Road at the Jamaica AirTrain connection. From Jamaica to Penn Station in midtown Manhattan on the Long Island Rail Road takes 20 minutes. Taking the subway doubles the travel time, but is less expensive.

Travelers to Long Island or Brooklyn can use the Long Island Rail Road from Jamaica; subway trains from both Howard Beach and Jamaica also serve Brooklyn. Dozens of local bus lines serving Queens and Brooklyn stop at or near Jamaica as well.

Connecting transit servicesEdit

  • At Kennedy Airport, Terminal 4 only: Q3, Q10, Q10 Limited and B15 buses
  • At Lefferts Boulevard: B15 bus
  • At Howard Beach: A subway train; Q11 bus
  • At Jamaica: Long Island Rail Road; E, J, Z subway trains; Q6, Q8, Q9, Q20A, Q20B, Q25/Q34, Q30, Q31, Q40, Q43, Q44, Q60, and Q65 buses.

The Long Island Rail Road goes to Penn Station in midtown Manhattan, where connections to New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains are available.

Wheelchair accessibilityEdit

All AirTrain JFK stations are wheelchair accessible, as are the Howard Beach subway and Jamaica Long Island Rail Road stations it connects with. See New York City Subway accessibility and Long Island Rail Road accessibility for connection information.


Planners have long desired a rail connection to JFK airport, which suffers from traffic congestion on its access roads. Efforts to build a rail system moved in fits and starts over decades.

Early plans took the line not only to JFK but north from Jamaica to La Guardia Airport, linking to the IRT Flushing Line. Construction began in 1998 for completion in 2002, but was delayed by the derailment of a test train on September 27, 2002, killing 23-year-old operator Kelvin DeBorgh, Jr. The system finally opened after over a year's delay on December 17, 2003.

The $1.9 billion AirTrain has become a success that defied critics who feared the project could become a boondoggle because of Queens residents' vocal complaints, the death of a worker during a test run, early problems with the doors and delays leading up to its December 2003 launch.

The AirTrain project was financed using federal Passenger Facility Charge revenue (collected as a $3 fee on each outbound flight ticket), which can only be used for airport-related improvements. Several airlines challenged the use of the PFC funds for this project, but lost in court. The State of New York paid for major renovations at Jamaica Station, in part to facilitate AirTrain connections. The project does not receive subsidies from the state or city for its operating costs, which is one of the reasons cited for its relatively high fare.

AirTrain JFK uses the same Advanced Rapid Transit (formerly Intermediate Capacity Transit System) technology from Bombardier as the SkyTrain in Vancouver, Canada and the Putra LRT in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It draws power from a third rail, and a linear induction motor pushes magnetically against an aluminum strip in the center of the track. The computerized trains are automated and operate without conductors.

The Lower Manhattan-Jamaica/JFK Transportation Project would use the Long Island Rail Road Atlantic Branch to downtown Brooklyn and a new tunnel to lower Manhattan. This would provide faster service to JFK via a one-seat ride, as well as Long Island Rail Road service to lower Manhattan via a transfer at Jamaica. Under this proposal baggage could be checked in Manhattan and transferred directly to planes at the airport. Trains with hybrid propulsion systems that can run on the AirTrain, subway and Long Island Rail Road tracks might be required. The proposal may gain some momentum with the passing of the Transportation Bond Act in 2005.

The recorded announcements on AirTrain JFK are by former New York City traffic reporter, Bernie Wagenblast.


Annual AirTrain ridership:[1]
Average daily ridership since opening
Total: 8,584
Jamaica: 4,952
Howard Beach: 3,632

June 2006, daily average ridership
Total: 11,384
Jamaica: 7,131
Howard Beach: 4,254

Yearly arrivals and departures at JFK
2003 . . . 31.7 million
2004 . . . 37.5 million
2005 . . . 40.9 million
2006 . . . 41 million (expected)

About 11% of all travelers arriving at or departing from JFK use the computer-operated AirTrain, according to its operator, the Port Authority.

Daily paid ridership on the system has been steadily rising. Ridership increased from 7,700 per day in June 2004 to nearly 11,300 per day in June 2006.

Meanwhile, nearly four times as many people are taking AirTrain for free each day to travel between the airport's eight active terminals and parking lots.

The growing popularity of AirTrain also reflects a passenger boom at JFK airport. The number of people passing through the airport jumped from 31.7 million in 2003 to an estimated 41 million in 2006.[1]

See alsoEdit

External links Edit


  • M.T.A. Proposes Rail Line to Link Major Airports, New York Times March 18, 1990 page 28

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