AirTrain JFK: Wikis


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AirTrain JFK
Type People mover
Locale JFK Airport and Queens, New York
Stations 10
Services 3
Daily ridership 11,384 (as of June 2006)
Opened December 17, 2003
Operator(s) Bombardier Transportation
Character Serves non-sterile airport traffic
Rolling stock 32 Bombardier Advanced Rapid Transit vehicles
Line length 8.1 miles (13 km)
Highest elevation Elevated
Route map
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Main Line continues
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Linden Boulevard
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Rockaway Boulevard
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Belt Parkway
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Nassau Expressway
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Howard Beach
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AirTrain Storage Yards
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Lefferts Boulevard
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Federal Circle
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Terminal 1
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Terminals 2 & 3
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Terminals 8 & 9
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Terminal 4
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Terminal 7
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Terminals 5 & 6
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AirTrain system map
AirTrain Station Jamaica
Inside the AirTrain Station Jamaica

AirTrain JFK is a 3-line, 8.1-statute mile (13 km) people mover system in New York City that connects John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to the city's subway, commuter trains and airport parking lots. It is operated by Bombardier Transportation under contract to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which also operates the airport and AirTrain Newark.


Routes and stations

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

  • The Howard Beach route ends at the Howard Beach-JFK subway station served by the IND Rockaway Line (A). It stops at Lefferts Boulevard for shuttle buses to long term parking lots A and B, & the airport employee parking lot as well as the B15 bus to Brooklyn.
  • The Jamaica Station route ends at Jamaica Station on the Long Island Rail Road, adjacent to the Sutphin Boulevard–Archer Avenue-JFK subway station served by the Archer Avenue Line (E J Z). Jamaica Station and the two-level subway stations are connected by a central elevator bank, allowing passengers to transfer conveniently between them.
    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 cargo areas. Both routes make a counterclockwise loop through the airport and stop at each terminal.
  • The All Terminals loop is an airport terminal circulator, which serves the six terminal stations (Terminal 1, Terminals 2 / 3, Terminal 4, Terminals 5 / 6, Terminal 7, and Terminals 8 / 9), but operates in the opposite direction, making a clockwise loop.

Station guide

Station Lines Connections
Howard Beach
  • Howard Beach Route
Lefferts Boulevard
  • Howard Beach Route
  • Passenger pick-up
  • Long-term parking areas A and B
  • MTA Bus: B15
Federal Circle
  • Howard Beach Route
  • Jamaica Station Route
Jamaica Station
  • Jamaica Station Route
Terminal 1
  • All Terminals Loop
  • Howard Beach Route
  • Jamaica Station Route
Terminal 2/3
  • All Terminals Loop
  • Howard Beach Route
  • Jamaica Station Route
Terminal 4
  • All Terminals Loop
  • Howard Beach Route
  • Jamaica Station Route
Terminal 5/6
  • All Terminals Loop
  • Howard Beach Route
  • Jamaica Station Route
Terminal 7
  • All Terminals Loop
  • Howard Beach Route
  • Jamaica Station Route
Terminal 8/9
  • All Terminals Loop
  • Howard Beach Route
  • Jamaica Station Route

With the exception of the Terminal 4 stop, all AirTrain terminal stations are outside the terminal buildings and sit on the other side of the terminal roadway from each building. Most terminals are connected to their respective stations through elevated walkways over the roadway. The Terminal 4 station was built inside Terminal 4, as Terminal 4 was under construction during the construction of the AirTrain.

Using AirTrain

AirTrain is free within the terminal area and to the hotel and car rental shuttle buses at Federal Circle. Entering or leaving AirTrain at the Jamaica or Howard Beach stations costs $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. According to AirTrain, the only reduced fee MetroCard for AirTrain is the $40 Unlimited Ride MetroCard. There are 2 types of $40 Unlimited Ride MetroCard, both allow an unlimited number of rides. One is valid for one calendar month and the other is valid for 30 days since first use. According to MTA, another reduced fare ticket is offered, the JFK-AirTrain 10-Trip MetroCard. It costs $25 and is good for 10 JFK Air-Train trips until midnight six months after first use. 1 trip is deducted for each use. Only accepted for AirTrain trips.

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


After exiting the AirTrain, 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 LIRR takes 20 minutes. Departures are very frequent, up to every 3 minutes during rush hour, due to Jamaica Station's position as a hub on the LIRR system (except for the Port Washington line). The fare to/from Manhattan Penn Station is $8.00 (peak hours), $5.75 (off peak), or $3.50 (weekends, "CityTicket"). The NYC subway also serves the AirTrain terminals. Taking the subway can double the travel time, but is less expensive and serves the east side of Manhattan and Brooklyn ($2.25 fare).

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.

One criticism of the AirTrain is that there is no functioning taxi stand. The initial taxi stand is shut down, leaving many passengers stranded in Queens or forced to take the subway. However, considering most traffic in and out of JFK is intended for passengers headed into Manhattan, taking a taxi is often impractical.

Additional connecting transit services

The Long Island Rail Road serves Penn Station in midtown Manhattan, where connections to New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains are available. The completion of East Side Access, expected in 2012, will offer AirTrain passengers connecting to the LIRR a direct route to Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan.

Wheelchair accessibility

All AirTrain JFK stations are fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and are, therefore, wheelchair accessible, as well as having other features designed to assist passengers who have a visual or hearing impairment. The Howard Beach subway and Jamaica Long Island Rail Road stations it connects with are also ADA-compliant. See New York City Subway accessibility and Long Island Rail Road accessibility for connection information.


Two-car AirTrain seen from Terminal 4
An AirTrain at Federal Circle viewed from a car window
AirTrain viaduct over Van Wyck Expressway

Planners have long desired a rail connection to JFK airport, which suffers from traffic congestion on its access roads. However, efforts to build a system were slow and the final system is much more modest than the original plan. The line was to begin in midtown Manhattan, at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge. The AirTrain would cross the East River using the side roads, formerly used by trolley cars, on the lower level of the bridge. It would use the Sunnyside Yards as a right-of-way towards LaGuardia Airport. From this airport, the AirTrain would connection to the LIRR's former Rockaway Beach Branch, head south to Howard Beach, and then to the airport.[citation needed]

Another suggestion would bypass the LIRR line and instead follow Grand Central Parkway and Van Wyck Expressway south towards Jamaica, with a station connecting to the IRT Flushing Line. Ultimately, only the portions linking Jamaica and Howard Beach to the JFK Airport were approved and built. Connections to La Guardia or Manhattan were never implemented.[citation needed]

Construction of the AirTrain system 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 DeBourgh, Jr.[1] The system finally opened after a 14-month delay on December 17, 2003, the centennial anniversary of the first powered flight by the Wright brothers.

The $1.9 billion AirTrain faced criticism from Southeastern Queens residents who feared the project could become a boondoggle, and again after the death of a worker during a test run, early problems with the doors, and delays leading up to its December 2003 launch. The Port Authority responded to residents' concerns by imposing strict rules regarding disruptive or loud construction activity, such as pile driving, and by implementing a streamlined damage claim process which quickly compensated homeowners who suffered damage to their homes, such as foundation cracks, as a result of construction.[citation needed]

The AirTrain is financed in part by a Federal Passenger Facility Charge revenue (initially collected as a $3 fee on virtually all outbound flight segments, now $4.50), which can only be used for airport-related improvements. The use of this funding required FAA approval. Several airlines challenged the use of the PFC funds for this project, and hired a consultant to organize opposition to the project. They also appealed the funding decision in court, along with a small number of residents of Ozone Park. The airlines subsequently withdrew from the lawsuit following negotiations with the Port Authority; the residents continued the legal battle but lost in court. The Port Authority also contributed $100 million toward the renovation of Jamaica Station, with the State of New York paying for the rest of the $387 million project. The purpose of this renovation was, in part, to facilitate AirTrain connections. The state also spent $75 million to renovate the Howard Beach station, which brought it into ADA compliance and facilitated passengers transfers to and from AirTrain. AirTrain JFK, which is operated by Bombardier as a contractor to the Port Authority, 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.[citation needed]

The proposed 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.[citation needed]

The East Side Access project, now under construction and projected to open in 2013, will provide direct service between Jamaica station and Grand Central Terminal, with connections to Metro-North Railroad.[2]

The recorded announcements on AirTrain JFK are by New York City traffic reporter, Bernie Wagenblast.[3]

Rolling stock

AirTrain JFK uses the same Advanced Rapid Transit (formerly Intermediate Capacity Transit System) technology from Bombardier as the SkyTrain in Vancouver, Canada and the Kelana Jaya Line 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 or motormen. The 32 individual vehicles are of the Mark II variant.


About 11% of all travelers arriving at or departing from JFK use AirTrain, according to the Port Authority, which operates AirTrain and JFK.

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 seven 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.[4][5]

Roughly 4 million people rode the train to JFK in 2006, an increase of about 15% over 2005.[6]

See also

External links



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