Big Rail Investments at New York Airports Fall Short on Promises of Connectivity

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jebr

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Interesting article published today on the Airline Weekly website bemoaning the current "airtrain shuttle" situation and pushing for more direct rail-to-air connections.

From the article:

The clunky connection between the terminals and trains at Newark is widely derided by travelers. Watching a train depart the airport station while waiting for the monorail to arrive at the stop is a common complaint among passengers. And while it was never cited as an issue when United Airlines and Amtrak partnered on “air-rail” itineraries, it certainly did not facilitate connections.
[...]
A better solution for Newark would be to build a rail line straight through the airport on the way to somewhere. This could be accomplished by rerouting the Northeast Corridor through a tunnel under the airport. And while this may cost more than the AirTran replacement — and a proposed nearly $2 billion PATH train extension to the airport station — upfront, it would provide a better level of service and maybe an impetus to restart the United-Amtrak partnership and encourage other air-rail tie ups. For example, the Washington, D.C., region’s Metro serves Washington Reagan National Airport with a line that runs through the airport to on its way from downtown D.C. to points south. That connection is widely credited for Washington National having the highest percentage of traveler transit usage among U.S. airports.
It's a bit odd that they're comparing the DC Metro, which is urban/suburban rail, to a possible direct Amtrak link, but I do agree that having a direct Amtrak link at EWR (and ideally BWI as well) without requiring additional shuttle services would help make the connections easier and more prominent.
 

joelkfla

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Interesting article published today on the Airline Weekly website bemoaning the current "airtrain shuttle" situation and pushing for more direct rail-to-air connections.

From the article:



It's a bit odd that they're comparing the DC Metro, which is urban/suburban rail, to a possible direct Amtrak link, but I do agree that having a direct Amtrak link at EWR (and ideally BWI as well) without requiring additional shuttle services would help make the connections easier and more prominent.
Regarding the LaGuardia rail link, they noted that the proposed line will run to the Mets-Willets Point Station to connect with the subway & LIRR, which is in the opposite direction from Manhattan.

They didn't point out that the #7 train, which is the only subway line serving that station, is one of the most overcrowded lines in the system, and the line's capacity is maxed out during peak periods.

Furthermore, the LIRR station is on the Port Washington branch, which has a sparse schedule and is the only line that doesn't serve Jamaica, which is the LIRR's central transfer point. To reach any destinations other than Penn Station or the few on the Port Washington branch, there are 2 options: (1) ride west to the Woodside station, then transfer and ride east to Jamaica, and finally (because the vast majority of trains bypass Woodside) likely transfer again at Jamaica; or (2) ride all the way to Penn Station and then catch a train back to the destination. Option 2 isn't even available for the Brooklyn stations or stations on the lines that don't have regular direct service to NYP.
 
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jis

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The easiest way to get the rail station to be at the airport in Newark is to move the Airport central concourse to the (airport side of) rail station rather than the other way round, and connecting terminal pods with the gates via APM, like say in Orlando or Frankfurt for that matter. The Regional Planning Association has a very cogent plan for doing so - expensive but doable, but the PANYNJ wants to have nothing to do with it since it will destroy their parking revenues. The whole plan is to keep the transit access sufficiently inconvenient so as to bolster parking revenues. Money talks... good plans walk.

The problem with trying to move the NEC over to the airport is that it would add a good several minutes to every service as it negotiates relatively sharp curves to get there and back, and of course it would be lunacy to try to make all four tracks, including the ones without platform at EWR, to do so. The airport loop would have to be underground and would not be cheap. But see above, PANYNJ would have nothing to do with it either, and it is impossible to do anything on airport grounds without their buy in.

So things are quite unlikely to change, except for the replacement of the dinky Monorail by a more capacious LIM system (most likely) similar to the JFK Airtrain. The last bit is already in the works with the construction of the new Terminal 1. Its stations will be much further away from all terminal buildings requiring considerable amount of walking or riding travellators.
 
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Airtrain JFk isn't bad, it takes you to a place where good connections to the LIRR and the subway can be made. The proposed Airtrain LaGuardia fails by going to a much less practical location. If it has to be an Airtrain, 61st/Woodside would be way better, but much more difficult and expensive to accomplish. Extending the Astoria subway line would probably be the best, but community opposition has been fierce for years, and the collective will of the politicians to overcome it is 0.
 
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Airtrain to Jamaica is not bad because the LIRR goes in both directions from there. quick trip to Penn Station, and coming soon Grand Central, as well as good subway service. LaGuardia will not accomplish that.
 
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daybeers

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Airtrain to Jamaica is not bad because the LIRR goes in both directions from there. quick trip to Penn Station, and coming soon Grand Central, as well as good subway service. LaGuardia will not accomplish that.
Still requires a transfer and a confusing mess of PANYNJ increasing the AirTrain fare to now 3x the NYC subway fare and not implementing OMNY, along with commuter trains not intended for carrying international luggage with different fares depending on the time of day, both of which are quite expensive. All the transit connections at NYC area airports are trash for one of the biggest cities in the world.
 

neroden

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And PANYNJ still hasn't accomplished one of its *original chartered purposes*: a freight rail tunnel link across New York Harbor. PANYNJ is really embarassing, in my view as a citizen of NY.
 

neroden

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It is not accidental. It is by carefully thought out design :D
Jis is right. It's Port Authority mentality, trying to get THEIR bucket of cash (parking fees, add-on fees for "AirTrains" if they must) so that they can siphon it off (PA has an infamously long list of patronage corruption scandals).
 

George Harris

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The easiest way to get the rail station to be at the airport in Newark is to move the Airport central concourse to the (airport side of) rail station rather than the other way round, and connecting terminal pods with the gates via APM, like say in Orlando or Frankfurt for that matter. The Regional Planning Association has a very cogent plan for doing so - expensive but doable, but the PANYNJ wants to have nothing to do with it since it will destroy their parking revenues. The whole plan is to keep the transit access sufficiently inconvenient so as to bolster parking revenues. Money talks... good plans walk.
Same rationale behind high BART fares into SFO. Likewise, BART to Oakland is inconvenient and expensive.
 

Caesar La Rock

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If they wanted service to LaGuardia, why not extend the Astoria line to the airport? Oh wait, suggesting any type of subway expansion is a very difficult subject for New York City. Guess I'm dreaming too much, but its not exactly far away as this shows. You also get your connections to Jamaica (transfer to the R and a cross platform transfer to the F), may not be a one seat ride, but a connection is still a connection. You also get your Amtrak, NJT, and LIRR connections at 34th Street Herald Square. I'm mean it'll never happen because of politics and the NIMBYs, but wow, so strange how a subway line can be so close to an airport, but yet no physical connection. Boggles my mind sometimes.
 

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neroden

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Everyone and their brother knows the right thing to do is to extend the Astoria line, but even the one and a half blocks necessary to transition from elevated to subway is Too Much Elevated for some Astoria NIMBYs. And politicos have been caving to said NIMBYs since... Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, fan of airplanes and opponent of elevated train lines...
 

Andrew

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Does anyone think that a direct subway connection to JFK Airport should have been built instead of the Airtrain?
 

joelkfla

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Does anyone think that a direct subway connection to JFK Airport should have been built instead of the Airtrain?
NYC subways are not very luggage-friendly, nor very accessible. The AirTrain allows passengers traveling to Penn Sta. to avoid the subway completely, and to make easy connections to points out on Lawn Guyland. When the East Side Access opens, they'll probably also be able to go to Grand Central, making easy connections northward.
 
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Andrew

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Thanks for clarifying.

Also, I bet a lot of people will use the Airtrain during the 2026 World Cup.
 

saxman

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Does anyone think that a direct subway connection to JFK Airport should have been built instead of the Airtrain?
For a few years, MTA ran the JFK Express train from Manhattan to Howard Beach from 1978 to 1990. They charged a premium that actual conductors collected. You still had to take a shuttle bus between HB and the terminals. It was eventually ended due to low ridership.
 
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For a few years, MTA ran the JFK Express train from Manhattan to Howard Beach from 1978 to 1990. They charged a premium that actual conductors collected. You still had to take a shuttle bus between HB and the terminals. It was eventually ended due to low ridership.
That would be fun! Knowing NYC subways in those days, one probably had to lug one's baggage up and down stairs (or on smelly elevators) then over to a bus and off the bus. I don't doubt few people would take it.
 
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That would be fun! Knowing NYC subways in those days, one probably had to lug one's baggage up and down stairs (or on smelly elevators) then over to a bus and off the bus. I don't doubt few people would take it.
Actually, I took that ride in 1987 after I dropped my girlfriend off at JFK to return home to South America. It worked pretty well. My memory is that the shuttle bus was free, the subway ride was $5. I was impressed by both the specially cleaned up subway cars (no graffiti!), the courteous conductor, who willingly offered to give directions on how to use the subway system to get where you were going, and the express ride with no stops until Manhattan. A few years ago, I took the A train from Brooklyn to Rockaway Beach (stopping at Howard Beach), and boy does that train make a lot of stops in Brooklyn and Queens along the way.

Now, if I had to ride from Penn Station to JFK, I would probably take the LIRR to Jamaica and take the Airtrain. Even if it's more expensive, it's fewer stops and at least some room for luggage.
 
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