Aug
22

A look at the decreasing frequency of the JFK AirTrain

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The JFK AirTrain has seen frequency quietly decrease over the years even as ridership grows.

The JFK AirTrain has seem frequency quietly decrease over the years even as ridership grows.

By most accounts, the JFK AirTrain has been a success story. After a fatal incident cast a pall on the project a few months before the planned opening, the AirTrain saw 2.5 million riders in its first year of operations and 6.5 million riders in 2014, its tenth year of operations. Even as Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushes to build a misguided LaGuardia AirTrain via Flushing, the AirTrain has been an improvement for access to JFK airport.

Early last year, when making a push for support for his LaGuardia plan, Cuomo touted the benefits of the JFK AirTrain. “AirTrain JFK has proven to be not only one of the most convenient and affordable ways of getting to and from the airport, but also one of the most popular,” he said, noting an eight percent increase in paid ridership between 2013 and 2014 alone. Over 10 million riders use the AirTrain to ride between terminals and nearby garages for free.

But a funny thing happened on the way to 6.5 million riders: The Port Authority has quietly reduced the frequency of service on the AirTrain. A few days ago, a Twitter user reported that the Port Authority was promoting 14-minute headways between AirTrains shortly before noon on a weekday. For a zero-person automated system with ample rolling stock to run trains at five-minute headways, this seemed exceptionally egregious, and a few folks went digging.

Eventually, Chris O’Leary dug up some historical data. As recently as 2009, the Port Authority operated the JFK AirTrain on five-minute peak-hour headways and 10-minute off-peak headways. A recent brochure tells a much different story as peak headways are now 7-12 minutes with service operating every 10-15 minutes between 7:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. and every 15-20 minutes from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m. This is, effectively, a 50 percent service cut. Take a look:

A Port Authority brochure from 2009 (top) some much more frequent JFK AirTrain service than the 2016 brochure (bottom). (Via @ohhleary; click to enlarge)

A Port Authority brochure from 2009 (top) some much more frequent JFK AirTrain service than the 2016 brochure (bottom). (Via @ohhleary; click to enlarge)

It’s not quite clear when these new timetables went into effect or why. The Port Authority hasn’t responded to requests for comment yet. But posts on an aviation-related message board indicate reduced AirTrain frequency as long ago as 2011. This isn’t a new problem, but it seems to be one the Port Authority has slipped past the public without much notice.

Despite silence from the Port Authority on this issue, it’s my understanding that this reduced service is a result of the age of the system and the need for repairs. With cars in the shop and the system’s constantly undergoing maintenance, the Port Authority cannot maintain the headways it used to run seven years ago. For a 12-year-old system, this seems problematic and worse still is the lack of transparency regarding operations. There’s no real need for the Port Authority to keep these issues under wraps, and if the state is about to sink a few hundred million dollars of public funds into another airport rail system, we should know that operations can keep pace with ridership.

Right now, the JFK AirTrain remains popular even as service is cut. But trains are more crowded, and travelers have to leave extra time to account for long AirTrain waits. That the PA doesn’t appear to view this reduced service as a problem is cause for concern. But that’s just another day in the fun world of the Port Authority.



Categories : PANYNJ

80 Responses to “A look at the decreasing frequency of the JFK AirTrain”

  1. The MTA did the same thing to Rockaway. The A train to Rockaway Park was cut and made into a miserable Shuttle train with longer transfer times. The Q 53 is more frequent and convenient in some places than the subway. Mayor DeBlasio and government corruption. That’s one of the reason ridership is lower in Rockaway. We are forced to drive and pay more. We also have a high population of underserved and low density housing on a narrow peninsula. We have a right to equal treatment and funding.

    • Brandon says:

      The subways and buses are run by the state government.

      • Samuel Blakey says:

        As well as the bridges and tunnels he pays tolls on in the Rockaways.

      • I’m not sure of the exact time for the change. It’s been years. The Shuttle train stinks. They should extend the C train with the A train to Lefferts Boulevard and or Rockaway. The most important issues for transportation is access, reliability, affordability and frequency. What good is a train that passengers have to wait 10 to 20 minutes to transfer to another train. It’s not good enough. The Q 53 Bus is more frequent than the Shuttle train and I’m able to get to my destination faster. The key to increase ridership is frequency and reliability. It would reduce gridlock on Cross Bay and Woodhaven Boulevard. Of course the QueensRail would also make a big difference. The Shuttle train would work if the Shuttle came immediately after an A train. I refuse to take the A train to Broad Channel and wait for an infrequent Shuttle. I believe the MTA and the Mayor don’t care. That’s why property values are lower and poverty is growing. The lack of equal services creates resentment and violence.

      • Mayor Bloomberg paid for the 7 train extension with our money. The City could take back the subways and buses tomorrow. Don’t tell me that the Mayor has no power. The MTA steals services from one community and bribes another. Manhattan gets billions of dollars in transit funding while the outer boroughs get less traffic lanes, railways, left turns, parking, less bus stops and lower speed limits. We get gridlock, tolls and tickets with bus and bike lanes and Manhattan gets richer, more funding and services and more exclusive. The corrupt politicians make the laws and the poor and middle class suffer from the laws. How many tickets does a politician or bureaucrat pay for? It’s called corruption and inequality. Why would the government toll a small beach community in Queens and put a large underserved, unemployed population in a transit desert with inferior and unreliable transit services? Corruption, segregation and inequality. A tale of two cities.

    • mister says:

      When exactly was the A to Rockaway Park “cut”? The C used to serve Rockaway Park, during peak hours, with the H operating at other times. The current shuttle with some direct AM/PM peak service is a lot better than the old service pattern.

      • I’m not sure of the exact time for the change. It’s been years. The Shuttle train stinks. They should extend the C train with the A train to Lefferts Boulevard and or Rockaway. The most important issues for transportation is access, reliability, affordability and frequency. What good is a train that passengers have to wait 10 to 20 minutes to transfer to another train. It’s not good enough. The Q 53 Bus is more frequent than the Shuttle train and I’m able to get to my destination faster. The key to increase ridership is frequency and reliability. It would reduce gridlock on Cross Bay and Woodhaven Boulevard. Of course the QueensRail would also make a big difference. The Shuttle train would work if the Shuttle came immediately after an A train. I refuse to take the A train to Broad Channel and wait for an infrequent Shuttle. I believe the MTA and the Mayor don’t care. That’s why property values are lower and poverty is growing. The lack of equal services creates resentment and violence.

        • mister says:

          My point was that the Rock Park branch has not had full-time A service for a long time, if ever. When the C served Rock Park during rush hours, only every other train operated to/from Rockaway. The current system, though still not perfect, is much better than what existed before.

          On top of that, there is very little ridership on the Rockaway Branch: 2,606 average daily ridership based on the 2015 ridership figures. That’s lower than the single least patronized station on the G line. I don’t know that it makes sense to split A service even more for such a small crowd.

    • Tim says:

      No one forced you to live in the Rockaways.

  2. Our leaders allowed the QueensRail to rot for over 50 years and keep Queens divided, separated and isolated. Why does south Queens have some of the longest commutes? City Hall wants it that way. Lies, corruption and hate. Why did City Hall take away our Ferry? It cost too much? Why is the Staten Island Ferry free? Politics. A tale of two Cities. Who in charge? Mayor Chaos and Zero Vision.

    • VLM says:

      Your rude behavior on public forums and your total ignorance is exactly why nobody takes the QPTC seriously. The best thing you could do for RBBL reactivation would be to crawl back into your troll hole instead of engaging in name calling regarding politicians who have no say in this process and rants on unrelated matters.

    • Rich B says:

      You sound like a petulant child. Grow up.

      • Do I bother you? Oh well. Get use to it. I disagree with your comments and frankly I don’t care. Stop defending corrupt politicians. I’m not afraid of you. Whoever you are? You want me to shut up and go back to Queens. You sound like a racist and an elitist. I spoke about transportation. Guys like you think you know everything. Guys like you discriminate against communities and commuters. Guys like you don’t give a darn about people like me. I’m going to fight until enough people know and realize that Zero Vision, Select Bull Service and the QueensWall are stealing our time, freedom, safety and prosperity. For the record, I appreciate the motivation. The QueensRail is coming with or without your support. This is a grassroots, regular People’s effort from commuters who are sick of experts like you. Shame on you for being so rude. You probably work for DeBlasio. VLM, my name is Philip McManus, Chairman of the Queens Public Transit Committee. I live in Queens, Rockaway Park. Who are you? Shame on you. Your a disgrace. Our group is looking for active transportation advocates who support all commuters and communities. Join us at http://www.qptc.org.

        • I’m going to fight until enough people know and realize that Zero Vision, Select Bull Service and the QueensWall are stealing our time, freedom, safety and prosperity.

          Lumping all of these together, confusing timelines and responsibilities and resorting to childish name-calling of local politicians is how and why you’re alienating people who would otherwise be sympathetic to your cause. You can choose to believe me or not. I don’t like to toot my own horn here, but I have very good relationships with people who are deeply involved in transit advocacy work in this city. You should do some soul-searching if you’re serious about making a difference and don’t just want to come across as anti-safety cranks who are using rail as a crutch to maintain the unsustainable auto-centric status quo of our city streets.

      • Dear Rich B., I’m a commuter. Do you work for VLM? Why don’t you grow up?

    • MDC says:

      “Why did City Hall take away our Ferry? It cost too much?”

      If you were paying attention, you might have noticed that de Blasio is actually proposing a whole new slate of ferries.

  3. John-2 says:

    It took roughly 35-40 years in both New York and now in Washington for ‘benign neglect’ to really start affecting the reliability of the cities’ subway systems, so it would be some amazing work by PANYNJ if they managed that same level of maintenance problems in less than a third of that timespan.

    The other factor may simply be the Port Authority thinks based on train load factors they can get away with the cut in frequency, ignoring the fact they’re operating AirTrain primarily as a connecting service for people based on their flight departures, which are constant during the day. With ZPTO, there shouldn’t be an excuse for running the trains at a much lower frequency than the departing flights or the schedules of the subways and LIRR trains they in turn link with.

    • Eric F says:

      I don’t get the “benign neglect” angle. This is a new system. This is not something inherited from a private company, nationalized and then left to fester. It’s newly built and uses fairly up to date technology. It’s a very nifty quick ride up to Jamaica (when it’s working) and the Jamaica air train station for a while at least was the nicest part of that complex.

      • John-2 says:

        That’s why I included WMATA, which has always been run by a government agency since its inception 40 years ago, but has been run more and more dysfunctionally over the past decade, as what was new in the 1976-86 period now needs more TLC in the 2006-16 period.

        You’d think the Port Authority would at least have been able to get to 2025 before mechanical problems started severly crippling their ability to meet time schedules with the rolling stock.

  4. Nick Ober says:

    So it isn’t my imagination! Thanks for looking into this, Ben. The headways have truly gotten dreadful. I’ve also now been on two AirTrains recently that were taken out of service midrun due to mechanical issues. Plus, half the time I’ve noticed that the second loop track isn’t even in use, due to maintenance.

    For all the Port Authority claims about the Newark AirTrain reaching end of life and needing full replacement, the headways on that system are every 3 minutes during peak times!

    • Larry Littlefield says:

      I get the feeling that the PA’s NJ commissioners decided they could screw JFK because they knew NY’s Governor thought transit riders were serfs.

      Just like the Port Authority PA tolls lower than MTA tolls and PATH fares lower than subway fares rather than building out the Airtrain system in the 1990s.

      • Eric F says:

        The PATH is literally taking an entire line out of service on weekends to install new signals and PTC. I don’t think then air train headways are part of some obscure conspiracy.

    • AMH says:

      I wondered what was going on. Service has definitely been declining–at all the airports. (The M60 at LGA is a different story but with the same outcome.)

  5. Eric F says:

    Kudos for hitting on this topic. I had no idea that headways were being extended. That’s a big frustration maker for passengers, and in particular when trying to time a LIRR connection in Jamaica. You’d figure the maintenance situation is fairly dire if they are cutting service in the summer, which is peak travel time for the airports.

    • Tower18 says:

      15 minutes can make a big difference when arriving at the airport too, with the variability of security and checkin lines at JFK (could be 5 minutes, could be 2 hours, depending on time).

  6. Rich B says:

    With ZPTO, why is there an off-peak at all? It’s such a pain when your flight lands at JFK near midnight, as many flights do.

  7. Larry Littlefield says:

    This is outrageous. The times I used the Airtrain the wait was interminable. I thought I was just unlucky. Now I know it’s a planned screw over. A long wait for the Airtrain, followed by a long wait for the A train for the serfs — worse than the bus used to be.

    Why is this a separate system? The Port Authority decided it should not be a transit system, but rather a people move like those found at other airports such as DFW — with the Airtrain as an extension of the airport.

    But how does the frequency of the Airtrain compare with the people movers at those other airports? I’ll bet it stinks.

    What is worse, it is in the nature of JFK that those using it are move likely to be changing airlines, and thus terminals, and the Airtrain is supposed to be used for that.

    This is what we get from the public sector now — more and more in, less and less out, deceit about what is happening and why.

    • TimK says:

      Why is this a separate system?

      IIRC, supposedly because PFC funds can’t be used for anything that’s not directly airport-related, and something integrated with the larger transit system would not be sufficiently airport-specific.

      I’m not saying I buy this explanation, just that that’s what I remember being said when AirTrain was planned and built.

      • Eric says:

        That is not quite correct. PFC funds were used to extend Portland (OR) light rail to the airport. This was OK because the extension only benefited airport users, even though the line continued to many other places.

        • TimK says:

          Again:

          I’m not saying I buy this explanation, just that that’s what I remember being said when AirTrain was planned and built.

        • johndmuller says:

          So according to this theory, the Astoria line could be extended to LGA using PFC funds. If an additional stop or 2 were added in between, the portion beyond the last additional stop would seemingly still qualify for full PFC funding and one could make a case for also including some percentage of the cost for the new in between section(s), no?

          • john Johnson says:

            PFCs can only be used for construction on airport property. PDX used $28.8 million in PFC and $69.3 million in local funds. JFK Airtrain was also a split of PFC and local money. A strip of land in the median of the Van Wyck Expressway, and additional property adjacent to the Jamaica station was ceded to airport ownership. The use of PFC revenue for this part of the system was challenged in court by the airline industry but upheld by the courts.

            It’s not that it benefits the airport, it must be on airport property.

            • Alex B. says:

              The Feds are looking into altering the current policy on use of PFC funds for transit projects:
              https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/05/03/2016-10334/passenger-facility-charge-pfc-program-eligibility-of-ground-access-projects-meeting-certain-criteria

              However, under the current rules, PFC funds can only be spent on airport property – and only for projects solely about aviation traffic.

              In DC, the Silver Line to Dulles Airport will extend beyond the airport for two additional stops in Loudoun County, VA. The Airports Authority put in a request to use PFC funds for part of the project, and the FAA’s determination (based on the current rules) was using the funds for the station itself was OK, since the users of the station would be all airport traffic. However, the PFC funds could not be used on the actual guideway, because that would be carrying non-airport traffic through.

              Now, they recognize that this is an absurd outcome and that’s why they’re interested in changing the rule. They note in the Federal Register that this logic might work for road networks, but it does not work for transit. And that the only reasonable outcomes are for lines that terminate at an airport (such as Portland’s light rail dead-ending at PDX) or for a completely separate system like AirTrain at JFK.

              The worst potential outcome is something like the SFO BART wye, because that ensures that only airport users will use the station (funded with PFC dollars).

              In other words, under the current FAA rules – no, an Astoria line extension to LGA and beyond would not qualify for PFC funds.

              • johndmuller says:

                I think it is/was just as absurd for roads as for rail. In Northern VA, most of the ROW for the Silver Line (Dulles airport) extension of DC Metro was the ROW for the “Dulles Access Road”, a highway between the DC Beltway and Dulles Airport with intermediate entrances only in the Dulles direction and intermediate exits only in the DC direction. Even so, some commuters found it desirable to take the extra trip out to the airport at either end of their trip.

                Eventually, they built a toll road straddling the Dulles road for non airport users, and now the Silver line when the toll road is gridlocked. Somehow, the non-transit, non-roadway managed to spur a huge development boom eventually creating the demand for a new highway and then transit. Would this be Development Oriented Transit?

      • Alex B. says:

        I don’t know the specifics at JFK, but this is true of the PFC program.

        In DC, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is managing the construction of the Silver Line extension to Dulles. However, the only airport funds they are allowed to contribute is for the part of the project on airport grounds and/or immediately connecting it to another regional facility, and only on their own property (IIRC, the PA acquired a narrow easement in the highway median for the portion connecting to Jamaica).

        In other words, they’re paying for the Airport station and that’s about it.

        Some background on PFCs and ground transportation from Transportation for America here: http://t4america.org/docs/T4A-.....6.2.16.pdf

  8. JJJJ says:

    Newark Airtrain is still every 3 minutes, but the last 3 times I went they were single tracking due to a disabled train, so there were delays

    • Phantom says:

      Newark Airtrain is crowded, slow and awful.

      Mass transit geeks are better served to take the Newark City Bus 62 from Newark Penn Station, which runs more frequently than NJT trains etc

      • AMH says:

        It is absolutely awful. PATH should be extended directly to the airport terminals. Thanks for the tip about the bus–I’ve considered trying it in the past, but worry about trying a new bus route when I’m trying to catch a flight.

        • JJJ says:

          I took it once from the airport to Newark. Was on time and fast. About 30 people boarded at airport, nobody boarded en route to Penn, just got off. Half the route was highway, and the rest was a 6 lane avenue

      • Phantom says:

        http://www.njtransit.com/pdf/bus/T0062.pdf

        This is the timetable for the NJT 62 bus that runs from Newark Penn Station ( near the McDonald’s ) to each of the Newark Airport Terminals. You will see that service is frequent.

        The fare is I believe $1.60. These NJT buses take bills or coins. When traveling I tend to carry a plastic newspaper sleeve with a bunch of coins so I always have the exact fare.

        Luggage permitted on these buses, but it is a city bus so it will get crowded during peak times. Happy travels.

  9. Boris says:

    The AirTrain was built under a Design-Build-Operate-Maintain contract by Bombardier. The contract is good for up to 15 years. Perhaps with the contract close to the expiration date, Bombardier is trying to cut costs and/or hint to the Port Authority that a contract renewal will cost a lot more?

    http://transweb.sjsu.edu/PDFs/.....rtrain.pdf

    • VLM says:

      But that doesn’t address the complaints Ben found regarding these headways that seemed to start about five years ago. It strikes me more as operational and maintenance related than a quasi-hostage situation by Bombardier over contract negotiations.

  10. Matvey says:

    The AirTrain is a DBOM contract with Bombardier, and I’m not sure how much operational control the Port Authority has aside from what I assume are minimum service standards in the original agreement.

  11. 22r says:

    14 minute headways to the terminal after a dreadfully long and delayed ride on the A train? Eh, I’ll spring for Uber (and I’m a train lover / car hater)

    • Larry Littlefield says:

      That’s the average headway. What if there are delays? And then there is the possibility of long TSA lines. Delays on transit to the Airtrain. Etc.

      It is as if you need a four hour cushion to be sure to make your flight.

      • SEAN says:

        is as if you need a four hour cushion to be sure to make your flight.

        Try flying out of Newark before 7AM & I mean without using AirTrain. That alone can take two hours factoring in security theatre.

        • NattyB says:

          I flew out of EWR on Delta last year, on a 4.30pm on Thanksgiving eve. Went through security in about 5 minutes. I flew out of EWR on Dec 29th on United on a flight leaving at 7.40am —> might’ve been the longest security line I’ve ever seen that literally snaked around the entire length of the check in area. They seemed to be well staffed and the staff was generally helpful (except for the part where my luggage went to Orlando while I was going to Punta Cana) but holy f—-ng s–t. It took nearly an hour and WTF.

          I’m a big train person and I despise our collective reliance on the automobile. I’m currently abroad now and will be flying back into JFK. I just cannot justify taking the AirTrain to the A. After the absurdly long and slow line at JFK customs, I’d just rather take an Uber (while expensive, rarely a long wait; whereas the Taxi line can be long too) then subject myself to long headways after a long a– flight and customs.

          • TimK says:

            FWIW, I flew into JFK from Europe last month, and getting through immigration and customs was surprisingly quick, thanks to the new (to me) passport scanning machines. As an ordinary traveler with nothing to declare, I was through both in about 5-7 minutes. YMMV, of course, but it may not be as bad as you think.

          • kevd says:

            my immigration at JFK was about 2 1/2 minutes last time.
            very very quick.

            • 22r says:

              JFK is very inconsistent…. I’ve heard horror stories of close friends waiting 5 hours to get through customs… for me last time I was lucky at first because customs only took 10 minutes, but then the luggage literally took 75 minutes to arrive. wtf.

  12. Michael549 says:

    A few thoughts:

    a) Airplane trips for the majority of people are not “regular daily events” – so a slightly less frequent JFK Air-Train trip does not register the same way as frustrations in the same way as does the long lines for security checks and other hassles at the gateways of an airport.

    b) For folks who work at the JFK and regularly use the Air-Train – these kinds of reduced schedules can easily become a part of the regular pattern – as long as the train arrives when it is generally expected.

    c) For transit fan folk – the JFK Air-Train is a marvel. The lack of train operators or conductors means there are fewer accessible humans from whom to easily obtain various kinds of insider information.

    d) The JFK Air-Train has only been in existence for a decade or so – it has not had enough time to build up the transit fan base that century old subway systems have or the nostalgia of similar-aged railroads.

    e) Some folks seem to think that a “zero-person operated-train” system would have fewer maintenance problems forgetting that there is a whole back office and maintenance operation that does not disappear just because the trains are driven by an automated computer system.

    This however is a very interesting story and issue. I am glad that it was researched and brought to attention.

    Mike

    • VLM says:

      Your comments are getting more and more nonsensical these days. Just because AirTrain isn’t a part of your universal of normal commutes doesn’t mean it’s not important, and as you recognize, many airport workers rely on the AirTrain to get to their jobs. Thus, a 50% service cut has a major impact on their lives and shouldn’t be brushed off so flippantly as a “reduced schedule” that “can easily become a part of the regular pattern.” These aren’t wealthy workers with a lot of spare time or income.

      Meanwhile, most “transit fan folk” aren’t besotted with ZPTO trains, and nor are these new technologies. Maintenance may explain some reduction in service at certain times, but if half the fleet is out for maintenance constantly over a five-year period, something worse is going on here.

      • Michael549 says:

        In response:

        “Just because AirTrain isn’t a part of your universal of normal commutes doesn’t mean it’s not important …”

        I never said the Air-Train was not important, and no where in my message did I use the word “important”.

        Many workers rely upon the Air-Train and service reductions affect such folks greatly.

        From the land of regular 30 minute and (previously regular 60 minute) waits for transportation – I have keen awareness of long commute times.

        I agree with you that something is going on here. And as I said I am glad that this article brought this issue out in the open.

        In another message (and I’m not saying that you said it), a writer says, “Automated. No labor costs. High fares.” As if the lack of on-board train staff equals “no labor costs.”

        The Air-Train being automated could easily have a different set of repair requirements and maintenance issues, on top of the “usual” repair and maintenance issues for a regular railroad.

        Bringing this issue out in the open allows the examination of exactly what is going on!

        Mike

        • The labor costs for maintaining the computer system that runs a ZPTO train is far less than the labor costs for a 24-hour OPTO system running at even the reduced AirTrain headways.

          • Michael549 says:

            In another message:

            Nathanael says – August 22, 2016 at 8:02 pm – WTF??!! – “Automated. No labor costs …”

            ———

            Yes, automation brings about a certain level of reduced labor costs, or different labor costs for various operations but reduced or different is not the same as ZERO!

            Some seem to equate ZPTO with “zero labor costs”. I dis-agree with the idea that having zero train operators with Air-Train means the labor costs would be zero.

            I agree that “The labor costs for maintaining the computer system that runs a ZPTO train is far less than the labor costs for a 24-hour OPTO system..”

            There are back office and maintenance operations that simply do not disappear just because the trains are driven by an automated computer system. Unless I’m truly mistaken and missed the reporting – there are no robots repairing those trains or fixing the tracks and other components, etc.

            Humans (even if fewer of them) still have to do the various tasks to administer, manage and maintain this railroad – hence labor costs may be reduced, or different but not “zero”. There will still be the need for lawyers, accountants, book-keepers, tower operators, and other staff involved in the operation. (Until the day that lawyers and accountants can be replaced by robots …)

            Mike

            PS – The question of why there has been a reduction in train service remains a good and open question. I’d like to know more.

  13. RB says:

    Dealing with AirTran issues – last time I took it we boarded, it didn’t move, waited 15 minutes for repair crews, and re-boarded the next train – and the atrocity of Penn Station is the largest impediment to flying out of JFK. As awful as it is, LGA is the best option for New York air travel from Manhattan.

    • Adirondacker12800 says:

      If Manhattan is the Upper East Side. And you don’t want to use the subway.

      • Alon Levy says:

        The UES has pretty good connections to JFK, actually, thanks to the 6/E connection. The UWS, on the other hand, is ideally inhabited by people who never fly.

        • Adirondacker12800 says:

          There’s Hell Kitchen, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Tribeca and Wall Street. It’s very easy for the cab to sneak up on one of the tunnels and be in EWR a lot faster than getting to LGA or JFK.

        • mister says:

          Why is the 6 to the E connection a “good” connection for UES folks, but the B/D to the E connection not good for UWS folks?

          • Caelestor says:

            Most people live along the (1) (2) (3), who connect via Times Sq – PABT.

            • mister says:

              For any at Broadway, or east of Broadway, CPW is not excessively far; certainly no farther than the only option for many Eastsiders.

              For what it’s worth, Google maps says that a trip from 86th/Lex to JFK will take an hour and 5 minutes via the 6&E. A trip from 86th and Broadway to the Airport will take 1 hour and 7 minutes.

              • mister says:

                Ehhh, just realized that Google is expecting you to get off at 50th street and transfer to the E by walking a block. So not that great.

  14. Larry Littlefield says:

    The more I think about it the more this burns my ass.

    First they imposed a $3 passenger facility charge on all three airports, promising a full Airtrain system. Then they diverted existing revenue streams and all we got was the Airtrain to Howard Beach and Jamaica.

    Then they made it free for drivers parking on PA facilities, and a moderate charge for airport workers with monthlies, but imposed one hell of a charge for the distance covered to the subway for those actually taking an flight.

    Yes but we’re competing with taxis they said, 15-20 year ago, so the total cost — including the subway or commuter rail — is a fair charge.

    And now this. Garbage service, not even worth using, despite zero marginal labor costs.

    • john Johnson says:

      you’re saying that there was no PFC before the airtrain project? and it’s $4.50 now

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        Yes, there was no PFC before the Airtrain project. It was imposed for Airtrain from JFK to LGA and on to Long Island City and possibly Manhattan, and in Newark.

        In Newark the Airtrain didn’t even make it to the PATH/downtown. In NYC it didn’t get beyond Jamaica. LGA passengers still paid, though some of the money was supposed to go to the N extension, which NYC blocked.

  15. Nathanael says:

    WTF??!!

    Automated. No labor costs. High fares. Should be running as often as Vancouver Skytrain. There should be an inspector general investigation.

    Thank you for step one of the investigative reporting. Please keep pushing to get the truth out of the PA.

    • tacony says:

      There should be an inspector general investigation.

      When have service cuts, disruptions, managerial incompetence etc ever been remedied by any type of “investigation”? Bridgegate was a scandal because it disrupted motorists. We’re expected unfettered access to drive around the region 24/7, but transit riders should be so lucky to be given a lift.

  16. Ike says:

    This kind of outrageous slashing of service is par for the course with the Port Authority. A few years ago they butchered late-night service on the PATH train, cutting it from every 30 to every 35 minutes, which is insane. 35 doesn’t even divide into anything so you can’t expect the train at the same times every hour anymore. They also slashed Sunday morning service from every 15-20 minutes to every 35 minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if they butchered middays as well on the PATH train at some point as they’ve done with the AirTrain.

  17. Phantom says:

    Reducing headways is a false economy.

    Especially as the Airtrain is usually only one part of a journey. There may is usually one or maybe more trains that you have to wait for.

    Good article.

  18. Gary W says:

    I wish there was a Air Train at LGA, two and a half hour wait for cabs there yesterday at 4PM.

    I’ll take JFK and the airtrain any day of the week.

  19. Larry Littlefield says:

    The last time I took the Airtrain (and I mean that) was after a delayed flight from San Francisco. Virtually the whole airport was shut down, and a planload of passengers got in line for a handful of cabs.

    So some of us went for the Airtrain. The wait was — forever. Despite a huge fare.

    And then for the A train, the wait was — forever. And then a transfer to the F.

    I should have driven and parked, because if you don’t drive the message is go to hell loser.

    Got home at 4 am.

  20. Eric says:

    You should contact an investigative journalist about this. It’s definitely worth an article in NY Times, Daily News, or Post.

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