2004-01-16 / Front Page

A New Way to JFK

By Brendan A. Brosh
A New Way to JFK By Brendan A. Brosh

A confused woman tries to exit the Airtrain terminal.A confused woman tries to exit the Airtrain terminal.

It’s been a month since the Airtrain was unveiled at JFK with much fanfare and media attention. Now that the hoopla has died down, The Wave decided to take a trip on the Airtrain to see how it’s coming along. Among the new advertisements there’s "JFK to NYC ASAP" and "Amsterdam Avenue to Amsterdam," but what about from Rockaway to JFK?

Starting at the Broad Channel ‘A’ station, The Wave began its adventure to JFK Airport. Waiting twenty minutes for a Manhattan-bound ‘A’, we finally caught the train at 9:38 a.m. Taking the train to Howard Beach, we arrived at the Airtrain connection at 9:49 a.m.

Despite having ridden the subways all our lives, any New Yorker would be initially confused connecting to the Airtrain. With no one to direct you and a closed token booth, you must figure out how to board the Airtrain by reading the convoluted signs in the station lobby. Similarly confused travelers are on the other side of the turnstile trying to figure their way into the subway system. After we realized that regular Metrocards work, we swiped into the Airtrain.

Cost so far: $2 for subway and $5 for Airtrain.

Entering the new terminal at Howard Beach, we were met by an employee telling us about a water main break at Terminal 8. Fortunately, however, service was quickly resumed. With 32 cars in the fleet and running every two to four minutes during peak hours (6 a.m.-11 p.m.), the Airtrain is punctual and predictable, unlike the previous shuttle bus.

The Airtrain’s cars are about half the size of an ‘A’ train car. With a gray interior and plenty of room for people traveling with baggage, it’s a smooth ride around JFK. Once you’re in the Airtrain car, the signs become much more useful. Maps detailing the terminals and the airlines that fly out of them are easy to decipher.

The Airtrain proceeds to Lefferts Boulevard with its long-term and employee parking and then Federal Circle, where the rental cars are located.

After Federal Circle, the Airtrain does a loop of JFK stopping at terminals 1 through 9. By this point the majority of the riders, however, are not travelers, but people who work at JFK. Now that the free shuttle bus has ended, employees are forced to purchase a $40 pass for unlimited rides over 30 days. While the ride is more convenient and prompt, one JFK worker who relies on public transportation said, "Now we have no other choice."

When asked about the Airtrain ride, Nancy Holm, a Kansas City woman who travels often to New York, said, "it’s quite nice actually85a smooth ride when you compare it with the ‘A’ train."

Returning to the Howard Beach ‘A’ station, we had to swipe out of the system. Within the Airport, Airtrain is free. For those entering or exiting the system, however, there is a $5 charge.

We arrived back at Broad Channel at 10:38 a.m. exactly an hour after we started and $14 dollars poorer after two swipes into the Airtrain and two into the MTA system.

Ultimately, it’s a nice ride, but MTA officials, as one Wave reader suggests, should extend the Rockaway Park shuttle to Howard Beach, to create one less transfer for those using Airtrain.

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