The AirTrain ‘airpain’ — increase of fares not intuitive for airports

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Samson Li | The Ticker

Ayse Kelce

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey approved a 55% fare increase for AirTrain, a form of public transportation that connects subway lines and airport terminals going to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The AirTrain fare used to be $5 — for 16 years straight. Even though there have not been any service changes made following the fare hike, it now costs $7.75 to purchase a one-way ticket to ride in its system whose sole purpose is to get to JFK from a subway station.

“The subway or the MTA Long Island Rail Road plus AirTrain JFK is a fast, economic way to get to John F. Kennedy International Airport,” the MTA’s website claims. 

It is counterintuitive  to pay $7.75 for public transportation, especially when a single subway swipe in New York City costs $2.75, including the transfers. 

This means that it is possible to go to Brooklyn from The Bronx for $2.75, but it takes $7.75 to go to an airport terminal from a nearby subway stop. 

In a city where even a $2.75 fare has been a controversial price that caused many protests, asking for almost three times more for a much shorter distance is absurd. 

As an extent of public transportation to JFK, AirTrain must be free after a subway or bus transfer, if the goal is actually being an economic option. 

But instead, its price is going up, exploiting the advantage of being the only almost-cheap way to get to JFK. 

With no subway lines directly connected to JFK, AirTrain remains as the only form of public transportation to get to the airport. 

Even though the fare increase is significant, people will still have to keep using the AirTrain due to the lack of options.

MTA’s website also states that the approximate distance between the Sutphin Blvd Jamaica station and JFK is 10 minutes. 

Yet, instead of adding two more subways stops to get to the airport, millions of passengers are obliged to pay an extra $7.75, just to get to the airport.

“JFK Airport is well connected to the NYC Public Transportation Network. 

For most connections to that network, you will need to take either the Jamaica or Howard Beach AirTrain to those stations,” states JFK’s website. 

However, some could argue that having to pay $7.75 doesn’t reflect being well-connected.

To add fuel to the fire, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey recently decided that it wants to expand this customer-exploiting service, and proposed a 1.5-mile AirTrain system for LaGuardia Airport.

Rick Cotton, Executive Director of The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, published an opinion piece in New York Daily News saying, “The AirTrain to LaGuardia as recommended by the Port Authority is the best, most realistic and greenest alternative to create reliable and quick mass transit to the airport.”

The article seems more of an effort to back up a $2 billion business plan than an actual solution benefiting the airport passengers, especially considering that there are already MTA buses like M60 SBS, Q47, Q72 and Q48 directly going to LGA. 

Assuming that the LGA AirTrain will also cost around $7.75, it is hard to agree with Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he says, “AirTrain LGA will set an example of comprehensive transit infrastructure for the rest of the nation.”

AirTrain could surely be a comfortable option for passengers travelling to LGA. 

However, eliminating other methods of public transportation that are more affordable and making the AirTrain the only option for weary travelers does not align with the goals proposed by the officials.