There’s a new way to get from Midtown Manhattan to JFK

Savvy, budget-conscious travelers know that one of the cheapest ways to get to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is via the Long Island Rail Road from Penn Station. However, for those who live or work on Manhattan’s East Side, commuting to Penn Station and then JFK can be a hassle.

Fortunately, for some, that draft will soon subside: The Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to launch LIRR service on Jan. 25 from the new Grand Central Madison station, located below Grand Central Terminal, to Jamaica, Queens. The Jamaica stop is about 15 minutes away from JFK via the AirTrain.

This new service is in addition to Penn Station’s existing trains.

The first train departs Jamaica at 10:45 AM and arrives at Grand Central Madison at 11:07 AM. become familiar with the new terminal.

MARC A. HERMANN/MTA

During this trial period, the MTA said customers can use Penn Station tickets to ride the LIRR from Grand Central Madison.

The trains will initially run from 6:15 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. Trains run every 30 minutes between Grand Central Madison and Jamaica during weekday afternoons and weekends. Trains also run once an hour during rush hours. MTA said it will likely increase frequencies after launch, though they are not disclosing further details.

TPG’s Scott Mayerowitz found that you can get to Jamaica Station from downtown Manhattan in just 21 minutes.

Grand Central to Jamaica in just 21 minutes. MTA

The MTA eventually plans to launch full LIRR service from Grand Central Madison to Jamaica, hoping to increase overall LIRR service by 41%.

The new route can be as cheap as $15.75 one way.

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An “off-peak” city ticket on the LIRR from Grand Central to Jamaica costs $7.75 and the AirTrain from Jamaica to the airport terminals costs another $8, if you already have an MTA MetroCard. It’s an extra $1 to buy a reloadable MetroCard for those without.

Prices as low as $5 off peak for new service. MTA

During peak hours, the LIRR fare jumps to $10.75, raising the price of the entire trip to $18.75.

Peak prices for new service. MTA

LIRR service from Grand Central Madison offers an affordable alternative to travel to JFK for those living on or near Manhattan’s East Side.

To save time, many New York residents take Uber or Lyft to JFK, but these services can cost $100 or even more.

An Uber ride from JFK to the west side of Manhattan in 2022. UBER

Taxis start at $74 for a flat rate; however, tips and tolls can easily push the price up to $100.

New York City airport taxi rates. NYC.GOV

The other problem with commuting by car is the traffic. On a good day, you can get to JFK in just 35-40 minutes, but if you add NYC’s infamous traffic, it can take up to an hour and a half.

Before the new option, you’d have to take a subway or bus to Penn Station and then take the LIRR to Jamaica — a time-consuming and laborious journey, depending on where you’re coming from. Such a routing can easily add more than half an hour to the journey.

News of the LIRR’s debut in Grand Central Madison was met with great fanfare. About an hour before the first train departed from Grand Central Madison to Jamaica, Queens, passersby hovered near the Luke’s Lobster in the train station dining hall, waiting for the MTA to officially open the red gates to the LIRR’s newest terminal .

When the gates of Grand Central Madison officially opened around 11 a.m., the crowd cheered and everyone swarmed into the brand new terminal. LIRR customer ambassadors handed out memorabilia such as pins, baseball caps and stickers to visitors. And those who took the first train from Jamaica to Grand Central Madison at 10:45 a.m. received “gold tickets” for taking the inaugural train ride to the new terminal.

Seas of phones recording Grand Central Madison flooded the halls as visitors snapped selfies, with some enthusiastically exclaiming that they felt like they were seeing history.

MTA officials such as Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber and New York Governor Kathy Hochul also attended the grand opening of Grand Central Madison. Hochul highlighted how the project would better connect millions of Long Islanders to New York City, as the MTA estimates that about 45% of LIRR commuters will now go to Grand Central instead of Penn Station.

“Infrastructure is all about connections, and this project is an extraordinary step forward in better connecting millions of New Yorkers to their homes, their families and their jobs,” Hochul said in a press release.

Penelope Weinhart, a real estate agent, was visiting New York City from Atlanta and took the first train out of Grand Central Madison to take the AirTrain to JFK from Jamaica Station. She said she was initially unaware of LIRR service from Grand Central Madison, but then decided to take a train to Jamaica when she heard the news.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Weinhart said. “We didn’t even know…it just happened.”

Taking the train to Jamaica and then the AirTrain to JFK was a seamless process. While Grand Central Madison itself was quite busy, the first LIRR to Jamaica, Queens was not. The signs to the tracks in the new terminal were easy to find – the Metro North app and schedules in Grand Central Madison have updated the track information accordingly.

The first train to Jamaica was scheduled to leave at 11:59 p.m., but was about two minutes late. Once the train started moving, the passengers cheered enthusiastically. The train also stopped at Woodside, Forrest Hills and Kew Gardens before landing in Jamaica. Even though this was the first train to depart from Grand Central Madison, it felt like this route had been traveled a million times before – there were no hiccups.

From Grand Central Madison, the train took about 25 minutes to reach Jamaica. Once the train stopped in Jamaica it didn’t take long to find the AirTrain, it was easy to spot the bright yellow signs pointing to the AirTrain. The only problem with taking the AirTrain was that it required an MTA card, which feels outdated considering New York City’s subways all use Apple Pay now.

But the train from Grand Central Madison to Jamaica proved that it’s not only an affordable, but also an easy alternative to getting to JFK for East Side Manhattan residents. The trains arrived on time and each train ride to and from Jamaica took no more than 30 minutes – driving to JFK from Manhattan can easily take over an hour with traffic otherwise.

Grand Central Madison’s long-awaited opening came as construction delays and financial problems hampered the project for decades. Also known as the East Side Access station project, construction on Grand Central Madison began in the 1960s. However, rising costs and a citywide fiscal crisis soon caused New York City to halt construction.

Construction resumed in the 1990s, but construction delays, mismanagement, and cost overruns stalled the project. The MTA initially aimed to open the new terminal by the end of 2022, but when part of the terminal needed “additional work”, the date was pushed back.

According to Gothamist, the MTA tested 40 empty trains to and from the brand-new station last week.

There is also a separate entrance to the new station. As the name implies, you can enter the building through separate entrances on Madison Avenue. (In fact, the actual entrances are on what would be Vanderbilt Avenue and East 43rd, East 44th, East 45th, East 46th, East 47th, and East 48th Streets.)

Grand Central Madison map. MTA.INFO

The sprawling Grand Central Madison terminal cost about $11 billion to build and is one of the largest U.S. transportation infrastructure projects in recent years. Grand Central Madison also represents the LIRR’s first expansion in 100 years.

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