All credit goes to the newsday staff writers. I guess in a rush hour situation, it may bode well for Long Islanders, but until then, take the car I suppose.
Not Exactly Flying
Car beats AirTrain in race to JFK
Dec 17, 2003
By Tomoeh Murakami Tse and Theresa Vargas
December 18, 2003
For speed, consider taking the car.
But for the light-luggage toting air traveler looking for a modern ride removed from the stresses of the roadway, AirTrain may be the way to go.
Yesterday afternoon, on the launch day of the 8.1-mile rail system to Kennedy Airport, two reporters set off from Huntington train station - one in a 2003 Ford Focus, the other on the Long Island Rail Road - to compare commutes.
The criteria: cost, speed, comfort and convenience.
The destination: the Continental Airlines ticket counter at Terminal 4.
The LIRR train pulled away at 1:05 p.m. bound for Jamaica, one of two connector stations to AirTrain. (The other station is Howard Beach.) At that moment, the Focus drove off, maneuvering through heavy traffic toward Northern State Parkway.
On the off-peak, 50-minute LIRR ride, whose ticket cost $5.25 if purchased ahead, passengers with full-size suitcases sat comfortably. Still, a conductor lamented that air travelers will make it even more crowded during rush hour. "People are going to be climbing all over their luggage," he said. "It'll get interesting."
For Al Ferrara, a partner at a Melville accounting firm who was on the train, the "train to the plane" means saving cab fare and avoiding unpredictable traffic. "For the light business traveler with one briefcase, it's going to be a cinch," said Ferrara, 53, sipping coffee.
It wasn't so relaxing on the road.
After 16 traffic lights and a swerving sport utility vehicle, the reporter in the car reached the highway in 10 minutes. There, traffic flowed at a smooth 55 mph, but the rain brought on a symphony of brake lights.
Northern State led to Route 135, which led to Southern State, until there it was off the Belt Parkway: the first sign for JFK. It was 1:38 p.m.
It took 20 more minutes to weave through standstill traffic to the parking lot, where long- term parking costs $10 for each full day.
The shuttle bus came five minutes later.
Around that time, the LIRR train pulled into Jamaica station, two minutes late, leaving just enough time to transfer to the inaugural 2 p.m. AirTrain trip. Following newly posted signs, that reporter headed for the mezzanine above the LIRR station, an airy, modern space with high ceilings.
Passengers can purchase $5 tickets or pay with a MetroCard, but the rides were free yesterday.
At 2:02 p.m., about 100 eager passengers tromped through the shiny turnstiles. The snow-white, two- car train opened its doors silently, revealing a simple interior of blue carpet, white walls and panel lighting.
Jeanette Lisiak, 58, was traveling from New Jersey for a flight home to San Diego. Lisiak took the ferry from Weehawken to the Port Authority terminal in Manhattan, where she took the subway E Train to Jamaica. She said she welcomed the AirTrain, although she hauled two carry-on pieces of luggage. "I'm intrepid. I was in downtown Manhattan Sunday in the blizzard," she said. "I wouldn't recommend it for princesses, but it's fine for me."
After the sometimes bumpy 15-minute or so ride to Terminal 4, a Long Beach couple testing the system in preparation for their January trip to Japan said it was better than asking relatives for rides. "I think this is going to work," said Angelica Shieles.
But on a 10-minute shuttle bus ride from Kennedy's long-term parking lot, Kevin O'Keefe, who drove to the airport, felt otherwise. "It wouldn't work for us," said O'Keefe, 44, of Islip. "I'd rather park and drive."
On that same bus was the other reporter. She arrived at the ticket counter at 2:15. Eleven minutes later, the reporter on the AirTrain showed up.
But it wasn't a fair test, Port Authority spokesman Pasquale DiFulco said. Few flights leave in the afternoon, when the roads are most clear. "I challenge you to come back and try it during rush hour, in the morning or in the evening," he said.
Race to the Runway
NOTE: AirTrain was free yesterday but will cost $5 from now on.
Four Newsday reporters relied on different modes of transportation to reach Kennedy Airport yesterday. Two left from Huntington, two from midtown Manhattan. (Travel times are in hours and minutes.)
LIRR - 1:21
Cost: $5.25 for LIRR ticket; $5 for AirTrain
Reporter: Tomoeh Murakami Tse
1:05 p.m.: Boards train at Huntington LIRR station.
1:52 p.m.: Arrives at Jamaica.
2:00 p.m.: Goes through turnstile at AirTrain mezzanine.
2:26 p.m.: Arrives at Continental Airlines counter.
Highlight: Running into college friend.
CAR - 1:10
Cost: $5 for gas; $3 for parking
Reporter: Theresa Vargas
1:05 p.m.: Leaves Huntington.
1:15 p.m.: Gets on Northern State Parkway.
1:23 p.m.: Exits from Route 135 onto Southern State Parkway.
1:58 p.m.: Pulls into long-term parking lot at Kennedy Airport.
2:04 p.m.: Boards shuttle to terminal.
2:15 p.m.: Arrives at Continental Airlines counter.
Highlight: Groovin' to Otis Redding CD.
FROM TIME SQUARE
LIRR - 1:16
Cost: $6.75 for LIRR ticket; $5 for AirTrain
Reporter: Joshua Robin
3:55 p.m.: Takes E train to Penn Station.
4:14 p.m.: Boards LIRR train.
4:39 p.m.: Arrives Jamaica.
5:11 p.m.: Arrives Terminal 2.
Highlight: Seeing college acquaintance at Penn Station; averted eyes.
TAXI - 2:24
Cost: $35, plus $5 tip
Reporter: Bryan Virasami
3:55 p.m.: Unable to hail cab, walks to Times Square to wait in taxi line.
5:01: Gets in a cab. Driver takes Midtown Tunnel to Long Island Expressway.
5:29: Traffic slows to a standstill.
5:55 p.m.: Gets on Grand Central Parkway.
6:05 p.m.: Exits onto Van Wyck Expressway.
6:19 p.m.: Arrives at Terminal 2.
Highlight: Cabbie tried to charge $55 because of traffic and rain. He changed his mind when he discovered his passenger was a reporter.