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 the East Side of Manhattan, getting to Penn Station and then JFK can be a hassle.

Luckily, that trek will soon disappear for some: The Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to launch LIRR service from the new Grand Central Madison Station, located under Grand Central Terminal, to Jamaica, Queens, on January 25. The Jamaica stop takes approximately 15 minutes. away from JFK via the AirTrain.

This new service will complement existing trains departing from Penn Station.

The first train is scheduled to depart Jamaica at 10:45 a.m. and arrive in Grand Central Madison at 11:07 a.m. For at least the next three weeks, the MTA said it plans to operate limited service between Jamaica and Grand Central Madison so passengers can familiarize themselves with the new terminal.


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

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 will run every 30 minutes between Grand Central Madison and Jamaica during midday periods on weekdays and weekends. Trains will also run once an hour during peak periods. MTA said it would likely increase frequencies after launch, though it didn’t divulge further details.

Scott Mayerowitz of TPG found that you can get to Jamaica Station from midtown Manhattan in as little as 21 minutes.

Grand Central to Jamaica in as little as 21 minutes. MTA

The MTA eventually plans to start 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 is an additional $8, if you already have an MTA MetroCard. It’s an extra $1 to buy a reloadable MetroCard for those who don’t have one.

Price as low as $5 off-peak for new service. MTA

At peak times, the LIRR fare drops to $10.75, bringing the price of the entire ride to $18.75.

Peak pricing for the new service. MTA

Grand Central Madison’s LIRR service offers an affordable alternative way to get to JFK for those who live on or near the East Side of Manhattan.

To save time, many New Yorkers 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 fare; however, tips and tolls can easily drive the price up to $100.

Airport taxi fares in New York. NYC.GOV

The other problem with traveling by car is traffic. On a good day, you can get to JFK in as little as 35-40 minutes, but add New York’s notorious traffic and you could see there for up to an hour and a half.

Before the new option, you either had to take a subway or a bus to Penn Station and then take the LIRR to Jamaica – a long and arduous journey depending on where you’re coming from. A route like that could easily add more than half an hour to the trip.

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

Once the gates to 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 souvenirs 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 “golden tickets” for riding the inaugural train to the new terminal.

Seas of phones recording Grand Central Madison flooded the hallways as visitors took selfies, some excitedly exclaiming that they felt like they were seeing history.

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

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

Penelope Weinhart, a real estate agent, was visiting New York from Atlanta and taking the first train from Grand Central Madison to catch the AirTrain to JFK from Jamaica Station. She said she was unaware at first of LIRR service from Grand Central Madison, but then decided to take the train to Jamaica once 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 crowded, the first LIRR in Jamaica, Queens was not. Signs for the new terminal’s lanes were easy to find – the Metro North app and Grand Central Madison timetables updated the lane 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 made stops at Woodside, Forrest Hills and Kew Gardens before landing in Jamaica. Even though this was the first train out of Grand Central Madison, it felt like this route had been traveled a million times before – there were no hitches.

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 for the AirTrain. The only issue with taking the AirTrain was that it required an MTA card, which seems outdated given New York’s subways all take Apple Pay now.

But the train from Grand Central Madison to Jamaica has proven to be not only an affordable alternative, but also an easy alternative to reach JFK for residents of east Manhattan. 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.

The long-awaited opening of Grand Central Madison came as construction delays and financial troubles hampered the project for decades. Also known as the East Side Access Station Project, construction of Grand Central Madison began in the 1960s. However, rising costs and a citywide budget crisis soon caused the city to New York to suspend construction.

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

Last week, the MTA tested 40 empty trains to and from the brand new station, according to Gothamist.

There is also a separate entrance for the new station. As the name suggests, you can enter the building through separate entrances from 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.)

Map Grand Central Madison. MTA.INFO

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

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