There’s a new $13 way to get from midtown Manhattan to JFK


Savvy, budget-minded travelers know that one of the cheapest ways to travel 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 to 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 below Grand Central Terminal, to Jamaica, Queens, on Jan. 25. The Jamaica stop is approximately 15 minutes away from JFK via the AirTrain.

This new service will be in addition to the existing trains from Penn Station.

The first train is scheduled to depart from Jamaica at 10:45 a.m. and arrive at 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 operate 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 weekday midday periods and weekends. The trains will also run once per hour during peak periods. MTA said it will likely be increasing frequencies after launch, though they didn’t disclose any more details.

TPG’s Scott Mayerowitz found you could get to Jamaica Station from the center of 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 $13 one-way.

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An “off-peak” city ticket on the LIRR from Grand Central to Jamaica is $5 and the AirTrain from Jamaica to the airport terminals is another $8, if you already have an MTA MetroCard. It’s an extra $1 to buy a reloadable MetroCard for those without them.

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

During peak rush hour times, the LIRR fare jumps to $10.75, raising the price of the entire journey to $18.75.

Peak prices for new service. MTA

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

To save time, many residents of New York 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 fee; however, when you add tips and tolls, you can easily drive the price to $100.

Airport taxi rates in New York City. NYC.GOV

The other issue with commuting by car is traffic. On a good day, you can get to JFK in as little as 35-40 minutes, but throw in NYC’s notorious traffic and you could be looking at as much as an hour and a half.

Before the new option, you would have to either take a subway or bus to Penn Station and then catch the LIRR to Jamaica — a time-consuming and arduous commute depending on where you are coming from. A routing like that could easily add more than half an hour to the journey.

The long-awaited announcement comes as construction delays and financial issues hampered the project for decades. Initially known as the East Side Access station, the construction of Grand Central Madison started in the 1960s. However, mounting costs and a citywide fiscal crisis swiftly caused New York City to pause construction.

Construction then 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 one area of the terminal needed “additional work,” it pushed the date back.

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

There’s also a separate entrance to the new station. As the name implies, you can enter the building through separate entrances off 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 a whopping $11.6 billion to build and is one of the largest transportation infrastructure projects in the U.S. in recent years. Grand Central Madison also represents the first expansion of the LIRR in 100 years.


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