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

Seasoned, 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. But for those who live or work on Manhattan’s East Side, commuting to Penn Station and then to JFK can be a hassle.

Fortunately, that walk 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 January 25. The Jamaica stop is about 15 minutes away from JFK via AirTrain.

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

The first train is scheduled to leave Jamaica at 1[ads1]0:45 a.m. and arrive at Grand Central Madison at 11.07. 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.

The trains will initially run from 06.15 to 20.00 on weekdays and from 07.00 to 23.00 at weekends. Trains will run every 30 minutes between Grand Central Madison and Jamaica on weekdays and weekends. The trains will also run once an hour during peak periods. The MTA said it will likely increase frequencies after launch, although it did not disclose further details.

TPG’s Scott Mayerowitz found that you could get to Jamaica Station from downtown Manhattan in as little as 21 minutes.

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

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

The new route could 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 is $7.75 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.

Rates as low as $5 low 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.

Top rates for new service. MTA

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

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

An Uber ride from JFK to the West Side of Manhattan in 2022. UBER

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

Airport taxi fares in New York City. NYC.GOV

The other problem with commuting by car is the 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 had to either take a subway or bus to Penn Station and then take the LIRR to Jamaica – a time-consuming and demanding commute depending on where you’re coming from. Such a route can easily add more than half an hour to the journey.

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

When the gates of Grand Central Madison officially opened around 11 a.m., the crowd cheered and everyone swarmed 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. were given “golden tickets” to take the first train ride to the new terminal.

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

MTA officials such as Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber and New York Governor Kathy Hochul also attended Grand Central Madison’s grand opening. Hochul emphasized 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 about connections, and this project is an extraordinary step forward to better connect millions of New Yorkers to their homes, their families and their jobs,” Hochul said in a press release.

Penelope Weinhart, a realtor, 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 the LIRR service from Grand Central Madison, but then decided to take the train to Jamaica once she heard the news.

“It’s kind of 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, it was not the first LIRR to Jamaica, Queens. The signs for the tracks in the new terminal were easy to find – the Metro North app and timetables in Grand Central Madison updated the track information accordingly.

The first train to Jamaica was supposed to leave at 23:59, but was about two minutes late. As the train began to move, the passengers cheered enthusiastically. The train also stopped at Woodside, Forrest Hills and Kew Gardens before heading to Jamaica. Although this was the first train to leave Grand Central Madison, it felt like this route had been run 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 see the bright yellow signs pointing towards the AirTrain. The only problem with taking the AirTrain was that it required an MTA card, which feels outdated considering that all of the New York City subways now accept Apple Pay.

But the train from Grand Central Madison to Jamaica proved that it is not only an affordable, but also an easy option to reach JFK for residents of the east side of Manhattan. The trains were on time and each train trip to and from Jamaica took no more than 30 minutes — driving to JFK from Manhattan can otherwise easily take over an hour in traffic.

The long-awaited opening of Grand Central Madison came as construction delays and financial problems 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 city-wide financial crisis caused New York City to pause construction.

Construction then resumed in the 1990s, but construction delays, mismanagement and cost overruns halted the project. The MTA originally 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 is also a separate entrance to the new station. As the name suggests, 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 approximately $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 first expansion of the LIRR in 100 years.

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