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AirTrain fare will soar to $8.50 per ride next spring, Port Authority says; commuter advocates seethe

Nov. 19, 2023 By Ben Brachfeld

Buckle up, travelers: AirTrain fares will soar to new heights in 2024.

The cost to ride the AirTrain between mass transit and John F. Kennedy International Airport will rise to $8.50 per ride starting in March, the Port Authority quietly announced last week as part of its proposed $9.3 billion 2024 budget.

Each trip cost will cost a quarter more than the current $8.25 fare as of March 3, while tolls will jump by 63 cents on the agency’s seven bridges and tunnels connecting New York and New Jersey in January.

The “inflation-based” hikes were automatically triggered due to a 3.7% increase in the consumer price index over the past year, the Port Authority reported.

The price of the AirTrain — a driverless people-mover connecting travelers from JFK Airport to mass transit at Howard Beach and Jamaica — was fixed at $5 for more than a decade. But the fare shot up to $7.75 in 2019, and March’s increase will be the third further fare increase since then.

Fares will also rise to $8.50 on the AirTrain to Newark Airport, which connects riders from Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. The Port Authority is currently advancing a project to replace the Newark AirTrain, which it contends is out-of-date and in need of modernization. The project is set to construct 2.5 miles of new “elevated guideway” and three new stations, and is projected to cost north of $2 billion.

AirTrain’s sky-high fare has long been a point of contention for transit advocates and riders. For families and large travel parties, the AirTrain fare often rivals the price of a taxi or rideshare service, even though the Port Authority doesn’t need to hire conductors to drive the train.

Under both the proposed AirTrain hike and the MTA’s fare hike approved this summer, a family of four heading to JFK would pay $45.60 to get to the airport using the subway and AirTrain. Transferring to the AirTrain from the Long Island Rail Road at Jamaica would cost even more.

OMNY users no longer have to wait in line to shell out $1 to buy a MetroCard, though, as the Port Authority has installed OMNY at select turnstiles at Jamaica and Howard Beach.

Only those connecting to the AirTrain from mass transit have to pay the fare: those who drive to the airport and board the train from a parking lot ride for free.

“We’re happy that OMNY finally landed at the AirTrain,” tweeted the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, an in-house rider advocacy group at the MTA. “But it makes no sense for [the Port Authority] to keep raising already high fares, especially during a climate crisis when we want people out of cars!”

The Port Authority will vote on its 2024 budget proposal at its board meeting next month. Public comments can be submitted online through Dec. 11.

The budget includes investments in the ongoing redevelopment of JFK Airport, planning for a new Port Authority Bus Terminal (now rebranded as the Midtown Bus Terminal), and for PATH to adopt a contactless tap-to-pay system similar to OMNY.

The agency is also set to invest $1 billion in its police force and other security measures.

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