Savvy budget 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 difficult.
Fortunately, that track will soon be gone for some: The Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to launch LIRR service to Jamaica, Queens on January 25 from the new Grand Central Madison station, located beneath Grand Central Terminal. Jamaica stop is about 15 minutes. away from JFK via AirTrain.
This new service will be in addition to existing trains from Penn Station.
The first train is scheduled to depart Jamaica at 10:45 AM and arrive Grand Central Madison at 11:07 AM. For at least the next three weeks, the MTA said it plans to provide limited service between Jamaica and Grand Central Madison. they can get acquainted with the new terminal.
During this test period, the MTA said customers can use Penn Station tickets to ride the LIRR from Grand Central Madison.
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Thursday, December 29, 2022 General view of Grand Central Madison. MARC A. HERMANN/MTA
Trains will initially run from 6:15 am to 8:00 pm on weekdays and from 7:00 am to 11:00 pm on weekends. Trains will run between Grand Central Madison and Jamaica every 30 minutes on weekday afternoons and weekends. Trains will also run once an hour during peak periods. The MTA said frequencies will increase after the release, though it did not provide further details.
TPG’s Scott Mayerowitz found that you can get to Jamaica Station from midtown Manhattan in 21 minutes.
The MTA plans to eventually begin 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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If you have an MTA MetroCard, an “off-peak” city fare on the LIRR from Grand Central to Jamaica is $7.75, and the AirTrain from Jamaica to the airport is another $8. For those without, it’s an additional $1 to purchase a reloadable MetroCard.
During peak hours, the LIRR fare rises to $10.75, bringing the cost of the entire trip to $18.75.
LIRR service from Grand Central Madison provides a convenient alternative to traveling to JFK for those living on or near Manhattan’s East Side.
Many New Yorkers take Uber or Lyft to JFK to save time, but these services can cost $100 or more.
Taxis start at $74 for a flat rate; however, tips and fees can easily push the price to $100.
Another problem with commuting by car is traffic. On a good day, you can get to JFK in 35-40 minutes, but throw in NYC’s notorious traffic and you could be looking at up to an hour and a half.
Before the new option, you’d have to either take the subway or bus to Penn Station and then take the LIRR to Jamaica—a time-consuming and difficult commute, depending on where you’re coming from. Such a route can easily add more than half an hour to the journey.
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MEGHNA MAHARISHI/THE NOWS GUY
News of the LIRR’s Grand Central Madison debut was met with great fanfare. About an hour before the first train left Grand Central Madison for Jamaica, Queens, passers-by stood by Luke’s Lobster in the train station dining hall, waiting for the MTA to officially open the red doors to the LIRR’s newest terminal.
After the doors of Grand Central Madison officially opened around 11 a.m., the crowd cheered and everyone filled the brand new terminal. LIRR customer ambassadors distributed souvenirs such as pins, baseball caps and stickers to visitors. Those who boarded the first train from Jamaica to Grand Central Madison at 10:45 a.m. received “golden tickets” for the first train trip to the new terminal.
Seas of phones celebrating Grand Central Madison filled the halls as visitors snapped selfies, some exclaiming enthusiastically that they felt like they were seeing history.
The grand opening of Grand Central Madison was also attended by MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber and New York Governor Cathy Hochul. Hochul highlighted how the project will better connect millions of Long Islanders to New York City, as the MTA estimates that about 45% of LIRR riders 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, families and jobs,” Hochul said in a press release.
Penelope Weinhart, a realtor, was traveling from Atlanta to New York and was boarding the first train from Grand Central Madison to catch the AirTrain from Jamaica Station to JFK. He said he was initially unaware of the LIRR service from Grand Central Madison, but then decided to take the train to Jamaica when he 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. Although Grand Central Madison itself was quite crowded, Queens was not the first LIRR to Jamaica. Track markings were easy to find in the new terminal — the Metro North app and the charts at Grand Central Madison updated the track information accordingly.
The first train to Jamaica was scheduled to depart at 11:59 p.m., but was delayed by nearly two minutes. As soon as the train started moving, the passengers cheered enthusiastically. The train also stopped at Woodside, Forrest Hills and Kew Gardens before landing in Jamaica. Although this was the first train to leave Grand Central Madison, it was as if this route had been done a million times before – there were no hiccups.
The train from Grand Central Madison took about 25 minutes to reach Jamaica. Once the train stopped in Jamaica it didn’t take long to find the AirTrain, the bright yellow signs pointing to the AirTrain were easy to spot. The only problem with taking the AirTrain was that it required an MTA card, which felt outdated considering that the subways in New York City all accept Apple Pay.
But the train from Grand Central Madison to Jamaica has proven that it is not only an affordable, but also an easy alternative to get to JFK for those living east of Manhattan. Trains are on time and each train ride to Jamaica takes no more than 30 minutes – driving from Manhattan to JFK can otherwise easily take over an hour in traffic.
Grand Central Madison’s long-awaited opening comes as construction delays and financial problems have dogged the project for decades. Construction of Grand Central Madison, also known as the East Side Access station project, began in the 1960s. However, rising costs and a citywide financial crisis quickly caused New York City to halt construction.
Construction resumed later 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 pushed back the date when an area of the terminal needed “additional work.”
Last week, the MTA tested 40 empty trains to and from the new station, according to Gothamist .
The new station also has a separate entrance. As the name suggests, you can enter the building through separate entrances from Madison Avenue. (Actually, the actual entrances will be on Vanderbilt Avenue and East 43rd, East 44th, East 45th, East 46th, East 47th, and East 48th Streets.)
The expansive Grand Central Madison terminal cost nearly $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.