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One-seat rides to JFK Airport are a reality in this public transit proposal

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The Regional Plan Association came up with five methods for easier commuting

Valerii Iavtushenko /

Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed plans to revamp JFK Airport to the tune of $10 billion, with a variety of upgrades intended to modernize the aging airport—things like improving traffic flow, increasing the number of flights, and finding better ways to connect the terminals.

Another crucial part of the plan is improving the mass transit options to the airport, the best of which is currently a combination of the subway and/or the LIRR, plus the AirTrain to the various terminals:

“The Panel laid out options including doubling the capacity of the AirTrain, improving the MTA’s subway and LIRR connections to the AirTrain at Jamaica Station, and exploring the feasibility of a one-seat rail ride to JFK.”

Now, the Regional Plan Association has taken that idea and run with it. The transit research and advocacy organization released “Creating a One-Seat Ride to JFK,” a report that delivers on exactly what the title promises: five different options for an easier commute to the airport.

The options are as follows:

AirTrain Connection: Connect the AirTrain to the LIRR mainline at Jamaica, creating a one-seat ride from Penn Station and Grand Central to JFK.

LIRR Airport Express: Extend the unused Rockaway Beach Branch LIRR line in Queens into the airport, and run service from Penn Station or Grand Central along the LIRR mainline to the branch line.

2nd Ave Subway Extension to Airport: Extend the Second Avenue subway to Brooklyn and connect to the airport using the Atlantic and Rockaway Beach rights-of-way.

3rd Avenue Express: Connect a new rail line along Third Avenue in Manhattan through the Atlantic and Rockaway Beach rights-of-way as part of a larger transformation of the region’s rail network.

Super Express: Construct a new rail right-of-way, most likely a tunnel, between Manhattan and the airport.

The report goes into the pros and cons of each scenario, and unsurprisingly, costs are often some of the biggest cons. The “Super Express” option, for example, would require entirely new infrastructure—including digging a new tunnel—beneath the East River, which “almost exclusively benefit[s] air passengers.” (So not exactly a good use of money.)

Other options, like the Second Avenue extension, would connect to the MTA, but would require an equally large infrastructure investment—as the RPA notes, the final phases of the SAS would have to be completed before that proposal could be realized.

So take these proposals, then, with a grain of salt—especially considering that there’s no timeline for the JFK revamp yet. But hey, it’s fun to imagine that one day, there might be an easier way to get to the airport than taking multiple trains.