How is it only 10x more expensive to take a helicopter as it is to take mass transit?

Read it and weep, the Port Authority of NY & NJ has announced raises to AirTrain fares by $2 or more for services from both New York JFK, and Newark Liberty Airports. The feeble minded move takes the city’s only transit option which managed to blend cost effective, relatively fast and environmentally friendly travel into one, and encourages travellers to look elsewhere. And given the fantastic rep New York traffic already has, more cars on the road is bad news for everyone…

How is it that ride-shares are getting cheaper, helicopters are getting cheaper and pre-existing mass transit which won’t be getting any significant upgrades is getting more expensive? No seriously, please tell.

$2 AirTrain Fare Hikes And More

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has never been a fan favourite by any measure, and that won’t be changing any time soon. The despot driven, utterly corrupt city government body which operates one of the more ageing infrastructures found in any major city around the world is reaching into riders pockets once again to pay for… well, nothing new.

From $5 for JFK and $5.50 for Newark, both airports will jump to $7.75 each way, which is a shocking increase, considering there’s nothing changing about the infrastructure.

The newly increased AirTrain prices will kick in for rides to both JFK and EWR from November 1st, 2019. Uber and other ride share options will also be hit with a $2.50 airport pick up and drop off fee. Perhaps they should’ve started there instead?

New York Airport Transit Options

It’s easy to get a 7 minute helicopter ride from New York’s Airports to Manhattan, or vice versa for $145 per person. It’s even easier to get an Uber, which can seat four passengers for around $50 at the right time. So, why would a group of four passengers pay more for a minimum of one, or more often two transit connections via public transit, when it’s cheaper to take a direct, private option for less?

That folks, is a head scratcher.

Onward Long Island Rail road tickets from Jamaica Station into Manhattan will cost at least another $6, which means you are faced with a cost of $13.75 per passenger, when factoring in the new $7.75 AirTrain fare. Alternatively, you could take the subway from the city to Jamaica, or once you reach Jamaica from the airport, but that’s nowhere near as time efficient under most circumstances.

Versus the cost of a shared Uber with three other riders, it could literally be more expensive to take mass transit and brave the conditions than to take private transportation. Even if the AirTrain and subway or LIRR combo comes out cheaper, it’ll be negligible – and I know which one I’d choose.

A Move That’s Bad For Everyone

If it’s cost effective to take private car transportation, people will always choose that experience over dirty, crowded trains and connections, which can involve stints in New York’s inclement weather. Price rises on environmentally friendly mass transit options push more people into private vehicles, which increase carbon emissions and congest roads – as if New York traffic isn’t already bad enough.

For budget conscious travellers, this is yet another blow to the New York dream, and for high rollers, it’s more traffic to wait in – in between. If anything, it’ll push more people to the skies where Uber and Blade are bringing 7 minute transfers, with free cocktails. Really, it’s bad news for just about everyone, except of course the Port Authority executives who prefer for the people of NY to pay for their rides. 

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

  1. Why am I not surprised? This is not the 1st time Port Authority bureaucracy made an attempt on the life of a viable rail option for travel to Manhattan, Google:: “The JFK Express” a.k.a. “The Train To The Plane.” A magnificent service from midtown Manhattan to JFK in the late ’70s that gave the Carey bus and taxis serious competition. It was severely reduced then discontinued even though the trains were full. Politics at work. The trains ran along centrally located 6th Avenue making one stop in downtown Brooklyn then on to JFK by way of Howard Beach. Why was it squashed? It was a success story. History repeats itself!
    At JFK, go to terminal 5 and opt for the Q10 express bus to Kew Gardens, then transfer to the “E” or “F” train to Manhattan. Total cost? $2.75 with the same ease as the airtrain. Works in reverse from the city. Imagine. Manhattan to JFK round trip for $5.50 changing vehicles once just like the Airtrain without the cost.
    👍😁 Helleeeer?
    Why suffer?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.