Schleping to city airports is about to be even more expensive thanks to a price hikes approved by the Port Authority’s Board of Directors on Thursday.
Come November, it will cost $7.75 to board the AirTrains at Kennedy and Newark airports, up from the current $5 fare that’s been in place since each train went into service.
Those who travel by cab or for-hire vehicle to all three of the city’s airports will also be hit with a new fee, but not until October of next year. App-based rides taken to or from the airports will come with a $2.50 surcharge, and taxi pickups will get hit with a $1.25 fee, which will go up to $1.75 in 2022. Taxi rides that end at the airports will see no additional charge.
The Port Authority board in June proposed a $4 fee on e-hails and taxi rides at the airports, but changed course after an aggressive lobbying effort from drivers.
The higher costs to travel to the airports accompany toll increases at the Port Authority’s bridges and tunnels, which go into effect on Jan. 5. The extra money will help fund the Port Authority’s recently expanded 2017-2026 capital plan, which will spend $37 billion to overhaul its facilities and build a new AirTrain connection from Willets Point to LaGuardia Airport.
Port Authority executive director Rick Cotton defended the hikes as “painful” but necessary to fix the agency’s outdated infrastructure. Cotton also claimed that the cost to take public transit to the airports remains competitive with car services, despite the 55% increase for the AirTrain fare.
“Neither of those AirTrain fees have been increased since they started in 2003 and 2005,” said Cotton. “Those increases represent increased revenue associated with providing those services.”
Transportation consultant Bruce Schaller largely shared Cotton’s assessment, noting that the cost-per-person to get to the airport by car will still dwarf that of public transit.
“I don’t think people’s decision here is based on price,” said Schaller. “You got a couple of very expensive options in taxis and Ubers and you have a much cheaper option in the train.”
Schaller said the best way to encourage more train and bus ridership to the airports is for transit agencies to improve their services. He pointed out that the A train to JFK often runs with 20-minute headways.
“The AirTrain comes very often, that’s not the problem," he said. “The friction in that trip isn’t the price. The friction in that trip is the unpredictability of the travel time.”
Still, for some airport-bound New Yorkers, the price hikes could be a tipping point that pushes them from the AirTrain and into cars. A family of four would spend $31 each way on the AirTrain alone.
The New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents yellow cab drivers in the city, saw the reduced fees as a major victory. The group not only won reduced fees for airport pickups, but also convinced the Port Authority to allow for an audit of the way airport dispatchers dole out rides to cab drivers, a practice that some view as corrupt.
Taxi workers also received commitments from the Port Authority to add more bathrooms for drivers at the airports, as well as areas for prayer and meditation.
“We presented the Port Authority a list of driver needs at the airports, and we explained the crushing poverty that drivers were facing,” said Taxi Workers Alliance executive director Bhairavi Desai. “The Port Authority listened and improved their plan.”