Triangle Trip

Tag: airport

What are the public transportation issues to/from JFK

by on Feb.12, 2009, under Business Travel, Vacation

My red-eye flight got in early and I wasn’t in much of a hurry to get to the office. I also didn’t want to sit in rush hour traffic. I decided to give public transportation a try: taking the Airtrain at JFK to connect with NYC public transportation to get to the City. Although this isn’t my first time taking public transportation from/to JFK, I did notice the following issues today which the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (managers of JFK) must address if they want commuter adoption.

1. Improve directions and signage at the JFK airport and Airtrain stations — Maps at the Airtrain stations at JFK are confusing. It shows how the terminals are linked, and what public trains and buses you can connect to using the Airtrain. There are no detailed information on where the public transportation can take you – for example, I can connect to the A train at Howard Beach. Where can the A train take me? Should I even go on the A train vs. the E train?

2. Install a PA (public announcement) system on teh Airtrain — the Airtrain doesn’t make any announcements. I got on the Airtrain on terminal 3 and didn’t hear one single announcement. The train went from terminals 3 to 9 then Federal Circle and Sutphin without telling passengers where to get off or what airline is at which terminal. Before reaching Sutphin station where you would connect to NYC public transit, the train stopped at Federal Circle. Over half the train thought Federal Circle was their destination to switch from the Airtrain to public transportation. Without announcements on the Airtrain, it is just way too confusing for visitors and even for most locals.

3. Tell me the Airtrain is not free, how much it cost, and where/how to pay — when the Airtrain reached Sutphin Boulevard, where you can connect to the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), or NYC buses or NYC subway, you need to pay $5 to leave the Airtrain station. The $5 Airtrain fee the cost for the Airtrain to take you from the terminals to the public transportation hub. However the $5 fee is no where to be found from the time you board the Airtrain at JFK to your destination. When you arrive at Sutphin or Howard Beach, all you see are a bunch of Metrocard vending machines. How is an average person supposed to know how much to pay or even have to pay for the Airtrain since many inter-airport trams are generally free. The lack of transparency on Airtrain fee creates confusion at the turnstile and Metrocard payment stations. This can be eliminated with a simple sign that reads $5 for the Airtrain and instructions to make payment.

4. Provide signs and people to answer questions for NYC public transportation — after I have paid my $5 for the Airtrain, I am confronted with more confusion. The confusion is called NYC commuters plus public transportation choices spanning from: the LIRR, NYC subway and NYC bus. You can take any of the three options to get to the City or the other four boroughs. On the brighter note, both Howard Beach and Sutphin stations have large signs telling you where to get on the subway and where to pick up the bus. Aside from signs leading to the different modes of transportation, there are no transit maps showing you how to get to the City or how much it costs. At Sutphin, there was only one LIRR working and it doesn’t tell you how much it cost to get to PENN station or Flatbush. Furthermore, a visitor and even some locals have no idea what station to get off without a map – i.e., I would bet over 50% of the local New Yorkers have no idea that Flatbush Avenue on the LIRR is connected to Atlantic Avenue subway station in Brooklyn. At Sutphin, you’ll also have to walk through the LIRR station before reaching the NYC subway which is located at the basement. Howard Beach is a less confusing station if you’re a tourist. Your only option from Howard Beach to the City is the A train on the NYC subway.

5. Make the NYC subway turnstiles wider so people with luggage can easily go through — the Sutphin and Howard Beach stations must modify their turnstiles and install gates similar to what is available on the Airtrain. There is no way a person carrying a roller or suitcase can get through the NYC subway turnstile. Instead of having turnstiles, the MTA needs to install gates that open and closes similar to the Airtrain gates. The gates need to be wide enough for a person to pull a luggage through it. Increasing the number of elevators would be nice too!

If NYC is committed to providing public transportation from JFK to the City to eliminate car congestion and attract more riders, the City needs to push the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to implement my recommendations. The City will see an increase in public transportation adoption with minimal costs.

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(Fly) Clear Experience

by on Jan.26, 2009, under Business Travel, Travel Partners

I experienced Clear for the first time last night and thought it was quite valuable if the airport is packed. I was at JFK last night (Sunday night) and it was a zoo. As a Clear member, you actually get to skip the line – even bypassing people with status.

The Clear process is as follows:

  1. Show your Clear membership card at the Clear station. A Clear representative will look at your card and make you identify yourself via your finger print (thumb, index finger, etc.) or retina scan.
  2. Once you have been verified by the Clear representative, he/she will assist you with the removal of your shoes, belt, laptop, liquid items, etc.
  3. The Clear representative then takes you from the Clear station directly to the front of the line of a security scanning machine.

My experience was extremely pleasant and efficient as I was a seasoned traveler. I can see how the $199 per year fee can help some of the novices/rookies running late to airports. The jury is still out if Clear is actually worth me giving up my personal data + $199 per year. The limited airports with Clear machines still baffles me. You can find more insight on the registration process from my December post.

Finally I would like to let everyone who considers joining to know that they actually will only get 11 months of service vs. 12 months if they decide to sign up. It took Clear a four weeks to get me my card. Here was the entire process:

  1. Registered online:  around December 15
  2. Registered at Clear kiosk:  December 30
  3. Received Clear card:  January 21

Hope this article helps… Happy Lunar New Year!!  May the year of the Ox bring prosperity to all my fans.

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How to check in for Delta at JFK (Best Practice)

by on Jan.08, 2009, under Airlines, Business Travel

JFK is one of the worst airports in the world — which includes: design, appearance, service, ability to get in and out, etc.  I will save the JFK issue for a separate blog – or let one of my colleagues may beat me to it.

I have been flying Delta in and out of JFK for the past three months and want to share some best practices with you.  Delta flies out of Terminal 2 and 3.  Delta makes you play the guessing game on their website by just displaying the gate number, and gate changes are quite frequent.  So here’s what you do when you are flying Delta (with or without status):

  • Always tell the cab driver to drop you off at Terminal 2 — Terminal 2 has gates 19 to 29.  It is the smaller terminal but it has a Medallion line, Clear checkin line, and more TSA agents to look at your boarding passes.  Terminal 2 has a walkway linked to Terminal 3 (where Gates 1 to 18 are located).  Going through Terminal 2 to get to Terminal 3 will be much faster than checkin in at Terminal 3.  Terminal 3 always has a line that is wrapped around the corner and sometimes to the outside of the terminal.  Self checkin kiosks and baggage dropoffs are limited compared to Terminal 2.
  • Always have your limo driver or friends pick you up at Terminal 2 — Terminal 2 is small but easy to see incoming cars.  Terminal 3 is also has an underpass which limits visibility and cars to move around.  It is just too chaotic.  Compared to Terminal 3, Terminal 2 doesn’t have as many gates.  I also think there are more cars in Terminal 3 due to the number of international arrivals.
  • Hang out inside Terminal 3 — Terminal 3 has its shortcomings when you are outside security.  Once you’ve checked in, I highly recommend Terminal 3 for shops, food and drinks.  There’s a pretty decent size food court and a Chili’s bar in Terminal 3 that is decent compared to other restaurants in Terminal 2.  There are also duty free shops if you’re flying to an international destination.
  • Hope this article improves your experience at JFK.  Feel free to leave us comments.  Hope everyone had a great start to 2009!

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