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The last time I flew into JFK, I took the "free" AirTrain from the terminal out to the subway. I was rather surprised and annoyed, on getting to the subway transfer, to discover that it wasn't free after all. Between terminals is free, but to transfer to the subway you had to pay a special exit fee of $5. Only after that could you then buy your subway ticket, and head into town. By the time I was at the subway station, it was too late to change plans, so I had to grudgingly pay. They kept this very quiet until you got to the end, and it was too late to change your plans!

For my next trip, I should have more time (I land mid-afternoon, but I'm not meeting friends until after work). I know that with other airports with high charges for the public transport connection, there's often a hidden way to avoid it that locals know. (In Sydney for example, there's a bus that'll take you a couple of miles to a normal railway station, or you can walk just over a mile to another one).

What I'm wondering is if there's something like that for JFK? I'm aiming to get to either lower Manhattan, or Brooklyn Heights. Can I get either to a subway station, or all the way down to somewhere like that, without having to pay the airtrain exit fee? (The subway from out by the airport to Brooklyn/Manhattan is only $2.25, and the current airtrain exit fee is an extra $5, so anything involving private buses/shuttles will likely work out much more!)

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4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

There is no safe way, as there is a high fence that bars access from the long-term parking lot.

To save money, I would take the Q10 bus from terminal 5 and transfer to the A train at Lefferts Blvd or the F train at Kew Gardens.

There are other buses (B15 to the 3 Train at New Lots, Q3 to Locust Manor LIRR or F Train at Jamaica), but I am not familiar with them.

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In addition to what Choster has described there may be a way to do it without the transfer from Bus to Subway.

There is a long term parking adjacent to the Lefferts Blvd Airtran station and Howard Beach A train station. This used to be serviced by the free shuttle for all the terminals though it was running not as often as others. So if you take that shuttle to Long Term Parking Lot C you could just walk to the Howard Beach A train. One thing to check is whether or not this shuttle runs to the terminal it's possible this was changed it's possible the route is only within the long term lots.

P.S. Personally I try to avoid JFK like a plague

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My information may be dated, but to my knowledge all parking shuttle buses ended when the AirTrain was opened, except for when AirTrain is closed for maintenance. Again, there is a fence separating the long-term lots from the subway station and the exit is on the far side from the subway station, so I would not recommend attempting the walk. – choster Jun 12 '12 at 17:05
@choster According to the map there is a shuttle running on the Long Term Parking. The problem is that I am not sure that these run to the terminal still. Walking 4 miles to the long term parking would be crazy although there are entrances to the parking at least those for the cars that you won't have to climb the fence. – Karlson Jun 12 '12 at 18:12
@choster Personally I'd spend $13 for the shuttle to take me to Manhattan then spend 1+ hours trying to use the AirTrain/Parking Shuttle/Subway. – Karlson Jun 12 '12 at 18:19
What airport would you recommend over JFK? – James A Mohler Nov 30 '12 at 23:54
@JamesMohler Newark. 30 minutes by bus from Port Authority. 40 if traffic is bad. – Karlson Dec 1 '12 at 2:34

When leaving JFK, get the free Airtrain shuttle to the Lefferts Blvd station stop then get off and get the Q10 bus to Ozone Park Lefferts Blvd subway station where you can get the A train to the city. Transfers are free between bus and subway when you use a metro card. Do the reverse to get to the airport.

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@choster says there is a high fence blocking access at Lefferts Blvd. Does the fence block access to only the A subway and not the Q10? – dbasch Dec 7 '14 at 21:08

The $5 surcharge of the AirTran is only collected at the terminal stops, so when transferring to the Subway or entering the airport. If you're looking to avoid that charge, you can take the AirTran to the car rental exit (at no cost) and hop on the free shuttle bus to Jamaica station. There you can take the E, J or Z which serve southwestern Queens, Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, the LIRR is also at this station for those interested. That shuttle bus has two stops: Jamaica station and Federal Circle Rental Cars stop, so you don't have to worry about missing the right stop or if your bus is going in the right direction, etc.

JFK is horribly designed in that it's not optimized for pedestrians, this way minimizes you having to navigate through the maze.

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What does the free car rental <-> Jamaica bus look like? (I've not spotted it before) – Gagravarr Nov 8 at 17:28
It looks like a typical MTA bus but I did notice that there was a luggage storage space in the bus. The front of the bus (where the route is located) should say that it's a shuttle bus. – sashak007 Nov 12 at 16:56
If you manage to snap a photo of the front of the bust on your next trip, that'd be very handy! – Gagravarr Nov 12 at 17:00

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