The 8.1-mile AirTrain JFL Light Rail System opened to passengers in December 2003 and has a steadily growing ridership, with more than 3.6 million in the first six months. It includes three service loops: the 1.8-mile Central Terminal Area (CTA) loop, which links six stations with a continuous inter-terminal service; the 3.3-mile Howard Beach extension, which links the CTA with stations for the on-site rental car and hotel shuttle (Federal Circle), employee and long-term parking, and the Howard Beach inter-modal station ("A" train subway station); and the 3-mile Jamaica extension, which links the CTA and Federal Circle with the Jamaica inter-modal station [Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and "E," "J" and "Z" train subway station]. These connections allow for extensive compatibility with the New York City Transit and LIRR mass transit systems, and provide a "one-seat" ride between Manhattan and JFK.
To meet demand for JFK access and keep pace with other airport expansion, the Port Authority fast-tracked the $1.9 billion project through a "design, build, operate and maintain" (DBOM) approach, which reduced overall project time and cost. In May 1998, the Port Authority awarded the contract to the Air Rail Transit Consortium (ARTC), comprised of Slattery Skanska, Inc., Koch Skanska, Inc., Perini Corporation and Bombadier Transit Corp. The DBOM strategy allowed the team to advance early construction while design was still underway, and to respond quickly to unforeseen field conditions, changing airport and highway operational requirements, and community concerns.
All AirTrain stations are climate controlled with large glass elevators and wide escalators to accommodate passengers' luggage, and are equipped with flight information displays. Moving walkways allow passengers direct access through the airline terminals without crossing the frontage roadways.
Similar to Division B subway cars, AirTrain vehicles are 58' long by 10' wide, and are configured for bi-directional operation. The fleet is comprised of 32 fully automated driverless cars designed to operate in one-to-four car trains, depending on travel demand, at speeds of up to 60 mph. AirTrain is controlled by a moving block train control system (Alcatel Seltrac). Each vehicle has wide doors to facilitate luggage-carrying passengers, comfortable seating and ample space for luggage carts.
The system uses steel wheel and rail technology, with third rail current collection and linear indicator motor drive. A power supply network feeds the third rail, with redundant substations distributed around the system. The power supply system is monitored and controlled by a supervisory data acquisition and control system.
The system was selected by ASCE as a finalist for the 2005 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) Award.