In this installment of Fun Maps, we looked at a 1970’s New York City subway map we had lying around the Untapped HQ and we found subway relic of the past. On September 23rd, 1978, amidst struggles to put into place rebuilding projects from the 1960s and an impending train operator strike, the Transit Authority introduced the “Train to the Plane” or the “JFK Express.” The ride charged premium fare and featured higher quality train cars. The train was actually slower than the A service, though many residents of Howard Beach, Queens were happy to pay extra for a more comfortable ride to work or home.

As seen on the map below, the train’s genesis was the stop at 57th Street and 6th Avenue and is noted with a tiny plane (as are all its stops, as seen below).


Introducing the line was a surprising move, given the struggles the Transit Authority faced at the time; many trains were being replaced with new models–which subsequently suffered technical failures–while many vital maintenance jobs were deferred from the 1960’s. It was also the first decade in the city’s history where track mileage was lost, not gained.


The path is a lighter blue than the faster A track. It would terminate at the Howard Beach-JFK Airport stop where an express bus would take passengers to their terminal. Service would eventually extend northerly to Queensbridge-21st Street in Queens, though this wouldn’t last more than eight months.

The train was discontinued April 15th, 1990. There is a current proposal to re-establish the line as an express and would operate via the LIRR Atlantic Branch. Regardless, maps like these provide a glimpse at the surprising organic and mercurial nature of the New York City Subway system.


The information here was gathered from NYC Subway, a searchable wiki about the transit systems of New York.

Here at Untapped Cities, we have a history of looking at New York City’s transit systems. Get a glimpse at the life of subway car operators or take a look at photos of “Dirty Old” New York from the 1970’s.

Get in touch with the author @jimipage26

3 thoughts on “Fun Maps: The Now Extinct “Train to the Plane” on 1970s NYC Subway Maps

  1. I remember riding the London Underground’s Piccadilly Line one day and gazing up at the advertisements, and seeing an ad for the “Train to the Plane,” or as the MTA staff called it, “The Bird.” I glanced at it casually, and then did a double-take, realizing I was NOT on in Brooklyn or The Bronx any more, riding a D or QB train, but in London’s East Acton, riding a Piccadilly Line train. I looked closer at the ad and saw the prices were in both British and American currency and the advertisement touted the value of riding the train from JFK to midtown Manhattan. As a native New Yorker with deep British roots, I was pleased and touched.

  2. I took the Train to the Plane for $5-. It was great. Conductor on board collected extra fare.
    Long ride………….buses to terminals at JFK.

    We were happier, less fussy customers in the old days.

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