From trains to planes: Your guide to Amtrak stations at US airports

Jul 12, 2021

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Don’t want to worry about airport parking? Amtrak might be the solution for you.

Amtrak offers the option for travelers to get to airports without driving. This is possible through direct rail service to four U.S. airports: Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR), Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR).

The option of intercity rail travel to and from airports gives flyers more options and better access to cheaper fares. It also gives those who live near airports a convenient way to travel between cities.

Let’s dive deeper into the specifics of each of the four airport Amtrak stations and explore how they might be useful for you.

In This Post

Baltimore/Washington International Airport station

(Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Amtrak serves BWI — the country’s first airport to have an intercity rail connection — with the BWI Airport station.

There are four different services with stops at the BWI station: the Acela, Northeast Regional, Palmetto and Vermonter. These services can take passengers to cities such as Washington, D.C.; Baltimore; Wilmington, Delaware; Philadelphia; New York City; and beyond.

The BWI station is also served by the local commuter rail called the Maryland Area Regional Commuter, or MARC, train. This commuter rail — with its Penn Line service — makes frequent trips to both D.C. and Baltimore from the airport, with service as far north as Perryville, Maryland.

There are various other transit options to and from BWI as well, such as a light rail that goes into downtown Baltimore and several different bus services, including a D.C. Metrobus with service to the Greenbelt Metro Station.

BWI is a major connecting airport for Southwest Airlines. A wide variety of other airlines, ranging from Allegiant Air to Icelandair, also serve the airport. Often, the cheapest flight in the greater D.C. area will be to BWI Airport. And the airport train station gives travelers a convenient way to get to and from their cheap flights.

BWI is a major connecting airport for Southwest, and Amtrak provides frequent service to and from the airport train station. (Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

The BWI Airport station was the second-busiest Amtrak station in the state of Maryland in 2019 with about 753,000 passengers, just behind Baltimore Penn Station, according to a Rail Passengers Association document.

How to access the station

There is a shuttle bus between the airport and the station, according to the BWI website. It operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Buses depart about every 10 minutes on most days and have four stops at different airport terminals.

Possible uses of the station

Air travelers to and from the greater Washington, D.C., area. Those living in or visiting certain parts of Maryland, D.C. or northern Virginia could use Amtrak or MARC service when traveling to and from BWI.

For travelers in or near D.C., Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service between BWI Airport and Washington Union Station only takes about 30 minutes — and coach tickets cost $14 when purchased last-minute, according to a TPG search on Amtrak’s website. From Union Station, travelers can transfer to the D.C. Metro, which offers far-reaching service to the whole area.

Amtrak also offers service on the quick 15-minute hop between BWI and Baltimore Penn Station. Tickets start at $5 on this route.

MARC’s Penn Line service from BWI complements Amtrak’s service in the area with additional Maryland stops in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Cecil, Harford and Prince George’s counties. A ride on the MARC train from BWI costs between $6 and $10, depending on your destination.

Both Amtrak and MARC offer fares that are much cheaper than an Uber or Lyft from BWI, which could easily cost $50 or more.

Amtrak and MARC service makes downtown D.C. easily accessible from BWI Airport. (Photo by f11photo/Getty Images)

Non-airport travelers. There are about 3.5 million people who live within a 25-mile radius of the BWI Airport rail station, according to RPA. Those living in or visiting the area — even when not flying — might find the airport rail station more convenient than other nearby rail stations. After all, the station has a parking garage and is located near several major highways.

The ridership numbers hint that non-airport travelers frequently use this station: The most popular route from the BWI Airport rail station in 2019 was to New York City, and most travelers on this route are likely not going to or from a flight.

BWI spokesperson Jonathan Dean confirms that the station is used by both flyers and non-flyers alike. Non-flyers include commuters and intercity train travelers.

Air travelers to and from Delaware. An Amtrak train from Wilmington to the BWI Airport station takes about an hour. Direct airport connectivity to Delaware is especially important because Delaware only has one airport with regular commercial service — Wilmington Airport (ILG) — and Frontier Airlines is the only airline that serves ILG with three flights per week to Orlando (MCO). Direct access by train to BWI greatly increases flight options for those in the Wilmington area.

While Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is another major airport that is closer to Wilmington than BWI, PHL has no Amtrak station at the airport. A traveler taking the train from Wilmington would have to change trains to the local airport train — while BWI’s Amtrak station gives Wilmington travelers a direct train option to an airport.

Hollywood Burbank Airport station

(Photo courtesy of Amtrak)

The BUR Airport South station is served by Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, which goes between San Luis Obispo, California, and San Diego, and the Coast Starlight, which goes between Seattle and Los Angeles.

A commuter rail — Metrolink’s Ventura County Line — also serves the airport’s South station with service between East Ventura, California, and Los Angeles Union Station. There is another airport train station on the other side of the airport as well — served by Metrolink’s Antelope Valley Line — with service between Lancaster, California, and Los Angeles.

Airline service to BUR includes Avelo Airlines with 12 destinations (soon to be just 10 destinations) and Alaska Airlines, which recently added a third route from Burbank to Santa Rosa, California (STS), in a direct challenge to Avelo.

Related: Fanfare galore: What it was like flying on Avelo Airlines’ inaugural flight

A view of the Hollywood Burbank Airport terminal, a short walk from the airport’s Amtrak station. (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

How to access the station

Travelers from the airport can access the Amtrak station by shuttle or by foot, according to Metrolink.

To ride the shuttle to the station, passengers must take the Lot C bus and request that the driver drop them off at the South train station. To walk to the station, follow signs and walk about 0.25 miles before crossing Empire Avenue.

Travelers wishing to access the other (non-Amtrak) airport train station from the airport must call to request a free shuttle.

More information can be found here on the Metrolink website.

Possible uses of the station

Air travelers to and from the greater Los Angeles area. Amtrak complements Metrolink’s service to BUR by providing more frequencies on trips to nearby stations, such as Los Angeles Union Station and Van Nuys. Travelers who buy a Metrolink ticket can even take Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner between Burbank Airport and Union Station as part of the “Rail 2 Rail” agreement.

Amtrak also serves stations from Burbank Airport that are outside of the reach of a direct Metrolink train, such as Santa Barbara, the San Clemente Pier station and Oceanside.

Long-distance train travelers. Those taking the Coast Starlight train to or from a city like Sacramento; Portland, Oregon; or Seattle might find the airport station useful. It is near the southern end of the line (Union Station) and provides those wishing to take the journey an easy way to start or end the trip by plane.

Travel to and from a baseball game. The Pacific Surfliner offers direct service between BUR and the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, or ARTIC, which is within walking distance of the Los Angeles Angels baseball stadium. A traveler wishing to watch the Angels play could fly into BUR and take an Amtrak train straight to the ARTIC station, where there are nearby hotel options as well.

Avelo passengers can take Amtrak to and from Hollywood Burbank Airport. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Avelo)

Milwaukee International Airport station

Amtrak serves MKE Airport with its Hiawatha service to Chicago and Milwaukee. There are seven daily trains each way from Monday through Saturday and six daily trains on Sundays.

The ride to Chicago Union Station from the airport takes about 1.5 hours, according to the Amtrak website, and the train has two intermediate stops along the way: one in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, and the other in Glenview, Illinois.

The ride to downtown Milwaukee only takes about 10 minutes. However, after factoring in the shuttle bus, wait time for the train and distance to the destination once downtown, other transportation options are likely more convenient. MKE officials agree, recommending an Uber, Lyft or public bus over Amtrak service for travel to and from downtown Milwaukee.

Travelers from MKE can take Amtrak’s Hiawatha service directly to Chicago Union Station. (Photo by Jacob Harrison/The Points Guy)

How to access the station

There is a shuttle bus between the station and airport that operates frequently.

Possible uses of the station

Air travelers going to and from Chicago. While Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD) and Chicago Midway Airport (MDW) offer a wide range of flight options, the Hiawatha service gives Chicago travelers even more options, such as United’s new MKE point-to-point routes or Sun Country’s planned MKE service.

Long-distance train travelers. Those wishing to take a long-distance Amtrak train beginning in Chicago might also find flying into MKE useful, as the Hiawatha service takes passengers directly to Union Station where trains depart. Public transportation from the two Chicago-area commercial airports (ORD and MDW), on the other hand, does not go directly to Union Station.

Non-airport travelers. Those who live south of downtown Milwaukee might find the airport Amtrak station helpful when traveling to and from Chicago. The station offers a small parking lot, and taking the Hiawatha service would allow for a carless Chicago visit.

Non-airport travelers make up the vast majority of riders at the airport station: MKE spokesperson Harold Mester estimates that only 10,000 — or about 5% — of the airport station’s 179,000 riders in 2019 were using the airport train station for a flight and that the station is mainly popular with Chicago commuters.

Newark Liberty International Airport station

Amtrak serves EWR Airport with its Northeast Regional and Keystone Service. The Northeast Regional offers direct service to nearby cities like New York City;  Trenton, New Jersey; and Philadelphia — and travelers can even go as far as Norfolk, Virginia, or Boston.

The Keystone Service offers a direct train between EWR and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. However, a TPG search indicates that this train does not frequently stop at EWR — for westbound Keystone Service trains heading toward Harrisburg, only one train stops at the airport station per day, Monday through Saturday; for eastbound Keystone Service trains, one train stops at EWR per day on Saturdays and Sundays only.

The area’s commuter rail — operated by NJ Transit — also serves the Newark airport station. NJ Transit trains offer another way to go between EWR and New York City. They also go as far south as Trenton and Long Branch, New Jersey.

How to access the station

The airport train station is accessible from the airport via the AirTrain, an automated people mover that stops at each terminal. Taking the AirTrain between the airport and the train station costs $7.75, but a train ticket to or from the airport station already factors in this cost.

Possible uses of the station

Access to nonstop flight options. EWR has a wide range of nonstop flight options that might not be available at other airports in the region. For example, TPG’s Editor-at-Large Zach Honig lives in Philadelphia but recently took Amtrak to EWR to fly United’s inaugural flight to Johannesburg (JNB). The EWR to JNB flight is currently the only nonstop option to South Africa from anywhere in the U.S. as of July 8.

Take Amtrak to EWR for a wide variety of nonstop flight options. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Easy airport access. Various cities in the region have convenient access to a major airport with Amtrak’s EWR station. From a city such as Stamford, Connecticut, the Northeast Regional offers direct service to EWR, which takes about 1.5 hours.

Alternatively, the journey to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) or LaGuardia Airport (LGA) from Stamford would require train changes in New York City, as well as a bus connection in the case of LGA.

Air travelers to and from New York City. Amtrak and NJ Transit services from EWR offer a quick way to get between Manhattan and the airport. Only about a 20-minute ride between EWR and Pennsylvania Station, these train services are a competitively fast public transportation option to New York City compared to JFK or LGA.

Bottom line

Amtrak stations at airports provide air travelers with additional ground transportation options, improving connectivity and accessibility. Airport stations don’t just help flyers — even travelers who aren’t flying might find them useful.

Featured photo courtesy Amtrak.

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