Joe Sharkey writes about train-to-plane connections in his Business Travel column in today's New York Times. As I wrote a few days ago, I was able to use the Newark International Airport's new AirTrain Newark terminal to avoid the tedious shuttle service from Newark into Manhattan.
On previous trips, I'd used the private bus service. Here's how it works: collect your bags, walk outside, walk aways, find the outdoor bays for the busses, wait for a while. A bus shows up. It's not the one you want. Wait longer. A bus headed to Manhattan appears. Get on board after loading your bags underneath. Wait for it to leave. Wait as it travels to all the other terminals to pick people up. Wait as it gets on the highway. Wait (often a long wait) to get into the Holland Tunnel, where there always seemed to be an hour backup. Finally, you arrive above ground somewhere, like the World Trade Center (no longer, of course), and find a subway that gets you to where you want to go. This costs about $15 to $20.
Contrast this with the AirTrain. Wait for your bags. Walk up an escalator. Walk a few hundred feet indoors. Another escalator. Hop on the monorail. Sit for five minutes. Get off, another escalator up. Buy a ticket for $11 from a credit-card accepting machine. Wait no more than 20 minutes for the next train (Amtrak is about $22 as an alternative; between Amtrak and NJ Transit, trains arrive several times an hour weekdays/daytime, and a few times an hour all other times). In 20 minutes, you're in Penn Station.
I believe I will never, ever ever fly into any New York airport besides Newark again. LaGuardia is bus plus subway or a $40 taxi ride to Manhattan. JFK is a shuttle bus and a long, long, long subway ride, or a very expensive taxi. Even if I were flying in to rent a car - geez, it's such a hassle to even get to the cars at LaGuardia and JFK and then you have to navigate out of New York. At Newark, you take the monorail to the car rental agency, drive out, and can head north, west, or south on a major highway. Take the Tappanzee and bypass Manhattan entirely, if such is your wont.
This may prove a problem for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey: they're making it exceptionally attractive to fly into Newark, and their other airports could suffer.