By Courtney Dentch

In its first month, the AirTrain rail link to Kennedy Airport carried an average of more than 15,000 passengers a day, but the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is hoping to push daily ridership to 34,000 by the end of the year, a spokesman said.

The AirTrain, which connects passengers and employees at Kennedy Airport to mass transit lines in downtown Jamaica and Howard Beach, has transported between 15,000 and 20,000 riders a day since it debuted Dec. 17, said Pasquale DiFulco, a spokesman for the Port Authority.

Although the holiday travel rush has passed, the agency expects the AirTrain passenger volume to grow through the summer, reaching a daily volume of about 34,000 by the end of its first year, DiFulco said.

“This puts us on track to meet our projection,” he said. “We’ll get a more accurate picture during the summer.”

The PA anticipated about 40 percent of the AirTrain’s ridership would come from airport employees, with the balance coming from people flying in and out of the airport, DiFulco said. It was too early to determine how accurate those numbers have been, he said.

And while the link forces passengers to transfer to the Long Island Rail Road or the subway to travel into Manhattan, Gov. George Pataki was slated this week to unveil four options to connect Kennedy Airport to Lower Manhattan. It was unclear how the AirTrain system might be incorporated.

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