Home Congestion Fee Congestion fee to go to Second Ave. subway instead of JFK Raillink

Congestion fee to go to Second Ave. subway instead of JFK Raillink

by Benjamin Kabak

The Train to the Plane has long gone the way of the Dodo. (Photo by Doug Grotjahn. Courtesy of NYCSubway.org)

Oh, the tortured history of the JFK Raillink. When last we saw this ill-fated raillink in April, the plan seemed to be hanging on precariously to life support. Now, any high-speed train to the plane is all but dead, according to the latest reports.

The New York Sun notes today that Mayor Bloomberg, long a proponent of the Lower Manhattan-JFK Raillink, has decided to compromise on this project in order to gain support for his congestion pricing plan. Elliot Sander, the MTA CEO, and Sheldon Silver, influential New York State Assembly speaker, have said they will warm up to the congestion pricing plan if more of the money goes toward financing the Second Ave. subway instead of a raillink that most transit advocates feel would be a waste of $6 billion.

In direct negotiations between Messrs. Bloomberg and Spitzer, as well as a series of discussions between city and state officials over the past week intended to hammer out a bill on congestion pricing before Memorial Day, talk has turned to omitting some transit improvements that were included in the city’s original 2030 plan, according to multiple sources close to the negotiations.

The $3.75 billion that was earmarked in the city’s sustainability plan for a rail link that would provide a direct connection between Lower Manhattan and John F. Kennedy International Airport, instead could help pay for the completion of the Second Avenue Subway, currently under construction but not yet fully funded … The East Side subway line, which would serve Mr. Silver’s district in Lower Manhattan if completed, has long been one of the speaker’s favored projects, as well as a priority for Mr. Spitzer.

According to The Sun, support from Silver and Sander would go a long way toward legitimizing Bloomberg’s plans in the eyes of the federal government. And with the approval of the federal government comes more money for transportation in New York City.

The money itself was be funneled to the Second Ave. subway through the proposed SMART authority, a topic I will touch upon later this week. Meanwhile, transit advocates are pleased to hear that the City is narrowing its focus to a few major construction projects that have a higher chance of being completed instead of many minor projected that never seem to move forward.

This plan, in my idea, is the missing piece of the NYC2030 plan. It ensures that the Second Ave. subway has a dedicated source of funding and allays concerns that The Line That Almost Never Was will still be just a figment of our imagination. Furthermore, it all but kills the JFK Raillink, a rapid transit line that would affect far fewer people than the Second Ave. subway will. It’s good to see some common-sense economics emerging from the cooperation between the City, State and MTA.

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Marsha May 21, 2007 - 8:28 am

Loved the picture of the Train to the Plane. I am one of the few people who I know actually rode that train to JFK.

wayne's world May 21, 2007 - 2:50 pm

The Train to the Plane was great. It was an idea before it’s time. They should reinstate it. Seriously.

The Cro May 21, 2007 - 11:45 pm

Believe it or not, Marsha & Wayne are both on to something here:

I grew up in Richmond Hill / Ozone Park in Queens and I used to take The “Train to the Plane” to work at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. I used to buy a “book” of “coupon” tickets (it cost $5.00 for a one way coupon – when tokens were $1.00) I could park my Car in what was a vacant, underutilized Long Term Parking Lot – for Free!! – whenever it wasn’t full – and park it right next to what was the Terminal / Bus Depot for the Shuttle Bus that finished the Journey for anybody who took the NYC Transit “Train to the Plane”.(This Terminal / Depot was located on the Western Side of the Howard Beach Station on the A Train).

Since there is a whole new infrastructure for the AirTrain that uses a Light Rail System to take you right to that Howard Beach Station (no need for a Shuttle Bus like in the old days) and directly connects with every Terminal in JFK, WHY NOT simply reinstate The “Train to the Plane” Service to that Howard Beach Station in order to “feed” Passengers into that existing AirTrain spur that shuttles people into / out of JFK?

For anybody who doesn’t know or remember, “The Train to the Plane” – which in actuality was called the JFK Express – (“The Train to the Plane” was it’s advertising slogan!) – started in September 1978 and continued to run until April 1990.

There used to be a “Conductor” – who actually “punched” your Coupon or Ticket – along with an armed Transit Authority Cop, on each Train. These JFK Express Trains were usually made up of 3, R46 Cars. These JFK Expresses would arrive once every 30 Minutes when JFK was operating.

There were 9 “Stops” on the JFK Express:

1) Howard Beach (Queens)
2) Jay Street – Borough Hall (Brooklyn)
3) Broadway Nassau at Fulton Street
4) Chambers Street at Church Street
5) West 4th Street / Washington Square Park
6) 34th Street / Herald Square
7) 42nd Street / Bryant Park
8) 47th-50th Street / Rockefeller Center
9) 57th Street / Sixth Avenue

As a matter of fact, for the last 6 months of it’s existence, the JFK Express was actually extended to include 3 more stops:

10) Lexington Avenue / 63rd Street
11) Roosevelt Island
12) 21st Street / Queensbridge

All told, the JFK Express utilized all of the following IND Lines: (from Howard Beach): the IND Rockaway Line, Fulton Street Line, Eight Avenue Line, Sixth Avenue Line and (for 6 months) even the 63rd Street Line.

The reason I’m laying this all out here is because I believe all of the ingredients are here for a very practical and cost effective alternative to a Lower Manhattan Rail Link (which could actually reach and help more people in the process).

Think about it, wouldn’t the Broadway Nassau & Chambers Street Stops give Mayor Mike his beloved “Downtown Stops” that would provide direct service to JFK? – (Where all you’d have to do is switch to the AirTrain Shuttle at the Howard Beach Station into the JFK Terminals).

One of the biggest reasons that I remembered for the poor ridership on the JFK Express was that it never could connect you directly with any Airline Terminal inside JFK (again – in effect, you were taking The “Train to the Bus” that THEN took you to the Plane!)

Again, this problem is eliminated with the Howard Beach “Spur” of the AirTrain.

To show you how “dis-inviting” this was to the JFK Express Service, I knew of some people who simply took the “E” or “F” Train to Union Turnpike and the took the Q10 Green Bus Line to JFK (which had direct bus stops in front of every Terminal in JFK).

Now I must admit, I only know all of this information since I lived in that “neck of the woods” in Queens, but the fact is this subject could be worth revisiting as a cost effective alternative by the MTA.

One other pet peeve: Since I now live in Manhattan and fly out of JFK 1 or 2 times every month, the AirTrain – which I use extensively on Business Trips – it’s important to know that I NEVER use the AirTrain for Personal / Family Travel. The reason – there is NO comfort for anybody traveling with 2 or more pieces of luggage, let alone a child.

Getting on a crowded LIRR Train out of Penn Station – with NO dedicated Luggage Racks or Space – is NOT FUN!!

And that’s what the AirTrain asks you to do: take the LIRR to Jamaica where you SWITCH to he AirTrain itself. What’s the difference in using a dedicated Subway – a New JFK Express – to take you to Howard Beach, where you get to do the SAME THING?!? (that is, simply transfer to the AirTrain at Howard Beach instead).

However, a dedicated 3 car IND Subway Train going directly to JFK – where I could at least “prop up” my Luggage in a closed off doorway (which we used to do on the old JFK Express – that’s a free insider’s tip!) – if I had that choice, NOW I’m thinking about Mass Transit!

As I write this, I’m amazing myself about how much I remember about this Old Service and how I never “made the connection” – as to how this Service could be reestablished – in a modified way to compliment existing infrastructure (the AirTrain’s Howard Beach Spur) – in a way that could give many people a more comfortable, convenient and viable Mass Transit Option to get to JFK – without a Multi-Billion Dollar Price Tag!

Thanks for indulging me and for giving me a forum for this Old / New Idea!

And Thanks to Marsha and Wayne for getting the ball rolling on this subject!

ParkandJet February 13, 2008 - 11:11 pm

They should reinstate it. Anything to help with traffic.

Art and Angst of Subway Life - Mostly Art, Wait, Angst April 26, 2008 - 12:45 pm

[…] would offer such a plan? I want to be in the first seat of the first car. (Any fee could go to the congestion pricing “fund.” to build the new Second Avenue subway. The irony!) Pacific Street […]


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