Feb
06

Revisiting an N train extension to Laguardia

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A few years ago, local blogger NY by dZine suggested sending the N to Laguardia via an elevated structure over the Grand Central Parkway. (Source)

With the news that the Port Authority will spend at least $1.5 billion to send PATH trains to Newark Airport, the most rail-accessible airport in New York, I started thinking about Laguardia again. It is frustrating close and seemingly so far away. For anyone taking transit to the airport, the trip involves a circuitous subway-and-bus combination, and it’s been over a decade since anyone has mentioned a direct rail connection, monorail or subway, to the terminal geographically closest to Manhattan. They why of it involves a typical tale of New York NIMBYs and frustrating political processes.

The Fiorello H. LaGuardia Airport in Queens is one of the nation’s most infuriating urban airports. In Queens, it’s tantalizingly close to the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn — and of course, the subway — but it’s so far away because traffic congestion frequently creates trips to Queens that last an hour and 30 minutes from Midtown’s West Side. The only public transit options that delivery riders directly to the terminals are a handful of local buses and a a new Q70 limited bus. On a good day, for example, the M60 — recently denied Select Bus Service status — goes from 125th St. and Lexington to the airport in a half an hour.

Over the last few decades, city officials have become quite intimate with the problems plaguing LaGuardia, and many have tried to fix it. The N train, whose northern terminus is less than three miles away from the LaGuardia terminals, is so tantalizing close to the airport and yet so far away. With the PATH extension back in the news, many are asking why we haven’t focused more on improving access to Laguardia. It isn’t for lack of trying as 16 years ago, city and MTA officials were heavily invested in a plan to extend the N to LaGuardia. In the face of other pressing transit needs, such as the Second Ave. Subway, and widespread community opposition, the agency eventually shelved this much needed link to LaGuardia.

So what then were the plans that engendered widespread community outrage and still cause politicians to chime in now and then, over a decade after the MTA discarded the idea? Let’s hop in the Wayback Machine and explore some Giuliani Era transit developments.

The plans to extend the N to LaGuardia first came to light in 1998 as city officials recognized the need to build better access to the airports. As part of a $1.2 billion package with funding coming from the MTA, the Port Authority and the city, Giuiliani put forward a plan to build an airtrain to JFK and extend the subway to LaGuardia. The JFK line — built over preexisting rights-of-way — survived. The LaGuardia plans, obviously, did not.

The first and biggest problem the city faced in Queens came about because of the proposed routes. The preferred routing would have extended the N along 31st St. north onto Con Edison’s property at the edge of Astoria and then east along 19th Ave. to the Marine Air Terminal. The MTA also considered an eastward extension along Ditmars Boulevard. This involved a plan to reroute LaGuardia-bound N trains from Queensboro Plaza through the Sunnyside rail yard and along the eastern edge of St. Michael’s Cemetery to what Newsday described as “elevated tracks parallel to the Grand Central Parkway.” A barely-acknowledged fourth route would have seen trains head east via Astoria Boulevard.

On the surface, these plans seem no worse than building the Second Ave. Subway through densely populated neighborhoods on the East Side. In Queens, however, the MTA would have had to build a spur line off a pre-existing elevated structure, and all of the plans called for the train to LaGuardia to run above ground through significant portions of Astoria. So while airport access ranked tops amongst Queens residents transit expansion wishlist, no one wanted to see Astoria further scarred by elevated structures. Chalk this up to a remnant of the 1920s and 1930s when New Yorkers objected en masse to elevated rail lines.

At the time, the Daily News termed the opposition response NAMBYism — Not Above My Backyard — and nearly every single Queens politician opposed the idea. Some preferred the Sunnyside alternative, but at the time, NYCDOT said plans to widen the Grand Central Parkway would interfere with the train proposal. Others called for an extension from Long Island City to skirt the borough. Such a route would run from 21st St. along the East River to the airport. Still others preferred a longer Willets Point extension of the LIRR to the airport.

Peter Vallone exemplified the opposition. “Extending the elevated track will cause unnecessary hardship to residents and businesses in the area,” the City Council member said in 1999. “The MTA wants to go their way, not our way.” It was, you see, a play on that old MTA slogan, “Going Your Way.”

In the end, despite opposition, political support for the plan from City Hall continued well into the 21st Century. With the backing of Mayor Giuliani and Queens Borough President Clare Shulman, the MTA’s 2000-2004 Five-Year Capital Plan included $645 million for the LaGuardia subway link, and even though a $17 million planning study was the project’s only expense, in late 2002, Mayor Bloomberg threw his weight behind the LaGuardia extension as a key post-9/11 revitalization plan.

Finally, in mid-2003, the Queens communities won the battle as the MTA announced plans to shelve the airport extension. With money tight after 9/11 and Lower Manhattan on the radar, then-MTA Chair Peter Kalikow said that the agency’s attention had turned to the JFK Raillink from Lower Manhattan, another plan that never materialized, and that the agency was prioritizing the 7 Line Extension, the East Side Access Plan and the Second Ave. Subway over the LaGuardia N train extension. “LaGuardia is a good project, but you have to prioritize,” Elliot Sander, then at NYU, said. “In terms of political support from City Hall, Albany and Washington, it’s moved back in the queue.”

In Queens, local politicians voiced support for different plans. George Onorato had previously supported some spurt from the 7 line in Willets Point that avoided residential areas. Of course, in the intervening decade, the Mets placed a new baseball stadium in the way, and the city’s plans to develop Willets Point don’t include a rail extension to Laguardia. Never mind the fact that going to Laguardia via Willets Point is a time-consuming and circuitous routing that wouldn’t attract many passengers.

And so in the end, we sit here with largely the same travel options to LaGuardia as we’ve always enjoyed (or suffered through). The Port Authority is set to spend $1.5 billion on a duplicative rail extension to an airport already served by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, and the MTA is in no position to take another crack at sending the subway to the airport. Oh, what could have — and should have — been.



Categories : Subway History

114 Responses to “Revisiting an N train extension to Laguardia”

  1. John-2 says:

    As long as the W is revived, once the Q is sent up Second Avenue to 96th Street, the Grand Central Parkway spur between Astoria Blvd. and Ditmars seems to be the most viable option.

    Keep the N terminal where it is, and run the W from Astoria Blvd. to the airport similar to how Airtrain runs along the Van Wyck from JFK to Jamaica (the presence of it, and the fact that the fear-mongering over how it would negatively affect the in-between neighborhoods was so overblown, it would at least give the MTA ammunition to come back with to any opponents of the plan who brought up the same concerns).

  2. Mike says:

    This idea (and its merits) once again illustrate the problems with tunnel construction here in the NY Metro Area. While I understand the objection to yet another el, it’s the only cost-effective means of construction left. While it would be nice to fantasize about an tunnel under the Grand Central Parkway, the cost of building it is prohibitively expensive. We only need to look to the west (as in the 2nd Avenue subway) to see what happens financially when you dig under streets in New York City. We won’t even discuss East Side Access. :)

    • D. Graham says:

      I’m sorry but I think you might be missing the point.

      The biggest drawback against tunneling is the fact that you have to find a way to get the line underground from the terminal to the proposed tunneling portion. Doing so at a grade that allows trains to climb from the tunnel to the structure would take up several cross streets.

      So with that right there you’ve already had a huge negative impact on the neighborhood.

      I’m not going to get into the water table and how this airport sizes up to it in comparison to JFK, but JFK took on a great deal of water during Sandy. I can’t remember if the same happened LGA. But no matter this should be one of the main concerns when tunneling around an airport as our three major airports are right next to bodies of water.

    • anon_coward says:

      as long as the city is talking about extending the SAS and other tunneling projects under manhattan, there is no way anyone will agree to allow an elevated track in their neighborhood because there is no money

      • Bolwerk says:

        Like D. Graham said, the case against tunneling isn’t cost. It’s that tunneling makes no sense for geographic and (mostly priorly decided) design reasons.

        • anon_coward says:

          in theory you can build a new last stop for the N underground and then build off a new tunnel extension from that that goes to LGA

          • Bolwerk says:

            That just moves the problem. Instead of destroying several blocks to dip the train underground east of the el, you do it sound of Ditmars or probably Astoria Blvd.

            And that’s before considering other problems that some people have mentioned, like the water table.

      • Eric says:

        I get it, elevated trains do not exactly help the appearance of a street. Which is why SAS is underground. But an elevated train over a FREEWAY? A loud, wide, dangerous, exhaust-choked traffic artery where pedestrians aren’t allowed to walk even if they’re crazy enough to want to? If you object to that, you’re nothing more than a NIMBY who wants to hold the entire city hostage to your fear of change.

        But you give me an idea. In the hypothetical map in this post, trains go to Ditmars Blvd station, then they have to reverse themselves to get to Grand Central Parkway and LaGuardia. That’s really inconvenient. At the same time, we keep hearing how the elevated train is bad for the neighborhood. So how about we kill two birds with one stone. Get rid of Ditmars Blvd station, have the train turn immediately right onto GCP, and demolish the ugly elevated train north of GCP. That way, NYC would get its airport train, while northern Astoria would lose its horrid overhead tracks. Win-win, right?

        • I can’t tell if you’re being serious, but good luck convincing Astoria that you’re closing their subway station. Ditmars, by the way, was the 84th most popular subway station out of over 400 in 2012. That won’t fly at all.

          • John-2 says:

            As long as you have two lines going to Astoria (N and Q now, possible the N and W later), there’s always the option of sending one to Ditmars and one to LaGuardia — you’d irk those at the end of the line used to having two trains to choose from, but some of those passengers may already be coming from the area to the west, around 46th Street, and would have a station closer to where they live as an alternative.

            (As for the freeway ‘problem’, the MTA just needs to show pictures of the WMATA stops in the I-66 median that have been there for 35 years, or the new stations on the Silver line in the median of the Dulles Toll Road. Just because it hasn’t been done in New York before doesn’t mean New York can’t do it.)

          • Eric says:

            I’m serious that the idea should be raised. It would be productive to get one group of “never change anything anywhere” fanatics angry at another group, leaving the rest of us to move on and improve the city while they battle each other.

            • Nyland8 says:

              Indeed. I’m sure the residents and land owners in those three blocks delight in their proximity to the subway station. And rents and property values are no doubt scaled accordingly. Let them ponder all the ways their lives will change when Astoria Blvd becomes the nearest stop. Threaten to give them a taste of what so many other neighborhoods in the city have to endure.

              Perhaps suddenly the idea of extending the el a few blocks won’t seem so bad.

        • Nyland8 says:

          I love the idea of holding elevated access hostage to LGA connectivity. Give the people of the community a choice. Either let us extend the el the three blocks up to 19th Ave, or we’ll truncate it and reroute it to the airport. But you can’t have both.

          This puts the people of the community against themselves instead of against the rest of the city. Either the el realy IS to noisy and unsightly to live with in their community, or it isn’t. It can’t be both.

          Lengthen it – or take it away.

        • sonicboy678 says:

          My objections to the freeway plan stem from the existing elevated infrastructure. It’s literally not set up so that sort of proposal can be supported. Astoria Boulevard station is literally on top of GCP and juts out far enough behind to make it just about impossible to build that connection without destroying buildings. That would really strike a nerve with the NAMBY-pambies. The problem is only worsened with the fact that 31st Street isn’t all that wide, so ripping out existing infrastructure to replace it with new infrastructure is a serious pain in the ass for everyone. There is also a point on that proposed route where the structure would have to cross another elevated structure, which happens to have overhead catenary. Then what? The elevation would have to be crazy just to get over it; also, there’s just about no place to plop supports, as no station exists there (in stark contrast to Secaucus Junction). Will the owners of that railway stretch be willing to modify their existing structure to help accommodate the proposed one? Then there’s the existing traffic issue. It’s a miracle that AirTrain JFK got done at all; at this point in time, I highly doubt that miracle can be performed again. At least with the extension to 19th Avenue, it will be fresh track with fewer obstructions so provisions can be put in place to increase the elevation while minimizing collateral damage.

          Oh, and I would never suggest just closing a station without making sure an actual replacement is available (and the Q102 is NOT an actual replacement).

  3. Spendmor Wastemor says:

    Looks like the proposed elevated is directly in the path of a main runway. If the planned el is higher than whatever’s next to it, then it’s gotta go under not over.
    The FAA is not as vigilant as you might think about structures in the flight path, and planes are not flawlessly guided by magic each and every time. The recent UPS crash would probably have been avoided of a few trees in the flight path had been trimmed.

    Beyond that, the reverse move looks slow and awkward. Better to have the el continue straight past the current terminus via a sound-dampening BART style structure, the turn and dive into a trench or cut’n cover tunnel for air clearance. Should NIMBYs complain, use eminent domain.

    • John-2 says:

      Given the water table there would mean lots of continuous tunnel pumping, you’d probably have to bring the line down to highway level at the 82nd Street station, and then raise it back up again from there to the LGA terminal. The el would also have to navigate the Hell’s Gate railroad viaduct just west of the 46th Street station.

      Both are obstacles, but Air Train already has dealt with similar concerns in and around JFK, and looking at the LGA area on Google Earth, it does appear there’s enough median on the side of Grand Central Parkway to where you could fit in two ground-level rail tracks without sacrificing any of the driving lanes (making it similar to the layout of the new WMATA Silver Line stations in the center of the Dulles Toll Road).

  4. notalogin says:

    Is continuing straight and then putting a tunnel under the water (turning right to go under and then to LGA) just ridiculously prohibitive, I assume?

    • RailPhilly says:

      That’s my thought. It’s only 2 and a half blocks from the Astoria-Ditmars terminal to the Con Ed property. That shouldn’t be enough to block an important transit link that would serve thousands a day. 20th avenue is a border between residential and industrial, so it makes sense as a transit corridor.

      • Eric says:

        Sorry, the previous attempts at building this failed because of NIMBYs in those 2.5 blocks. Not sure why things would be different this time.

        • Spendmor Wastemor says:

          NIMBYs are a problem of will, not design. How many votes do 25 homeowners have?

          Give them a window to sell if they believe their property’s usefulness will be diminished, and that’s it.

          • Eric says:

            Transportation projects are not chosen by popular vote. They are chosen by discussions among professionals and bureaucrats (in principle a good thing), who are constrained by popular feedback (also in principle a good thing). However sometimes the loudest feedback comes from small and misguided selfish interest groups. It’s not easy to bypass those groups without making it possible to bypass the public’s interest entirely.

    • Tower18 says:

      Good point. Surely a pre-fab tunnel, sunk to the bottom, a la 63rd St, must be cheaper than all that tunneling and/or elevated structure. The only problem with this approach would be that you’d build ONLY the link to LGA, with no intermediate stations.

  5. Justin Samuels says:

    De Blasio has a progressive government. Perhaps Straphangers should write him on NYCT expansions. A direct train to LaGuarda would be great. It could be the N train or it could be an Airtrain that connects to the Flushing line and the LIRR at Corona.

  6. Nyland8 says:

    Anyone who has driven along that stretch of the Grand Central Pkwy will tell you that any elevated structure is a non-starter. It is right at the bottom of the glideslope to runway 4, and tunneling under the GCP would be extremely expensive with no place for street vents.

    The best option I’ve read recently – and on this blog – was a suggestion to run an elevated link from the SAS across Randalls Island, through the back side of the Queens power plant, along 19th Ave, then dive underground for the short trip to the airport terminals.

    If we continue the SAS tunnel across 125th St all the way to Broadway, this would mean easy Laguardia access for EVERY northern Manhattan trunk line, EVERY single Bronx subway line, AND the MetroNorth – (and fittingly bypass most of Queens, the borough whose NIMBY opposition has kept a Laguardia link from happening for our entire lifetimes). Even Staten Island would benefit, with only a 2 seat ride from South Ferry.

    It can pop out of the ground between 1st and 2nd Aves in Manhattan, stay north of the Triboro, and run elevated all the way to 19th Ave and Hazen St – a logical place for a station – before heading back underground. One more station on Randalls Island just west of the hell gate superstructure, and perhaps another east of the power plant about 37th St and 19th Ave. Add that airport and you’ve only got 4 or 5 stations total for a pretty quick trip from the MNR stop. Most of it could be built with the speed and efficiency of the AirTrain from Jamaica to JFK, and the industrial areas would offer zero resistance to being able to get their workers to and from by subway. I know workers at the Wards Island Waste Water Treatment Plant who would love to take the train to work in the morning. The path would be all but NIMBY proof.

    And nothing says, “Bienvenido a la Gran Manzana” like visitors sharing their ride from Laguardia into Manhattan with someone just released from Rikers Island!

    • D. Graham says:

      The problem with said plan bringing a subway line out of the ground and onto a structure in a very congested traffic point that leads to several major arteries such as the Tri-boro, Willis Ave Bridge and 2nd Avenue itself as it’s a major southbound thorough fare.

      Not to mention that a great deal of Randall’s Island is parkland. If the same was suggested for Central Park WWIII would be minutes away.

      • Nyland8 says:

        Actually these are both non-issues in this case. The land to climb out of the ground just north of the Triboro approach is available. Any brief look at google maps reveals this.

        Also, Randalls Island is NOT a neighborhood park for ANYBODY! Comparing it to Central Park is beyond hyperbolic. The ball fields on that island are countless and underused. There are no resident NIMBYs to mount any effective obstruction – and, quite the contrary, the people who DO use the park facilities there would more-than-likely be DELIGHTED to have subway access. I know I would.

        Available Land: No Issue
        Noise Level: No Issue
        Cost of elevated vs. tunnel: Pennies on the dollar
        Long Term Maintenance Cost: Comparable to the AirTrain – i.e. less than for a tunnel

        All-in-all, it’s an elegant solution to what has become a timeless problem. If extended westward to Broadway, it would quite readily serve an enormous number of New Yorkers, inconvenience almost nobody, and the link to Laguardia would be built in a fraction of the time of most other options.

        • JPB says:

          I can’t speak for the ballfields but Randall’s Island track stadium is used by virtually every high school in New York City and more than a few in Westchester.

          • SEAN says:

            Some food for thaught. When the first light rail line was built in Minneapolis, part of the route includes tunnels under the airport with stations at the terminals. Not saying it’s the right solution here at LGA, but the option needs to be studied. Perhaps Delta should get involved since they have the most to gain from a subway or AirTrain connection.

            • Nyland8 says:

              AND … the PANY/NJ ALSO has a lot to gain. It is, after all, their airport. Whatever subway project ultimately goes to LGA, the PA should be tapped for some portion of the costs.

              • SEAN says:

                Oh no doubt about that – to me the PANYNJ was already assumed & the Delta part was an add on.

              • AG says:

                I would think so… weren’t they (the PA) going to put up some of the money before for the “N”?

                • SEAN says:

                  I would think so… weren’t they (the PA) going to put up some of the money before for the “N”?

                  I recall readingg something on The Cranky Flyer about this about a year ago I think, but I might be confusing it with the terminal 4 expantion at JFK since they both involve expanded service by Delta. Delta is devoting a lot of time & resources to both JFK & LGA with service increases & terminal/ infrastructure upgrades wich are seriously needed. Direct subway access would be the cherry on top, but at least extending AirTrain to the subway from LGA would have a positive benefit.

                  I recall reading about a possible extention of AirTrain from LGA to Jackson Heights 74th Street sometime back, but I cant remember the details.

        • D. Graham says:

          Next to the Harlem/East River? There’s a reason tunnel portals are not near water. For reason of taking on water. Such a set up would be a blatant lack of learning from the experience of Sandy. The area you speak of is Zone B and it took on a great deal of water during Sandy. It even took on some water during Irene.

          • Nyland8 says:

            ?? I’m talking about an elevated structure. The SAS is ALREADY a tunnel, and it is ALREADY planned to reach that point. Nothing in my suggestion need incur an unshielded tunnel opening near the water. Any reasonable design would include retaining walls above any projected high water mark. That’s just good practice.

    • Eric says:

      You wouldn’t have to make the whole thing elevated. Only west of 78th street. East of 78th street, where the flightpath is, you could put it at grade. This would require rebuilding two bridges (or taking a lane off the parkway in each direction), but that would much cheaper than tunneling the whole thing.

    • Bgriff says:

      The problem of interfering with the runway is one I had not considered. The “traditional” northern extension from Ditmars up to the Con Ed property and then over to the Marine Air Terminal similarly does not really explain what to do about getting around the runway–tunneling is one option, but a very expensive and complicated one, or alternatively you have to take a significant out-of-the-way jog to get back around to the main terminals.

      Though at least if you did the out-of-the-way jog around the runway, you could conceivably at least put the rail tracks at grade, next to some of the existing service roads (it would be a tight fit, but room could be found), which would eliminate the vertical clearance problem.

      These issues do raise the question of whether some sort of access via Willets Point is a better path, though. On a nice day without much luggage, it is even conceivable to walk from Terminal D at LGA to the 111th Street stop on the 7. Unfortunately a 7 train loop-around extension is a less desirable option, both because cutting off every other 7 train from Willets Pt and Flushing stations is much more painful than cutting off every other N/Q train from Ditmars, and because that 7 route would result in a much longer and slower trip into Manhattan than via the Astoria line. The LIRR option is not ideal since frequency wouldn’t be great, but it’s worth exploring, especially once ESA frees up some slack capacity in the LIRR system (which should be right around the same time that Phase III of SAS wraps up).

    • WillB says:

      > run an elevated link from the SAS across Randalls Island, through > the back side of the Queens power plant, along 19th Ave

      All that to avoid a 2 block extension through 31st street?

      There must be a way to make that palatable. Some kind of noise barriers, perhaps?

      Extends those all the way back to Astoria Blvd and the neighborhood a as a whole will even benefit from the construction.

    • ben guthrie says:

      I was going to suggest this very idea. Run it from the 1 train at Broadway & 125th just as suggested. It also has the beauty of providing many transfer options between the north/south lines as they cross 125th street, especially nice when there are problems on one of said lines.

      A station on Randall’s Island would be a big plus for those ball fields and the stadium. I remember what a PITA it was getting to my daughter’s soccer and softball games there.

      I don’t know what is in the area north of 20th ave & west of the water treatment plant. It doesn’t look like much on Google’s aerial view. Seems to me this area could become a valuable shopping area with several big box stores. Perhaps even additional airport parking & car rental. All it needs is a subway station.

  7. adc says:

    In the picture above it looks like it runs along existing coming from Ditmars before cutting into a few buildings right next to the GCP. The streets running over the highway are pretty low, so the EL would have to go over them. When you get to the Hell’s gate line you might have room to squeeze under it, though you’d probably have to lose Steinway or 44th st over the GCP if not both. If you go over, you’d need the EL pretty high up to clear the overhead wires, the el would be towering over the neighborhood. That would be a hard sell. If you run over 82nd you wouldn’t have time to dive down before crossing the path of the runway. The GCP ROW should be wide enough to accommodate the train at highway level, but you’d have to rebuild at least one overpass to make room. Maybe lose an exit unless you tunnel it under the train. More construction along the GCP will earn the ire of commuters. Not sure anyone in office can withstand that and the NIMBYs along the way. How much longer would the ride be if you ran along the GCP from the other side? Queensboro plaza to ditmars takes 9 minutes by schedule on the N. 17-18 minutes from queensboro plaza to mets willets point, which seems closer to the airport than ditmars. So maybe a 7 minute difference in runtime? Compared to the cost of the cab would that be such a dealbreaker for travellers? I would think the bigger problem would be diverting trains from Main st given the traffic there.

    • Brad says:

      The building it would cut into would be the famed Neptune Diner. You’d have better luck destroying a church than the Neptune Diner.

  8. John says:

    I just flew into LGA a couple weeks ago and took the Q70, and it was pretty slick. It’s basically an express bus from the airport to the Jackson Heights station, and from there you have multiple options to get to various parts of Manhattan.

    Despite the lack of rail connection, I really like flying into LGA.

  9. RailPhilly says:

    If they were going to put a Subway under Grand Central Parkway, it ought to just keep going under Astoria Blvd, cross the East river, and then under 86th street in Manhattan to connect the 3 (going on 4) 86th Street stations

  10. BoerumHillScott says:

    This looks like a plan to bring the subway to the back side of the Terminal B parking garage, and would require a half mile to three quarters of a mile walk to get to Terminals C and D.
    Given the size and layout of LGA, I think better express busses from the terminals to the subway is the best use of funds.

  11. Eric F says:

    If you are thinking big, maybe tunnel to LGA’s central terminal building, then send the tunnel under Rikers and to the Bronx and hook up with the 6 and then the 2/5. That way you get Bronx access to LGA and a relief and resiliency route for Bronx into Manhattan.

    Or take your tunnel from the Central Terminal and keep going east and provide a stop at College Point, which has zilch in the way of subway access.

    • johndmuller says:

      I (sort of) like the idea of going over to the Bronx (and especially that of connecting all those lines in the Bronx to the N & Q) – it’s a Triboro Rx without messing with the railroad ROW. On the other hand, going to the airport is a bit of a detour on that trip.

      Maybe some of the trains could go direct to Rikers and others could go via the airport. Or maybe the line to the Bronx goes through Rikers and the Airport, but then goes to Citi Field and over to Jamaica somehow. Or forget the Bronx and just do N &/or Q to Jamaica via the airport, etc.

      As to the Astoria nimby’s, perhaps if the issue is phrased to be a matter of how, rather than if – i.e. ‘Pick one of these airport routes’ – there might be a different dynamic.

      The reason for the ‘(sort of)’, is that I can’t help but wince at the thought of the various movie scenarios involving the subway, escaped prisoners, and the airport.

  12. Bolwerk says:

    What makes this somewhat more financially defensible than the PATH expansion is it also expands service to new neighborhoods. But they are relatively low-density neighborhoods.

  13. Ed says:

    Talk about East River, Randalls Island etc. seems like nuts to me as someone that doesn’t live in NY. Its quite obvious that the best route is just extending the N line into the airport. Closest and most direct way in. Yes some people will be hurt by this but many more will benefit. Someone needs to grow some balls.

    • Nyland8 says:

      Someone already has balls. That’s what’s kept that link from being built for the past three generations.

      • SEAN says:

        At times it’s nessessary to be a ballbuster, and this is one of those times. I say bring on the NYMBY’S!

        LETS! GET! READY! TO! RUMBLLLLLLLLLLLLE!!!!!

  14. BrooklynBus says:

    What is the difference (other than funding source) between constructing an elevated line along the median of the Grand Central and building the inferior Airtrrain (which does not provide a direct connection to Manhattan) along the median of the Grand Central? Did Airtrain “scar” that portion of Queens? It really seems like a flimsy NIMBY excuse.

    • Bolwerk says:

      NIMBY = Not In My BackYard

      It was not in their backyards, so they didn’t give a shit.

      • al says:

        AirTrain crew also few the local pols and honchos to Vancouver to see the technology in action. When the Vancouver Skytrains ran by on an elevated section it was within the local ambient urban noise profile. The same CAN NOT be said with the Astoria El.

        • Nyland8 says:

          The extension of the Astoria El need not be the same type of construction as the existing one – which is nothing but a huge steel superstructure that rings like a giant tuning fork. The extension could be constructed similar to the AirTrain – which would be “within the local ambient urban noise profile”. In fact, using a channel design, it could be made all but silent.

          But that’s not the issue. It blots out the sun. What we’re talking about for the area residents is simply the darkness of living in the shadow of another 3 blocks of elevated trains. And that alone would be enough to incur NIMBY backlash.

          • Bolwerk says:

            European trains are often accompanied only by a “woosh” sound, if that.

          • Eric says:

            Put it in the median, or on the southern side of GCP. We’re in the northern hemisphere. The sun is to the south, shadows always point north. Nobody’s house would be shadowed, only a few lanes of traffic.

            • Nyland8 says:

              I’m not talking about the shadow cast along the highway – I’m referring to the opposition of continuing up 31st St.

              The AirTrain casts a westward shadow in the AM, and an eastward shadow in the PM. Nobody filed a lawsuit to stop it based on sometimes being in it’s shadow, because it is too distant. It’s only when you’re directly under it that it would actually darken the street you’re on. The residents north of the GCP would still be exposed to northern light.

  15. lawhawk says:

    Perhaps it may be time to consider running the AirTrain from Jamaica to LGA, such that you can link between LGA and JFK via AirTrain in some fashion. Would it be as elegant as a link on the N from Astoria? Nope.

    Would it be as short a ride for some? Nope. But Jamaica is a hub, and has connections with LIRR and M lines.

    Extend the AirTrain down the median to the GCP. It would result in the least disruption to the surrounding neighborhood, and it would vastly improve travel along one of the busiest corridors in the City.

    Just a thought….

    Provide stops for the tennis center/Citifield, perhaps one at Astoria Blvd, and then at the LGA Central Terminal area and car rental facility (consolidated on airport for purpose of this exercise) for a transfer to the on-airport shuttle between the terminals.

    • nick says:

      It looks like there is plenty of room alongside the GCP to run the AirTrain north, especially once you’re past Queens Blvd., so land acquisition costs would likely be minimal. Putting a station at Mets/Willets Point would allow connections from the 7 and the LIRR Port Washington line, serving northern Queens and NW Nassau, as well as connecting the stadiums and whatever other development might end up in Willets Pt. There should be space between the GCP and the parking lots to build a pair of elevated stations for the C/D and the main terminal, with elevated, enclosed walkways to the terminals.

      Plus, there is the added benefit of a direct connection between JFK and LGA, which could help expand traveler flexibility for potential connections between two congested airports.

  16. Larry Littlefield says:

    You missed one alternative — one favored by Port Authority planners.

    The Airtrain was originally supposed to be extended on to LaGuardia airport, providing a link between the two airports, then down to Long Island City and onto Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge.

    Manhattan residents shot down an airport terminal on the other side of the bridge. So Port Authority planners wanted the same plan, but with a terminal at Queens Plaza, were a host of subway transfers would be available.

    • Bgriff says:

      This plan is quite ambitious but a smaller-scale version could have the extension run from Jamaica, up the GCP, and terminate at Astoria Blvd N station (assuming issues with vertical clearance around the end of the runway could be addressed–perhaps by giving up a couple of the often-more-than-needed lanes of the GCP right where it runs around the end of the runway, and have the train run at grade through that area). That would connect the two airports and provide another access point to the AirTrain.

      The two airport connection mainly benefits out-of-towners, though New Yorkers could also benefit if Delta and American could be convinced to consolidate some of their routes which are currently duplicated between JFK and LGA and instead sell inter-airport connections, which would increase total local airport capacity. Those inter-airport connections would require connecting passengers to re-clear security, though, so they might not succeed.

      (Though at that point, you have a huge new circumferential transit line that is being artificially hobbled by its high price and connection only to airports. Some have already observed that the current AirTrain bypasses some transit-poor neighborhoods that could use a stop on the system, and that effect would become extreme with this extension in place.)

  17. Michael B says:

    Has anyone thought about just turning the Q70 into a free shuttle? I’ve taken the Q70 twice thus far and it’s great – it’s a quick 10 minute ride.

    I doubt the MTA would loose money considering how many of its passengers are using a Metrocard transfer anyway. If branded properly they may even increase revenue – think of all the visitors who might take a “free shuttle” to the subway but balk at city bus. Do it right and it might be more popular than the JFK Airtrain.

    Just saying, brand this bus a bit differently and we could have something pretty great!

    • Larry Littlefield says:

      That bus is a huge, huge improvement. It should be much better marketed. I didn’t know it was already implemented.

      “Free shuttle” is a good idea. For those who live in the neighborhood, it really would be free. But others would be paying for a transit trip — on the subway or LIRR — they might not have taken otherwise.

    • Bgriff says:

      I agree, the Q70 is great and accomplishes maybe 30% of what a train solution might, for .0001% of the cost. When I took it the bus was quite full, so I hope it continues to be well-used. Usage equals more frequencies equals more usage equals virtuous cycle.

  18. aphrael says:

    It certainly won’t solve the problem, but it’s worth noting that after the M60 was denied SBS status, the MTA changed its mind, and it’s expected to start in April:

    http://new.mta.info/news-selec.....coming-125

    As someone who lives in Morningside Heights and has close friends in Astoria, I’m *very excited* by this news.

  19. Clarke says:

    Aren’t or haven’t they just built some tunnel provisions at LGA as part of the construction? I feel like I read something in the past year about a tunnel box being built under new parking garage. Cannot find anything in Google.

  20. Phantom says:

    I use the M60 bus fairly often.

    The buses seem to always be jam packed. There should run more frequently.

    One might think that in a city that gets things done, like Chicago, the opposition of NIMBYs and Queens politicians would have been steamrollered in the general public interest and they would have just built the LGA extension. In 1965 or whatever.

    • AG says:

      You consider Chicago a city that “gets things done”?? How so? Their own regional commission doesn’t even think so:

      http://www.chicagotribune.com/.....5285.story

      • Phantom says:

        Chicago

        O’Hare CTA connection opened in 1984
        Midway CTA connection opened in 1993

        These are one seat proper subway services right to the Loop, not Airtrain to subway, M60 to subway, or Airtrain to NJT two step processes.

        NYC / NYS has taken 80 years or whatever to build a three subway station extension on Second Avenue. When they open, the MTA will never stop congratulating themselves on the great job they did. You’d think they built the Pyramids.

        • AG says:

          Sure – one seat rides to the airport are great… but they don’t make the entirety of a transit system.

          From the Chicago Tribune:
          “Even major suburban job centers, such as the bustling I-90 Corridor from O’Hare to Schaumburg; the crowded Oak Brook area and booming Naperville, “are not well-served by transit,” and most jobs in the region can’t be reached in a 90-minute commute, the analysis found.”
          “We’ve had community residents fighting for the Red Line for as long as 30 years,”
          “We’re aware there are areas where we can do a better job, but first, show me the money,”

          Those are not my words… those are words directly from Chicago. I would never say the MTA is great – but it’s not just the Illinois study – according to “Walk Score” – Chicago has plenty of transit work to do:

          http://blog.walkscore.com/2014.....c-transit/

        • BoerumHillScott says:

          The O’Hare connection does not cover all terminals, and works in conjunction with a people-mover system.
          Most airports that have “direct connections” still require a transfer to get to some or all gates.

  21. Larry Greenfield says:

    Another reason the MTA and Port Authority should be merged. These capital spending decisions should be made in a much wider political context. The merger would also go a long way to eliminating the kind of political tricks the Port Authority is capable of.

    • Nyland8 says:

      +1

      We live in a single, greater metropolitan area. If at least the PATH were subsumed into the MTA, then some portion of the decision making would be done serving regional interests better than they do now.

      • Mike says:

        I see your point, but it’s difficult to serve a communities in New Jersey (Hoboken, JC, Newark, etc.) with an organization the don’t contribute to and does not have authority to operate and do business in their state. The MTA’s board is also appointed by elected officials that NJ citizens cannot vote for. While I (along with countless others) see the point of having a unified rapid transportation system, it’s hard to equitably “consume” the PATH system without turning the MTA into a nearly unaccountable bi-state commission (which is what PANYNJ is now) or disenfranchising voters in one or both states.

        • AG says:

          I don’t think they should merge (MTA and PA) because they don’t serve the same function. But I do think PATH should be taken over by the MTA. Metro North runs into Connecticut and they do have to collaborate. Just as the proposal is for NYCT to take the #7 to Jersey… I think they could take over PATH.

          • Mike says:

            Metro-North service in Connecticut is based on an operating agreement with the Connecticut Department of Transportation. They pay 66% of the operating cost of the New Haven Line and 100% of all the branches. They also set their own fares. I don’t think this kind of arrangement makes sense for the NYCT operation of the PATH system.

            You also have the issue of labor laws — PATH employees are railroad employees that contribute to RRB instead of of Social Security and their job actions are subject to the the Railway Labor Act. NYCT employees are covered under the Taylor Law (a NY State Law) and prohibit strikes and other measures that may be permitted under the RLA.

            It’s not apples-to-apples merging.

            • AG says:

              No one said it would be apples to apples… just saying it’s possible. again – in the same way there was consideration of extending the 7 to NJ – it could be the same basic idea. As to labor laws – there is no reason the Feds wouldn’t give a waiver of some sort.

              • Mike says:

                You can’t have a state agency (or a two-state commission like the Port Authority) charging two wages, two benefit levels, and different job protections for what amounts to the same job (use the engineer/train operator, as an example). That pesky 14th Amendment will demonstrate that it is an unequal protection under the law.

                Either the NYCT employees get a huge bump in pay and relief from the Taylor Law, or you somehow seal off PATH from the rest of the national rail network (not sure how that would work in the Newark area) and you cut the pay of the PATH workers to match the NYCT ones where appropriate. The MTA certainly doesn’t want to pay the raises and lose the control the Taylor Law affords them with the TA employees, and you’d be hard-pressed to justify a pay cut and loss of job protections to PATH workers.

                Yes, there was consideration to extending the 7 to New Jersey, but overcoming the hurdles of operating in New Jersey aren’t the same as taking over an existing transit operation. A better example would be the original plan for the lower level of the GWB to have tracks and rail service to come from the IND. But again, that didn’t materialize either.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  What would probably happen is current PATH employees would be grandfathered into their job packages and future hires would get MTA-esque job packages.

                  • Mike says:

                    I’m not sure how well that would hold up in court that a fraction of the workforce is allowed to strike, and the other portion is not allowed to strike to get the same thing. There’s a big difference in being covered under the railway labor act. If they weren’t considered to be RR workers already I agree that they would be grandfathered in, not too unlike what happened with MTA Bus Company. All of those drivers are in a different union local with a different comp plan compared to what existing NYCT drivers and staff are receiving.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      I don’t see why it’s a problem. Granted, it hasn’t much happened, but I don’t see why PATH can’t stop being an FRA railroad. The compensation packages would be grandfathered in. The law governing their status would not be. At some point, SIRT stopped being a legal railroad. What happened then?

                      (MTA Bus might be different in part because the drivers were private and never had to take a civil service exam.)

        • Nyland8 says:

          ” … to and does not have authority to operate and do business in their state.”

          Uh … Mike. Don’t look now, but the MTA already operates and does business in New Jersey – and has for decades. And it does so without any Port Authority consent or involvement. In the galaxy of human achievement, getting trains to run between States in the same country is relatively easy. Agreements are negotiated, things move forward, communities are served.

          The fact that the PA currently owns and operates the Trans-Hudson Tubes is a cruel twist of fate – not Divine will. What man has done, man can undo – with the wave of a pen.

          • Mike says:

            Would you be so kind as to name the MTA agency that operates in New Jersey? Metro-North’s West-of-Hudson trains are operated under an agreement with NJ Transit. NJ Transit runs the trains but only sets the fares for NJ stations. MNR sets the fares for the NY State stations along the line and reimburses NJT for certain operating costs. In fact, under previous deals there was a “hold down” clause that would keep NJ Transit fares along the line lower than NY’s so you couldn’t buy a cheaper NY ticket and use it for commuting from NJ.

            I never mentioned the need for consent or involvement of the Port Authority, so I am not sure why you referred to it. I agree that no matter what happens they’re not required to be involved. I only pointed out that “consuming” the PATH system isn’t as easy as connecting tracks and changing the agency address on the payroll system.

            • Nyland8 says:

              Well I think you answered your own question, Mike. MetroNorth operates and does business in New Jersey. It does … period. You can split hairs about what type of business, what revenue sharing, how equipment might be cross adapted, where, when and how it’s maintained … whatever. But Orange and Rockland Counties are served through New Jersey – and vice versa. The State line is not an obstacle.

              And for the record, I never said anything about connecting tracks. The entire PATH system can be operated as a “C” division of the subway system without ever directly connecting to it. As for changing the agency address on the payroll system, that CAN be done. Of course I recognize that there are other complications – but nothing insurmountable. All that’s really required is the political will.

              Anyway, the word I chose to use was subsumed – not consumed – although the image of one railroad consuming another tickles me.

              • Mike says:

                No, I didn’t answer my own question. But it does show that your understanding of “doing business” doesn’t comport with the law or what is actually happening. Paying someone to run trains for you isn’t the same as running the trains yourself. Orange and Rockland counties are served by another operator, the costs of which are underwritten by Metro-North.

                If the folks in NJ want more service on their train lines, they can lobby their legislators to provide more funding and voila, more service. The same happens here in New York. How does a person in New Jersey get more service from the PATH train that is managed by people that they don’t vote for (directly or indirectly)? If you don’t like what the MTA is doing you can vote for a different governor who promises to put new faces on the MTA board. Same goes for the Mayor in NYC, and county executives in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester (the other 4 counties don’t contribute as much and only have a 1/4 vote). Putting the PATH system in the hands of the MTA will effectively disenfranchise NJ PATH riders, especially those that don’t work or live in NYC. How would (or how should) the MTA solve that problem?

                Political will can move the PATH system into the hands of the MTA or anyone else, sure. But that will doesn’t exist and likely won’t anytime soon. That says nothing for running a unified transit system, which is what you would ultimately want if you ever give control to the MTA.

                Personally it would be beyond stupid for them to take PATH without taking another bridge or tunnel to go along with it. PATH is a loser on the PA balance sheet, just like the transit systems here in NY. It’s only the excessive bridge tolls that cover the losses, and the crazy taxes crammed into our lives that cover the capital spending.

                It sounds nice on paper to have PATH be an extension of the IRT, but I don’t see it happening soon. As one of the other commenters pointed out, there seems to be a tunnel that they started planning for about 90 years ago that hasn’t materialized, maybe they should work on that.

                • Nyland8 says:

                  Well … I’ve been on both the Bergen and Main Lines of NJTransit many times, including twice this year already. I’ve seen cars and locomotives that belong to MetroNorth – so to me, that means the MTA is running in New Jersey, however convoluted the details notwithstanding.

                  As for being a loser on the balance sheet, as you point out, so is our system … so … that’s a non-issue. If bridge revenues are that lucrative, then what bridge would you suggest be thrown into the deal?

                  As far as how New Jersey would be represented in the newly aligned MTA, they’d get out of it what they put into it – which, considering the mismanagement, is probably more than they’re getting now from the PA. I don’t think the MTA would have spent billions of tax dollars building a Taj Mahal at the WTC Station. But maybe I’m wrong.

                  Anyway, we’d agree that my proposal isn’t about to happen anytime soon. No matter what the advantages might be – in operating costs, buying power, eliminating redundant layers of management, etc, – the political will currently does not exist. And if people are filled to brimming with pessimistic notions about why it can’t be done, then that won’t bring it one day closer. I’m sure we can agree on that.

              • sonicboy678 says:

                There actually is a C Division; it covers maintenance of the subway system.

                • Nyland8 says:

                  Yeah … I don’t care if you call it the X division. All we’re talking about here is nomenclature. It only has the be a division distinct from the existing A & B, because it is distinct in terms of equipment used, and perhaps FRA designation … that’s all.

    • AG says:

      That would be too big of an organization…. The PA is essentially meant to handle anything related to cargo coming into and leaving the region… The airports are huge movers of cargo – just liek the shipping ports. The PATH should be given over to the MTA though… and the PA could focus on that Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel that is an 100 year old idea.

  22. Eric F says:

    It looks like the first line of this item is misleading, albeit not due to the fault of the author. Taking a look at the PA plan, they intend to limit PATH extension spending to an even billion. Not clear from where they expect the final third to materialize.

    • lawhawk says:

      Not quite sure where you’ve gotten your numbers from but the capital plan indicates on page 4 that they’ll spend $1.2 billion for the 2014-2023 period.

      Meanwhile, page 19 indicates a $1.5 billion total cost, of which only $1 billion is to be from PANYNJ. The balance is ostensibly coming from the feds (because NJ isn’t going to kick in money it doesn’t have in the TTF and Christie’s not about to spend anything on mass transit).

      Elsewhere on the same page 19, the graph indicating annual expenditures indicates $275 million spent in 2017 and 2018 each, plus another $650 million spent for 2019 through 2023. By my math, that comes up with $1.2 billion.

      What we learn from the capital plan is that they can’t even keep the numbers straight.

  23. Ryan says:

    Why bother extending the N at all?

    Building AirTrain LGA using PATH rolling stock, running between Astoria and 94th Street entirely via the Grand Central Parkway (no deviations, no track connections, doesn’t matter elevated or otherwise) and then turning up to hit Terminal B (diving through P1 if elevated) in a subterranean stop? Assume Terminal A is going to be abandoned eventually (provision to force the issue if we have to), and leave the door open for a future eastward extension to Terminal D plus a future westward extension across the East River into an 86th Street subway?

    Hell, don’t even call it AirTrain LGA. Call it PATH!

  24. Louz says:

    Wow you guys have some really great thoughts on transportation. I’m wondering what you think about the 7 train? I cannot figure out what this train will be like in 5-7 years. The extension to Hudson Yards is great but so many major stations will now be on this line, how many trains will they actually be able to run to meet demand, a convention on the same day as a mets game could be a mad house. Citified, Flushing Main Street, Woodside, Hunterspoint, Grand Central Station, Bryant Park, Time Sq, Hudson Yards. Seems like a disaster waiting to happen.

  25. bigbellymon4 says:

    I was thinking of splitting the line so it operates to 8th av-14st and secacus. Then at the other end the line would be extend and split again to operate to college point via 150 and bayside. Then will then open the line to headways of 2 mins or less (when the CBTC installation is finished) between 34st hudson yards and flushing.

  26. Jo po says:

    I think you would need to build a tunnel for that proposal. Having an elevated line right near the runway could pose a safety issue….no? Sure under normal circumstances it’s fine, but seeing that the airport attracts lots of birds, I don’t think placing obstructions is a good idea.

    • sonicboy678 says:

      Then extend the N to Terminal A so people are at least AT the airport and reverse the Q48 (instead of hitting Terminal D first, go to Terminal A and then D). The Port Authority could further contribute by providing additional shuttle service between Terminal A and the other terminals.

  27. Still Second Avenue to 96th Street, the Grand Central Parkway seems to be the most feasible alternative.

  28. twospirits says:

    Why not construct an extension from Queensboro plaza to the airport via the Skillman yards.
    There is existing trackage at Queensboro plaza that leads to the now demolished north side terminal of the Queensboro Plaza elevated 7/N station.
    This trackage crosses underneath the N line. All the MTA would need is to…
    01-Create a south/east bound connection from the existing N train to the existing trackage for east bound trains.
    02-Use the existing north side trackage that runs undernealth the N tracks along the 7 tracks and create an additional track connection to the westbound N track just before the terminal.
    03-At about a few meters south of Jackson Ave, these two new tracks will curve above the Skillman yards and continue at grade for a few miles.
    04-Just before Woodside ave, merge onto the existing Amtrack line until Astoria.
    05-At around 28th avenue, the Amtrack line runs parallel to the South Brooklyn service CSX line. The airport line can then run on this track.
    (a new track would have to be created at this point since there is only one existing CSX track but with space for another).
    06-At 44th street these two tracks will curve onto Grand Central Parkway/Astoria Blvd.
    07-At about 77th and Astoria, the tracks will downgrade into tunnel level (fully underground by at Astoria Blvd North).
    08-At about 83rd st, the underground tracks will curve north onto Bowery Bay Blvd going north.
    09-The tracks will curve right (still underground) towards the front of the Marine Air Terminal with a new station there.
    10-The tracks will continue east until the Central Air terminal (new station there).
    11-The tracks will continue east until the Delta Terminal (new station there).

    Most would be away from neighborhood back yards and on existing railroad right a way and neighborhoods.

  29. Roy says:

    why not extend the 7 train up the GCP?

  30. tony says:

    I don’t get what the big deal is … LGA need a subway connection their is no denying it. The way I see I cant see why not expanding the 31st l in to the con ed plant and un a tunnel the rest of the way.. 31 street is wide enough… or the city can simply add on to the 63rd street tunnel thur 21 st and run it along the Astoria boulevard. the way I see it the M60 Q33 Q70 isn’t cutting it . it time for change.. and people need to get over N.I.M.B.Y

  31. Tex Bennett says:

    Monorail is the answer. Mimimun disrupture to residential housing. Modern styling. Tokyo does it from Haneda airport to Japanese Railways connection. Bombidier constructed it for Disney world and it works. Not space age technology but a solution.

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