Sep
21

As United investigation continues, what future the Newark PATH extension?

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Will a federal investigation or a $2 billion price tag sink the Newark PATH extension?

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is continuing his push for the White House as trouble circles a few of his pet projects back at home. As an outgrowth of the investigation into the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal, United Airlines’ CEO and two of the airlines’ top executives resigned, and the feds haven’t closed the books on potential criminal charges. In the background — or perhaps the foreground of this mess — is the Port Authority and the planned PATH extension to the Newark Airport train stop.

We first heard of the latest iteration to send the PATH from Newark Penn Station to the airport two years ago when news broke of a $1 billion plan Christie had been considering. Eventually, the costs grew to $1.5 billion, and as I explained in my last post on the project ten months ago, it was overpriced, underutilized and inefficient. The costs, as you’ll see, may now be around $2 billion, and a multi-billion-dollar extension to a transfer point to an AirTrain already served by rail with a projected daily ridership of 6000 is simply a terrible use of the finite dollars available for transit expansion.

Meanwhile, underlying the initial proposal was a sense that something else rather than rational transit planning was driving this project forward. Ted Mann first wrote about the horse-trading with United back in September of 2013. Reportedly, Christie’s team had asked for United to serve Atlantic City in exchange for state support and funding for the PATH extension. It was politics at its finest.

Now, certain Garden State factions want to put a hold on the PATH extension, and it’s creating tension in Trenton. Earlier this month, state lawmakers urged the Port Authority to put the project on hold at least until the feds are through with their investigation. “The Port Authority should suspend any further spending on that project until United Airlines’ internal investigation, the findings, become public, until the criminal investigation of that becomes public,” NJ State Senator Paul Sarlo said.

Port Authority officials defended the project. “The extension of PATH to Newark airport was a proposed capital project long before David Samson was chairman of the Port Authority,” Christie appointee and current PA Chair John Degnan said. He cited a Regional Plan Association endorsement as proof that “the project stands on its own.”

Still, considering the issues with this proposal, it’s not a surprise state officials want the Port Authority to prioritize a new bus terminal and a trans-Hudson tunnel before the agency revisits this flawed PATH extension. Meanwhile, though, Newark politicians want to keep moving on the PATH extension. John Sharpe James, a Newark councilmen, spoke out forcefully in favor of the plan:

James, however, said the project had been extensively studied by regional planning groups and the Newark Housing Authority, and was not being pushed through haphazardly. “This expansion is not an overnight decision,” he said. “It’s sorely needed and its probably one of the most massive projects in this area.”

…James, who represents the city’s South Ward, said residents of the Frelinghuysen and Dayton Street area, where the extension and a new train station would be built, are counting on it to bring jobs and new fortunes to an area that has long been rife with crime and abject poverty…Following news of the Port Authority’s commitment to the extension, multiple hotels have begun plans for construction in the areas outside Weequahic Park, which officials have hoped might spur further development in one of the city’s most economically depressed neighborhoods.

James said he was concerned that those calling for a halt to work on the PATH line might have reservations beyond any potential malfeasance by United. During last week’s hearing, Weinberg said the nearly $2 billion the project might require might be better used on a new Port Authority Bus Terminal or the proposed Gateway trans-Hudson rail tunnel. “I believe the folks who have been talking have their other pet projects they want to fund,” James said.

There’s very little doubt that “pet projects” like a trans-Hudson rail tunnel would be far better for the region than a PATH extension that won’t stop between Newark and the airport. But that’s besides the point. The latest version of the PATH proposal may have come about through illegal backroom dealings, and even if it didn’t, at $2 billion, this is a laughably terrible idea. With this price tag, we’re through the looking glass on lack of bang for the buck, and the Port Authority should not proceed with this project. If it takes a major investigation into malfeasance between the state of New Jersey and United to get to that point since politicians won’t or can’t look at it rationally, so be it. I’m sure this isn’t the end of the line for this story though.



Categories : PANYNJ

102 Responses to “As United investigation continues, what future the Newark PATH extension?”

  1. Robert LaMarca says:

    What is really interesting: Where do they get a $2,000,000,000 price tag for one mile of above ground rail? How can this possibly cost more than the 7 train extension, also a mile and underground through midtown?

    Is this even the real price tag, or the lowball they will use to get approvals?

    Why would a redundant rail connection on a thin route that plans to connect to the Air Train, a system on the verge of collapse ( according to the PA ), why would this spur development of new hotels? Who would pour concrete for a new project that depends upon the PA to get a new massive project completed on time?

    Could the new hotels be under development for reasons that have nothing to do with the PATH extension? Perhaps simple the pressures of real estate and tax prices closer to midtown

    • Jeff says:

      It’s a 3 mile long expansion of a current ROW which is a rather complicated task.

      It’s rapid transit vs NJ Transit which runs once every 30 mins which is why it spur development.

      It’s a also crime ridden area that currently has no rapid transit access to Midtown, so not sure why you think that Manhattan prices has anything to do with it.

      • With no stops planned between Newark Penn and the airport, the area you discuss still won’t have rapid transit access to Midtown. Without an overhaul of the plan, that area will feel no impact from a PATH extension.

        • Eric F says:

          The PA is not exactly my favorite agency, but this is one area where their lack of communication skills is kneecapping themselves.

          For the cheap seats:

          – The total project cost assumes a private sector (non-PA $) investment of something like $500 million for a hotel/event space parking garage at the station site. The headline number is misleading large as it relates to PA money.

          – Money for the project will be taken from airport passenger facility $ which PER SE cannot go to any of the wonderful things you would like it to go to.

          – The project involves a station area in south-west Newark that would be accessible to that community and would, in my view anyway, provide an impetus to create more park and ride space in south-west Newark, out of Newark center city.

          – For the last reason above, the project has large support in Newark itself, where it’s not considered a “pet project” not mentioned in the blog post, not sure why.

          – PATH to the airport has been on regional planners minds for 20 years, 30 years? Christie may be facilitating this and moving it, but it’s not something he came up with over a couple of Miller Lites on his couch.

          • Eric F says:

            Oops, I see you did site local Newark support. My third point is amiss.

            Related to that point, there are a lot of downtrodden relatively transit poor areas in Hillside, Irvington, etc. That can access the new station through short hop bus rides. I think the station would be a really big deal for that corner of Essex and Union Counties. Officials in those areas should mount a full court press for this thing.

            • Where’ve you seen an indication that there will be a station in SW Newark? So far, the only PA plans I’ve seen include no stations between Newark-Penn and the EWR train station.

              • AG says:

                Ben the article you sourced said there would be. It also said hotels are already planning to build next to it.

                • I think there’s some confusion from John Sharpe James regarding the scope of this project. Based upon this presentation, Newark’s Housing Authority has contemplated a station near Dayton Street, but unless I’ve missed a more recent update, the PA’s own scoping documents do not contain a second station. As far as I know, the PA hasn’t signed on for a second station in between Newark-Penn and the EWR Rail Link, though I admit I could be wrong.

                  • Eric F says:

                    There was a drawing shown at a PA board meeting, available on the ‘net. Said drawing shows the PATH station built on the west side of the current track configuration (i.e., not up against the airport grounds where the monorail is). This configuration effectively makes it a neighborhood station for southwest Newark unless they were to literally gate the thing off from the surrounding area.

              • Joe Steindam says:

                My understanding is that the PATH expansion to the EWR Rail Link station will finally include ground access to Frelinghuysen Avenue. The current station is entirely contained, you can only access the station via the AirTrain or NJ Transit/Amtrak, you can’t get to it from the surrounding area. I believe the plan with the PATH extension is to finally build an entrance to the station that will connect to those neighborhoods. It’s worth noting that this project could likely advance without the PATH extension, but I’m pretty sure it will be incorporated in the expansion of the Rail Link station for PATH. The original station was built by the PA using PFC money, and was not allowed to build outside access to the station. I’m starting to wonder whether the PA is planning on using PFC money for PATH to EWR.

          • AG says:

            A station in Newark certainly changes the dynamic and makes the cost increase more palatable. Just as what is going on in Harrison around the PATH station – Newark should see a bump in much needed development. I’m not certain why people would begrudge them that.

            • Bolwerk says:

              Two slabs of concrete justify a cost increase of 3x since ~2006? Methinks not.

              • AG says:

                When is any cost increase justified in this area? Seriously? If we are tackling costs that’s one thing – but until that happens it’s a waste of time to mention. In any event – “two slabs of concrete”? Let’s get serious. It is WAY more than that going on.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  I am serious. Conceptually there is no reason I can think of to make an elevated or embankment station cost more than low eight figures. You really don’t need much more than a concrete slab, even on a modern viaduct.

        • Spendmor Wastemor says:

          Having the airport train conveniently stop in the high crime area would be enough reason for me not to use it, and also enough reason to cancel my vote/support for it.

          Once you are old enough to be targeted for robberies etc you may change your perspective. Meanwhile, try to think of those that already are.

          • Ryan says:

            Don’t worry, I’m sure that the police will be on hand to issue swift executions to any of those scary poors/minorities who might have otherwise threatened your business travel with their nebulous criminal activities. 🙂

          • Bolwerk says:

            ^ Basically every intractable socioeconomic problem over the past 3-4 generations can be linked to this attitude.

            Because keeping high-crime areas isolated from transit is great for providing access to economic activity. Great idea!

          • AG says:

            Wow! Oh so you miss the part that economic development is part of what changed all the terribly crime ridden neighborhoods in NYC? Btw – criminals know how to travel to “safe areas” to rob people. But in any event – plenty of people are not as scared as you. Plus I doubt old people want to use trains to go to any airport – unless they have no bags. I’m sure all the young people who moved to formerly rough areas in NYC and Jersey City would consider cheaper Newark if they had a stop in that area to allow them to get to Jersey Citu and NYC jobs more easily.

        • Avi Frisch says:

          Even if it had a stop in Newark, it is hardly the most important transit issue facing the Port Authority region. The trans-hudson tunnel; the bus terminals; and many other projects are more important than this boondoggle.

      • Brandon says:

        Wouldn’t it make sense to just run trains more often and have timed transfers and fare integration with PATH than to spend an insane sum of money building a redundant line?

        • Eric F says:

          There seems to be two contradictory criticisms of the project.

          1: Line is redundant, accomplishes nothing.

          2: Principal airline tenant of EWR really wants this line badly, will make it’s airport operations highly desirable, earning it gobs of money, therefore evidence of corruption.

          I never took a college-level logic course, but 1 and 2 cannot be true at the same time.

          • 22r says:

            so which one is it?

          • Brandon says:

            It’s quite plausible for both to be true. A new line to the airport could increase the prestige of the airport/airline while being fairly useless from a transportation perspective, and as I said, completely redundant.

            Organization before electronics before concrete. We have done nothing to make it easier to connect from PATH to NJT in Newark and we are going to jump straight to duplicating the line while still not serving the airport directly with either train?

            • AG says:

              How could something that is useless increase prestige?

              • Brandon says:

                Do you really not believe that white elephant showpiece infrastructure exists?

                You don’t even have to look very far, there’s a 4 billion dollar showpiece station on the exact same line we are talking about.

                • AG says:

                  White elephants don’t enhance prestige. As to that station. It’s a rebuild… Grossly expensive – but a rebuild. It already existed. That’s not a good example. That said – if the shopping mall makes as much money as it did before – that’s another matter. Building that station in Paramus would be a white elephant. I’m literally across the street half the week. I see people streaming in and out of there (the temp station) well past rush hour. Too extravagant – but not a white elephant.

                  • Avi Frisch says:

                    Building PATH to Paramus would make sense, as Bergen County is spectacularly undeserved by rail transit options. The need to constantly duplicate things is exactly the problem with this project. They should focus on improving rail capacity to other areas.

          • Alon Levy says:

            They’re not terribly contradictory. Here’s what I believe:

            1. The line has very low transportation value. If it goes all the way to the terminals, then figure ridership is something like 25% of O&D traffic, which is on the order of 15,000/day. This means that $300 million is a reasonable cost, and $600 million is the upper limit of what’s acceptable. In normal countries, an urban viaduct of this length (about 8 km, Newark Penn to Terminal C) is around $600 million, so even setting aside the US cost premium, this is a marginal project.

            1.5. You can get extra value out of a station at South Street, but that still leaves you with a long stretch of line from South Street to Terminal C. Besides, if there’s no PATH extension, South Street you can handle with a commuter rail station. Commuter rail needs to be modernized with high off-peak frequency, mode-neutral fares (=same as PATH from Newark to New York), etc., but that’s independent of South Street.

            2. The PATH extension has positive value to United, which would like to see it built if someone else is paying. This comes from the fact that it has positive transportation value, especially for a private company that gains from poaching riders from JFK in a way that the traveling public does not.

            • adirondacker12800 says:

              They need someplace to store all the cars they will need to run ten cars trains on the Newark-World Trade Center route.

              • Alon Levy says:

                8 km, let’s say 10-minute service both peak and off-peak, 5 stops (South Street, preexisting Newark Airport station, Terminals A-C) –> 20 minutes extra roundtrip time –> 2 extra trainsets, or 3 if you want to be safe. The trainsets themselves, 30 cars’ worth of them, would be around $60 million. The yards… it doesn’t cost hundreds of millions to expand a yard to accommodate 3 trainsets. SAS involves a bigger service expansion, and somehow they’re not spending hundreds of millions on extra yards for the Q.

                • adirondacker12800 says:

                  If they are converting the yard tracks beyond Newark into running tracks they need to replace those yard tracks. Add 2 cars to an 8 car train you need 25% more cars. As soon as they extend Grove Street they are going to start running ten car trains.

  2. SEAN says:

    Amazing – just amazing how much grift takes place in the garden state & it’s governor is running for president?

    At $1 billion the PATH to EWR could have been doable, double that is beyond insane. Take the $2 billion & put it towards alt G, enough said.

    • Eric F says:

      Ideally a consortium of bloggers and anonymous internet commenters can announce a competing bid for the project, blowing the doors off the engineers’ estimates. After all, what do engineers know anyway?

  3. eo says:

    Has the Draft EIS come out? I have hard time believing that somehow serving about 6,000 passengers will come ahead of the No Built alternative which they must consider by law. If the EIS is not out, this is not done deal yet (it is a separate question why they are wasting money studying it).

    Where are they planning to put the path trains relative to the 6 Amtrak/NJTransit tracks and the two freight tracks? Assuming that his was planned for when the airport station was built, it appears that the provision is for the station and its two tracks to be between the freight tracks and the Airtran building. Given that this is to the east of Amtrak’s tracks while the Path tail tracks at Newark are on the west side, how are they planning to even get there by ducking over/under the mess of the NE corridor, the Conrail tracks, I-78 and McCarter Highway? If this involves building bridges/viaducts then that is why we are talking about $2B. Just compare it to the Tappan Zee bridge: this is slightly less than half the cost, with probably about the same length of elevated structure and somewhat narrower than half the new Tappan Zee Bridge. This is a “bridge-to-nowhere” not a surface line extension. Yes, there is no water there, but somehow this needs to cross all the other stuff in the way…

    • Joe Steindam says:

      The EIS is not out yet, the PA just commissioned the EIS last year. When the PA released bid documents last year for the EIS, they identified the area west of the existing station and NEC tracks (closer to NJ 27/Frelinghuysen Ave) as the location for the PATH station. It appears they wanted to avoid crossing over or under the NEC, although this would require diving under the Hunter Connection where the Raritan Valley line joins the NEC and the freight line passes overhead en route to Port Newark/Elizabeth.

    • Webster says:

      Theoretically, if we’re talking about alternatives, couldn’t they, at the very least, think of replacing the Air Train with PATH? As far as I know, they’re going to be replacing that thing, anyways…

      If we really wanted to be adventurous, why not continue on into Elizabeth and Staten Island?

    • Alistair says:

      I just measured it. From the end of PATH’s existing tail tracks, it’s half a mile on viaduct, then half a mile threading through various rail junctions (a bored tunnel could do the job here, but a diveunder should be sufficient), then one mile absolute max (probably three-quarters of a mile, depending on how long they want to make the tail tracks) at the surface, and you’re there.

      I can’t see how that could cost one billion, let alone two. Something’s inflating these numbers. Honestly, even half a billion would be inflated.

      The only remotely challenging parts are the diveunder and getting past the onramp from Poinier Street to McCarter Highway north — most likely the onramp will need to be realigned to curve from a point further west and stay between the highway and the offramp, but that doesn’t look too hard. (The offramp doesn’t appear to be too close, and separation isn’t as big of an issue at their closest points, because they’re both on viaducts, so you don’t need to worry about embankment grades and suchlike.)

      • Eric F says:

        – You are counting current PATH train storage as existing right of way. That storage trackage needs to be replaced and added to for the additional rail operations.

        – At present all Newark PATH trains, fare control, transfers, etc. are based on east bound only operations. All of that needs to change to allow west bound operations in addition to east bound. This will require redesign of elevated operations in Newark. I bet the rebuild will trigger ADA requirements on the existing operations, and Heaven knows what else. I honestly have no idea what they are even preliminarily planning to make this happen because I don’t see the space for it in Newark.

        – The gap in the right of way between the PATH tail tracks and the site of the new station is at a very congested point for passenger train, freight train, highway and arterial road uses. Threading those uses will be expensive and complex.

        — I have no idea if the above adds to $1 billion or whatever the PA assumes, but it’s not going to be cheap. One would think people on this blog would be among the most sophisticated about these kinds of considerations.

        • Nathanael says:

          — Replacing yard tracks with running tracks is CHEAP.

          — PATH has both an eastbound and a westbound platform at Newark. Newark is also ADA-accessible right now. Modifications should be cheap.

          — The cross under the railways and highways might be a problem.

  4. AG says:

    Well let’s get the one valid point out of the way… It’s overly expensive. BUT – that could be said for every single infrastructure project in this metro area. Couple things though. It was my understanding airports eye would e used for this. If so – it can’t be used for anything else so the idea what project is more worthy goes out the window. Also it’s pretty clear this is about the WTC. Everyone complains about how other world class cities have more up to date infrastructure. Well one thing they all have is direct rail access. This is not perfect but it makes the 3rd largest business district in the nation with an almost direct route to a large international airport. That is worth plenty in economic activity. As said by officials – this was in the works long before anyone even knew who Christie was.

  5. JJJJ says:

    The statement from John Sharpe James indicates he expects a station in South Newark, which is the only reason he or anyone else in Newark would support it.

    Frankly, thats the only extension thats needed – and the track already reaches there, its just used as storage.

    If anyone is interested, I wrote up a post earlier this summer about this whole thing, especially related to United abandoning JFK. I think the PATH extension is extremely important to United, and has factored into their long-term planning. They need EWR to be *THE* NYC airport for the business traveler. A single seat ride direct from Wall Street to the airport accomplishes that.

    http://stopandmove.blogspot.co.....-mean.html

    • Eric F says:

      It’s more than that even. There is a movement around the world to have semi-self-contained airport mini-cities with a whole economic ecosystem built around the airport. There isn’t too much of that in the U.S. I can think of the Denver airport area as a domestic example, maybe the south west Atlanta area has aspects of this. The PATH and related complex allows this type of development to occur in Newark, as crazy as it is to say that out loud. Again, this is an implication I draw, personally. For whatever reason, the PA is saying very little about this project that could be helpful to the cause.

      • Alon Levy says:

        There is a movement around the jet set and some authoritarian states to have semi-self-contained airport mini-cities with a whole economic ecosystem built around the airport.

        Corrected.

        I emphasize some authoritarian states because Singapore, which the global jet set worships in the same manner the Western far left used to worship the USSR and the PRC, is not building any aerotropolis. Changi is a global hub, but the city’s economy is based around the CBD and a new CBD built from scratch in the Marina, i.e. not at the airport.

        It says a lot that the first-world country most identified with these supposedly global trends does not in fact engage in them. Nor does any European country pay much attention to the aerotropolis concept. In Zurich, the airport is a major shopping node because it’s about the only place in town where shopping is legal on Sundays, but Zurich is not building a purpose-made edge city at the airport; it’s happy with its traditional CBD, thank you very much. Ditto Japan and South Korea. Tokyo’s worked on building a bunch of secondary sub-centers to decongest Central Tokyo, but none of them is at either Haneda or Narita.

    • Tower18 says:

      The catch with this line of thinking is that I’m not entirely convinced that as many of these Wall Street heavy hitters as they think will be queueing up for the PATH train to the airport. I know when I travel on the expense account, I take a car.

      From Broad and Water, it’s a 20 minute walk to the PATH station. Then the wait for a train. Then the train ride. Do we really expect legions of bankers to do this, vs. the black car waiting outside?

      Really a direct PATH connection to EWR is *TRULY USEFUL* only to tenants of the WTC buildings. And that tells you everything you need to know about who wants it.

      • Eric F says:

        There’s that contradiction again: (1) No one will really use it save, the small percentage of a few thousand office workers at WTC taking business flights, but no the ‘heavy hitters’ among those. (2) United REALLY wants it because it will enhance its business at the airport.

        “No one goes to [name of restaurant] because it’s too crowded.”

        • Tower18 says:

          United wants it because of its marketing value, and because they don’t have to pay for it. They can say they have the only airport within 30 minutes of Lower Manhattan, which is great for marketing, but how many of their passengers will actually arrive via that link?

          Airlines also advertise how their elite members get shuttled between connecting flights in Porsches, Cadillacs, etc., but is that information of any utility to 99% of fliers?

          Because Company A *really really wants* thing B that they get for free is not reason alone to call it “worth it”

      • JJJJ says:

        PATH beats the black car in time during rush hour traffic though.

        And yes, youre right, it would help the PA lease all their empty office space.

      • AG says:

        Well actually if it is all about the WTC – then the PA is pretty smart. The PA owns the WTC. So if it makes it more valuable if they decide to sell the complex or it increases the revenue generated by new leases – then it makes all the sense in the world. It’s like adding a wing to your house which increases its value or that could be rented out. In any event – there are tens of thousands of potential users who don’t work at the WTC. Aside from the fact that desperate Newark stands to gain some economic development. Probably in the same way hotel development is buzzing in Jamaica around the Aitrain connection.

        • Eric F says:

          Ok, so the blog post says that the PA will spend $2 billion. To create how much value? More than $2 billion? If not, what’s the point from the PA’s perspective?

          The conspiracy posts just don’t make any sense even on their own terms. Greed would only motivate the PA to build this if there was an actual net payoff. There is no way that PATH access to EWR creates that much value in the PA’s ownership of the WTC complex (which is less than 100%).

          • AG says:

            Well that’s the conspiracy conondrum. If it creates value at WTC (which it obviously will – but the question is how much) – then it would be ridiculous to complain since it would ultimately benefit everything else in the PA. Claiming United Airlines in and of itself could make this happen is pretty laughable. Plus – jut about airline would be happy for this line. In case people forget the airlines are “customers” of the PA. The Newark Mayor would have much more reason to be involved in some conspiracy for benefit.

    • AG says:

      NYC would benefit much more than United would.

  6. Spendmor Wastemor says:

    I’m looking at the diagram and thinking that stupidity enforcement must be strong in this project.

    The extension, which has the sole purpose of reaching the airport, doesn’t quite go to the airport. It goes to the air train..
    so the typical passenger is expected to take themselves and at least a carry-on to the subway to train to transfer to the Path train to transfer to the Air train to the terminal complex. Sure, it can’t possibly be done any other way, etc etc.
    Meanwhile, in D.C., the Metro stops in the main airport terminal. You can then walk, assist-cart etc to your specific terminal/gate.

    Of course it’s just impossible to dig a cut’n cover and run Path under Newark Liberty. Can’t be done, impossible,no way, etc etc.

    • Nathanael says:

      If the extension actually went to the airport terminals and replaced Newark AirTrain (which everyone says is falling apart and needs replacement anyway), then it might be worth considering.

      • adirondacker12800 says:

        Airtrain goes someplace other than terminals. Ten car PATH trains aren’t an appropriate solution for getting to P4. They aren’t particularly good for getting from Terminal A to the train station either.

        • Nathanael says:

          PATH is a TOTALLY appropriate train for that purpose.

          Long subway trains work just fine for Heathrow Airport in London.

          The stop spacing on Airtrain is actually wider than the stop spacing for PATH in midtown Manhattan. The stations are further apart. 10-car trains are great.

          Like I said, Airtrain needs to be replaced *anyway*. Any replacement should, for economy reasons, be a standard-gauge electrified train. It should be PATH.

          • adirondacker12800 says:

            How many billions of dollars do we spend for the thousand or so extra people a day it would attract? We’d still need a people mover to get people to the parking lots and shuttles.

  7. JEG says:

    Christie’s political fortunes are rapidly fading, so with hope, he won’t have the political strength to muscle this project forward. Better transportation projects have been derailed in the past, and I would suspect various political actors can keep it from moving forward, particularly if the US Attorney turns up something unlawful that is in any way connected to this project.

    I’ve taken New Jersey Transit from Penn Station to the EWR transfer to the Air Train, and found it simple and convenient. While a one-seat ride from Midtown to the EWR would be superior, it would only be so if it stopped directly at each terminal, which this project does not accomplish, making a $2 billion investment absurd.

    • Eric F says:

      The next governor of NJ is likely Steven Sweeney who is from South Jersey and likely could not care less about projects in the NYC metro area.

      You may have found NJT to the airport convenient, but PATH does the following:

      – Improves access from lower Manhattan, and by extension, Brooklyn.

      – Improves access from Jersey City and Hoboken

      -Provides greater frequency of service, particularly on nights and weekends.

      • JJJJ says:

        PATH to Brooklyn would be a much better project, and should have been part of the WTC reconstruction.

        You know what provides more access to the airport for more people, at a lower cost?

        AirTrain to Newark Penn.

        • Eric F says:

          I don’t disagree that the monorail should have just went to Newark Penn. I don’t understand the reasoning for what was built, though I’m sure there are good reasons. That said, PATH to airtrain would allow a higher capacity transit that people could use to commute into Newark and NYC and to park and ride, in some ways adding utility beyond an air train alignment into Newark Penn.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Why would the cost be lower with the monorail? If anything, it will be more expensive given the monorail needs to be replaced anyway, after 25 years. We’re now buying a monorail twice.

          • Eric F says:

            Meaning that the monorail, when originally constructed, would have run to Newark Penn rather than to a brand new airport station. I didn’t mean as an alternative to be pursued now with the air train station already complete.

            • Bolwerk says:

              I agreed, or at least concurred, with your comment. There might be a times to build monorails, but I really can’t see a great reason for the PA to do it given how much rail it deals with.

              If nothing else, use equipment/infrastructure as similar to PATH as you can. I guess I can understand trying to avoid PATH staffing levels on vehicles that only need to move a few thousand people a day.

          • JJJ says:

            The monorail is much lighter, so your aerial structure can be much flimsier. And as you said, if theyre going to rebuild the whole thing, adding an extra mile at the end would be cheaper than doing PATH from scratch.

            You also get 90 second weekend headways, vs 22 minutes.

            • Eric F says:

              PATH headways are way lower than 22 minutes!

            • Bolwerk says:

              It may only be cheaper if you ignore the future, at least the construction cost part. Railroad infrastructure can last twice as long, with less or no vendor lock-in.

              Still, it’d be nice if normal PATH could mix with shorter airport shuttles. The technology is there and the idea isn’t conceptually difficult.

            • Alon Levy says:

              The monorail is much lighter, so your aerial structure can be much flimsier.

              Yes, and this does not save any money whatsoever. There’s a blog post of mine looking at monorail costs, and the range is the same as for conventional els. In the New York region, the AirTrain JFK actually cost slightly less per km than the AirTrain Newark, and doesn’t need to be replaced after just 20 years.

              • BruceNY says:

                And unlike the EWR AirTrain, the JFK AirTrain is capable of speeds higher than 8 or 9 mph.

                • Alon Levy says:

                  Yeah, but #NotAllMonorails. Some are pretty fast. Generally the performance specs are the same as those of conventional rail.

                  • BruceNY says:

                    You’re absolutely right; the Tokyo Monorail has been zipping along at a fast pace to Haneda Airport since 1964. Did everyone get that–for 50 YEARS? But alas, we’re stuck with a pokey creation of the PANYNJ which already is slated for replacement.

      • Stewart Clamen says:

        When was the last time someone from South Jersey won a state-wide election? Florio (Governor 1990-94), by my research.

        • Eric F says:

          Maybe you see another alternative, but he seems like the obvious next in line.

          I also don’t think the prior governors were as geographically anchored as Sweeney. Corzine wasn’t even from NJ. McGreevy was a mayor in central NJ. Whitman was from western NJ, I think, not particularly polarizing in terms of place. Christie was just sort of “not Corzine” when he ran. Sweeney is a guy who just screams out South Jersey when you see him. In can’t imagine he’s terribly interested in the nuances of the PATH system.

          • Stewart Clamen says:

            Oh, I have no alternative. I was just giving the standard South Jersey perspective. 🙂

            Sweeney certainly is well-positioned. He’s certainly quite prominent — at least in the South. He and Christie seemed to have split the state up. Here in the South, when there’s money being doled out, you’ll see Sweeney cutting the ribbon more often than Christie….

            I was looking at federal Senators too, not just Gubernatorial races.

      • JEG says:

        For people in Brooklyn already on the A, C, 2, or 3, this initiative adds little, if any, convenience. In the end, this still seems like a project that will duplicate existing service, without a substantial improvement, and at great cost.

  8. Chet says:

    1) Extend PATH all the way to Staten Island and you actually have something worthwhile instead of just duplicating what NJ Transit already does.

    2) Put the $2 billion towards another trans-Hudson tunnel, something that is truly needed.

    • AG says:

      Why do ppl keep skipping the idea that it’s money for airport projects that can’t be used for someone else’s pet project???

      • Eric F says:

        They raise the cost to $2 billion and insist that it can be used for anything. I’ll take this criticism to it’s logical extreme: “Why not take the $10 trillion cost and allocate it to World peace!”

      • Joe Steindam says:

        Good enough place to address this: I’m not sure that the PA is planning on paying for the PATH extension with PFC money, and is instead paying for it with it’s general bonding power for the capital program. Unlike the existing AirTrain systems, the PATH extension doesn’t go onto the airport property, and the PA appears to be planning ancillary improvements that will benefit the surrounding area. Both of these are usually not allowed uses of PFC money. The PA had to fight the airlines in court to get AirTrain JFK to Jamaica and Howard Beach, and that system is mostly on airport property. PATH to EWR will have no component on airport property.

        It’s also worth noting that the PA is not using PFC to study the extension now, which is a permitted use of PFC funds. They’re paying for the Terminal A planning and project documents now with PFC. https://www.panynj.gov/airports/pdf/panynj-pfc-consultation.pdf

        • Eric F says:

          “PATH to EWR will have no component on airport property.”

          I have no idea what the PA is planning, but the complex will certainly enhance airport access. Maybe there’s a plan to have PFC partially finance the job, and the current study is simply keeping options open.

        • Joe Steindam says:

          Also potential proof that PFC will not be used for the extension: the lead regulatory agency for the PATH extension is the FTA, not the FAA which was the lead agency for the previous AirTrain projects, and this study is being advanced by PATH, not by Port Authority Aviation which managed the AirTrain projects for the PA. Not to say that the Port Authority Aviation or the FAA don’t have any role in this project, but the way these projects are typically organized and approved is based on their likely funding sources. As the FAA is not the main regulatory body, the PA may have already decided against the use of PFC money. I can’t find a reference outside of this blog and past entries where it was asserted that PFC’s would be used for the PATH extension. I’m not sure if that’s damning evidence, but I wouldn’t insist with all certainty that it will be paid for by PFC instead of the PA capital program general funds.

          • Eric F says:

            I think PFC use is assumed a lot (certainly by me) because that’s how the other airport access systems have been financed. But, of course, that’s not going to drive how this gets done (if it ever gets done).

            • Joe Steindam says:

              Projects do get studied and pursued at this stage based on assumptions for final funding sources. I wanted to make this point in response to the repeated comment by you and AG that the funding source can’t be used for other projects that the PA is or should be pursuing. You’re less of the culprit, as you’ve helpfully provided other reasonable rationale for the PATH extension project. I don’t have any evidence that PFC is entirely off the table, other than the organizational setup the project is currently using, which suggests to me that PFC charges are an unlikely funding source. I just want to put an end to the “the funding can only be used for the PATH extension” argument, because it’s perhaps the weakest argument in favor of the extension, it detracts from the stronger arguments that you’ve put forward in other posts on here.

              • AG says:

                Sure it is an assumption… One based on past evidence when “airport rail” is discussed. Is it only ok to make assumptions when you are against something one of the transport agencies wants to do??? I mean I could easily make the argument that the SAS doesn’t need to be built since if everyone walked from 1st and 2nd Ave to Lex there would be more capacity since people would lose weight and take up less space on the platforms. To me that is as absurd as saying United Airlines is the only beneficiary of this project and that NJT from Penn serves Lower Manhattan just as well.

                • Joe Steindam says:

                  As I stated in my first post, I question whether this qualifies as an “airport rail extension”, regardless of the project aims. This is a heavy rail extension to a station that provides connection to a separate airport transit service. This is the equivalent of the Silver Line extension (with the train after you get through security), which is not being financed by PFC funds. The expanded station, with access to Frelinghuysen Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood are benefits that FAA typically does not allow for PFC usage. The neighborhood access is probably the most undersold benefit of the project, but it’s also the part of the project that could happen tomorrow with the funding and provide a major economic boom to that neighborhood without additional service. PATH would bring more service and more development potential, but the transformation could start as soon as the existing station is accessible to the surrounding neighborhood.

                  I am not an opponent of this project, but I think it is weak to argue support for something on the basis “that the money can only be used for this thing, so other projects are moot.” For starters, the are other major needs for PFC money at Newark, including its new Terminal A and upgrade to Terminal B. The potential AirTrain replacement will probably also require PFC funding to complete. But if the money is not coming from PFC, which I given my reasoning for why I think it is not, you must argue the merits of the project against the region’s needs and the authority’s own needs to maintain its assets and address its mission. Of course we should build this and many other things, but we have limited resources that are available for any project, so there must be an argument made to advance this project ahead of other projects.

                  • AG says:

                    I wouldn’t compare this to the silver line which is a much bigger issue. Well I can mostly agree with your second paragraph. We shall see what happens funding wise.

  9. 22r says:

    this extension might begin to make sense if the PATH went all the way to the three terminals…. otherwise, changing to the AirTrain, forget about it…

  10. j.b. diGriz says:

    How does this actually add practical value to getting to EWR from anywhere else? I can maybe buy the theory of a ‘mini-city’ being built around the proposed PATH terminus, but nothing else makes sense if you’re building the PATH only to take it to the Air Train. Who wants that? You want a rapid transit line going directly to the terminal. The only people who have a reason to be hardcore AirTrain fans are people who own real estate at the intersection of rapid transit and the AirTrain terminus.

    For two billion dollars, they could extend the PATH to Weehawken and Union City, or extend the PATH from WTC into Brooklyn. That would at least get broader integration into the metro economy than something that literally duplicates NJT service but faster. It still leaves you having to make a connection to the airtrain, which is ridiculous. They should rip out the airtrain and have PATH go straight to the airport terminals, if they have to do something like this.

    This has to be about other real estate deals, where land is underdeveloped (near airport).

    • Eric F says:

      It’s not $2 billion of PA money. Anyway, you think they can extend the PATH to BROOKLYN for $2 billion????? How much would it cost, in your world, to extend it to Chicago?

      • j.b. diGriz says:

        I’d love to hear a well-founded estimate to drive PATH from WTC to, say, the Brooklyn Bridge anchorage. But if you can’t manage to not sound like an asshole in your response, don’t trouble yourself.

        • Eric F says:

          I keep hearing that the EWR extension is “redundant”. Ok, then how “redundant is a train line extension from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn?

          That aside, to extend PATH from WTC to Brooklyn, all you have to do is cut through the slurry wall holding back the Hudson, snake the line under the Red Train lines, the yellow train lines, the Green Train lines, all the utilities in lower Manhattan, the Battery Tunnel approach, the FDR drive, then sink the line under the harbor and get over to Brooklyn to build a new station. Not going to happen.

          There was a post 9/11 plan to extend PATH toward Fulton St (the one in Manhattan, not on the Brooklyn waterfront) and the powers that be considered it to be practically impossible, even in those heady days when they were working with something of a blank slate.

  11. Brooklynite says:

    Spending $2 billion for a trip that will still involve multiple transfers from anywhere except WTC is ridiculous. Now if the 6 and NWK-WTC line were merged* (it was analyzed and determined to be feasible engineering-wise) and THAT extended to the actual airport, we’d have a one seat ride from every Lex station to every terminal.

    *South of Brooklyn Bridge the 6 would parallel the 4/5 via existing track until just north of Fulton St, then turn west, stop at a new island platform roughly midway between Fulton and WTC, then merge with the PATH tunnels under the river.

  12. Alec says:

    Argh! They’ll spend $2 Billion for one mile and one station while Bergen county waits for light rail that will serve many thousands of daily riders across 7 new stations at half that estimated cost!

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