While speaking at a House Committee hearing on transportation and infrastructure last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned of an impending crisis in the northeast. “The Northeast is approaching a transportation crisis,” the mayor said. “Our airports are among the most clogged, our highways are among the most congested, and our train corridor is the most heavily used in the country. And all of that is just going to get worse, as the region’s population is expected to grow by 40% by 2050.”
On the heels of that committee meeting, the Regional Plan Association issued a report on the state of our airports. The tale they tell is not a new one; we’ve known for years that the metropolitan area’s three major airports are well above capacity. Yet, the numbers they throw out — a need for an additional 78 peak-hour flights per day — are staggering. The need to expand is one that could have dire economic consequences.
“The crucial link between air travel and economic prosperity is threatened by a lack of adequate capacity in our aviation system. We need to start planning now for future growth,” Robert Yaro, president of the RPA, said. “The cost of building airport capacity, while significant, must be weighed against the even greater toll on the region’s economy if we do nothing.”
Enter Stewart Airport. Located just 60 miles outside of Manhattan, Stewart has been the go-to airport for saving the region from air congestion for as long as I can remember, and the plans to use it have never made much sense. In 2007, the MTA announced a study to explore a rail link between Manhattan and Stewart. For $600 million, the authority would have provided a 90-minute ride to the tiny airport, and I long believed this to be a waste of money. Stewart is just too far away and adds too much time to a trip to be as popular as it must be to alleviate the pressure at Laguardia, JFK and Newark.
As ARC hit the ground running, though, it seemed as though Stewart would be eligible for a rail link via the new tunnel, but now that ARC is dead, so too seems Stewart Airport’s future. The RPA study doesn’t believe Stewart is a viable fourth airport, and they believe the Port Authority is overplaying the importance of its upstate property which is on pace to draw only 400,000 passengers this year. Patrick McGeehan of The Times has more:
Jeffrey M. Zupan, an analyst with the Regional Plan Association who led the study, said he forecast that Stewart would draw only about half the traffic the Port Authority hoped for. By the time the four airports controlled by the Port Authority are drawing 150 million passengers a year, only about 3.5 million of them, or just over 2 percent, will be using Stewart, Mr. Zupan said….
The best prospect for luring travelers from the city and close-in suburbs to Stewart is an express train, Mr. Zupan said. But elected officials, most notably New York’s senior senator, Charles E. Schumer, had pinned hopes on running trains from Midtown Manhattan through a new tunnel under the Hudson River and up the west side of the Hudson.
Now that New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, has scrapped the plan for that rail tunnel, the idea of direct trains to Stewart appears to be fading. Senator Schumer said, however, that a rail link to Stewart was still more feasible than some of the ideas for airport expansion laid out in the study last week, like filling in part of Jamaica Bay to add a runway at Kennedy.
“Stewart will still be a needed airport, but without the rail link, the chance of its really alleviating the overcrowding at the other airports is minimal,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview. “It will be a secondary airport — important but secondary.”
Ultimately, the airport issue is part of a wider problem. New York needs better access. Uniquely situated on an island, the city’s central business district is choked by a lack of expansion. We haven’t added roads, rails or airport capacity to the area in decades, and the economy will begin to suffer as congestion and delays worsen. Stewart won’t be and never was the answer, but something will have to give.
Zupan makes a compelling case that Stewart cannot be the long-sought “fourth airport.” But bear in mind that none of Zupan’s recommendations would come cheap. We’re talking about tens of billions. It’s not as if there is an easy answer, or we would have fixed this problem long ago.
There has been talk recently of real HSR on the Northeast Corridor. What about incrementally expanding some of the NYC area airports, the Trenton airport and the Philadelphia airport? With real HSR, Trenton and Philly could be within an hour of Manhattan.
Alternately, build genuine HSR to an area where few people will complain about a new airport and land is cheap. Maybe if they could quadruple the size of Stewart and build a super fast link to it, that could make sense, but I don’t think the people who live around it would allow that to happen. We need another JFK. If the trains were fast enough, it could be the Atlantic City airport.
Trenton Rail Station is downtown, so not a good airport location. But yeah, PHL is a good relief airport if HSR passes in the vicinity (which it should, independently of the airport’s existence).
There is local opposition to expanding Trenton, which is too bad.
Not sure if you realize this, but PHL is ALREADY a relief airport for the New York area. Fares are cheaper and delays less out of Philly. Many northern NJ people who live only a few miles from EWR travel down the Turnpike to take flights out of PHL. It’s that bad out there.
True, but travelers flying into New York can’t really use it. Neither can travelers from North Jersey who are neither masochistic nor completely fed up with EWR.
Off-topic, but I almost always find fares out of NYC cheaper than PHL. More airports, more airlines, more flights, more competition = cheaper flights. Unless you’re talking about routes that happen to be served by a couple airlines that compete on a route that also happen to not have a big NYC presence, such as a couple routes that Southwest flies out of PHL. But for a lot of destinations, US Air is the only option out of PHL, so fares are higher.
Airfares are one of the few things that aren’t more expensive in NYC, especially for popular routes where there’s a lot of competition.
Right, PHL is more a relief airport for suburban NJ.
My own checks over the years show lower fares out of PHL than for the NY airports, but that’s not any kind of highly accurate study. It’s usually EWR, LGA, JFK, PHL. Newark used to be the cheapest place to fly out of, and now I think it’s the most expensive. Note also, that PHL tends to have cheaper and easier parking and a generally lower nuiscance factor than NY . . . ignoring the fact that it’s 100 miles away.
If we’re going to discuss PHL as a New York-area airport, how about taking advantage of the existing infrastructure? Searching for Monday February 14th, there are 29 nonstop flights from Philadelphia to the three NYC airports.* As far as I can tell, all of them are operated on flights with 50 seats or less. Scrapping 20-25 of these and replacing them with Amtrak codeshares, while flying Boeing 737s to other destinations in those slots, would add 4,000-5,000 seats of capacity per day in each city. (Back of the envelope figures say you get 50% more for Boeing 777s, but that airframe is a no-go at LGA.) Amtrak can handle the increase in passenger load at most points during the day (although it would add another reason to accelerate the renewal of Amtrak’s corridor fleet), and has existing codeshare agreements with Continental to feed its EWR hub.
Philadelphia is attractive as a rail market/connection because it’s close enough to be feasibly serviced by existing conventional trains, with no infrastructure upgrades; Penn Station to 30th Street Station is about 1:30 on Northeast Regionals and 1:12 on Acela Express. Not that there isn’t room for improvement on this segment, but unlike JFK expansion, a Stewart Airport rail link, or driving the DC-NY-BOS air shuttles out of business with new fast 200 mph trains, Amtrak codesharing NY-PHL can in theory be done tomorrow.
* The 29 flights break down 24-4-1 US Airways-Continental-Delta and 20-8-1 LGA-EWR-JFK.
What about Macarthur? Why isn’t that being explored for better connection. It’s right on a rail line with practically its own station. A station that’s just poorly integrated with the airport.
Macarthur’s current operations already bump up on the restrictions placed on the airport by neighboring communities. I’m pretty sure there is a curfew for flights and a limit well below the actual capacity of the airport. White Plains Airport also has this problem.
If there was better suburb to suburb travel, Stewart might be a viable option, for people north of the city, Stewart could make sense. The problem is getting carriers to actually serve the airport and advertise it as an alternative to getting to the city for people north of city. Stewart isn’t going to be an alternative for people from the city, not when JFK and LGA are so much closer (and one being accessible by rail).
If the new Tappan Zee Bridge is ever built with rail access, then Stewart becomes a more viable option, because it then potentially gains rail access to all of the northern NYC suburbs, making the airport an easier trip from both sides of the Hudson than traveling down to JFK, LGA or NWK.
A Stewart rail link right now only connected to a revived ARC tunnel works for the northern N.J. suburbs and Rockland County, but does nothing for Westchester and would be marginal for people living in the main part of NYC, barring sharply lower fares on flights in and out of the new airport.
A Stewart rail link doesn’t work, period. PA planned a 90-minute trip to Manhattan; to put things in perspective, Narita’s 60-minute trip to Tokyo is considered terrible.
Ah. Long Island needs a Richard Daley just to say “we don’t fraking care about your flight restrictions” and then buy up all the abandoned housing around the airport when property values decrease.
These suggestions have basically been examined in this study. The Times article picked up on the fact that the study doesn’t view Stewart as the solution, but that’s not really the meat and bones of what the RPA released here. It makes a bunch of recommendations: implement the NEXTGEN traffic control technology to enable more planes to use the existing infrastructure, expand/reconfigure JFK and EWR, improve transit to LGA (SBS?), and it does argue that some of the small airports could be expanded, but they’re never going to become a “4th airport.” It rejects the idea of building a new airport on a greenfield site as there aren’t any huge vacant developable sites anywhere near Manhattan, and even if one popped up the community opposition would be intense. It notes that improving rail in the NEC would free up extra slots from those shuttles to Boston and DC, but again, not going to do the job on its own.
Trenton’s airport is dinky and it’s not all that close to the Northeast Corridor. It’s 7 miles up the river from Downtown Trenton, actually fairly close to the terminus of SEPTA’s West Trenton line, so I’d see that more as a release valve for the PHL market than NYC’s airports.
This study does note that MacArthur is smack dab on the LIRR and does suggest that you could possibly relocate the terminal buildings to the other side of the runways and be able to walk off the train right into the airport.
But in the end, MacArthur could serve Long Island better, but it’ll never siphon off enough customers outside of the Island. Even it’s just too far from Manhattan.
Full report is: http://www.rpa.org/pdf/RPA-Upg.....-Class.pdf
Due to existing agreements with the surrounding area, quieter planes, acoustic engineering on a grand scale, and property acquisition in the surrounding neighborhoods is likely required for MacArthur to expand. Runway lengthening for longer stop distance is another project to tackle.
The Westchester County Airport also needs similar improvements to accommodate increased air traffic, but might run afoul with NYC DEP due to proximity of the Kenisco Reservoir.
One option might be to shift some of the freight air to Stewart and the former Grumman assembly plant (Calverton Airpark) in Suffolk County. They are reactivating the rail link to Calverton. The freight could thus be shipped to the city on rail. Stewart could serve as a focal point for air freight for the south eastern NY. That would shift slots at JFK from freight to passenger.
I guess the thing is that we’re still thinking that if we designate a new airport, we’ll keep the existing 3 airports open. But it is pretty common for cities opening new airports to shutter the previous airport (Denver, or Fort Worth, or Hong Kong are examples of this). The issue would be to build a big enough new 3rd airport that replaces the capacity of the closed airport + has room for more flights. That is a daunting task, and likely the airport that would be closed would be LaGuardia. Obviously, this could also work if we build the crazy Island airport, it should be big enough to replace our 3 main airports and allow for increased capacity.
New York would definitely be the exception to this rule. The cities you mentioned don’t have the capacity problems of NYC. So it makes sense that if you open a new larger airport, the old one is useless. If somehow we were able to designate a new 4th, it would only alleviate some pressure on the other existing three.
I think we need a all hands on deck approach of 4th airport, Nexgen traffic control technology, filling in a portion of Jamaica Bay and adding an additional runway, direct transportation options from these airports directly to NYC. All of the above to keep things moving because doing only one will only punt the ball for a short amount of time and the inevitable would be the renewing of the same old crisis.
RE: Capacity problems.
Why not shut down LGA and expand JFK? This gets rid of the most conflicts in flight paths with JFK anyways. I think 9/11 showed it’s probably not a good idea to have an airport as close to the central city as LaGuardia is. If capacity at JFK and EWR weren’t an issue (and assuming travel times to/from could be improved), It probably would have been shut down post 9-11.
One thing I never understood about the whole airport link to JFK was that while they would build a tunnel to connect the Atlantic Ave branch of the LIRR to Lower Manhattan the plan envisioned people transfering at Jamaica to the AirTrain. Wouldn’t a train that shifted off the Atlantic Branch and ran along the Conduit get you to JFK faster?
Once LGA is out of the picture, it’s simply a matter of reconfiguring JFK to allow more capacity.
There are 2 issues
1 is better mid and low altitude airspace utilization:
2 is the need to consolidate flights. Taking 30-75 seat flights and to bumping to aircraft with 50-100% greater seats would cut down the number of flights. Flight slot auctions would be the means to affect this. Unfortunately it was canceled.
Airlines currently have a policy its better, for them, to use a tiny plane and have a flight ever 1 or 2 hours than use a 747 for domestic service and have 1 flight every 6 hours.
If you actually read the study, you’ll see that he does realize that if you build a new airport, one of the others would have to close. But there are cheaper options out there that achieve the same goals, without the all-or-nothingness of a new airport built on a man-made island.
Your examples aren’t exactly strong. The PA has 150 million passengers a year at its airports – Denver and Fort Worth don’t get nearly as much flights.
Hong Kong doesn’t have a stringent environmental review process (or a democratically elected government), so there were no political roadblocks to filling in two islands and bulldozing their mountains.
Also, when they did move operations to the new airports, there were tons of glitches. The baggage handling system at Denver destroyed baggage, and the failure of computers at Hong Kong’s cargo terminal meant that they had to keep the old airport running for another six months.
While in theory it does sound nice, moving 150 million passengers a year in a single airport is a difficult, if not impossible task, and i don’t think that NY bureaucrats are up to the task.
The PA will have 150 million passengers in 50 years, it currently has around 100 million people. But the bigger problem at the moment is not directly passenger related, it’s the issue of crossed airspace over New York, which also limits flights into New York. For that problem, the Island or greenfield option would be ideal, because it could allow one airport to close and be replaced with a site that would conflict less with existing airspace restrictions. But meeting eventual passenger numbers would be exceedingly difficult with one major airport. Although the airports I listed are capable of handling much larger Passenger numbers even if they don’t now. And they’re glitches on every major project, so why is that any reason to do nothing.
I’m really not a supporter of the Island option, I just remember seeing it and thinking it looked cool, but its logistically not an ideal replacement, even before we get to the financials.
Fill in parts of Flushing Bay, and built an airplane taxi bridge (can’t seal off Flushing Creek) to the old Flushing Airport, 2 new runways right there.
Too far away, and the long runway is 2500 ft, too short for anything bigger than a small business jet or prop plane. It could serve general aviation, but not much more.
Now you could acquire a 1000′ wide swath of land from Flushing River northeast to 20th Ave. That would yield a 5700′ long runway. That is long enough for a regional/commuter jet and prop planes to takeoff and mid sized jets to land on a good day. Both would require you to negotiate a maze of govt agencies and community groups to get it done.
If you’re building something that long into Flushing Bay, it might as well be an extension of runway 13/31 (500′ at 31 end & 1000′-1500′ at 13 end), and adding 1500′-2000′ to the 22 end of runway 4/22. Pilots hate flying into LaGuardia due to its relatively short runways and distance from runway end to water.
You’re closing paragraph is written like it’s the standard lead-in for increased, better and faster rail capacity because that is indeed ultimately the answer. I know that you are writing here about airports, but a high-speed (110+ mph) rail link from Stewart makes it viable. Of course, riding a bus down the NYS Thruway is a ridiculous solution and utilizing the Port Jervis lines as it exists today is not far behind.
The way I see it, there are a few problems with HSR to Stewart. One is ROW and a straight shot for acceleration. That’s going to be tough to develop. The other is the routing itself. Where does HSR go after Stewart? Maybe it would work and maybe it could reduce travel times to 35-40 minutes, but that seems an expensive solution to that problem.
My other issue with Stewart is the approach. I think the PA should figure out how to turn Stewart into a hub for people who live closer and thus lighten the load for Laguardia and JFK. It shouldn’t be considered a viable alternative for people who live in the city, but rather, it’s better suited for those who live to the north and west.
This may sound totally nuts, but could HSR or conventional train service be opperated over the Empire line up the westside to the Hudson line toward Beacon with new trackage branching off to run ajacent to I-84? This new line would run directly to Stewart & could join up with the Port Jervis Line.
This service could run express to stewert or make select stops such as Yonkers, Tarrytown, Croton-Harmon & Peekskill. Most MNR express trains to Poughkeepsie already make those stops.
If I had my druthers (and I don’t). I’d vastly expand the Thruway to have dedicated truck/bus lanes in a 3×2 format to Albany and run a fast train in the median.
Meh. HSR on I-84 is pointless – airport-only HSR tends to underperform, because the travel market just isn’t that big.
Best current time is 1:12 GCT-Beacon, which is too long. Probably you’d want to make sure any cross-Hudson bridge is well-utilized by freight and by commuter trains to Newburgh. Electrification and modern trains could cut it somewhat, but the tracks are curvy and there’s heavy commuter traffic and I doubt that doing it in much less than 50 minutes to Beacon is feasible.
The Thruway is one possible corridor for statewide HSR, but it should be alongside the road, not in the median. The road is predominantly straight, but has a few curves that median-running trains have to slow down for; trains running next to the road, TGV-style, could slightly diverge at key moments.
I-87, 84 is the one that goes to Hartford.
I’d run it in the median in straight spots, and keep it going straight by elevating it until it rejoins the highway in curvy spots. I can advocate for this because I know nothing about civil engineering…
Sean said I-84; I presumed he meant following the same road from Beacon to the airport. But what I said to you about median running was based on I-87, not I-84, which is even curvier.
What you’re advocating is certainly possible. It’s the plan for Florida. It has certain advantages if the median already exists but there’s no room for side-running, or if it’s advisable to preserve ROW for road widening on both sides. But side running is way more common – you can go around obstacles without viaducts.
I agree with turning Stewart into a hub for people who live in the Hudson Valley. Like MacArthur gets mostly people who are LI residents. MacArthur does keep some people out of LGA and JFK.
Well, there is one other option …
While we are at it we should also re-pave Floyd Bennett Field to pick up some short range flights.
Seriously, though, how about bringing back seaplane service for short hops between Manhattan and coastal cities?
Reopening and lengthening Floyd Bennett Field is a good idea. Governors Island used to have an airport on it. Do some landfill to expand the island, and fill in the channel with Brooklyn to make Governors Island part of Long Island or make some subway stops on the R or 1 trains for it, and possibly a drop off inside the Battery Tunnel.
Some landfill? Think Kansai or the new HK Intl airport. It would be a mile wide max by 2.5 miles long max (it could be trapezoidal, triangular, or rectangular in form). It would fill up a huge chunk of Upper NY Bay. It would also mean no helicopter traffic over the East and/or Hudson Rivers. Additionally, Lower Manhattan residents likely won’t take pleasure in airliners max throttle climbing out of the airport at 1000′ or less every minute or so.
That is to say nothing of that a Governor Island Airport messes with approaches for LaGuardia runway 4/22. It would conflict with the other airport approach and departure paths too.
Floyd Field is too close to JFK. The flight paths conflicts are already severe enough. Throw in Teterboro, and its a 5 way (EWR, LGA, JFK, Floyd, TEB) ring of air traffic congestion.
I’d rather start ripping up Park Slope than dare destroy the beauty of central park.
Just add an airport to the West Shore of Staten Island! Then we’d have a reason to finish that tunnel from Brooklyn to Staten Island, add rail along the north shore, and run some trains from Jersey over the Arthur Kill Bridge. The whole thing can be landfilled in, Staten Island benefits greatly, the whole city benefits greatly, with access to both Brooklyn and Manhattan.
I remember hearing that Staten Island was once home to the world’s largest landfill. Out of curiousity, has that already been developed, or is it a big enough space to turn into another airport?
It’s mostly being converted to parkland now, I doubt there would be any support for making the space into an Airport. Plus, this put another airport close to Newark International and would further complicate New York’s airspace. Although adding an airport to Staten Island would further the case for serious transit options on the Island, it’s not a real viable option.
The landfill on Staten Island (Fresh Kills) was originally planned to be the highest point on the East Coast of the United States between Maine and Florida. Granted the landfill fell into disuse before it reached that goal, but I’d bet that the huge hill would present a navigation problem for planes trying to land on the West Shore.
It’s funny how the plan to alleviate congestion in the city involves higher fees and smaller roads, but so far as the airports are concerned the reverse is true?
If it weren’t for Teterboro, Secaucus would be perfect in terms of the available acres. Combine that would Nexgen flight control and you would have yourself sufficient relief and arc would make even more sense then it does now.
If there was a movement to use eminent domain to clear the area around Teterboro Airport (essentially the area between Routes 17, 120, US 46 and I-95), you could claim enough land to build a very large airport (although this zone would also include some environmentally sensitive land in the Meadowlands, as well as most of the boroughs of Carlstadt and Moonachie).
The benefits are easy access to I-95, Route 3 to the Lincoln Tunnel and a very easy extension of the Meadowlands line into a new terminal building (also the Pascack Valley line). Aside from extensive eminent domain that would displace 7,000 or so residents, this new airport would still remain perilously close to Newark International, meaning the same overlapping airspace issue we have now.
I might not have read the report close enough, but one big issue is capacity land side as well. While JFK can probably better allocate its terminal space (as well as build more seeing as 1 terminal is currently vacant, and another terminal is being pulled down), the RPA’s suggestion expansions of Newark involve adding a runway where a full terminal (Terminal B I believe) and a concourse of Terminal C stand now, meaning they’ll have to be replaced to maintain Newark’s passenger abilities. This is where a 4th airport would be a real boon for the region, by increasing the terminal capacity of all the regions airports.
I’ve often wondered if you could bury the NJ Turnpike where it runs directly on the eastern border of EWR and stick a new runway there.
That would be a massive endeavor, and I wonder whether it’s even possible. The NJTP lies across a narrow body of water from EWR (it crosses under the TP and drains into Newark Bay). At this point, the TP is 14 lanes wide and runs alongside at least 4 railroad tracks. I’d definitely like to know more about moving all of these items underground, because I think it’s the best plan to expand EWR, but I bet the cost would very high, far above the $15b the RPA suggested for the cost of upgrades to New York’s airports.
Cost a lot, yes, but why would it cost more? Using the Turnpike RoW would not require reconfiguring terminals, which is a key expense (though it would allow you to maybe expand the terminal buildings west a bit). I guess you’d stick the drainage stream into one big pipe and send it on its way. All you have to do — I know “all” is an understatement– is sink the mainline by about 20 feet. Question is whether it would be tricky to sink some of the interchange ramps, but that might not even be neccessary. Anyway, I’ve wondered about this for years.
Question: how do you deal with the large single-track diameters required by HSR?
There’s no rail over there. There is a freight line on the east side of the Turnpike, and that’s about it.
Ah. Sorry. In that case, the question changes to double-stacked freight.
The chart at the top of this post shows why adding another airport is a non-starter. Actually, its a little too simple. Philadelphia is close enough that there approaches need to be considered too when organizing airspace in NYC. Lots of airplanes coming from all directions to 4 big airports and several more small airports is not ideal. The New York Airspace Redesign will alleviate some of the congestion in the skies, and Nexgen will too, but adding another big airport would exponentially complicate things. In NYC at least, adding another airport is much more complicated then finding space on the ground.
I haven’t read the report yet; does anyone know if it takes into account these issues?
That’s an interesting piece. Many delays are caused by the airlines so adding another airport won’t address these problems. You have all of these props and small regional jets that, quite honestly, have no business using Newark or JFK. Let’s reserve these airports for larger planes, like the A380s and 747s. Regional planes should be limited to LaGuardia.
Japan has done an excellent job building floating airports out at sea. I would love to see that idea replicated here for future airports. Maybe JFK could be expanded into the sea so that this way the PA can build A380 friendly gates and maybe another runway.
Delays could also be avoided if airlines used 2 bridges to load and unload planes faster.
What Donald said: larger planes. They run 747s on domestic flights in Japan; there’s no reason to run narrow-bodies on busy routes like JFK-MIA.
I have to break this down a bit:
“Enter Stewart Airport. Located just 60 miles outside of Manhattan, Stewart has been the go-to airport for saving the region from air congestion for as long as I can remember”
Not sure if “just 60 miles” is supposed to be sarcastic. Not only is Stewart 60 miles away, it’s 60 miles vis Degan, Tappan Zee and Thruway. This trip can easily run greater than 2 hours in traffic, if not 3 hours. The Thruway — a major NAFTA thoroughfare, commuting route and leisure route — is all of 2 lanes up in Newburgh. I have no idea why we don’t have a 3×2 dual road with dedicated truck and bus lanes up there. Driving that thing is dangerous and unreliable. If you live in NYC, Stweart may as well be on Mars. A rail link may help, but people traveling with luggage don’t generally want to use trains with multiple transfers to get to an airport. Even the fairly useful airtrain links to EWR and JFK (which I use all the time) only draw a tiny fraction of travellers.
“as long as I can remember”
You are too young!!! There was a plan in the 70s for a 4th airport in Morristown. If that had been built, NYC would have no airport capacity problems. Instead, getting in and out of this city by air can be quite an ordeal. Morristown was taken out back and shot by enviros, and we are worse off for it.
The big problem with Stewart is its distance from NYC and getting people from “here to there”. Let’s start at some developments which could push things along on multiple fronts.
1. What flights would make sense going to Stewart? I can’t see Stewart being a viable place where a NYC local would want from which to make “short hop” flights. Therefore, it makes sense to develop Stewart as a place where direct medium/long-haul flights (3 hours or more) would originate/terminate. No short hop connections should be planned for from this airport. This minimizes the time cost for the trip to Stewart, as it saves an hour on the ground making connections.
2. How do we get NYC people to/from Stewart? Obviously, we’d need rail transport. But out of which station/terminal? I’d vote for GCT, which has excellent Northbound trackage. The problem with this proposal is that one has to cross the Hudson river. This leads us to….
3. How do we connect the two sides of the river with rails? The opportunity soon to be created by the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge (don’t laugh here) may make it possible to cross the river in Tarrytown, and connect with other rail lines going to Stewart. (A byproduct of this could be double tracking the West Shore Line and boring a new tunnel at Haverstraw, so that a new commuter rail link to NYC could be established.)
4. Let’s say we’ve done all that, the rail line must reach Stewart in a one seat trip and take no more than 60 minutes. Is this possible? If certain CTC controls were required on the tracks, the train could speed along at 79 mph – if safe to do so. Is there enough straight, well maintained two track trackage without grade crossings to make this possible?
5. As with the “Field of Dreams” and a Wendy’s Hamburger, politicians say “If you build it, they will come.” Is this true? How do we sell skeptical Americans in the nation’s largest city that a Train to the Plane makes sense – when it has failed many times before? (Or, it has become an underwhelming success.) It may mean that we have to limit Stewart’s flights to those greater than 3 hours (see #1 above) – an inverse to Love Field’s (Dallas) restriction that limited it to flights from neighboring states and with planes of no more than 49 passenger capacity. If the market for the airport is limited, the airlines have better reasons to focus on the intended use for that airport – and not the uses associated with JFK or EWR, where all connections are possible….
“How do we get NYC people to/from Stewart? Obviously, we’d need rail transport.”
That’s not obvious at all. You need reliable road acess. Rail access might help, but it’s not a prerequisite for the airport’s success. We are talking about a former military base near Newburgh. This airport will, at best, serve north suburb travelers. No substantial portion of the north burb market is going to access this place via train.
If not the customers, the employees. Airports have tons of low wage workers who take transit. Ride the local buses that go to EWR and JFK (that bypass the Airtrain) — it’s full of employees in their uniforms.
If that’s what you are building it for, I’d save the money and give them raises so they can buy cars. How do workers get to Stewart now? Remember, Stewart is not space constrained like the NYC airports are. You can build ahuge employee parking lot without displacing anything. Stewart was an airforce base, it has plenty of room. It just isn’t near anything.