Home MTA Lhota opens up on fare hikes, LaGuardia access

Lhota opens up on fare hikes, LaGuardia access

by Benjamin Kabak

As the MTA and TWU once again sat down for negotiations toward the end of last week, the new head honco at the transportation authority let loose a few tidbits on a handful of key topics this weekend. In an interview with NBC New York’s Andrew Siff, Lhota offered up his take on everything from looming fare hikes to future subway expansion plans. It left me wanting more, but let’s jump in.

On Fare Hikes: In an attempt to bring regularity to the MTA’s fare structure, Jay Walder announced fare hikes for 2013, 2015 and every two years thereafter. Lhota voice his support for the plan as he said, “How sure is that? It’s going to happen.” The fares will go up next year, in 2015 and in 2017, but it seems as though the MTA will spend the bulk of the added revenue on paying down debt and employee obligations than on providing better service.

On Unrealized Revenue Opportunities: When I spoke with Walder back in late 2010, he discussed his desires to increase MTA revenues through better maximizing retail opportunities, and Lhota is on board with this initiative as well. “We’re trying to look for every place that we possibly can where we have foot traffic, where we can actually have retail operations,” he said. “There are thousands of people who come in here [to Grand Central] on the weekends just to go shopping.”

On Countdown Clocks: With nearly all of the A Division stations receiving countdown clocks, the MTA is eying how best to bring this technology to the rest of the system. I’ll have more on these attempts shortly, but Lhota hopes to accomplish this goal “within two years.”

On FASTRACK: As the MTA has embarked on an early-2012 pilot program created again by Walder that shutters track segments overnight during the week, riders are reportedly noting the improvements, and Lhota and the MTA have vowed to continue it. The program will inch northward next year, and Lhota noted brighter station conditions as one benefit. “Not only did we change all the light bulbs to make them brighter; we also cleaned the backs of them,” he said.

On Access to LaGuardia: Siff, who has long reported on the on-again, off-again efforts to bring the subway to LaGuardia, asked Lhota about subway access for the airport, and Lhota offered up a tiny tidbit. “We’re continuing to look at it. There are a lot of logistical problems. You can’t have an elevated train in the path of landing, so you’d have to submerge it,” he said. Of course, “logistical problems” is also code for NIMBYism, but even considering it offers a faint glimmer of hope. Maybe it’s something the MTA can explore for the capital campaigns once the Fulton St. Transit Center and 7 line extension are in service.

Ultimately, Lhota’s interviews in the early goings have given us a glimpse into his inner workings. I was initially skeptical of the appointment, but he has inherited an MTA that, while not perfect by a long shot, has been on a better path of late. He’s willing to acknowledge that and stick to the path. At some point, he’ll have to start forging his own path, but for now, he can push forward on efforts begun by his predecessor.

As he moves his agenda forward, Lhota, a train rider, seems to recognize what New Yorkers want, and I think his statement is key toward a better appreciation and support of transit by its riders. “I want it to work better, cleaner, faster and more frequent,” he said. “That’s not overly sexy, but that’s what New Yorkers want.”

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PaulW March 12, 2012 - 1:01 am

“…work better, cleaner, faster and more frequent…”

Sounds sexy to me. I vote yes.

Brian March 12, 2012 - 1:04 am

For Laguardia access i think the best way to go is a crosstown line on 125 st starting at the 1 train stopping at all the 125 stops, stopping on randalls island stopping in Astoria for a transfer with the N then continuing onward to Laguardia. I think thats the best route, however it probably has no chance of happening oh well I can dream.

Terratalk March 12, 2012 - 1:48 am

I was also “dreaming” about that route from the 1 underground out to the suburbs… is there a problem with digging under the Grand Central, following it to LGA? That would keep it out of the neighborhoods and cut down on the NIMBY complaints I would think. (Is the MTA allowed to play the MegaMillions lottery? I don’t even want to think what that would cost … LOL!)

Alon Levy March 12, 2012 - 1:35 am

It’s so annoying that people keep talking about LGA while more useful extensions like the 7 eastward, Utica, Nostrand, 125th, and Triboro are ignored.

TP March 12, 2012 - 9:34 am

Well, the most-ridden transit link to LGA is the packed-to-the-gills M60 bus, which crawls across 125th, so presumably “fixing” one also improves the other. We probably need a subway extension from Astoria to LGA and a 125th St crosstown subway, but some sort of nearer-term BRT treatments will likely be more realistic.

BrooklynBus March 12, 2012 - 10:44 am

Maybe if there were some type of express bus route from Midtown to LaGuardia, the M60 wouldn’t be so crowded.

Al D March 12, 2012 - 11:02 am Reply
BrooklynBus March 12, 2012 - 4:44 pm

I was thinking along the lines of a regular express bus for $5:50, not an airport rip off job of $12 or $15.

Phantom March 12, 2012 - 9:03 pm

The private express buses to the airport are no ripoff. Those buses aren’t subsidized by the taxpayers.

Bolwerk March 13, 2012 - 12:00 am

Do they use roads? Then yes they are.

al March 12, 2012 - 9:22 pm

The NYCTA should run a bunch of low floor buses, between LGA and 74th-Broadway Roosevelt Ave and 61st st Woodside stations. They could follow parts of existing bus routes (Q: 47,48,49,53,32,33).

The operation pattern would be limited stop service with stop spacing similar to subways:

Southern Terminals (61st Woodside or 74th Broadway)
Northern Blvd
Astoria Blvd
Northern Loop (LGA)

The ridership could pay for operation costs.

Another possibility would be for the MTA to operate motor coaches (with luggage stowage space beneath) for regular express bus service during peak hrs while operating a LGA express to and from Woodside, 74th Broadway, and Midtown Manhattan.

Alon Levy March 12, 2012 - 7:09 pm

Well, the easiest way to build a 125th Street subway is to hook it to SAS. It does not serve Astoria but instead improves east-west connectivity within Manhattan better, since it makes travel from Upper Manhattan to the Upper East Side a one-to-two-seat ride rather than a two-to-three-seat ride.

That said, under a BRT option, there is more room to mix the two. The M60 is just one of five lines serving 125th and not even the busiest, but it would greatly benefit from dedicated lanes, to say nothing of the benefits of systemwide signal preemption for crosstown routes.

Jeff March 12, 2012 - 1:03 pm

Because LGA is just as important, if not more so, than those you propose.

Bolwerk March 12, 2012 - 1:39 pm

You think a few thousand people coming and going who might use transit is more important than literally hundreds of thousands who depend on transit?

I get LGA being a stop on a train line. But that train line needs a wider purpose than just getting to LaGuardia.

Nyland8 March 12, 2012 - 2:09 pm

You write that as if someone were proposing tunneling a subway from Penn Station all the way to LGA. The “thousands who depend on transit” that already ride the N will still have it. That small extension, roughly 2 miles of mostly elevated rail, would connect a major regional airport that services 24 million flyers a year – and that’s enough of a reason to build it. And extending it eastward might involve a lot of tunneling, which is much more expensive than an el.

Of course, where it goes from there can be a subject of much debate, and folks in Murray Hill, Bayside or Whitestone might all vie for a greater length. But running it from Astoria/Ditmars to LGA is certainly reason enough to build the extension. A stop at 37th/38th would serve that Steinway industrial area quite well, and perhaps another at Hazen/19th so folks with little money can more easily visit their family members serving time on Rikers Island. I’m sure that between those three destinations – the industrial zone commuters, the prison and airport traffic – the line would see more than enough use to justify its existence.

Bolwerk March 12, 2012 - 2:58 pm

That’s not a very convincing argument. A huge proportion of those fliers aren’t going to destinations along that subway route, and a good portion of those that do are going to take a cab anyway. If all we’re doing is making one extension to LGA, with few other stops or benefits for anyone else along the line, then it is probably close to useless. A surface light rail service could do the job more directly and cheaply, without crowding the already busy Astoria Line.

Alon Levy March 12, 2012 - 7:21 pm

I don’t think that there’s hope of capturing the full market at LGA. I need to recheck the numbers for Heathrow and CDG because the previous figures I’ve looked at are total traffic rather than just O&D, but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect more than one third of all passengers to use the rail link. So that cuts your market size to 8 million a year, or 26,000 per idealized weekday. For comparison, the buses on Utica and Nostrand carry 50,000 each, and the bus lines serving 125th carry 90,000 among them. And replacing a bus with a subway will increase ridership, whereas building a rail link to an airport will only cause a small rise in airport traffic.

Nyland8 March 13, 2012 - 12:59 am

Well, Alon … as for the first part, I’d think capturing a third might be optimistic. Figure a quarter – 6 million – at least in the beginning.

But as for the second part … huh? “For comparison … ” ?!? Is it fair to compare the annual traffic of a ten mile long bus trip on Nostrand Ave – one that stops every couple of blocks – with two miles and two stops of rail extension? If you want to argue bang-for-buck AND feasibility, try to find an existing NYC elevated train, imagine extending it 2 miles, add to that the cost of building three stations – and then ask yourself if you think that would produce 6 million more riders on that line a year.

And if that’s too easy for you – remember you’d have to find one with only a third of a mile of NIMBY opposition to contend with.

I can’t imagine too many places that qualify as equivalents.

Anon256 March 13, 2012 - 4:57 pm

As Lhota noted, some underground construction would still be necessary to serve LaGuardia.

TriboroRX (or extensions of the L and M along that route) would pretty obviously provide better “bang for buck”. No NIMBYs or tunneling at all, just straight down the existing rail right of way; some elevators and platforms at the stations. Ridership projections for these extensions total over 20 million riders.

Bolwerk March 14, 2012 - 12:43 pm

No NIMBYs? NIMBYs by their very nature would not be NIMBYs if they didn’t surface to object to good ideas.

Evan March 17, 2012 - 10:23 pm

Hear hear!

Alon Levy March 13, 2012 - 8:28 pm

Well, start from 2 miles of going under 125th. And then go to Triboro, which based on the commute traffic estimate Michael Frumin was doing at the RPA should get 150,000 weekday riders.

Nyland8 March 14, 2012 - 1:23 am

Personally … I’d love it. As a current West Harlem resident, nothing would be more delightful than a river-to-river bored along 125th … and I hope the T train covers most of it, …

… but, at current NYC prices, tunneling is $2 Billion per mile … vs. less than $500,000 for elevated.

Maybe some of Bloomberg’s buddies could hold a fund raiser.

Alon Levy March 15, 2012 - 12:35 am

Where are you getting $500,000 for elevated from? In other US cities, such as Chicago, Washington, and (worst) Portland, above-ground rail transit costs in the low hundreds of millions per mile. It’s less than tunneling under 125th, but the benefits are greatly reduced, too.

By the way, although I no longer live in New York, for a year my then-girlfriend (who worked at the Cornell med school) and I (who went to Columbia) lived in Central Harlem, and for another year we lived on the Upper East Side. The first year she needed nearly an hour to commute, which SAS-125th would’ve cut to about half an hour. The second year I needed 50 minutes, which SAS alone would’ve cut to 35 via the connection at Times Square, and SAS-125th would’ve cut to about 25.

Nyland8 March 15, 2012 - 7:48 am

So we agree. Elevated is less than a 1/4 the cost of tunneling. But my number is not as ill informed as it sounds.

Firstly, I wouldn’t build elevated as is still commonly done – an ugly, open steel superstructure with columns that are ringing and singing a quarter mile before and after the train has arrived and departed. Among the biggest gripes about elevated is the noise. It makes it a much harder sell. But if one used a precast, prestressed post-tensioned channel, the modern elevated train could be reduced to a distant whisper in the ambient bustle – at least to all who were not directly above it. Some of the up-front costs might be higher, but long term maintenance is much better. You’ll never have to scrape and paint.

Secondly, I’d also build it taller, because the second biggest gripe is that it blots out the sun – and that’s a function of elevation. If you’re going down a street where the tallest buildings are intermittently in the 6-8 story range, with many lower structures, you might average 50′ in the air. And taller means more cost.

Thirdly, the cost of legal opposition and engineering is much, much higher in more densely populated areas – because every building owner within proximity of construction wants vibration, noise and engineering studies done for themselves – so they can sue for their loss of revenues, for their temporarily diminished rental rates, for trauma to their pet chihuahua … you name it. We’re a litigious society. I have a string of clients along SAS and EAS for just that reason.

So … take the AirTrain for example. It has similar construction to what I’m proposing at 8 miles for $2 billion. Try to imagine the cost of building that through a populated area in the boroughs, instead of running it down the Van Wyck and on airport property, where there is virtually no opposition and much less engineering. In other word, double the cost. Now you’re ball-parking my number.

But as I said, LESS THAN $500,000 per mile.

And yeah, my life would be MUCH easier if the T train ran along 125th all the way to the Hudson. I don’t need it for my morning commute, but it would certainly ease the crowding on the southbound 1 train if a quarter of the passengers got off at 125th.

Bolwerk March 12, 2012 - 1:35 am

Lhota kind of lacks imagination with LaGuardia. If a project like that is done, it should be a three-way goal of better linking Astoria to midtown, Queens to The Bronx, and the city to the airport. Not many transit projects have actual potential to get cars off the roads, but just making it possible to live in a residential Queens neighborhood and get to a job in an industrial part of The Bronx – for instance – at least opens up a possibility in this case. Not to mention other possibilities, like opening low and middle income people in both places up to more job opportunities, even if they’re crappy jobs.

John T March 12, 2012 - 7:18 am

The Astoria El should be extended to LGA, and the MTA should offer to buy out any of the NIMBY folks that don’t want it. I bet the properties sold could be resold at a profit when the better transit access is ready.

Bolwerk March 12, 2012 - 1:41 pm

Not the MTA shouldn’t. When their properties rise in value, they can bail themselves if they choose. There is no need to do their work for them.

Nyland8 March 12, 2012 - 7:29 am

Well … not exactly Mr. Lhota. We can all read a map and there ARE railway approaches to LaGuardia that don’t bring an elevated train into the runway patterns. The best approach would be to build an AirTrain from Kew Gardens right along the east side of the Grand Central. I’m sure NYC would be delighted to cede the modest parkland required to ply that corridor, avoiding NIMBY contentions and delays. But that project should be entirely funded by the Port Authority – NOT the MTA.

The BEST subway approach – and by that I mean shortest, easiest, cheapest and with the least NIMBY interventions – would come from extending the N/Q Astoria elevated right up 31st Street, then turning SE to meet 19th Ave. toward the airport. That could be elevated all the way beyond the Riker’s Island bridge before going subterranean. Then you’ve only got 3,000 feet of tunneling in a total subway extension of slightly over 2 miles. A relatively small project compared to the 5.5+/- miles of AirTrain required to connect to … say E/F at Briarwood-Van Wyck. (BTW … what community does this subway stop serve? Is it just to visit the cemetery? Because there’s no park-and-ride, and all the living people are on the other side of major highways)

In an ideal world, they’d BOTH be built – one by the MTA and one by the PA.

SomeGuy32 March 12, 2012 - 10:35 am

If you bothered to check, you’d know the entrances to the Briarwood-Van Wyck station are on the east side of the Van Wyck on Queens Blvd – between 84th and Main St

Nyland8 March 12, 2012 - 12:12 pm

Actually, I did bother to check … by following the transit lines on Google Maps, which usually does a lot better job of putting me where the station is.

But thanks for the insights.

SomeGuy32 March 12, 2012 - 10:44 am

Also, there is a reason why the station is actually called Van Wyck “BLVD” – the highway didn’t exist when the station was originally built.

Evan March 17, 2012 - 10:27 pm

You know, that’s something I’ve always been curious about.

Would anyone have a picture of the corridor before the expressway was built? That would be a sight to see!

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines March 12, 2012 - 9:00 am

[…] Lhota: There’s No Escaping the 2013 Fare Hike (NBC via 2nd Ave Sagas) […]

Larry Littlefield March 12, 2012 - 9:01 am

The moment for the N to LGA has passed. The Giuliani Administration, which Lhota was a part of, but up $700 million for the project, but the money was spent elsewhere and there is no more.

Reducing the extent of system-wide deferred maintenance is a more important goal for the city. A 20/50 pension plan is a more important goal for the union and state legislature. The money for either is a decade away.

Essentially, Queens NIMBYs killed it, just like the killed the subway through SW Queens that was part of the original MTA plan in the early 1970s, the re-activation of the Rockaway ROW for airport access, and a subway extension in SE Queens in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The right response is to stop proposing investments in Queens and keep reminding people that Queens pols fought them.

Meanwhile, the right move for airport access is to make the M60 work better. That means not having it fail to be a reliable transfer in Astoria because it gets stuck in Manhattan or on the bridge. Have some buses available as “put in’s” on Astoria Boulevard to fill breaks in service. Built a nice bus station there as an alternative to standing in the rain. And so some sort of BRT think to speed service.

Ed March 12, 2012 - 9:16 am

I have to agree that the response I wanted to see from Lhota would have been on the lines that “of course there should be a train to La Guardia and we are looking at ways to do that, but in the meantime here is what we are doing to improve the existing bus service.”

BrooklynBus March 12, 2012 - 10:45 am

Nothing. Make promises for the future so you dont have to do anything now. It’s an old trick.

Larry Littlefield March 12, 2012 - 10:54 am

Yes it is an old trick.

I expect lots of “studies” funded by individual state legislators, congressmen and members of the city council going forward. Get your name in the newspaper for less than $1 million.

I wonder if the consultants doing these studies will be able to get up the motivation to come to work each day, knowing what they are doing is producing propaganda. A joke.

Al D March 12, 2012 - 12:35 pm

Yes, they will arise each day to collect their substantial fees.

Bolwerk March 12, 2012 - 1:06 pm

NIMBYs aren’t going to be any happier with an effective-ish bus service. It requires either road pricing, which they hate, or completely taking away lanes – which means it begins to have long-term costs approaching the costs of a surface rail service anyway.

But…how important is the M60 for local transit? I figure, from Manhattan, you’re dealing mainly with people with bags going to the airport. They might not be the most time-sensitive travelers, so some kind of somewhat infrequent rail service on a train long enough to accommodate them all, and their bags, might be the cheapest solution. Either articulated LRVs or a subway – operationally speaking, it’s far cheaper than the 4-6 buses needed to match the loading capacity of two married articulated LRVs.

Regardless of what the city does, it’s best that NIMBYs be unhappy with it.

Larry Littlefield March 12, 2012 - 1:17 pm

My experience with the M60 is that it moves perfectly fast from Astoria to LaGuardia, generally along the BQE/Grand Central service road with few intersections or local stops.

If the bus has the power to turn the light green and the local stops were eliminated for some buses, it would move even faster.

But it is unreliable and often jammed, due to delays in Manhattan and on the bridge. You have to leave a ton of time if you are trying to catch a plane.

Bolwerk March 12, 2012 - 1:43 pm

I don’t think light preemption is a panacea here. It may speed things up a bit, but jams are jams, and light preemption does have the risk of creating ripple effects and, consequently, more jams.

John-2 March 12, 2012 - 12:19 pm

1.) Propose reviving Astoria to LGA link
2.) Wait for Astoria NIMBYs and Peter Vallone not only to demand the extension be underground, but that the MTA rebuild the entire Astoria el as an underground line.
3.) Drop project due to NIMBY opposition.

The MTA would do better by relocating all the Flushing bus connections to the 7 train from Main Street to Willet’s Point Blvd., and to spur off half the trains in a loop around Citi Field and back to LGA from the Willet’s Point station. More indirect than the N to the airport, but the only NIMBYs along that route are the marine life in Long Island Sound.

Bolwerk March 12, 2012 - 1:35 pm

It probably should be underground. Hell, it should be underground and dipping toward The Bronx, as I said. LGA should be a stop on the way.

Alon Levy March 12, 2012 - 7:23 pm

And cut frequency to Flushing in half? That’s not a wise move.

al March 12, 2012 - 8:19 pm

7 trains already terminate at 111th st and Willets Pt Blvd during peak hrs. You get 6-12tph between the two of them. Send those trains to LGA. During off peak times, run a shuttle between Willets Pt Blvd and LGA.

Removing fumigation related time issues at 111th st could also increase the Flushing Line capacity. During offpeak hrs, time the arrival and departures of trains for fast transfers.

John-2 March 12, 2012 - 8:30 pm

Well, like I said, relocate as many of the bus routes as feasibly possible that currently pass by or terminate at Main Street to the Willet’s Point Blvd./Citi Field stop. A great number of the people using Main Street doesn’t end their commute in the general area of Main Street, but continue north/south/east on the bus lines that connect with the station.

If you do live or work in the area around Main Street, you would see a drop in service levels (though rush hours it would still be in the neighborhood of 15 TPH). If you’re taking the bus and transferring to/from the 7 at Main Street, you’d just be doing it one station further to the west.

Alon Levy March 13, 2012 - 12:43 am

The splits are not a big problem in the peak – the capacity would still be there, just used differently. They’re a problem off-peak. It’s not as big a deal when your train frequency gets cut from 3 minutes to 4 as when it’s cut from 5 minutes to 10.

John-2 March 13, 2012 - 2:13 am

True, but the off-peak would have the option to be adjusted upwards from current TPH levels, depending on the popularity of the LGA service (or, were a 7 spur to be done in place of an LGA Air Train option, how much the Port Authority would be willing to kick in to subsidize extra off-peak trains to the airport).

Alon Levy March 13, 2012 - 8:30 pm

Off-peak can be adjusted upward, but only by taking a hit on operating expenses. I mean, by the same token, they can decree that off-peak C and G trains will run at 5-minute headways.

John-2 March 13, 2012 - 8:40 pm

Which is why you’d get PANYNJ involved. If the MTA was willing to agree to a spur off the 7 as an option that would allow the Port Authority to avoid building and operating a five-mile Air Train route from Jamaica to LaGuardia, the Port Authority could take some of that savings and put into M&O for adding non-rush hour trains to LGA, so that Main Street doesn’t take a major hit in off-peak departures.

SEAN March 12, 2012 - 12:23 pm

Could the AirTrain be extended to LGA from say Jamaica station? If so, then a pay off, oops I meen a contribution from Delta maybe in order. Why Delta you ask? Do to the fact they have the highest percentage of flights in a duel hub between JFK & LGA.

Al D March 12, 2012 - 3:01 pm

Sounds fine except that it is a circuitous path from Manhattan and therefore few business travellers would use it. Few workers would use it too because the bus is cheaper.

John-2 March 12, 2012 - 3:16 pm

Run Air Tain up the Van Wyck from Jamaica and then curve it off towards LGA at Roosevelt Ave., with a stop at Willet’s Point Blvd. and the route becomes more viable for Manhattan commuters, who could transfer to it there from the 7 train.

Turning that stop into basically the LGA equivalent of what Howard Beach is to JFK would allow for a more direct connection to the airport from Midtown Manhattan (though obviously not the most direct possible connection, and the express tracks would be running in the wrong direction for a lot of AM departure/PM arrival fliers), and would likely be more used than the JFK-Howard Beach link or even the Air Train connection at Jamaica. That’s because the shuttle flights out of LGA cater to more day trippers/short trip fliers with little or no luggage who are more likely to be willing to take the subway to the rail link to the airport.

SEAN March 12, 2012 - 5:47 pm

That makes sence, since you can capture riders from three locations. Penn Station, Grand central via the 7 & Jamaica.

Andy Sydor March 12, 2012 - 5:26 pm

Extending the N line towards LGA is probably the best option. It would only have to go another two blocks before it hits a massive industrial zone. Industrial zones don’t have NIMBYs. Once in that zone, it could grade downward to become a subway line again, finally reaching the main terminal. This is a lesser, easier project than either the number 7 extension, or the 2nd avenue line. We could do this.

Nyland8 March 17, 2012 - 10:14 am

Agreed. We could do this … and at not much cost compared to other recent projects.

UESider March 12, 2012 - 7:02 pm

there are so many issues with this, it’s hard to dec@ide where to start…

first of all, any rail service to any of the nyc airports should be world class and, thus, on par with the heathrow, hong kong, et al rail links. the air train links get the job done but are busch-league solutions for a world class city

which pretty much dismisses a subway train option. additional issues w the subway extension is that everday commuters would then have to deal with allrange of travelers, their luggage, delays (because they move slowly, block up space and never know where they are or are going), volume and related issues. the last thing i want to deal with on my commute are overloaded travelers with screaming kids and too much cr@p – this is bad enough in the check-in line and security when I am among them as a traveler

second is revenue. a cab or car ride is $35 to $70, depending. Add toll revenue, tip and taxes and you have a lot of money going into the economy – paying wages and taxes that pols then spend elsewhere, which no reasonable person will give up for a metrocard swipe. So, any viable solution, at the very minimum, has to replace the current spend – $35+tip+tax+tolls times thousands of rides per year adds up to millions of dollars.

any solution will have to replace any displaced revenues, create at least as many jobs as it displaces and pay for itself. which means the ride will have to cost the same $35, which would be quite reasonable, particularly when compared to other rail links.

last, for this all to be viable, it has to offer value. which is to say it would have to be an express ride, on a dedicated train built to accommodate too much luggage, slow moving people on a reliable schedule with comfortable seating.

the express tunnel under the GC Parkway or similar routing is the only viable option.

and then you have to solve the manhattan terminus issue – last thing Penn Sta or GCT needs is to have thousands more people a day that are slow moving over-laden and looking for a cab. there has to be another distribution point to dispurse these passengers into the city and among the local transit infrastructure – which means many will still end up sharing, at least, part of your commute

can you say ‘well time’

Alon Levy March 12, 2012 - 7:45 pm

I don’t know about Hong Kong, but in London, most of the rail access to Heathrow is by Underground. The trains are normal Tube trains, the station looks like any Tube station except maybe it makes it easier to get Oyster, etc. There’s also the Heathrow Express for time-conscious business travelers, but it and the local mainline rail connection combined get about half the usage of the Underground as far as I can tell.

For some links, see here. And if you want to skin me for comparing rail traffic to total air traffic and not to O&D traffic in the link, please do it gently.

If there has to be an LGA connection, then traditionally I supported a shuttle under Junction, connecting to the 7, the QB Line, and any future east-west lines built in Queens, on the theory that the LGA connection is less important than those other lines. On the other hand, I suspect that the one-seat ride effect is particualrly strong, making a direct connection to Manhattan more useful. On the third hand, the JFK AirTrain apparently gets a decent share of O&D traffic.

Kai B March 12, 2012 - 8:02 pm

The Piccadilly Line’s trains are also much more cramped and shorter than our spacious B-division trains. Add to that, since Heathrow is an intercontinental airport, passengers have more luggage on average.

LIRR+AirTrain is certainly the way to go to JFK. My colleagues in London use it every time when they fly into town… Once they’ve heard about it… The advertising is not that phenomenal.

Also, due to the layout of JFK, a two-seat ride is much more acceptable than at many other airports. This is because JFK has small separate terminals with short entrance-to-gate distances, compared to newer airports, many of which use the after-security people mover model.

Effectively, at many “one-seat-ride” airports you end up with two rides before you reach your gate. One from town before security and one to an airside terminal after.

Andy Sydor March 12, 2012 - 10:35 pm

LIRR + Air Train will pick up even more after the East Side access is finished, taking much time off the trip and making Grand Central the Manhattan Terminal rather than the much maligned (rightfully) Penn Station.

Alon Levy March 13, 2012 - 12:45 am

For East Side destinations, AirTrain + E is almost as fast as AirTrain + LIRR could be, gets you closer to where you probably want to go, and is vastly more frequent.

Kai B March 12, 2012 - 7:52 pm

Honestly I don’t see how you can sell a $35 rail link to LGA to passengers though, especially outside of rush hours when the speed benefits would be negligible versus a cab for the same price.

For comparison: It only costs somewhere around $13 to take the quick LIRR+AirTrain combo to JFK or the NJT+AirTrain combo to EWR.

LGA needs better access, but LGA is not Heathrow – it’s more like Stansted. And guess how they connected Stansted in 1991 – They built a branch off of an existing rail line.

Extend the N, and, if need be, charge $5 extra at the terminal to recoup some cash. 10 stops or so to Manhattan is perfectly fine.

Today’s Headlines | Body Local NYC March 13, 2012 - 11:51 am

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Andrew March 14, 2012 - 10:35 pm

Any idea what the plan for countdown clocks is without ATS? I hope they’re more useful than the ones currently at some B Division stations.


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