Home PANYNJ How much for a PATH extension to the Airport?

How much for a PATH extension to the Airport?

by Benjamin Kabak

So little for so much: A possible route for the PATH’s pricey extension to the airport.

The slow lumbering ball that is the PATH train extension to Newark airport took another turn forward this week amidst some wheeling and dealing concerning Atlantic City. The stories and rationale are vague, and the extension’s future remains murky. But no matter the outcome, various reported cost estimates that have risen precipitously over the past 14 months should have even the project’s proponents eying it with some skepticism.

The story as we know so far involves trade-offs. According to a September report, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been dangling the PATH extension in front of United in exchange for the airline providing service to the struggling Atlantic City airport. On the record, Christie officials and United executives have not confirmed the report, but the denials haven’t been particularly rigorous.

Last week, United seemingly caved. As Ted Mann reported in The Journal, United will run flights from Houston and Chicago to Atlantic City. And how does that relate to PATH? Mann offered up a bit more:

An authority official said Thursday that Mr. Christie’s representatives within the authority have been “absolutely insistent” that hundreds of millions of dollars be included in the next capital plan to begin work on the PATH project. The full project could cost from $2 billion to $4 billion, the official said, and some within the authority question the use of the funds on a connection to the Newark airport. The capital plan isn’t expected to be released before the end of the year.

A United spokesman said the airline received no incentives to provide the Atlantic City service, though he didn’t rule out applying for any existing incentive programs provided by the airport. “Any discussions about the PATH train are irrelevant to the Atlantic City service,” spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said…

Some aviation experts are skeptical that United would risk a potential money-losing service expansion without assurances elsewhere, such as the potential for a one-seat ride from Lower Manhattan to Newark that a PATH extension would bring. “It’s hard to know whether it’s a virtual carrot or a real carrot,” Robert Mann, an aviation consultant, said of the New Jersey push to fund the PATH extension. “It would be of very great interest to United.”

It’s going to be some time before the future of the PATH extension comes into view, and there’s certainly a case to be made for a more direct connection between Lower Manhattan and any of the area’s airports. But let’s look at costs. When word first leaked of Port Authority’s intentions to study the extension, the bi-state agency estimated $600 million in design and construction costs. A year later, Crain’s New York spoke of the PATH hub as a $1 billion project. For an at-grade extension over existing right-of-way, the costs seem palatable for a New York rail project.

Now, though, Mann’s report estimates costs of $2-$4 billion, and the price tag raises questions and eyebrows. Under no circumstance should a PATH extension from Newark Penn Station to Newark Liberty International Airport cost anything close to billions. Even if PATH offered a one-seat ride to the terminals — effectively swallowing the Newark AirTrain — costs shouldn’t run this high. At some point, we’ll find out more, but as details emerge, this is shaping up to be another Port Authority project with a questionable origin and runaway costs. That’s some pattern emerging.

You may also like


Nyland8 November 27, 2013 - 6:20 am

Yet another reason why the PA should be divested of its passenger rail system.

The PATH train should be swallowed whole into the MTA and run as “C” division, and the Port Authority should then focus on what it was meant to when it was first created: Operating and enhancing the AirPORTS and the SeaPORTS, and building the cross-harbor freight tunnel from Jersey to Brooklyn to facilitate commerce throughout the Port of NY/NJ.

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 10:17 am

The PATH system is an enormous money loser. There is no way the MTA would want to acquire a money losing service.

Bolwerk November 27, 2013 - 10:27 am

The MTA has nothing but money-losing services. PATH is not an inherent money loser; it’s just deliberately mismanaged, like all rail transit in the region.

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 10:48 am

With recent big increases in ridership, PATH brings in about 160mm in revenues and spends about 260mm in operating costs. I’d love to see you turn a profit on that. Because you wouldn’t “deliberately mismanage” the system, whatever that means.

Bolwerk November 27, 2013 - 11:27 am

And if their level of overstaffing is comparable to NYCTA, they could probably wipe out a lot of extraneous labor and roughly break even or even profit.

SEAN November 27, 2013 - 12:00 pm

Not to sound stupid, but what overstaffing are you referring to? When I have taken PATH, I never see CS agents. I have sene occasional PA police though.

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 12:32 pm

The PATH is run with a strikingly small number of visible personnel. The spread with the MTA has narrowed recently as the MTA sheds ticket booths, but it’s still amazing how few front line employees the PATH system uses. Can’t speak for the employees the riders don’t see.

Bolwerk November 28, 2013 - 10:07 am

I don’t know as much about PATH (note I said “if…”). However, I believe it still has two-man train crews.

As I remember it, those ~14 miles of route have a staff of over a thousand people. Kinda high, don’t you think? No idea what is going on in the back office though.

Eric November 28, 2013 - 8:58 am

NYC subway has 67.3% farebox recovery.

160M/260M is 61.5%.

Not a big difference, IMHO.

Bolwerk November 28, 2013 - 10:13 am

I think that’s farebox operating ratio. IIRC, farebox recovery is the same thing with capital depreciation included in the denominator.

I’ve been corrected on this before too, and that figure is widely misreported. In any case, it is an accounting measure, not a description of how things should or could be.

Nyland8 November 27, 2013 - 11:59 am

Actually, the NY subway system is built on an melange of money losers.

The BRT/BMT, and IRT went bankrupt – and it is far more practical, for a lot of reasons, for us to have one subway system in the city instead of 4.

Also worth remembering is that the Hudson & Manhattan Railroad was subsumed into the Port Authority, not because of any jurisdictional considerations, but because they were the only ones who could fund owning and operating it when IT went bankrupt. Had finances been different at the time, the system might have already been part of the MTA.

There’s no reason for the Port Authority to be operating an urban subway system.

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 2:23 pm

I understand that, but why would the MTA take on another cash drain?

Nyland8 November 27, 2013 - 4:50 pm

Using that reasoning, why doesn’t the MTA divest itself of every cash drain it already has?

It shouldn’t be a question of what the MTA wants, nor should it be a question of what the PA wants. It should be a question of what’s best for the region. As long as you have little fiefdoms, you have decisions made that are not in everyone’s best interests, but only in the perceived interests of the few. It was an improvement to have the BRT/BMT, IRT and IND united into a single subway system, and it will be an improvement to annex the PATH as well.

It improves buying power, it improves flexibility, it improves long-range planning, it reduces high and middle level management costs, it unifies fares, etc. System expansions can be planned that would otherwise never see the light of day.

AND … the Port Authority really shouldn’t be in the business of running an urban subway system. It should confine itself to the things that it was originally enfranchised to do, like building a cross-harbor freight tunnel.

I say take away it’s little train set, consolidate essential personnel into the MTA, and move into the 21st century.

johndmuller November 27, 2013 - 7:24 pm

There would certainly be some advantages, as you mentioned, to unifying PATH with the MTA’s subway operations, not the least of which would be an improved political climate for and thus an increased probability of some sort of rail connection from Staten Island through Bayonne to Jersey City/Hoboken.

As to connecting to the IRT lines, I think I have heard that there is supposed to be underground vertical space reserved for PATH at GCT (presumably at 42nd St.). PATH also was said to have wanted to connect with the Lex around City Hall (from the WTC line). I doubt either of these are going to happen, but they could be interesting if one made a “Y” connection with the Lex and routed some of the Bronx to Brooklyn trains to NJ instead.

Of course, the big downer to combining the PATH service into the MTA is that Big Boy and the Garden State would now be involved; you would essentially be creating another PA, this time mavbe including Connecticut for the NHL (and you might as well include NJT into it as well). A similar marriage of three jurisdictions worked reasonably well in DC with WMATA, getting their (very clean!) Metro up and running, but it has fragmented a bit with Virginia building a big extension without enough capacity at the DC end, DC (and perhaps Virginia) doing streetcars (independently) and Maryland building an outer connecting route, but with light rail instead of inter-operable equipment.

Another alternative could be to combine all of it – PATH, NJT and MTA – and the PA into one big happy can of worms.

Chris C November 27, 2013 - 2:46 pm

It was more of a deal to get the NJ Governor to agree for the PA to build the WTC – they needed the site of the terminal once it was clear building the WTC near the South Street Seaport wouldn’t get NJ support. NJ offloading it to the PA was part of the deal – they didn’t want the railway aspect but they basically had no choice!

See the 1962 entry here


“1962 The Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation is chartered as the Port Authority assumes control of the H&M Railroad in a deal that allows the agency to build the World Trade Center on the west side of Lower Manhattan.”

BruceNY November 29, 2013 - 8:18 pm

The City of New York caused the IRT & BMT to go bankrupt by forbidding them to raise the nickel fare while expenses increased over decades, and then built a third system (IND) whose sole purpose was to compete against the other two companies.

Nyland8 November 30, 2013 - 5:05 am

Sole purpose?? Really ??!!?? So the IND expansions into areas that didn’t have any subway service were competing against … what?

Your brief history seems to overlook the fact that the City of New York actually built most of the subway system.

martindelaware November 27, 2013 - 6:23 am

I don’t see how PATH could ever offer “a one-seat ride to the terminals,” seeing as how the tiny Newark AirTrain was already shoehorned into space originally intended for even smaller monorail trains. You’d have to completely rebuild that part of each terminal in order to run PATH through; maybe that’s the reason for the $2-4 billion price tag.

Jeff November 27, 2013 - 8:46 am

Don’t think that’s the intent. The PATH extension isn’t really being build on existing infrastructure – there simply isn’t enough capacity for it, that’s why it was never done in the first place. AFAIK They need to expand the ROW in order to incorporate the PATH tracks and that’s the reason for the large price tag.

BoerumHillScott November 27, 2013 - 8:56 am

$1 Billion makes sense for an expansion that meets up with the airtrain, with most of the costs beign for the station itself, and including new cars and yard expansion.

An additional $1 Billion could pay for an upgrade of the current AirTrain, while $3 billion sounds right for a complete rebuild or direct connection.

On thing to remember about the EWR AirTrain is that it also serves 4 parking areas in addition to the 3 terminals.

Phantom November 27, 2013 - 9:40 am

Is it possible to negotiate a hard cap on construction costs? Is this ever done here, or anywhere?

If it’s not done, there is a 100% temptation to play the fiddle and delay or say that field conditions require a fat increase.

The bullshit Newark Airtrain makes a detour over unused land. Who owns that land, and why can’t access be taken via eminent domain?

The Airtrain can barely handle the traffic it gets now. The tiny cars are often very overcrowded. If PATH extension leads to more passengers, you won’t be solving a problem, you’re only creating a new one of a severely overloaded Airtrain.

Alon Levy November 27, 2013 - 3:37 pm

Is it possible to negotiate a hard cap on construction costs? Is this ever done here, or anywhere?

Not that I’m aware of. What has been done includes:

1. Funding rules that make the local agency, or the PPP concessionaire, etc., responsible for cost overruns. I’m sure it’s been done at least once with PPP, but I can’t think of any example – usually private players insist on not having to bear the risk. ARC was sort of like this in that the feds made Jersey bear the risk of cost escalation beyond $9 billion (after costs had already risen from $3 billion), and we all know how that turned out.

2. Rules that break down costs into items in advance, so that every change order already has a known extra cost. Madrid does that.

Bolwerk November 28, 2013 - 10:16 am

It’s easy enough to reward finishing early with bonuses and punish finishing late with penalties.

Phantom November 28, 2013 - 9:27 pm

That might motivate the contractor, but the union guys arepaid by the hour. The harder they work, the fewer hours they get, the less money they take home. Every incentive is to work slow, to milk the job.

Good luck motivating unionized by the hour guys who may face unemployment once the job ends.

Bolwerk November 28, 2013 - 10:04 pm

We’re mostly talking about contractors. I don’t think anyone builds entirely in house. In those cases, dealing with the union is the contractor’s problem.

Although, if you are worried about the TA’s union, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to make construction of new subways a permanent duty of the TA, in which case you can easily motivate unions to continue to the next project with bonuses.

Phantom November 29, 2013 - 12:38 am

When the same union gets the work no matter what, no contractor has much leverage over them.

The power tilts to the union in all situations.

I’d like to see some stats on the same contractors’ costs and timeframes for similar projects in NY, Chicago, Philadelelphia,

Bolwerk November 29, 2013 - 2:03 pm

Which union are you talking about? The TWU isn’t the union working under a contractor.

A contractor and the union representing its workers may benefit from delaying projects, but that’s because the civil government allows it to be that way. It doesn’t have to be that way.

The TWU is another issue, though, like I said, if they can have work, even if its different work, they will probably be happy. System expansion ultimately means more work for them.

3ddi3 November 30, 2013 - 11:35 am

That’s actually a right wing fallacy, most of the cost overruns are by white collar management, land acquisition, review and environmental impact processes.
The union costs are already known before. It’s those same workers that are our neighbors and the guys that deserve to be making good money, the time schedule is prepared by upper management.

BrooklynBus November 27, 2013 - 10:05 am

I really don’t see the problem with the existing trip to Newark Airport which involves a change to New Jersey Transit. If PATH were extended, you still would have to change to get to the terminals. So exactly what does this huge waste of money accomplish other than being a reason to raise bridge and tunnel tolls to pay for it, and give politically connected contractors, consultants and engineers jobs?

VLM November 27, 2013 - 10:08 am

Not everything is a conspiracy theory, Al. If the PA can build something at a reasonable cost, it’s not hard to understand why a two-seat ride from Lower Manhattan via PATH and AirTrain is far more desirable than PATH to NJ Transit to AirTrain. Have you ever tried getting to Newark from Lower Manhattan?

Nets Cowbell Guy November 27, 2013 - 3:14 pm

I did it once with 2 bags & it wasn’t that bad.

BrooklynBus November 27, 2013 - 5:12 pm

I made two round trips and actually it wasn’t that bad. Time passed quickly and the trip seemed quicker than it actually took and I also had to take the subway to Sheepshead Bay from Penn Station.

It remains to be seen if it could be built at a reasonable cost, but it doesn’t seem to me that the effort and cost involved will be worth the small benefit achieved of avoiding one change of trains.

Don Anon November 27, 2013 - 6:01 pm

“It wasn’t that bad”–a rousing endorsement!

BrooklynBus November 27, 2013 - 9:39 pm

The question is how much better it would be with the PATH extension? One of my trips took 2 hours. The other took 3 because I missed a NJT connection on a Sunday with 30 minute headways and I got lost on the Airtrain getting off at e wrong stop because the map was not clear so I lost a few minutes there. I had a long trio to Brooklyn, but everything else went smoothly and I had a comfortable trip with seats and no delays. That’s why it wasn’t that bad. I would do it again.

If I had a direct PATH and subway trip, what would I save? 15 minutes? It woud still be a very long trip. It’s not that it woud cut my trip in half or anyone’s trip in half. Would it? And building it wouldn’t come cheap either.

Why would this be worth doing and reactivating the Rockaway Line not worth doing?

VLM November 27, 2013 - 10:18 pm

The Rockaway Line has literally nothing to do with this. Additionally, it’s not about you! You’re going from Sheepshead Bay to Newark. That’s borderline insane by itself. This is about the dense Lower Manhattan and Jersey City neighborhoods that could have far easier access to Newark than they do now.

BrooklynBus November 28, 2013 - 9:39 am

The Rockaway Line certainly has a lot to do with this.

Port Authority or not. The money in the end comes from the taxpayers’ pocketbooks. It is our duty to see it is spent most efficiently. You have people going on about how expensive reactivating the Rockaway Line would cost and it would be in the billions, so we can’t afford it. The truth is that much will be gained if we could find the money to reactivate it.

Now teh Port Authority comes along with a plan to also supposedly improve transit after they have already wasted billions on the new WTC Terminal. First, how can we even trust this agency to be frugal with our dollars? Second, show me the massive improvement an extension to Path would bring? I coud see it if there were no rail access altogether, but there is. What wil it save people 15 minutes and a change of trains? Ridiculous. When the money could be spent in better ways.

As far as my trip to Newark, if I can get a flight from Newark that is $100 cheaper than from JFK, and I have only one bag, what is so insane about that, especially if I am not complaining about the transit trip?

ajedrez November 28, 2013 - 2:47 pm

Actually, if you take the #62 bus from Newark Penn, you can get a 2-seat ride to Lower Manhattan.

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 10:30 am

The current set up is highly inconvenient for lower Manhattan passengers and — perversely — for Hudson County people and businesses. The transfer from the PATH to NJT at Newark is time consuming and very confusing. Whether this justifies the extension is a question, but trying to get to the airport from Hoboken by train borders on the absurd. It’s not much better from Jersey City.

Chuck November 27, 2013 - 1:01 pm

The transfer from the PATH to NJT at Newark is time consuming and very confusing.

What? You walk down a ramp. Nearly all of the NJ Coast & NE Corridor trains (the ones that stop at EWR) leave from tracks 3 or 4, which is the platform that the PATH ramps leads to. Trains are marked EWR on the monitors. Ticket machines are on the platform.

If this is in any way confusing to someone, that person should be taking a car service.

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 1:59 pm

That would include me. The first time I tried it via PATH wound up on a train that sped right by the airport and stopped at someplace called “Metropark” whatever that means. Turns out the scheduled train to EWR was delayed and I was getting on what was supposed to be an earlier train. Generalizing wildly from personal experience, I’m going to say that it’s confusing.

Nets Cowbell Guy November 27, 2013 - 3:16 pm

Whenever I get on NJT, I ask the conductor “are you stopping at X?”

Alon Levy November 27, 2013 - 4:07 pm

Sorry, on this particular topic, I’m with Eric F. Trains need to make it very clear what the stopping pattern is. I once ended up in New Brunswick when I wanted to go to Metuchen. Asking a human is a bad way to do it, since it requires the passenger to show up a few minutes in advance to find said human, and requires the train to be stopped at Newark longer than otherwise necessary in order to field questions from passengers. At Penn Station at least, the LIRR is much clearer, and I’ve managed never to get on a train that skips Jamaica.

Joseph Steindam November 28, 2013 - 9:24 am

When NJT trains arrive at stations, the train conductors are required to walk out onto the platforms, allowing any confused passengers to ask that train’s conductor what stops the train will make. Granted they’re not at every door, and of course NJT can always improve station announcements to make it clear what stops the train will make. I can only speak from my experience, but my general commute has me getting on at New Brunswick, Newark or New York, and the pre-recorded announcements and monitors make it clear where the trains are stopping.

BrooklynBus November 27, 2013 - 5:16 pm

The reason it is confusing is because there is not a single sign that directs you to New Jersey Transit. I was confused also and got lost temporarily. All the signs said was ” Trains West”. One supposed to know somehow that that means New Jersey Transit. It’s a problem that can be fixed very easily and doesn’t merit an extension of PATH.

BoerumHillScott November 27, 2013 - 10:20 am

PATH runs more frequently than NJ Transit, and has better connectivity and convenience for many NYC subway lines, especially once the WTC Transit Center is finished.

I don’t book flights out of Newark due to the pain of getting there (I have used NJT to Airtrain once), but would be much more likely to if there was a PATH connection.

I am curious about how much of the cost (if any) will come from dedicated airport funds vs general purpose PA funds.

g November 27, 2013 - 10:43 am

I never book into Newark if I’m going to NYC, wouldn’t even consider it an option because of the hassle of getting into the city. More often than not I pay a premium to use JFK because of LIRR-Subway to AirTrain connections as an option.

I remember the PA wants to spend a bundle on adding capacity to EWR since it’s the only place it can really do it. Connecting directly to PATH would dovetail with that strategy.

Will Ride November 27, 2013 - 12:31 pm

A lot of the pain of getting there is the depressing environment of Penn Station and the NJTransit trains.

If the transfer from the subway onto the trains would be more pleasant and the trains modern and frequent, I don’t see how a one-stop on NJTransit is worse than a one-stop on PATH.

Today, though, I always choose JFK over EWR so that I can take the A or E to Airtrain.

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 10:20 am

“Under no circumstance should a PATH extension from Newark Penn Station to Newark Liberty International Airport cost anything close to billions.”

This position is based on what exactly? Seems like a content-free statement that is not based on any engineering realities. If the view is that the extension is easily build-able for a fraction of what the PA thinks, I imagine that a bidder would win a bidding competition for constructing it for something closer to the true price.

Bolwerk November 27, 2013 - 10:29 am

How about that no other place in the world would have at grade or above grade rail service at such a high price.

Of course, this has been explained to you. Many times.

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 10:41 am

That shows zero understanding of how the extension would be built. You are pretending that it’s simply a matter of extending some tracks over a cleared RoW and it’s not like that at all. Check out the area sometime. But then, of course, this has been explained to you, many times. But you are free to blow the lid off the nascent scandal and explain how you’d build it for the cost of a 1976 Ford Fairmont.

Bolwerk November 27, 2013 - 11:18 am

Nice strawman. No, I’m not “pretending” anything. A billion dollars is on the high side for tunneling that distance in a first world country, with a few stations. I don’t see why that would be necessary, since this is one station and presumably more ideally situated for an el or something.

Also, you never account for why you think stuff like this should cost billions.

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 11:59 am

I don’t “think” it “should” cost anything. The PA has actual real life engineers on staff who actually build stuff. My surmise is that people with greater knowledge than you have thought about this in an organized manner and come up with a cost estimate that is based on something more specific than a line on a map and some European cost per km baseline.

Eric November 28, 2013 - 9:10 am

Is there ANY price that would cause you to say “Wow, this looks unbelievably high, it must be based on something other than competent professional considerations?” What if the announced price was not $4 billion but $10 billion? Or $50 billion? Or $1 trillion? Where is the limit to your credulity, and what factors caused it be placed there?

Bolwerk November 28, 2013 - 10:32 am

What is this muddle? First you complain that I am against waste, and then you respond to yourself by accusing me of supporting waste?

I would tend to do what any accountant or financial manager would do, and that even you are probably capable of doing if you would make some effort. Evaluate the costs and the return (something akin NPV analysis maybe?) and make a conclusion about the merits of the project based on that. We know it will lose money, so we need to at least find some way to quantify positive externalities like how much the state or metropolitan GDP will be boosted. I have trouble seeing how moving a few thousand airport users to a place they probably don’t want to go is worth a billion dollars. But, if they could go to Midtown, maybe it would be worth it.

Bolwerk November 28, 2013 - 10:52 am

Analogy is probably the best baseline there is without doing a full budget. If there is some factor in Newark driving up the cost that much, I’d be curious to hear it, but if the NEC ROW can’t be used (the cheapest solution) then the most likely candidate is a reinforced concrete viaduct through Newark over the NEC or a street, followed by a mix of grade and above-grade ROW. AirTrain JFK did this for $235M/mile about a decade ago, and even that is probably high.

The other possibility is the need for tunneling in Newark, which means PATH would need to go from above grade to below grade. A billion dollars sounds very worth it if Newark is getting a subway with some stations of its own, and the airport is a stop.

Alon Levy November 27, 2013 - 4:08 pm

On the fact that the line is to be at-grade and that fully underground lines under dense CBDs don’t cost this much outside New York and London.

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 10:25 am

If I was running the PA, whether you’d go down the road would depend in part on how the thing is financed. If a dedicated passenger facility charge stream can be sluiced into it — and that money cannot be used per se for any non-airport purpose — it may make some sense.

It would certainly be exciting to see a PATH expansion. Maybe someone could comment on when the last H&M extension took place, certainly outside the lifetimes of most people around today.

John-2 November 27, 2013 - 11:34 am

Since a subway ride to the airport would be the biggest asset to workers at the airport and/or people on same-day or overnight business trips who are bringing little or no luggage on the flight, the biggest asset to the PA would be the potential to shift shuttle flights away from LaGuardia and to Newark, which in turn would open up those spots at LGA for additional long-distance flights.

Whether or not shifting revenue streams between EWR and LGA would justify the construction cost is questionable, but we may get a hint of the viability a few years from now, when the Silver Line opens in Washington and the difference between flying into Dulles vs. Reagan National for short-trip/short-term fliers is narrowed considerably.

SEAN November 27, 2013 - 12:11 pm

Do you have any idea just how crowded EWR is? How on earth could they add hourly shuttles between BOS & or DCA/ IAD without enlarging the airport footprint? I’ll tell you right now that would be a non-starter.

Avit November 27, 2013 - 2:12 pm

That makes no sense. LGA has short runways that can’t handle transcon/international flights. EWR has the capacity for the longer haul flights. The shuttles should be kept at LGA until HSR can kill them. Let EWR focus on what it’s actually good at, long haul flights.

SEAN November 27, 2013 - 3:26 pm

You don’t need HSR to kill the shuttle flights as Mega Bus, Greyhound & Northeast regional Amtrak trains are doing that already.

Rob Durchola November 27, 2013 - 8:52 pm

You can’t shift many flights from LGA to EWR because EWR is also almost at capacity already with both gate and runway capacity issues.

g November 27, 2013 - 10:34 am

$2-4B HAS to be service direct to the terminals. There is no possible way that 1.5 miles of concrete viaduct or expanded embankments through vacant ROW can cost $2-4B.

The JFK AirTrain cost $2B for 8 miles of built from scratch system serving all terminals and two major transfer stations. Granted that was 10 years ago but the cost per mile couldn’t have gone up by 5 times (especially since they only need to add transfer infrastructure two one existing station).

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 10:43 am

There is no vacant right of way.

g November 27, 2013 - 10:54 am

Allow me to clarify, though mostly vacant land directly adjacent to the ROW. Sending it to the existing station cannot possibly cost $2B by any conceivable method.

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 10:58 am

Sounds like you may be the winning bidder! The PA couldn’t possibly resist the political pressure to refuse a bid literally billions below the others.

I’ve taken NEC trains from Newark past the airport many times, I have never seen this vacant adjacent land.

g November 27, 2013 - 11:03 am

Apparently you need to get your prescription checked.

SEAN November 27, 2013 - 11:18 am

I cant believe I’m saying this, but I agree with Eric F – where is the vacant ROW you speak of? When I ride the NEC I cant see it either, but then again I’m nearsighted.

Bolwerk November 28, 2013 - 11:06 am

The airport approach part is vacant-ish, but also possibly swampy and in need of complicated construction techniques.

It’s the half mile or so out of Newark that is the bitch. Still, it doesn’t explain why construction costs should approach a billion dollars. Is there some need to condemn land valued in the stratosphere?

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 11:20 am

Look, somebody could FOIA the PA’s engineering studies and see what they think they dealing with. I have this insane bias of assuming they have put more thought into this than someone drawing a line on a map.

I’d also note that this is the same site that has a groundswell of opinion that it would be a really cost effective idea to build a subway line across NY harbor to Staten Island — and then is outraged that an EWR extension might cost more than retaining the services of Alex Rodriguez for a few years.

Bolwerk November 27, 2013 - 11:20 am

Eric thought the waste in ARC was totally evil librulism, but is fine with cost inflation like this.


Eric F November 27, 2013 - 11:57 am

Um, no, I thought that ARC is a necessary project that was neither financed nor financeable. Day after day, this very site posts project updates that show delay after delay and overrun after overrun that make end budgets look nothing like beginning budgets. There seems general outrage that a PATH airport extension will cost more than a Happy Meal. And yet, we are to assume that NJ was not going to be bankrupted by being on the hook for overruns on one of the most extensive and complex engineering undertakings in U.S. history. What I did say is that The Greatest President Ever had a one trillion stimulus playpen to use and never took a dime of it for the “folks” and dedicate it to Portal or ARC, and now you have neither. There’s your failure of liberalism.

Bolwerk November 28, 2013 - 11:00 am

You keep saying it wasn’t financed. That is a lie that you either are making up or repeating because of confirmation bias. It was financed and under construction. I seriously doubt anyone in the public sector starts construction without financing these days, and we know what financing mix was in place for ARC.

The “outrage” is that this specific PATH extension costs too much for the number of people it moves. Almost everyone here holds their nose and supports SAS because it actually moves a lot of people. Even ESA and (theoretically) ARC would actually move a lot of people. Likewise vapor projects like 7 to Secaucus see support because, overpriced construction costs aside, that one could move a lot of people.

Personally, I would support PATH to the airport. It just needs to cost about half what it currently costs to be anywhere near worth it.

SEAN November 27, 2013 - 11:07 am

$2-4B HAS to be service direct to the terminals. There is no possible way that 1.5 miles of concrete viaduct or expanded embankments through vacant ROW can cost $2-4B.

My thaughts exactly. If the PA wants to replace the Newark AirTrain with PATH, then those cost projections maybe valid. Doing so would expand the transit reach of one of the nations busyest airports& decrease auto traffic at the same time. This can only work if PATH reaches the terminals directly.

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 11:23 am

I really hope not. An airport terminal cul de sac would seem to foreclose further western extensions of the system. There are a lot of areas adjacent to Newark that could use a rail line. I believe the original plan — back when the USA still built stuff — was to get PATH all the way to western side of Union County.

g November 27, 2013 - 2:34 pm

Given the PA’s other commitments I think that any expansion of PATH beyond EWR is pretty unlikely. That money would be better spend lengthening platforms to accept 10 car trains anyway. There is a LOT of underdeveloped land surrounding a number of PATH stations that should get used long before a further extension would be merited.

I’d be highly interested in seeing exactly what the PA has in mind for PATH to EWR that drives the cost into the billions. It either has to involve replacing AirTrian and making substantial modifications to the terminal buildings or construction of a secondary loop for the terminals that PATH will serve to future proof the improvements that the PA wants to do the terminals and airfield.

Alon Levy November 27, 2013 - 4:10 pm

Ugh. So now it means people transferring between terminals at EWR should pay PATH fares? And that evening frequencies will be low because the trains have drivers?

Chris C November 27, 2013 - 9:49 pm

Why would people have to pay?

You don’t on the JFK Air Train if transferring between terminals or to the car lots.

Alon Levy November 28, 2013 - 1:04 am

The JFK AirTrain has exit turnstiles at the ends; since nobody was meant to use it to get between Jamaica and Howard Beach, this works. PATH isn’t like that – people use it for a variety of destinations (which is why an SIR-like solution can’t work either). The partly free, partly paid transit systems I know rely on proof-of-payment.

Chris C November 28, 2013 - 8:25 am

You don’t need a ticket for the Heathrow Express service for getting between terminals at Heathrow airport.

Once outside the free zone there are on board ticket inspectors as well as ticket gates at Paddington Station to catch the ticket less.

Mixing free and paid for travel on a limited part of the same system is not an insurmountable issue.

ajedrez November 28, 2013 - 2:58 pm

That’s what he said, though: It would likely require a switch to proof-of-payment.

Chris C November 29, 2013 - 6:59 am

That is not what Alon said though.

He said “The partly free, partly paid transit systems I know rely on proof-of-payment.”

I provided Heathrow as an example that didn’t require proof of payment WITHIN the airport – just like you don’t need proof of payment when using Air Train WITHIN JFK.

You only need to have a proof of payment in the paid for zone. Outside the free zone you either get caught by a train guard or by the ticket gates at Paddington.

This is not an insurmountable issue beyond the wits of man.

Alon Levy November 29, 2013 - 7:50 pm

Okay, you misunderstood, twice. Proof of payment means there are inspectors who check tickets at random in the paid zone. Obviously there’s no need for proof of payment in the free zone. That’s equally true of free zones on various light rail systems.

Second, the Heathrow Express uses exit turnstiles. This works since a) Paddington is the only station outside the free zone, and b) London’s faregates are configured for zonal fares and so even if there were a station between Paddington and Heathrow passengers wouldn’t be double-charged for traveling from this station to Paddington.

Bolwerk November 28, 2013 - 11:02 am

Actually, it’s retarded. I can understand it, grudgingly, if they want to charge so much more than all the other transit service in the city for that distance, but why not let people move between Jamaica and Howard Beach? It could at least be $5 entry and free exit at the other end.

D in Bushwick November 27, 2013 - 11:12 am

Corruption is the cause: everyone has a finger in the HUGE pie.
It’s corruption pure and simple and those on this blog who continue to deny this or downplay it are in serious denial or more likely are part of the problem.
Wake up!

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 11:26 am

So your view is that the PA is pre-loading corruption cost figures into its airport extension budget?

There is a lot of “soft corruption” in agency builds, with set asides, mandates, community mitigation funds and the like that go into government projects of all stripes. I think the PA was stuck greasing half the communities in southern Queens when it built the JFK airtrain. But that’s what you get these days when the law and politics empowers every person to be his own Lillipution tying down the big bad PA Gulliver. It’s also why so very little is built any more.

SEAN November 27, 2013 - 11:31 am

Corruption is the cause: everyone has a finger in the HUGE pie.
It’s corruption pure and simple and those on this blog who continue to deny this or downplay it are in serious denial.

Of course that’s the case, but most here aren’t in denial over that fact even if there posts don’t always state the obvious.

lawhawk November 27, 2013 - 11:28 am

I’m skeptical over the costs, but the only way to know what the costs actually deliver, we’d need to know the scope of work being contemplated.

Are they lumping in terminal improvements and reconfiguring the terminal-side structures, roads, and access points to accommodate the PATH, or is this a linkup to the existing AirTrain system (map here, and satellite imagery here).

Are they looking at significantly expanding/improving stations beyond what’s already contemplated between WTC and NWK? The PANY is already looking at increasing platforms to 10-car lengths between NWK and WTC along with signal enhancements, so that shouldn’t be part of the cost scoping. Are they building additional stations between NWK and EWR, which would require additional land acquisition?

What this does sound like is that the agency is looking to gold-plate another major project when the structures needed to extend this shouldn’t cost that much particularly when much of the right of way already exists.

I’m also guessing here, but this may also include a rebuild of the AirTrain at EWR, which has had far more problems than the JFK AirTrain and doesn’t even extend to the long term lots.

Eric F November 27, 2013 - 11:50 am

I was thinking that as well. The PA has been planning on making all platforms on the EWR-WTC line 10-car ready for years and years but has done very little to execute on these plans. Implementation requires extensive work to Grove Street station in a highly built up environment. Work is also required in Newark and Exchange Place stations. Harrison is beginning a glacial rebuilding process now. I wouldn’t be surprised if the station expansions are viewed as a necessary condition precedent to an extension and factored in.

“What this does sound like is that the agency is looking to gold-plate another major project when the structures needed to extend this shouldn’t cost that much particularly when much of the right of way already exists.”

Not true.

“I’m also guessing here, but this may also include a rebuild of the AirTrain at EWR, which has had far more problems than the JFK AirTrain and doesn’t even extend to the long term lots.”

I doubt they’d ever extend the train to the lots. The buses work pretty well and they;d probably need them anyway, otherwise in those large lots you’d be stuck trooping luggage for hundred yard walks to a monorail station anyway.

Emmanuel November 27, 2013 - 5:36 pm

What if PATH could connect manhattan to all 3 airports? It could extend to newark (probably the easiest). It could extend to jfk via brooklyn bridge and the atlantic branch of the LIRR. Then, to LGA, it would be extended from 33rd st station up to the queensboro bridge and follow the expressways to laguardia. Then you would have path connecting manhattan with all the 3 airports, which could be the port authority’s dream.

Nyland8 November 27, 2013 - 6:02 pm

Nothing can be extended from 33rd St. – because of the elevation.

HOWEVER !! There is already a bell mouth at 9th & Christopher at the correct elevation which could carry the train uptown in turn to: Union Square; 23rd & 2nd (to meet the future SAS); across the East River to meet the G Line at Greenpoint Ave.; etc, and on and on to LaGuardia.

But that doesn’t mean it would be practical. It would probably be cheaper to build another AirTrain from Jamaica to LGA along the highways – but of course that won’t connect the other 2 airports to EWR.

Emmanuel November 27, 2013 - 6:09 pm

can you further explain the elevation problem? Is the NYC subway on top of the PATH on 6th avenue or below it?

Nyland8 November 27, 2013 - 6:32 pm

The PATH terminal at 33rd St. has structure in front of it.

From 23rd St traveling northward, the B/D are below it, and the F/M flank it on either side.

It is hemmed in and cannot go beyond its current terminal without radically ripping up Herald Square – which will never happen.

On this side of the Hudson, PATH ends at WTC, and PATH ends at Herald Square … period. From a realistic engineering standpoint, 9th and Christopher is the only place it’s free to diverge … and even that has severe limitations.

Emmanuel November 27, 2013 - 6:38 pm

makes sense. I assume its the same at WTC. Too much subways that the path would have to intersect before getting to the brooklyn bridge…

Eric November 28, 2013 - 9:22 am

Better to just through-run NJT to Jamaica and transfer to the Airtrain there.

JJJJ November 27, 2013 - 5:58 pm

A path expansion is an enormous loss for NJ residents and a gain for NYers.

Someone going to Newark from Trenton, Princeton, New Brunswick etc would have to take NJ transit to Newark, turn around (and pay) for PATH to airport, and then pay for monorail to terminal.

Three seats, three fares.

Major PITA

Nyland8 November 27, 2013 - 6:08 pm

The highest population densities in the state are in Union, Essex and Hudson Counties.

People in Trenton can fly out of Philly.

From the EWR AirTrain website: “Getting to and from Newark on AirTrain is fast and easy. AirTrain Newark provides easy connections to and from NJ TRANSIT, PATH and Amtrak through one gateway: Newark Liberty International Airport Station. Customers may purchase a ticket to ride on AirTrain from NJ Transit or Amtrak at their train stations, ticket offices or ticketing machines and the AirTrain Newark fee will be included – one ticket does it all.

AirTrain is free for on-airport travel and makes frequent stops around the airport including airline terminals, parking lots, hotel shuttle areas and rental car facilities.”

JJJJ November 27, 2013 - 10:06 pm

I dont understand what youre getting at with the website quote? Monorail is a $5 fare.

Those from Union, Essex and Hudson Counties currently can transfer at Secaucus to Airport, and take the monorail. A PATH extension would mean they transfer at Secaucus, then transfer at Newark, then transfer at Airport.

There are zero benefits for anyone in NJ for this extension. Even airport employees would never take it due to the $5 monorail, theyd take one of the many local buses.

Extending an improved monorail to Newark is the only option that makes any sense.

Youve also clearly never taken the train from Trenton to Philly airport. Its cheaper and less time consuming to fly out of Trenton airport. But if you need options, you go to Newark.

ajedrez November 28, 2013 - 3:03 pm

Was part of the plan to close the existing NJT station in order to have PATH trains stop there or something? If not, it wouldn’t negatively impact current NJT riders.

Alon Levy November 28, 2013 - 1:06 am

A colleague who went to Princeton says that Princeton students are a captive market for United (then Continental). Trenton isn’t that much closer to Philly than Princeton, although I suppose Philadelphia’s airport is a two-seat ride rather than a three-seat one.

Eric November 28, 2013 - 9:34 am

Exactly. Rather than extending PATH to the airport, extend Airtrain to Newark Penn Station. Same number of transfers (1) from NY (Midtown or Lower Manhattan). Cheaper elevated construction (isn’t that the main advantage of monorail?). Airport travelers will transfer at Newark Penn rather than the current airport station, which will add 5 minutes to EWR-Philly trips, remove 2 minutes of travel for any Northeast Corridor trip not involving EWR (of which there are many more), and leave EWR-NY trip times unchanged.

Alon Levy November 28, 2013 - 3:59 pm

Cheaper elevated construction (isn’t that the main advantage of monorail?).


Although cutting the transfer from travel to the airport to Downtown Newark is neat.

pete November 27, 2013 - 9:27 pm

The cheapest way to build a PATH extension to the airport is to lower the fare for NJ Transit and the $7 Newark Airtrain fee.

Chris C November 27, 2013 - 9:54 pm


reducing the fare may increase the eventual numbers of passengers but it has no relation to the cost of construction !

Nyland8 November 28, 2013 - 9:46 am

To all the passionate posters here at the Sagas, I say “GOBBLE TOV !!!”

Have the best holidays ever.

marv November 28, 2013 - 4:34 pm

If the goal (and why that would be a goal is a different issue) is to have one line connect jfk, laguadia, and newark liberty, the way to do it would be:

1-extend PATH to newark airport terminals
2-rather than having path head up 6th avenue after crossing the hudson river, build a short tunnel and have it connect to the new #7 tail tracks at 23rd street and 11th avenue (the bonus of service from NJ to the east side would be tremendous)
3)at Queensboro Plaza swap the Astoria BMT and the #7.(The Flushing/Corona el was built after dual contracts so hopefully the platforms can be easily shaved back (as was done on the Astoria El) to allow for IND/BMT loading gauge
4)build an elevated line over the Grand Central Parkway (coming down to ground level or below at the LGA runway) into LGA
5)Continue the line down to the citifield subway/LIRR transfer station
6)Continuing down as an elevated line adjacent to the elevated Van Wyck (park side of the highway) over the Kew Gardens interchange (with possible storage at the IND yards
7)and finally have the new line join the JFK Airtrain over the Van Wyck.

Possible spurs could include:
*Citifield to Roosevelt Ave/Main Street in downtown Flushing
*Citifield north along I-678 Van Wyck/White Stone Expressway to 20th Avenue
*Over the LIE from the Van Wyck east out to Springfield Blvd
*From the Van Wyck east to Jamaica Station

Alon Levy November 28, 2013 - 9:40 pm

Ew. You’re decimating PATH service to Herald Square just to improve things for airport travelers. Don’t do it; for that amount of tunneling, you’d better have a much stronger market than airport riders.

marv November 28, 2013 - 10:54 pm

I did not suggest it…

(“If the goal (and why that would be a goal is a different issue) is to have one line connect jfk, laguadia, and newark liberty”)

However I do feel that Herald Square (whose service would be “decimated” is but one block from Penn Station and most NJ riders going to Herald Square could instead take NJT to Penn.

In exchange Times Square, 5th Avenue and Grand Central stops are provided to NJ riders with one seat transfers to almost every subway line (and Metro North and soon the LIRR) serving almost every station in NYC and beyond. This contrasts with the redundant connections to the 6th avenue trains. East side access for NJ is provided at “minimal” cost. NJ riders could switch to the east side IRT and then walk to Museums on 5th Avenue and attend Yankee games (and if my full concept was carried out Met games as well.)

That the #7 uses 11 car trains provides a capacity increase allowing greater passenger load through the existing Hudson River tubes.

If Herald Square service is really desirable, the obvious option would be to have alternating service (if the lines are running at capacity) between the Herald Square and Times Square/Grand Central. Those #7 trains not going to NJ would terminate short of the Hudson River tunnels (chelsea piers of or 14th Street?) with options for later (not in our lives) extension to the WTC.

Alon Levy November 28, 2013 - 11:17 pm

But PATH doesn’t serve the same stations as NJT, except Newark. The parts of Jersey with the urban layout that promotes high transit usage (i.e. Jersey City, Hoboken, Newark) aren’t taking NJT.

Alternating service is a terrible idea, because it cuts frequencies to each destination. PATH already splits frequencies between two destinations; a second split means headways worse than 10 minutes off-peak, which is unacceptable based on the needs of actual transit users. Remember, the residents of Jersey City, Hoboken, and Newark are producing the same PATH ridership as the rest of the state has on NJT.

You’re in general worrying too much about people who don’t use transit much, judging by the list of destinations you give: museums, baseball stadiums, airports. People go to each of these a couple times a year. That’s not where the serious ridership on transit is. The busiest subway stops are the major job centers, not Jamaica, Yankee Stadium, Willets Point, AMNH, or either of the stops flanking the Met (86th is very busy, but because of commuters, not Met attendees). And the biggest outlying generators of transit ridership are walkable, dense or dense-ish neighborhoods in the city and inner suburbs. NJT isn’t even trying to serve people who live in Newark and Elizabeth – the stop spacing is too wide, the frequency is too low, and the fares are too high. Worry about those first and airport riders last.

Chris C November 28, 2013 - 10:05 pm


and how much is all this going to cost???

people are complaining about the cost of the proposed extension so god knows what your proposals would cost – that is if they are even feasible to build.

marv November 28, 2013 - 11:19 pm

Given issues of the how the a #7 to NJ would operate, union issues, FRA etc, the obvious solution is for the #7 to become part of PATH. Since the #7 does not share revenue tracks with any other subway line (there is a movement connection at Queensboro Plaza), operating under PATH employees/regs would be relatively easy.

Obviously, NJ, NY and the Port Authority would have to agree:

*how to allocate fares (given free transfers to the rest of the subway system and free transfers from NYC buses,
*the fare structure
*who (NY vs NJ) and in what portions deficits are funded
*how issues such as frequency etc are controlled
*how capital improvements (stations, track maintanace/improvements, signals, and new cars) are funded etc

Nyland8 November 29, 2013 - 5:20 pm

Uh … no. As I’ve stated above, there are plenty of good reasons to subsume the PATH into the MTA. There are ZERO good reasons for the MTA to divest itself of any of its subway system to expand the PATH.

Besides, the current PATH train size is dictated by the dimensions of the Hudson Tubes. Their rolling stock is 9’2″ wide. IRT trains – the 7 Line for example – are 8’9″ wide. In other words, PATH trains don’t fit in IRT tunnels.

And nobody in their right mind would spend the billions, take the time, or suffer the disruption that widening the 7 Line tunnels across Manhattan would do.

If the Port Authority doesn’t need to be in the subway business to begin with – and it doesn’t – then it certainly does not need to acquire and operate yet another “B Division” of narrower trains.

The region doesn’t need a PATH system. The region needs a subway system that serves the nearby areas of highest population density, including links to airports and commuter rail hubs, and it needs an extended regional commuter rail service for the suburbs and exurbs.

Bolwerk November 30, 2013 - 1:48 am

There is really zero reason to care who owns what. What we should care about is providing good transit service. Line ownership has no impact on that, and who operates a service has only minimal impact on that.

Nyland8 November 30, 2013 - 4:39 am

Hmm. Perhaps true in the abstract … but most people would think it is fair to say that the MTA would not have pissed away $4+ Billion on the Calatrava Extravaganza – money that might have been spent expanding or upgrading the system.

And most people would think that it is fair to say that the PA should have been better prepared for Sandy. In light of how long it has taken for the PATH to resume full service since then, and in light of the fact that it had devastating floods as recently as December 1992, and yet hasn’t done what it takes to harden that system against that type of disaster, nor improved its recovery time, you’d think they would have learned their lesson. It is reasonable to say the PA have not been good stewards of their subway.

But as I mentioned before, consolidating the PATH into the MTA improves buying power, it improves flexibility, it facilitates long-range planning, it reduces the redundant high and middle level management, it unifies fares, etc, … all of which can serve the public better, to say nothing of reducing total operating costs.

So … no Bolwerk. I wouldn’t consider those factors “no impact” or “minimal impact”. Who owns and operates what, at least in this instance, seems to me to have more than sufficient impact. And that’s without even getting into the issue of what a port authority is doing operating a subway.

Bolwerk November 30, 2013 - 10:27 am

If you combine PATH into the MTA, you’re imposing the situation with the MTA and Connecticut, where an intransigent, NIMBY-controlled state legislature doesn’t want to cooperate with an out of state agency. That is a lateral move at best.

Railroads the world over work with each other’s fare media and share each other’s trackage. This shouldn’t be hard.

Nyland8 November 30, 2013 - 12:28 pm

Exactly. It shouldn’t be hard. In a scale of existing human achievement, it should be embarrassing for Americans to admit that Albany, Hartford and Trenton would have a hard time figuring out things like transit funding, revenue sharing, equipment standardization, etc.

For one price, I can buy a monthly unlimited Eurail Pass that can bring me through 22 different countries, and half-a-dozen of them – in the former Yugoslavia – didn’t even exist 20 years ago.

That’s 22 different political systems, 22 different policing jurisdictions, 22 different customs departments, who knows how many different currencies, etc. Hell, these people don’t even speak the same language as each other. Yet they’ve cooperatively found a way to optimize interurban and interstate mass-transit in a way that equitably shares my ticket price.

And we can’t even figure out a way to get LIRR across to Secaucus, or NJTransit across to Jamaica. Shame on us.

Gilberto Snodderly September 30, 2015 - 4:03 pm

Awesome information on this site! Terrifically nice ideas. Good work!


Leave a Comment