Home PANYNJ Is the PATH extension to Newark Airport another Port Authority boondoggle?

Is the PATH extension to Newark Airport another Port Authority boondoggle?

by Benjamin Kabak

Is this a worthwhile use of Port Authority money?

If most transit-minded folk in the Tri-State area had $1.5 billion to spend, an extension of the PATH train to Newark Airport wouldn’t be high on the list of priorities. With that money, most people would add to the pot for a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel, take a look at investing in another phase of the Second Ave. Subway, explore a subway extension to Laguardia Airport, begin the Triboro RX line or look to one of any number of other projects. The Port Authority of course chose the airport extension.

Now, it’s not much of a surprise that the Port Authority is building out this PATH extension. It does serve some useful function as it provides a more direct connection to Newark Airport for anyone traveling by public transit from Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, and, more importantly, Jersey City and Hoboken. We’ve also heard of interest in this project for the past three or four years, most recently as an odd quid-pro-quo given by New Jersey to United Airlines in exchange for direct flights to Atlantic City.

As the ball has slowly rolled forward on this project, the costs have gone up. In 2004, PA documents projected a $500 million cost. When Gov. Chris Christie first pushed this extension, it was predicted to carry a price tag of $1 billion. A few months later, some reports had total costs estimated between $2-$4 billion. Now, the Port Authority is aiming to spend $1.5 billion and construct this at-grade extension over mostly preexisting right-of-way in five years starting in 2018, according to a report from NJ.com. Why construction will take so long is anyone’s guess.

As follow-up, Steve Strunsky asked if the project is worth it. That’s a question I’ve pondered for a while, and Strunsky writes:

“It’s long overdue,” said John Degnan, the chairman of the Port Authority, who pointed to a 2012 report in favor of the project by the Regional Plan Association, a Manhattan-based transportation research organization. Degnan, who became chairman in July, said he could not address the increase in the extension’s projected cost since 2004.

NJ Transit already provides direct service between Manhattan — by way of New York’s Pennsylvania Station in Midtown — and Newark’s AirTrain station, which means the PATH extension would be largely redundant, said Steve Carrellas, a New Jersey spokesman for the National Motorists Association.

“If it’s redundant, what’s the need?” said Carrellas, adding that the PATH system is already subsidized by Port Authority toll payers. Then again, Carrellas added, since Newark airport generates revenue for the agency, supporting it with a PATH stop could also be considered sound financial policy. Travelers can now get to the airport by train from Lower Manhattan as well. But it requires taking a PATH train from the World Trade Center to Newark Penn Station, then transferring to an NJ Transit train from there, which could discourage travelers burdened by luggage or tight schedules, said Wendy Pollack, a spokeswoman for the Regional Plan Association.

Strunsky’s piece unfortunately isn’t the strongest. It’s easy to find transit advocates who aren’t also representing motorists and truckers who don’t want to pay tolls to support rail to speak out against this project, but with the RPA’s imprimatur, it has the aura of invincibility. Still, it is a boondoggle that duplicates preexisting service and, as currently planned, doesn’t get people any closer to the airport than an AirTrain station.

I hear the arguments in favor of this plan and recognize it has some benefit to areas that are undergoing rapid growth. But I think you have to ask if it’s worth it considering preexisting service to Newark and other, more pressing transit demands in the region. Why has the Port Authority latched onto this one? Because it has a champion in Trenton. If not for turf battles between the PA and the MTA, they should spend this money on Laguardia access. If PATH can go straight to the Newark terminals and bypass the painfully slow Newark Airtrain — which it isn’t currently projected to do — this could be an acceptable project for reasonable dollars. But it costs too much and doesn’t solve the Newark Airport access issues. Simply put, it shouldn’t be at the top of any list for spending priorities.

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Walt Gekko October 5, 2014 - 11:23 pm

While there certainly are better things to spend the money on, if this extension provides direct service to lower Manhattan, then it is worth doing as it keeps those passengers off NJ Transit trains between the Airport and Penn Station as NJT trains in particular are likely becoming more and more crowded (especially on weekends for instance, the SEPTA-NJT combo between Philly and New York is very popular with college students not wanting to spend $100+ on AMTRAK round trip, and it’s even cheaper if you do the PATCO/River Line combo between Philly and Trenton, especially if you happen to live in Center City in Philly). That is something I feel is being overlooked on this.

Joey K October 6, 2014 - 12:03 am

The extension of the PATH train to the Newark-Airport stop is a no-brainer project that is rightfully at the top of the list of PANYNJ projects. And at $1.5 billion, while expensive, it is considerably less expensive than LIRR’s East Side Access, the 7-Train extension, phase 1 of the 2nd ave subway, and other super projects that were constructed or proposed in recent years. This is a project that capitalizes on existing infrastructure to provide an obvious connection from the two busiest commercial districts in the nation to one of the busiest airports in the world. This connection will also open up service for some of the region’s fastest growing populations in Hudson County as well.

The Newark AirTrain has abysmal usage, mostly due in part to the extra time and high relative cost it takes to access it from Manhattan and Hudson County via public transit. If you work in any midtown location that is not walking distance from Penn Station, you have to take a subway / bus to Penn Station and then pay $12.50 to take a 25 minute train to the Newark Airport station before transferring to the AirTrain. OR, you could take a PATH train to Journal Square, transfer to another PATH train to Newark, and then pay $8.25 for a five minute transfer to Newark Airport. From downtown, you would also have to take a PATH train to Newark and then transfer to a $8.25 NJ Transit train to Newark Airport. It’s expensive, messy, unreliable, inefficient, time-consuming, etc. This PATH extension will add, upon completion, 150 trains to Newark Airport along the current WTC-Newark line. If service is expanded to midtown, even better. PATH service has seen record growth in the past decade, over 50% or 25 million new passengers since 2003. As a system, it will soon pass the region’s three commuter systems for total ridership.

I’ll say it again, for the Port Authority, this project is a no brainer. It opens up service in an efficient way at a relatively low cost and makes Newark Airport more competitive for NYC residents and workers. When PANYNJ rebuilds Newark Airport a couple decades down the road, I’m sure the PATH will go directly to the terminals. For what they have to work with today, this is a good plan. Glad to see it’s moving forward.

jt bklyn October 6, 2014 - 12:16 am

I totally agree- the PA should extend PATH to the airport. I’ve waited an hour for a NJ Transit train on a Sunday night – that’s not true transit. It’s also some way to explain that overpriced monstrosity at the WTC costing billions to go no where.

Is there another transit construction projects for the PA that are better than this one? I don’t know if the PA has the rights to build a Hudson tunnel to Penn Station.

Then they need to do something about that awful monorail. It is cramped and slow. The JFK Airtrain is much much better.

Henry October 6, 2014 - 3:19 am

They contributed $3B to the ARC. They wouldn’t run it, but they certainly have a stake in any cross-Hudson crossing south of the Tappan Zee.

Eric F October 6, 2014 - 8:41 am

The wait you describe is a key point. When trains are infrequent, it makes getting to the connection very stressful, to the point where one is more willing to chuck it all and suck up the extortionate cab fare. The PATH extension would solve that issue, at least for those heading to NY/Newark/Hudson County.

Bolwerk October 6, 2014 - 2:57 pm

No it doesn’t. Just look at the schedule and arrive on time. If you can’t deal with that, then take a cab.

Al October 6, 2014 - 8:37 pm

Easier said than done when your arrival time depends on an airline, immigration, baggage control…

Phantom October 6, 2014 - 8:44 pm

No one can predict the exact time they that their plane will arrive or if international, how long it takes to clear immigration

The NJT 62 bus to Newark Penn is an alternative, as are the Olympia Trails buses to Manhattan. They run much more frequently than NJT trains at night. Every NYC mass transit user should be very familiar with these alternatives.

Bolwerk October 6, 2014 - 10:57 pm

But they can probably ballpark it, or print and pack a schedule so they know the train arrival times. It’s just not that hard.

Phantom October 7, 2014 - 10:24 am

The NJT train is not a good option at all after the evening rush. The trains run infrequently and if they are running late, you may have a long long wait on that platform.

I don’t think that any traveler that ever lived will try to ballpark a plane arrival time just to accommodate using the stupid convoluted Newark Airtrain / NJT train system.

Better to use the other, frequent alternatives – the 62 Newark bus or the express bus to NYC.

The JFK Airtrain / subways or even the LGA bus/subway alteratives ( there are of course a number of LGA alternatives ) are all far more frequent than the Newark Airtrain.

The Newark Airtrain is a terrific alternative during the rush hours, I will give it that.

Bolwerk October 7, 2014 - 6:40 pm

Then don’t use it. I wasn’t advocating NJT rail, I was just responding to Eric’s claim about infrequent service:

it makes getting to the connection very stressful

Infrequent (hourly or worse) service is rather normal for mainline railroads, even in other countries.

Expecting transit-esque frequency on mainline rail is a bit like expecting airplanes to be available at all times to whisk you off to Paris or Berlin. It’s not happening because the demand isn’t there, and having an airport doesn’t put it there.

lop October 6, 2014 - 1:25 am

What’s the growth been since the 74 million riders in 2000? Not much.

This is cheaper than second avenue subway? Alright, but it serves fewer people.

This is the best project for the PA? So it’s better than fixing up the PABT? Building a new bus terminal to accommodate some of the 1500 buses coming through PA crossings from NJ that use the streets? Improving bus reliability by dedicating an inbound and outbound bus lane 24/7, possibly sacrificing toll revenue in the process? Creating any rail link to LGA? Working with other agencies on a new trans Hudson rail tunnel as they were planning to with ARC?

Alon Levy October 6, 2014 - 7:57 am

The ridership projection for SAS Phase 1 is 200,000 riders per weekday. To match this line in cost per rider, the EWR PATH extension would need to get about 60,000 riders per weekday. That corresponds to a rail access mode share of about two thirds, which is about the same as Narita, higher than Zurich (about half), and far higher than Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle, and Frankfurt (about a quarter each). Do you think a PATH extension can give Newark higher rail access share than Zurich? Me neither.

Eric F October 6, 2014 - 9:25 am

SAS probably gives you zero incremental riders. It just diverts riders off of the Lex line. The PATH extension should add some ridership to PATH, especially if paired with a park and ride facility, even if the cost per rider numbers don’t look all that appealing.

marv October 6, 2014 - 9:29 am

SAS does give you new/additional riders – namely the occupants of all the new units constructed as a result of SAS being built.

Bens October 6, 2014 - 11:49 am

The area around 2nd Avenue is already built pretty much to maximum zoned density, at least on the UES. In East Harlem may be a different story, but that’s a decade off and not part of the numbers being cited. To claim that the vast majority of SAS riders are going to come from somewhere other than diversions from Lex or buses is frankly absurd.

AG October 6, 2014 - 9:53 pm

“new units being built”? huh? the UES has no great construction boom.

Alon Levy October 7, 2014 - 7:58 am

The UES’s zoning doesn’t allow new construction.

AG October 7, 2014 - 10:00 am

I know – that’s the point. The SAS is being built to serve the existing population – not spur new growth like the #7.

Benjamin Kabak October 6, 2014 - 9:38 am

SAS probably gives you zero incremental riders.

That’s an amazing statement to make considering how many years you’ve been reading this site. You think a brand new three-stop subway extension through areas woefully underserved by rail/transit will lead to 0 new riders? Stunning.

Joey K October 6, 2014 - 10:17 am

That statement is obviously incorrect. However, I would be curious to see the breakdown of predicted new unique riders for SAS Phase I vs. a Newark Airport extension. In other words, while SAS Phase I would obviously win out in terms of daily ridership, I would be curious to see how many more people would be using SAS Phase I for the first time in a given month vs. using EWR PATH for the first time in a given month. The weekday SAS ridership would likely be around the same amount as the number of monthly unique riders given that the SAS mainly serves upper east side residents. But a EWR extension would both serve the 100,000 daily weekday PATH riders in NYC as well as a large number of NYC residents, commuters, and visitors looking to get from EWR to downtown/midtown.

lop October 6, 2014 - 3:50 pm

Unique riders? So someone commuting every day counts the same as someone who takes the train to the airport once per year?

Joey K October 6, 2014 - 5:17 pm

The point being that airports and subways are used differently by different people at different times. A trip from an airport to midtown or downtown should be looked at differently from a trip made on the subway. They are apples and oranges. The PATH is like the subway, but a trip to an airport should be seen as an extension of the traveler’s total trip from their origin to destination by air. In that context, I was wondering whether the number of unique users of the PATH extension to Newark would be similar to the number of unique users of the SAS phase 1 in a given month. Ultimately, the extension will make EWR more competitive for those traveling to/from midtown and downtown who prefer to use public transit.

lop October 6, 2014 - 8:08 pm

They should be looked at differently, you are right. An annoying transfer to get to the airport once a month at most is fine. Every day? Not so much.

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 1:25 am

Newark’s biggest employment center is the airport, not downtown. though that may have changed since I last saw numbers. They’ve filled up the empty buildings and built quite a few new ones.
Those lovely people who greet you at the ticket counter, the lovely people at security, the ones at the gate, the ones wrestling your luggage, don’t live at the airport.

lop October 7, 2014 - 1:40 am

Do many of them live near a path station? Or will this mostly serve passengers, with the workers still just taking the bus?

I’ve never found the security people at all lovely

AG October 7, 2014 - 10:23 am

well since there is not a PATH connection currently – it wouldn’t make sense for them (workers) to need to be near a PATH station. However that could change… Or it could be better for some to park & ride or bus to PATH transfer.

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 3:10 am

The ones who take the bus are very likely to be taking a bus to downtown and changing to the bus to the airport. For many of them taking the bus to Penn Station will be faster. Probably not cheaper. but faster. Some of those people on the bus are people who take PATH to Penn Station and change to the airport bus because it’s cheaper and and runs more frequently. A few people commuting to the airport 230, 250 days a year are the same as 230, 240 airline passengers taking the train once a year.

AG October 7, 2014 - 10:19 am

Yup – just like JFK is the largest employment center in Queens. When you add in LGA – you could say the airports “dominate” the economy of Queens. You are right – people tend to forget how many employees you never see at the airport. Not to mention – when you add up all the cargo – I wonder if the airports or seaports employ more workers dealing with cargo. I know in terms of tonnage the seaports handle vastly more traffic. However – since it is containerized now and needs less people – I wonder how the numbers compare.

Bolwerk October 6, 2014 - 4:35 pm

Meh, depending what he means, he’s probably not far off the mark. Zero is an exaggeration, but the sources of SAS riders are probably going to be from the Lex and buses.

I’d be curious to know how many people will be riding who wouldn’t have ridden transit before. Over time, it will induce ridership that will come to depend on it, but most of the initial riders won’t be newcomers.

Alon Levy October 6, 2014 - 9:48 am

The Lex is at capacity. Diverting riders from it is almost equivalent to creating new riders.

Eric F October 6, 2014 - 10:01 am

I’m a big fan of a fully-built second avenue subway on the basis that it makes life much better for eastsiders with knock on effects in quality of life for Manhattan and environs generally. I also provides desperately needed redundancy to assist system reliability. I guess I never really thought about actual increases in ridership, but it’s not like east siders are commuting to midtown in their own cars. They may get diverted off buses, off the Lex line, etc., but I don’t see what the source would be for higher system ridership. Diversions off cab share? I don’t take the view that the only reason to build the SAS is to get new riders though.

Henry October 6, 2014 - 10:19 am

Theoretically, the higher transport capacity will lead to more development and more businesses as the new stations increase foot traffic on Second Avenue, so any leftover capacity could be raised that way.

Phases III and IV also serve a trip that is not currently well served (namely, East Side downtown), and could increase ridership that way.

Eric F October 6, 2014 - 10:26 am

I agree 100% in concept, but my understanding was that the east side was more or less developed on the basis that the SAS was already there. I just don’t see the presence of the SAS adding development over and above what the current set up gets you. It just makes life much better for the denizens of the ant colony towers on First Avenue, which is reason enough to build it.

Alon Levy October 6, 2014 - 11:10 am

SAS Phase 1 provides new connectivity from the East Side to the West Side. When I lived on the Upper East Side and went to Columbia, my bus+subway commute was 50-60 minutes each way; if SAS Phase 1 had been there, it would’ve been cut to about 37 minutes, because I would’ve had a two-seat subway ride, changing at Times Square. There’s a lot of ridership to divert from the crawling crosstown buses, plus ridership to induce: because of the difficult transit option to Columbia, and the complete impossibility of using a bike in Manhattan, I didn’t go to campus every day. In contrast, when I live within walking distance of campus, or the year I lived in Harlem within easy subway distance of campus, I’d show up almost every weekday and some weekend days.

This effect of better crosstown connectivity is underrated in New York, which I think also relates to why nobody except a handful of railfans talks about an SAS Phase 5, going across 125th Street.

Phantom October 6, 2014 - 11:53 am

Many who live in the upper east side take taxis / shared taxis to work in lower Manhattan.

Once the partial SAS opens, some of them won’t be doing that anymore.

AG October 6, 2014 - 9:57 pm

What you say is true – but I seriously doubt that is more people than will decide to take the PATH to the airport. In any event – the two are nowhere near comparable. From a cost standpoint – from a goal standpoint – and even an agency (MTA-PA) standpoint.

Joey K October 6, 2014 - 10:09 am

This isn’t a battle between the EWR extension and SAS phase 1. In terms of impact, no transit mode comes close to NYCT. The only reason why I mention the SAS is to show that, in the scheme of things, $1.5 billion for this extension is not that expensive. You can make arguments why the cost of transit infrastructure should be much, much less expensive. And I would agree with you. But when talking about relative expense, this is not even close to the SAS Phase 1 or ESA.

But, also, when measuring impact, there is more to the equation than mere daily ridership. Most NY/NJers are not taking a flight every day, let alone every week, or even every month. This is about expanding access for those who do want to take a flight and making Newark more competitive with the other two major airports. JFK’s subway to air train connection is great, relatively inexpensive, reliable, etc. I have used it dozens of times. What I haven’t used dozens of times, however, is the Newark Airtrain, solely because the extra connection onto NJ Transit is expensive and annoying. This project is a winner, it’s hard to argue that it will not streamline the EWR transit process for travelers in NYC looking to utilize mass transit.

pete October 6, 2014 - 2:43 pm

JFK’s subway to air train connection is great, relatively inexpensive, reliable, etc. I have used it dozens of times. What I haven’t used dozens of times, however, is the Newark Airtrain, solely because the extra connection onto NJ Transit is expensive and annoying.

What? Airtrain JFK is almost the exact same price as Airtrain EWR. $5.00 a ride with PPR Metrocard on JFK Airtrain, $5.50 a ride on EWR Airtrain (if you didn’t buy an NJT rail ticket to EWR but instead to North Elizabeth, so $5.50 is PANYNJ’s part of the NJT ticket price to EWR). Since EWR Airtrain station doesnt have any public pedestrian or road access, and you can’t get to it without a ride on NJT, most people dont know the EWR Airtrain fare alone, without NJT.

marv October 6, 2014 - 3:36 pm

I take the JFK airtrain + a bus to my home in flushing.
Cheaper than a cab
Not much longer especially if there traffic (usually) on the van wyck.

Over the next 40 years what is the cost of having trains stop at newark airport every 15 minutes?

How does this stack against construction and operating costs of an extended PATH?

The real solution: Run LIRR trains through Penn Station to at least Newark Airport and run NJT and Metro North Hudssonb line trains through to Jamaica or Valley Stream.

You solve Penn Station gridlock, eliminate empty trains to sunnyside and increase service in the spine of the region including Jamaica and Secaucus hubs.

You have

Joey K October 7, 2014 - 12:48 am

You are looking at the actual AirTrain cost, which is similar. But if you break down the total trip cost, from most NYC destinations, getting to JFK by mass transit is less than half the cost of getting to EWR by mass transit.

For an individual with an unlimited MetroCard in midtown or downtown getting to and from JFK with the AirTrain, roundtrip, costs $10 and requires one connection at Jamaica. Going from NYPenn to EWR with the Newark AirTrain costs $25 round trip and requires two connections (assuming you don’t walk to Penn). If you wanted to save money and take the midtown PATH today, we are talking four connections, or five separate legs just to go 15 miles to EWR: 1) subway to 33rd street PATH; 2) 33rd street PATH to JSQ; 3) JSQ to Newark Penn; 4) Newark Penn to Newark Airport; 5) Newark Airport AirTrain to the terminal. But even then you’d still be paying $22 per round trip as opposed to $10 for the JFK AirTrain. If you take the downtown PATH to Newark, you’d still be paying $22 (($2.75 PATH fare to Newark + $8.25 combined NJT/AirTrain fare ) x 2). With groups of three or four people, mass transit costs eventually eclipse cab/private car costs (not to mention time savings due to the necessary connections going to EWR).

So yes, when something is more than twice as expensive, I would not consider that “almost the exact same price.” If you didn’t have an unlimited MetroCard, the prices would simply be $15 for JFK AirTrain roundtrip and $30 for NYPenn to EWR or $27 for the PATH option. And yes, if you were walking distance to Penn, maybe you’d take LIRR to Jamaica instead of the subway, which would drive the total trip cost up (and potentially save time depending on scheduling). But going to EWR today, you have no choice but to incorporate either a $12.50 trip from NY Penn or $11 trip from Newark Penn to the EWR station via the PATH. This in comparison to a $5 JFK AirTrain. The EWR extension creates a cheaper, more reliable, more efficient trip to EWR. I’ll say it again, it’s a no brainer.

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 1:29 am

Two connections if you are within walking distance of the World Trade center.

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 1:32 am

…two if you are NOT within walking distance of the World Trade Center. If you are near an E train stop taking the E to the World Trade Center can be faster than going to a Sixth Avenue stop on PATH.
One connection if you can walk to the WTC.

AG October 7, 2014 - 10:16 am

I agree… The only issue is doing something about having to transfer from 33rd to JSQ to get to EWR.

BruceNY October 6, 2014 - 2:20 pm

Especially when you factor in that all you need to do to catch the train from the Zurich Airport is hit the down button on the elevator.

AG October 6, 2014 - 9:46 pm

I think it’s a good idea… but I didn’t even take it into account that even though it will be a two seat ride for persons from the Village up to 33rd – it’s still cheaper than going to Penn and taking NJ Transit. Plus it will be greater frequency.

I think you might be incorrect about it (PATH) overtaking LIRR and Met North in riders though. We’ll see once CBTC increases capacity.

BrooklynBus October 9, 2014 - 9:06 am

No brainer alright. It takes no brains to realize what a waste of money this project is. I remember when we used to look up to the Port Authority, calling them a model of efficiency with planners asking why the MTA couldn’t operate like the Port Authority.

Now we see them as a model of inefficiency. First with the new WTC terminal and now this. The PA now makes the MTA seem efficient by comparison.

Bolwerk October 9, 2014 - 9:44 am

They were never a model of efficiency. They just happened to own a profitable fief.

vanshnookenraggen October 5, 2014 - 11:55 pm

You can’t blame the PA for wanting to connect the WTC with Newark Airport. It only helps in connecting the WTC to the region more and makes it easier to find tenants. Also they can only do so much in terms of rail transit. Too many different players involved to build an efficient regional transit system. Also remember that redundancy on the NYC subway is what makes it work better than other systems. Redundancy to the airport will help when something goes wrong on the NEC.

SEAN October 6, 2014 - 10:05 am

You can’t blame the PA for wanting to connect the WTC with Newark Airport. It only helps in connecting the WTC to the region more and makes it easier to find tenants. Also they can only do so much in terms of rail transit. Too many different players involved to build an efficient regional transit system. Also remember that redundancy on the NYC subway is what makes it work better than other systems. Redundancy to the airport will help when something goes wrong on the NEC.

Exactly – and especially now since the NEC’s power supply has it’s share of problems post Sandy.

Now is this project the PA’s baby? of course, but that shouldn’t be the key factor in deciding if this is or isn’t a worthy project even though it maybe costly.

Henry October 6, 2014 - 10:20 am

If the PA was so concerned about the NEC, it would shovel money into the Gateway program. The impending shut downs would cripple PATH and the regional transport problem between NY and NJ.

SEAN October 6, 2014 - 1:24 pm

And that’s where the unfortunate turf war exists. Kill that & a whole lot of problems would go away instantly.

Henry October 6, 2014 - 2:15 pm

It isn’t really an effect of the turf war; ARC was funded partially by $3B in PA money. It’s rather the champions that the projects have; Gateway has no strong champion, whereas the full weight of the Christie Administration is leaning on PA to provide money for stuff like Atlantic City’s airport, the Pulsaki Skyway, and the PATH extension to EWR.

AG October 6, 2014 - 10:00 pm

The idea to extend PATH to Newark pre-dates Christie by a long time.

Henry October 6, 2014 - 10:04 pm

A subway to Staten Island has also been thrown around for a long time. Of the two, it just so happens that the one that is succeeding is the one with a state executive leaning on it.

AG October 6, 2014 - 11:14 pm

True.. Again – diff agencies… The MTA isn’t even looking at giving Staten Island light rail right now. I’d be interested to know what the cost would be to run PATH south into Bayonne and then Staten Island. Then again – I don’t think that would mesh with the PA’s mission… Unless they say they are connecting Staten Islanders to the airport as well. In any event – Once the PA finishes this I hope PATH gets folded into the MTA. That could bring it’s own problems though.

pete October 6, 2014 - 2:58 pm

Gateway will NOT provide any redundancy if Penn Station Central Control breaks down. Catenary is Amtrak 25 HZ, and Gateway will be part of the 25 hz system. If PSCC has a fire or a “computer glitch” or a catenary substation SCADA malfunctions or a “the redundant system was being repaired and the online system failed leaving no backup (Metro North’s NHL month long power failure)”. PATH will keep EWR being fed with rail passenger. Lets say 1 North River tunnel is OOS for scheduled maintenance all weekend (which is the case for a number of years now), and there is a centenary down or derailment or broken rail in the tunnel? EWR NJT station will loose its service AFAIK. If EWR NJT trains can be sent to Hoboken, please correct me.

Henry October 6, 2014 - 3:07 pm

Of all the justifications to bring PATH to EWR, the weakest one is “it provides redundant service if Penn Station and our regional rail network goes belly up.”

As an order of magnitude problem, I would say that maintaining commuter flow into Penn Station is way more important than a one-stop extension to an airport, but I guess that’s up for debate.

RB October 6, 2014 - 12:02 am

If it is following the NJTransit ROW, why will it be so expensive?

Any idea how long will this two-seat ride from WTC to the terminal take?

Joseph Steindam October 6, 2014 - 7:38 am

Yes, there is an existing ROW (which PATH doesn’t own). What’s important to note is that south of Newark Penn Station, the PATH tracks allow for some storage, have tracks for turning trains, and then disappear from the ROW, and the ROW narrows at South Street, until around Miller Street, when the ROW becomes at-grade and the Raritan Valley line splits off. For the stretch in between the station and the junction for the RVL, the PATH tracks will either have to be above trains or hanging off the side of the current alignment, on a new elevated structure. I imagine baked into the costs for PATH is also relocating its storage areas that it currently keeps near Newark Penn to the vicinity of the airport station.

As for time it’s probably at least 45 minutes, WTC-Newark Penn takes about 25 minutes now, give it an extra 4-5 minutes to reach the Airtrain station, and probably 10-15 minutes for waiting and traveling to the terminal. But I wonder if the AirTrain station becomes more frequented, the AirTrain cars are so small it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility that some PATH riders would have to wait for the second or third AirTrain to get to the terminals.

Eric F October 6, 2014 - 8:44 am

Good point, those air train cars in Newark are rather like tinker toys. The JFK versions are much more substantial.

Allan October 6, 2014 - 8:46 am

I think there is opportunity to increase capacity on the AirTrain by running a double train. If you are in the AirTrain stations, there are double the amount of doors available than actually are used today.

Even with having to use the AirTrain, it is more reliable than NJ Transit’s horrible service – barely any service during rush hour and 2 to 3 trains off peak and on weekends. To make it worse, on weekends the trains are bunched together (due to scheduling issues with Amtraks tunnel maintenance on the weekends). It is easier to plan around PATH and AirTrain than NJ Transit and AirTrain

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 1:40 am

Except when they have to close it down for months at time to work it.

Quinn October 6, 2014 - 12:10 am

Have the Port Authority thought of replacing the AirTrain with something for functional and having it connect to directly to Newark Penn Station rather than on the side of US 1/9?

Don Anon October 7, 2014 - 11:31 pm

This! A thousand times, this!
Path doesn’t need to go to EWR. The AirTrain needs to be replaced with a much better design, and one that connects with Newark Penn (just as the JFK AirTrain connects with Jamaica station).

Michael Noda October 6, 2014 - 12:27 am

Ugh. This was a defensible project at $500 million, but $1.5 billion is lighting money on fire. The real way to inexpensively improve airport service is to shorten headways on NJT (which would also compensate NEC/NJCL riders for the added delay of making the stop at the airport!), but NJT has shown no interest in doing this. Much like how PANYNJ has shown no interest in containing costs in its capital program.

vanshnookenraggen October 6, 2014 - 4:07 am

Apparently much of the additional cost is going to upgrading other facilities to allow for this extension to operate effectively. PATH needs expansion and renovation all over so it seems like this is just a way to knock out a few projects by paying for one big one.

Eric F October 6, 2014 - 8:45 am

YES! I’m sure the project will roll in substantial capital spending for reliability upgrades. I would expect that the PA has exactly this in mind. Something else to keep in mind when considering the PA part of the project’s cost.

Eric October 6, 2014 - 5:30 am

I don’t think the Hudson tunnels have room for shortened headways…

BruceNY October 6, 2014 - 7:52 am

And there you have what ought to be a top priority for transit in the region: repairing and building new rail tunnels under the Hudson. With the possible shut-downs for Sandy related repairs looming, PATH is likely to become overwhelmed.

Eric F October 6, 2014 - 8:46 am

True, but the money to fund this extension will be from air passenger fees that can’t go to an off-airport project such as a cross-Hudson tunnel.

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 1:44 am

the stretch between the Newark Airport train station and Penn Station is off-airport too.

Douglas John Bowen October 6, 2014 - 10:05 am

To be fair, PATH in fact has rebuilt, and/or is essentially rebuilding, its access to/from the World Trade Center. Coupled with NJT’s revamp of one tunnel approaching Hoboken Terminal, and New Jersey is not in as bad shape as it could have been. Not that the status quo is desirable. Or adequate.

Alon Levy October 6, 2014 - 8:02 am

Off-peak, they do. At the peak there’s already adequate frequency serving the airport.

Allan October 6, 2014 - 8:48 am

During the peak, most NJ Transit trains skip the airport. Overall, the airport station service is pretty limited and PATH would rectify that issue.

Eric October 6, 2014 - 9:33 am

Extend AirTrain to downtown Newark, where NJT trains do stop, would have the same effect. It would also speed up Amtrak trains which would no longer need to stop at Newark Airport.

Allan October 6, 2014 - 9:53 am

Extending AirTrain is an option, but not one that anyone is interested in pursuing, it seems. There is nothing wrong with redundancy to a transit system – a lesson that should be very clear post-Sandy.

There is nothing worse than passing your intended destination (EWR airport)and having to backtrack – that would be the impact for people coming from the south. Also, PA has already made a significant investment in the EWR train station – a very nice station actually. Plus, as I stated earlier, there is potential to double the capacity of the AirTrain by running linked trains. Note the number of actual doors versus the number of currently used doors next time you are at the monorail stations.

BruceNY October 6, 2014 - 3:01 pm

What’s the maximum speed of the EWR AirTrain–15mph? It would be quite a long ride all the way to Newark Penn.

Eric October 6, 2014 - 6:37 pm

People coming to EWR from the south have to backtrack, but people passing through EWR have to wait a couple minutes for an extra stop there. There are many more people in the latter category.

I know it might embarrass some PA planners if the station on their resume were to stop being used, but that is not a rational way to make transportation decisions.

Douglas John Bowen October 6, 2014 - 10:07 am

Ugh. Even a former Port Authority official acknowledged privately to a reporter from The Record, after the fact, that AirTrain was a poor modal choice.

Alon Levy October 6, 2014 - 9:47 am

Aren’t there 4 trains per hour serving the airport at the peak? NJT generally has a problem with too many express trains and not enough local ones, but it’s less a problem at the airport than at stations that serve outer-urban places like Elizabeth and the Oranges.

Joey K October 6, 2014 - 10:12 am

There are currently around 75 NJT trains traveling from Penn to EWR in a given weekday. There are currently 150 PATH trains traveling from WTC to Newark Penn in a given weekday. Assuming all of these PATH trains continue on to EWR, I think a 200% increase in service to that station is a pretty good deal without having to increase PATH or NJT service.

Alon Levy October 6, 2014 - 11:14 am

First, if you’re lengthening PATH, you are increasing service. This is especially problematic on PATH, which due to Port Authority incompetence has very high operating costs, $8 per rider.

Second, you could have every local NJT train make a stop at EWR, and change schedules so that off-peak NEC/North Jersey Coast service provides even 15-minute headways between New York and Rahway. It involves very small increases in service-hours. Airport service is insensitive to peak frequency: the air travel peaks are not the same as the commute peaks, so having a steady off-peak base frequency is much more important.

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 1:47 am

Off peak the schedule is arranged so they can get in and out of Manhattan on one track. To work on the other tunnel.

Alon Levy October 7, 2014 - 8:26 am

This does not require uneven headways, not at the present off-peak frequency. It takes 4 minutes to clear the tunnel, but this also includes the multi-track station throat. So for example there could be a schedule involving 8 tph out of Penn: 2 express to Trenton, 2 local to Jersey Avenue, 2 local to Long Branch/Bay Head, 2 local to Dover; Gladstone would be reduced to a shuttle from Summit, timed to meet the Dover trains, and Montclair-Boonton would go to Hoboken, timed to meet the Dover trains at Newark Broad again. Raritan Valley trains would keep terminating at Newark. Since the only trains that need to maintain constant headways are the locals to Jersey Avenue and Long Branch, we can have them immediately following Dover or express trains, rather than spacing them 7.5 minutes apart, which would conflict with the single-track tunnel. We get the following sample schedule at Penn Station:


:00 – express to Trenton
:02 – local to Long Branch
:15 – local to Dover
:17 – local to Jersey Avenue
:30 – express to Trenton
:32 – local to Bay Head
:45 – local to Dover
:47 – local to Jersey Avenue

With a 13-minute gap between local and express trains on the NEC line, and 7 local stops between Newark and New Brunswick (about 10 minutes of extra travel time with EMUs, at least based on Metro-North schedules), there’s a short transfer from the local stops to Trenton at New Brunswick. If this transfer is a bit too tight, or if NJT wishes local trains to stop at North Elizabeth (as they should), it should add a stop to the express trains, which should probably be Metropark, which near-ties Princeton Junction for busiest suburban NJT station.

Inbound, we flip the outbound schedule around a :00 symmetry access:

:00 – express from Trenton
:13 – local from Jersey Avenue
:15 – local from Dover
:28 – local from Bay Head
:30 – express from Trenton
:43 – local from Jersey Avenue
:45 – local from Dover
:58 – local from Long Branch

At the station end, trains leave and arrive simultaneously, but that is not a problem, because on the hour, when the Trenton express arrives, it is already in the multi-track station throat, and the departing Trenton express has a clear track. At the portal end, the outbound Long Branch train leaves the tunnel and is on double track by :06, while the inbound Jersey Avenue train only enters the tunnel at :09, providing adequate separation.

Note that the inbound and outbound Bay Head trains are separated by four minutes. This was not deliberate, but helps equipment utilization, since Bay Head trains would be using dual-mode locos whereas the other trains are electric. The dual-mode locos slow the train down a bit, so that by Rahway the headways aren’t even anymore; if NJT doesn’t want to use the dual-modes to provide one-seat rides from Bay Head off-peak, it can reduce Long Branch-Bay Head to an hourly shuttle off-peak, meeting the electric trains at Long Branch.

adirondacker12800 October 8, 2014 - 9:42 am

:00 – express to Trenton

Screws the Acela.

:02 – local to Long Branch

Screws the Regional.

but then I haven’t looked at Northeast Corridor Schedules in a while. There’s those pesky Pennsylvanians on the Keystones and the random land cruise too.

Alon Levy October 8, 2014 - 11:54 am

There’s room in the schedule for 2 more train paths in each direction: that’s a total of 4 paths, each eating 2 minutes of the 3-minute gap between outbound and inbound trains at the portal. This leaves 1 minute between inbound and outbound trains, which is fine at the speed within the tunnel, which is 60 mph. (If the speed is increased, of course the tunnel-clearing time goes down, and this can only raise capacity.) It’s also possible to cannibalize a Trenton express slot for an Amtrak slot, maintaining the present 3 tph off-peak schedule.

In this situation, there exist the following outbound slots:


The inbound slots are mirrored around a :00 symmetry axis again. This gives two three-train platoons and two two-train platoons per hour. Since the :04/34 trains are the ones without a nice 15-minute takt, they should be the Dover trains. Then the :00/15/30/45 trains are either Amtrak trains or Trenton express trains, and the :02/17/32/47 trains are local trains to Long Branch or Jersey Avenue.

The main barrier here is that it assumes very good schedule adherence. Amtrak doesn’t have it, even though it owns the entire track south of New York. The Dover trains have low platforms, so they’d need a lot of schedule padding on their way in to avoid missing their slot. That said, peak-of-peak frequency is 26 tph on busy days, which isn’t much more robust to small disturbances than this schedule.

adirondacker12800 October 9, 2014 - 2:24 am

Silly silly Amtrak and NJTransit doing work on their crumbling infrastruture on weekends when they could do it during rush hour.

Alon Levy October 9, 2014 - 9:33 am

What? Who said anything about doing work at rush hour? All I’m doing is comparing robustness of a 10 tph schedule off-peak with single-tracking with that of a 26 tph peak schedule with (at least) two tracks all the way.

adirondacker12800 October 9, 2014 - 11:55 pm

You did.
The other alternative is what? Have NJTransit and Amtrak curl up and go to sleep from midnight to 6 AM so they can do maintenance? Don’t want any Amtrak trains to leave or arrive in Manhattan between midnight and 6 Amtrak’s last train of the day leaves Boston or DC at 9-ish and first train of the day doesn’t arrive until 9-ish. You don’t want them to work during the week and you don’t want them to work on the weekend because that might screw your delicately balanced schedule. Just when are they supposed to fix things that break. Or broke in 1998 now that they have money to do it.

Stephen Smith October 6, 2014 - 12:28 am

Annoying that they couldn’t find anyone other than the “motorist” guy to question the project. Last year, I found a bunch of transit professionals who thought it was a bad idea (albeit anonymously).

Douglas John Bowen October 6, 2014 - 10:08 am

That’s interesting, and in fact tracks closely with all the transit professionals attending APTA or TRB meetings who were (privately) unhappy, or unimpressed, with Access to the Region’s Core.

John-2 October 6, 2014 - 12:56 am

Of course, if the Calatrava PATH terminal at the World Trade Center had been brought in even close to the original budget, the PA would have had the $1.5 billion right there for the extension to the AirTrain.

But that’s water under the stegosaurus now. However, the one thing the Port Authority has to do (and which has been mentioned elsewhere) if they’re going to make this project a success, is to create direct service from Newark Airport to Herald Square.

People will change trains once for direct service to Midtown, which is how it works now taking the AirTrain at JFK to either Howard Beach or Jamaica for the A or E trains. A far lower percentage are going to be willing to change trains twice, from the AirTrain to a WTC-bound PATH train and then again to a 33rd Street-bound train at Journal Square. The PA needs to rethink their routes if they go through with this project.

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 1:49 am

There already is direct service to Midtown, on NJTransit and Amtrak.

Henry October 6, 2014 - 2:42 am

To be honest, the rationale for this project would make a lot more sense if there was an intermediate stop(s) between Newark and EWR. You could easily place one at South St or Walnut St in the Ironbound District, and that would be a boon for Newark and its residents.

But hey, a one-stop extension for just business travelers is great too.

Alon Levy October 6, 2014 - 8:05 am

There used to be a mainline rail stop at South Street! NJT can reopen it, if it’s ever interested in serving outer-urban neighborhoods and not just suburbs.

Eric F October 6, 2014 - 8:52 am

Newark would be well served by residential access to the new station or by construction of an interim station. I bet the latter wouldn’t be possible given the way they’ll finance this, but it could always be added in the future.

On another point, Newark is basically off the highway grid. For those who think that highways destroy urban cores, you’ll love Newark, which doesn’t have a highway running through it. The Turnpike was deliberately routes away from Newark to avoid land acquisition costs and disruptions. As a result, many people drive on local streets to access Newark’s train stations. It’s a rather grim, slow drive. In my own view, I think this set up perversely leads to an under-utilization of Newark Penn for Amtrak service, because it’s easier to pick up the train at Metropark or New Brunswick if you are a suburban person driving to the station. Anyway, sticking the PATH terminus out of the urban core would provide a great opportunity to get the slice of that commuter traffic that is PATH-bound out of Newark center city. That would be a huge win for those commuters (and will add to them) and be a huge win for Newark.

Alon Levy October 6, 2014 - 9:45 am

Actually, a major portion of the critique of highways’ effects on cities involves bypasses of urban traffic. These tend to move commercial uses away from the urban core and toward the bypass.

Access to Newark Penn is not a problem, because of commuter rail. It’s only really a problem from the direction of NJT lines that serve Broad Street; those have Midtown Direct service to New York, and to be frank are a market that intercity trains can’t connect to Philadelphia well. (To Washington, true high-speed trains could compete, but then those people would drive to Trenton.)

Eric F October 6, 2014 - 9:54 am

Well the Robert Caro line that is picked up by the media most of the time is that routing highways into cities destroys those cities. Caro is a bit all over the place in his critique because he also states that the Gowanus expressway created a huge manufacturing and distribution center in western Brooklyn, but he was writing at a time when manufacturing was passe so he focused on the displacement that industry caused.

I agree with your point, that activity tends to grow with access, so better to route stuff into cities, but that’s not the way the story is usually presented.

Getting to Newark Penn is something of a quest, and I bet a lot of people who could use the station if it was easier to get to for a trip to Phili or Baltimore just get in their cars and keep going all the way to their destination rather than deal with the train at that point.

Alon Levy October 6, 2014 - 11:48 am

Getting to any major intercity train station by car is somewhat of a quest. The TGV’s high ridership doesn’t come from the exurban stations with all the parking, but from the urban ones with the local rail connectivity.

The story about cities tends to be about how to build expressways rather than about whether to build them at all, and that’s wrong. If you want a strong urban core, you need to avoid both routing expressways through it (which usually involves destroying valuable land, e.g. waterfront land in San Francisco) and routing expressways around it (e.g. many bypasses). Of course you also need to let the urban core grow, which a lot of European cities neglect.

Matthew October 6, 2014 - 3:41 pm

This is nuts. Of course Newark has highways running through it. They’re just old-fashioned highways, like the McCarter, that are not fully grade separated. Walking around Newark Penn Station is hellish. The few times that I have tried, I’ve been alone, surrounded by angry drivers (is there any other kind in NJ?) impatient at my presence.

I go there several times a year to visit family in NJ and I have to say that there is most certainly no “automobile access problem” for Newark Penn Station. Well, other than the traffic induced by the massive roadways surrounding it. But there’s plenty of people in cars driving or waiting around at Newark Penn! That’s all there is!

Your problem seems to be that it is difficult to *park* at Newark Penn Station, and in your mind, that makes it hard “to use” the station. You are wrong. Newark Penn Station is not a park-n-ride, and making a park-n-ride would only make its context even worse!

Right now Newark Penn Station is in a bad situation because it has terrible (terrifying, you might even say) pedestrian access and it’s not intended to be a park-n-ride either. The right answer is to fix the highway-like streets around the station and make it walkable.

Boris October 6, 2014 - 10:46 pm

Pedestrian access from the Ironbound side is actually pretty good. (The Ironbound in general is more urban than many New York City neighborhoods; say, most of Staten Island). There are also many paid parking lots near the station (not quite park-and-rides, but close). On the downtown side of the tracks though, I agree, it’s a pedestrians’ worst nightmare.

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 2:13 am

Market Street and Raymond Blvd. are just as busy all the way through downtown. All those pedestrians you see seem to have adjusted to it.
Use the staircases from the platforms to the south side of Market Street if for some odd and peculiar reason you are using the bus to go east. When the eastbound bus drops you off on the south side of Market Street use the same staircases to get to the platforms… unless they’ve gone and closed them again.
The hordes of people waiting for westbound buses came from somewhere. Very probably an eastbound bus some time in the past. Like morning rush hour. If you are using one of the buses on the Raymond Blvd. side.. .why do you have to cross the street?

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 2:00 am

The locals get on the bus when they want to get to the station. Parking at the station is expensive. Using one of the cheap lots can be slower than taking the bus. If they have luggage, a cab. If they have a lot of luggage they are going away for days which racks up parking fees.

JJJJ October 6, 2014 - 11:01 am

The same South Street where PATH already terminates?


Henry October 6, 2014 - 2:12 pm

Even if it terminates there now, the train doesn’t actually stop there, so the utility to local residents is virtually nil.

JJJ October 6, 2014 - 6:32 pm

Right but since the track already goes there, pouring some concrete and adding steps can be done for significantly less than $2 billion.

Thats a much more useful project.

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 2:15 am

where are they going to store the out of service trains that use the tracks for storage, when they are out of service?

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 1:51 am

They closed it because nobody used it. There were streetcars and now buses, every few minutes to downtown Newark.

Chet October 6, 2014 - 6:43 am

There is no doubt that this is pretty redundant, but also has some redeeming value.

How about making it go further- like south and then east on to Staten Island over the just started new Goethals Bridge, and along the North Shore rail right of way.

(Yes, I know the PA and MTA love each other so much, they’ll work out the problems in about 10 minutes…lol)

In a mass transit centered world, this is what would be done…at the very least.

Joseph Steindam October 6, 2014 - 7:48 am

While there are probably some benefits with providing SI residents better access to the airport and the jobs in Newark, this would be a long and uncompetitive trip for those trying to reach the bigger employment centers in Jersey City and especially lower Manhattan. The bus to the ferry is better for most people heading to Lower Manhattan, and those transit-minded folks heading to the Jersey City take the S79 to the HBLR, which is about $4 each way, more expensive, but more direct than going towards the airport.

Michael October 6, 2014 - 11:07 am

From a previous message:

“The bus to the ferry is better for most people heading to Lower Manhattan, and those transit-minded folks heading to the Jersey City take the S79 to the HBLR, which is about $4 each way, more expensive, but more direct than going towards the airport.”

Let’s change that to “take the S89 to the HBLR, which is about $4 each way…”

The S79 is now the SBS-79 which travels between Staten Island and Brooklyn on Hylan Blvd, and it the bus route that seems to get on the nerves of some drivers and some truly insane political folk.

The S89 is an MTA replacement bus for a private route that went bankrupt (run by Atlantic Express) that runs only during the rush hours between NJ and Staten Island.


Joseph Steindam October 6, 2014 - 11:22 pm

Thank you for the correction, I got my SI bus routes confused. I hope you agree the rest of my point stands scrutiny!

Nyland8 October 6, 2014 - 6:43 am

It is astounding that it will take 5 years to build this project, but even more so that there are no plans to start until 2018. If it is truly something that is needed, then why wait until 2013 to put it into service? With the costs of construction escalating as they have, it would seem that every year the project is put off, it ups the price by $50,000,000.

Joseph Steindam October 6, 2014 - 7:49 am

Probably, but I don’t think they’ve completed any of the environmental studies for this project, or even the preliminary engineering. I suspect the engineering is more complicated than is being let on.

Alon Levy October 6, 2014 - 8:25 am

Why is it astounding that construction takes 5 years? It’s a normal schedule of construction, both globally and historically. New York’s first subway took 4 years to build. European subways today take a comparable amount of time. In Stockholm, they reached an agreement to fund several extensions last year, with construction set to begin in 2016 and the lines to open between 2020 and 2025.

What’s astounding is the cost, not the schedule. The Stockholm extensions, all underground, some in dense neighborhoods including a river crossing, are budgeted at $110 million per kilometer. (I said $140 million/km on Twitter last month, but the then-governing coalition’s op-ed says the higher figure includes vehicles and depots, and I try to exclude these in my comparisons.) The 19-km expansion plan costs less than half of SAS Phase 1.

Andrew Smith October 7, 2014 - 2:15 pm

New York’s first subway was built by guys with shovels and horses, underground, more than a hundred years ago — and it was done 20% faster, even though it was significantly longer.

Putting up a shorter extension, above-ground, on existing rights of way, with modern technology, should be way faster.

Construction speed isn’t anywhere near as big a problem as construction costs, but it’s still a serious problem for urbanism. Unending construction projects severely hurt quality of life. Downtown New York would be a lot better place if they’d just put up 1 and 4 WTC in a year rather than six (and counting).

Alon Levy October 7, 2014 - 5:22 pm

It isn’t faster, not with all the infrastructure that needs to be built around that didn’t exist then. A few years is what it takes to build a subway today, same as a hundred years ago.

Andrew Smith October 7, 2014 - 5:56 pm

What “needs” to be built today that did not need to be built 100 years ago? How could it possibly be enough to counteract the development of everything from design management software to cranes and bulldozers and everything else? Why didn’t these needs stop Shanghai from building the world’s largest subway from scratch in 15 years?

I’m well aware of why it happens: everything from regulatory requirements like the environmental impact statement to work rules that allow most workers to do no more than a couple hours of work per day to simple undermanning of all projects. I’m just saying it shouldn’t happen.

Henry October 7, 2014 - 6:06 pm

We care a lot more about existing properties than we did before; the original IRT construction caused property damage to many existing properties, and this went on even into the ’20s and ’30s. We’ve also care a lot more about continuation of services; it’s a much bigger deal today if buildings start losing water, steam, gas, sewerage, cable, internet, telephone, etc. Add the fact that this particular project is over the busiest rail corridor in the nation and will probably have to be built over active tracks that must maintain service, and PATH needs something to maintain the current storage space its tracks past Newark Penn affords, it’s not super ridiculous that the timespan is a year longer.

Alon Levy October 8, 2014 - 12:16 pm

Shanghai doesn’t build subways particularly fast. See for example Line 16: “Construction begun [sic] in early 2009, and the line opened on 29 December 2013.” The latency is the same everywhere. Nor is it particularly cheap: I do not know Shanghai’s construction costs, but I know those of several other Chinese cities, and they tend to be about $150 million per km adjusted for PPP, which is a bit cheaper than the European average but more expensive than Stockholm’s plan.

What Shanghai does have that other cities don’t is throughput: it builds lots of subway lines simultaneously, so even though each of them takes the same few years to build as in other cities, the output per decade is higher. That’s entirely a matter of having high economic growth, which lets Shanghai put a larger share of its GDP into capital investment than lower-growth cities, which need higher current spending to maintain present living standards. Just as China is catching up to first-world living standards, so is Shanghai catching up to non-US first-world city subway size.

Another thing Shanghai has that other cities don’t is sheer size. Shanghai is ten times larger than Stockholm, of course it should be building more subways. If you look at Europe’s two megacities, the one with the reasonable construction costs is planning to build 150 km of mostly-underground commuter rail in the next 15 years, and the one with the very high construction costs is also making major plans at comparable cost (and far less than comparable route-length). Hell, even New York is capable of sinking several tens of billions of dollars into transit: ESA + SAS Phase 1 + PATH-WTC + Fulton + 7 extension = $23 billion, and until Christie put his foot down on ARC, ARC would’ve made it about $33 billion. The differences in construction costs are much bigger than the differences in willingness to spend money.

Nyland8 October 7, 2014 - 11:28 pm

Alon … “Why is it astounding that construction takes 5 years? It’s a normal schedule of construction, both globally and historically.”

What’s astounding is that anybody could make such an assertion. There is no such thing as a “normal schedule of construction, both globally and historically.” How long something takes is a function of how big and complicated a project is, how the construction is staged, how much resources are committed to the project at one time, and at least a dozen other factors. Running an at-grade rail extension along an existing ROW for 2-1/2 miles is NOT a difficult undertaking. We built 8+ miles of JFK AirTrain 40 feet in the air, right down the middle of the busy Van Wyck, and that only took 4 years!

And not only is the length of time for the project excessive, they’re pushing out the start for 4 more years! With schedule overruns, you’re talking about an entire decade. So a project that should be easily completable by 2020 will instead take until 2025 – and you consider that “normal” ?? !!

I’d like to see it completed while I’m still on this earth.

Larry Greenfield October 6, 2014 - 8:19 am

Another example of the Port Authority planning and spending in a vacuum. They and the MTA should build a regional transit plan together, not separately, and the planners should also include NJ Transit. If not we’ll have another multi-billion dollar Calatrava Path Station. Also, where is Governor Cuomo in all of this “bi-state” agency planning?

Eric F October 6, 2014 - 8:38 am

He’ll be at the ceremony for the opening of WTC Tower One this month, the gazillion dollar building the PA built in his state. Maybe you can ask him there.

Eric F October 6, 2014 - 8:36 am

“Now, the Port Authority is aiming to spend $1.5 billion and construct this at-grade extension over mostly preexisting right-of-way in five years starting in 2018, according to a report from NJ.com. Why construction will take so long is anyone’s guess. ”

There is a key inaccuracy in that statement.

First, please read the PA capital plan document. It’s quite user-friendly. The NJ.com didn’t read it either, it seems, which leads to his poor reporting. The $1.5 billion number includes $500 million in private developments at the PATH terminus, including a parking and hotel facility. The PA number is one billion, or one-third less.

That one billion is probably leaning heavily on passenger facility fees that CANNOT, by law, be used for all the wonderful off-airport projects that you and I would like to see. This project would be a very solid use of those fees. That slug of money can’t go to a new bus terminal or a similar project. Those fees financed the Van Wyck monorail, for example.

By the way, the fact that the PA estimates 5 years of work to build this thing may be a clue to you that it is nowhere near as simple to construct as the Internet wants it to be.

Off the top of my non-engineer’s head, building this requires substantial modifications at the ancient Newark Penn to allow larger trains and bi-directional service on the PATH; replacement train storage capacity off the viaduct in Newark; some fairly involved flyover train tracks in Newark, and substantial modifications of the air train system, all while not disrupting the NEC/NJCL/RVL at it’s most congested point.

VLM October 6, 2014 - 9:39 am

Do you have a link to the capital plan? I’m curious to read the materials you cite.

Eric F October 6, 2014 - 9:48 am Reply
Eric October 6, 2014 - 9:42 am

All of that is pretty simple if you have an IQ over 110.

lop October 6, 2014 - 2:43 pm

Have anything to support the assertion that the passenger facility charge is paying for path?

JFK LGA and Newark brought in 118.896 million from PFC combined in 2012. Can that pay for this extension and all the planned airport renovations? Are they instituting a new surcharge, $2 or $3 per passenger at Newark only?


adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 3:03 am

they probably don’t have to do anything significant at Penn Station. The reason they don’t run longer trains is that Grove Street is too short. The platforms in Newark are long enough for ten car trains. Probably longer. So are the ones at Journal Square. The ones at Exchange Place were lengthened when it it was closed. The new Harrison station will be long enough too. I can’t find a link, there are proposals for Grove Street. They aren’t going to run longer trains to 33rd Street anytime soon. All the stations would have to be lengthened. Around the Sixth Avenue IND for 9th, 14th, 23rd and 33rd.

The westbound PATH train won’t be across the platform from the eastbound PATH train. Thats okay, no one will be changing to or from another PATH train in at Penn Station. For a NJTransit or Amtrak passenger changing it’s going to be easier to do it at Penn Station. For eastbound trips it’s across the platform when the train comes in on track 1 or 2. For westbound trips they will just go down the stairs or ramps to track 3, 4 or 5. If the eastbound train comes in on Track A it’s no worse than doing it at Newark Airport.

marv October 6, 2014 - 8:55 am

Bang for the buck should be the modality.

Instead we get winged train station costing billions and now a proposed extension that does not even go the there airline terminals.

How does one view this project as paying for itself in the long run? -increased airport usage?
-fares? doubtful that they will even cover operating costs
-increase r/e values and rents down town?

Government and government agencies should be investing our money in projects.Investments need to pay off instead politicians get paid off.

JAzumah October 6, 2014 - 9:41 am

The ONLY reason PATH should go to EWR is to REPLACE the Newark Airport monorail. Otherwise, it is an absolute waste of money. Talk to me about running PATH directly into the terminals and then we have a discussion. If the Port Authority would throw $500M on the price tag and do that, I would swallow hard and say go for it.

Douglas John Bowen October 6, 2014 - 10:12 am

Some might argue that this move is a stepping stone toward direct airport access by PATH, if not the complete project in one lump.

From a political standpoint, though, JAzumah has a point.

Andrew October 6, 2014 - 2:27 pm

If the PATH could be extended to the airport and replace the AirTrain, this would be a worthwhile project. You get a true one-seat ride into Manhattan from EWR — the same two-seat ride from Penn Station or from the south along the NEC.

JAzumah October 7, 2014 - 9:37 am

…and it deals with the capacity problems during peak periods on the EWR Airtrain. Not to mention that the monorail itself is aging and will be almost 30 years old when the PATH extension is set to go into service.

Joey K October 6, 2014 - 5:27 pm

There is no question that the Newark AirTrain needs significant modernization. But how would a PATH extension to the terminals even work considering the existing EWR NJT/Amtrak station? What would happen to the NJTransit and Amtrak riders wishing to travel to Newark Airport? Would they have to travel to Newark Penn Station to transfer to the PATH? Or would the PATH take over the footprint of the current AirTrain station at the EWR NJT/Amtrak station? Although to accomplish that, it would require overcoming significant engineering challenges in getting two at-grade tracks to flyover the Northeast Corridor ROW, Raritan Valley Line spur (current and future), and I-78. Even assuming it could be done from a technical perspective, what kind of costs would this incur? Probably a lot more than a simple $1.5 billion extension (I know its expensive, but lets think relative here…). Even if the costs were low enough and the engineering wasn’t a problem, how would the PATH’s new Newark Airport stations work into its overall schedule. You’ll end up with 45 minute one-way trips as opposed to the current 22 minute trips. This will up the costs of operations across the board.

Rapid mass transit and airport transit do not mix well. They serve different populations at different times of the day with different needs. Upgrading the AirTrain is essential. But connecting the PATH directly through the terminals is probably not a great use of resources.

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 2:05 am

The 1.5 billion includes going over the NEC and the highways. The Newark Airport train station is built to someday have PATH service.

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 3:06 am

..and run PATH to Terminal A, which was one of the proposals back in the 70s you still need a people mover to get people from Terminal A to B and C and to the parking lots, car rentals, kiss and ride etc.

Douglas John Bowen October 7, 2014 - 9:42 am

Just to clarify: PA/PATH people say one could fit PATH onto airport property, even into airport terminals, without tearing down the monorail.

Presumably, then, one could build the first and dismantle the second. No argument pro or con here in terms of cost concerns or political practicality — just that it could physically be done.

marv October 6, 2014 - 9:42 am

How much would it cost (and compare to the Newark idea) to have the #7 turn north under Main Street (Flushing) and then after surfacing follow Northern Blvd and then the Grand Central Parkway to a LGA terminus. (2x fare could be charged entering at the airport with an exiting fare charged as well).

The trip would be no worse than the popular Heathrow subway and would be very widely used.

Routing via Flushing takes nothing away from the existing line and as Flushing is a major bus transfer point it would give reliable one transfer access to residents of much (most?) of Queens many who work at the airport.

Eric October 6, 2014 - 9:46 am

Better to have the 7 split after 111th St and go straight up the GCP to LGA. That would be cheaper and easier to build than digging a tunnel from Flushing. LGA would get a train every 10 or 15 minutes, and all other trains would go to Flushing.

This would be a simple project, but as we know, in the NY area even simple projects can have ridiculous costs.

Henry October 6, 2014 - 10:24 am

Neither would garner much ridership, simply because going west from Flushing would be making riders go around two thirds of a triangle, so to speak. The third side of this triangle, the Q70, would either be time-neutral or faster, and would also connect with two express stations on the Queens trunk lines.

Honestly, Northern Queens should get a light rail system for Astoria/Elmhurst, replacing the Q19/M60 and Q70 with light rail.

Eric October 6, 2014 - 11:47 am

You’re talking about a time difference of a few minutes, if the Q70 is in fact faster, which I’m not convinced would be the case. That seems less significant to me than the convenience of not having to make an extra transfer to the subway, the predictability of not being stuck in GCP traffic, and the brand recognition of the subway for out-of-towners.

Henry October 6, 2014 - 2:07 pm

But would out of towners take a subway that looks like a fish hook, or take the dotted line to the subway that looks like a straight shot? You’re assuming that just because the subway line looks thicker on a map that it’ll be the automatic option.

BruceNY October 6, 2014 - 11:33 pm

But I like the 111th St.split idea. It’s not so much a fish hook but an L, and one that goes all the way to Grand Central and Times Sq. with no transfers and without having to clamber up into a bus with luggage. I think it would attract a fair number of riders.

Alon Levy October 6, 2014 - 11:49 am

Flushing is a very busy area (it’s the busiest subway stop outside Manhattan) and should under no circumstances be reduced to a branch.

Eric October 6, 2014 - 12:02 pm

A branch that gets 80% of the service? Is that so bad? But you just gave me a better idea. Attach this branch to the Port Washington line, not the 7.

MARV October 6, 2014 - 1:03 pm

flushing has trouble turning around the maximum number of trains – having some go to lga may take away nothing from flushing.

Alon Levy October 6, 2014 - 6:10 pm

Branches with unequal service have uneven service. If the trunk of the 7 has a train every 2.5 minutes at the peak, and 3 out of 4 trains go to Flushing, then the spacing between successive peak Flushing trains is 2.5, 2.5, 5, 2.5, 2.5, 5, …

Branching off the PW line is much more useful, of course.

John-2 October 6, 2014 - 8:32 pm

A lot of the passenger load at Main Street is not ‘local origin’ passengers, but those being deposited at the stop from bus routes serving the outlying areas. It wouldn’t be that difficult to re-route many of those lines from Main Street to Willets Point Blvd., similar to what the MTA did 30 years ago, when the Brooklyn terminal for the S-53 (S-7 then) was shifted from the last stop on the R at 95th Street to the 86th Street station.

Branching a spur to LaGuardia off the 7 east of the Willets Point station (wrapping it around Citi Field), would be a bit of an indirect route, but not much worse than splitting it off east of 111th Street at Grand Central Parkway, and if most of the buses terminating at Main Street were shifted half a mile west to Willets Point, those riders would have the exact same number of trains per hour to choose from as they have today.

lop October 6, 2014 - 9:16 pm

Flushing itself is a destination, and the buses are coming from the east – they would serve main street on the way to willets point. Slowing the trip to the new terminal The roads are highly congested and many if not most will get off in flushing. How many will stay on the bus for the slow trip to willets point? I don’t think you’ll get the passenger distribution you are looking for.

Besides, there’s another feasible rail extension to La Guardia – the Astoria el. No reason to force the 7.

Though I’d prefer to see that down Astoria blvd, a future 2nd avenue line down northern and a bus/light rail north south line connecting la Guardia to the subways and lirr either by the BQE or junction. It would be less convenient for some, sure, but most people don’t go to the airport everyday so it isn’t a big deal.

marv October 6, 2014 - 10:00 pm

If it is not bad enough that NY and NJ compete against each other rather than working together to for the betterment of the region, an excellent point was made that the PATH to airport extension may not (it is not) the best use of funds as far as the region, NY or even NJ are concerned but it may be the best project for the PA as it controls and stands to gain from both ends.

The problem is that the PA is supposed to be working for us and not itself.

Henry October 6, 2014 - 10:06 pm

Corona Park already has issues with vehicular and pedestrian access; using it as a bus transfer area would work about as well as building a giant park and ride in Flushing.

lop October 7, 2014 - 1:16 am

This wouldn’t be far from the bus depot, many of these buses are driving down roosevelt at some point in the day already. BTW is that part of the park, or does the park narrow to the little path between the bus depot and the rail yard?

Henry October 7, 2014 - 2:32 am

It’s the edge of the park, but the point about poor vehicular access in that area still stands. The buses with high ridership in Flushing either 1. go through traveling between College Point and Jamaica, or 2. travel from the east and south. Buses going through Flushing obviously can’t be diverted into Corona Park. Rerouting buses coming from the south and terminating in Flushing is also not possible, because turns are banned for all vehicles at Main St and Roosevelt due to excessive congestion in Downtown Flushing, which turning into Corona would only aggravate. That leaves buses from the east, and driving through Roosevelt between Union St & College Point Blvd is a slow slog that would needlessly increase trip time and operating cost while decreasing reliability.

This is, of course, also assuming that people even want to transfer in Willets Point, which is surrounded by nothing of value save a baseball stadium that isn’t occupied for most of the year and the rusty remains of a park. On the other hand, even without the subway connection Flushing is a hub in its own right with large amounts of retail and small businesses.

AG October 7, 2014 - 10:31 am

I’m neutral in the argument – but millions of square feet of residential – commercial – retail development is in the pipeline for Willets Point. The plans were already approved… They are beginning to clean up the toxins in the ground now.

Michael October 7, 2014 - 2:39 am

From a previous message: “similar to what the MTA did 30 years ago, when the Brooklyn terminal for the S-53 (S-7 then) was shifted from the last stop on the R at 95th Street to the 86th Street station.”

While it is true that the MTA moved the terminus of the S-53, and S-79 buses from the 95th Street station of the R-train to the 86th Street on the R-train, that move did not occur “30 years ago!”

If memory serves I believe that move occurred in the early 2000’s. I definitely know that the move occurred VERY MUCH WELL AFTER I moved to Staten Island and I have not lived on the island for 30 years!


ajedrez October 8, 2014 - 12:44 am

The S79 was created in the early 1990s, and I think it always went to 86th Street. The S53 reroute occurred in the mid-1990s if I recall correctly.

BrooklynBus October 10, 2014 - 11:45 am

I believe you are correct.

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 2:22 am

The Flushing line is at capacity. Lots of it is to or from to Flushing. One of the reasons why they run express service. If the train to/from Flushing goes from every 2.5 to once every 5 some of the time, the people who aren’t using Flushing are screwed. They will have trouble getting on the train.

CHEKPEDS October 6, 2014 - 10:38 am

The path ridership is declining and too small to warrant such an investment . Connecting the #7 to La Guardia should be a much higher priority, especially if the renovated airport has any hope of becoming a world class facility.
Another worthwhile project is extending the # 7 to Secaucus to connect to a new NJTRANSIT bus terminal .
This would cut 30 minutes from the daily commute of 200,000 workers, expand the Lincoln Tunnel capacity by 25% and relieve the west side from horrendous congestion.

Eric October 6, 2014 - 11:50 am

Once you increase the cars in the Lincoln Tunnel by 25%, the west side will be horribly congested once again.

Better to try to use two lanes of the Lincoln Tunnel for rail, ideally a branch of the 7 if that’s technically possible.

Eric October 6, 2014 - 1:06 pm

The Lincoln Tunnels have a maximum grade of 4%. The 7 train already goes through the Steinway Tunnels which have a 6% grade. The Lincoln Tunnels are quite wide, and they have a much larger turning radius than several existing turns on the 7 route. So I see no technical obstacle to this.

The idea would be to have the 7 branch around the Port Authority bus station, with one branch continuing south to the Hudson Yards, and the other using the northernmost Lincoln Tunnel to get to New Jersey. There, a new bus terminal and HBLR transfer could be built west of the entrance to the tunnels.

In a second stage, this 7 route could be extended using the current HBLR tracks to Hoboken Terminal, with the lost HBLR section being replaced by a new street-running route through downtown Hoboken. The 7 could then take commuters from Hoboken to Midtown Manhattan, bypassing Penn Station. This would be extremely useful when one of the NJT/Amtrak Hudson tubes is shut down for Sandy-related repairs.

This is a practical, extremely low-cost way of adding a new Hudson rail crossing. While drivers would not enjoy losing a lane in the tunnels or two, tunnel traffic might actually be lighter with rail service so much improved, and Sandy-related repairs would induce an unimaginable amount of gridlock which this plan could eliminate.

Henry October 6, 2014 - 2:02 pm

The question is, how would you even connect it to the Lincoln tunnels? The existing approaches are a half block away and require a 180 degree turn, and compromising the structural integrity of the tunnels by punching a new hole in them somewhere else doesn’t sound like a good idea.

You’d also be cutting into the only truck enabled tunnel; trucks are banned on the Holland Tunnel, and the GWB is already super congested and out of the way.

Eric F October 6, 2014 - 2:39 pm

PATH ridership is increasing, not declining. I’d expect that it will increase further with residential growth in Harrison and Jersey City and with build out of the World Trade Center.

lop October 6, 2014 - 2:56 pm

Ridership is increasing from the low in 2002 when half the Manhattan terminals were gone. As downtown has recovered so has path ridership, though it hasn’t been consistently higher than the 74 million in 2000.

Eric October 6, 2014 - 6:26 pm

There is about a 300m stretch from the tunnel portal to the bus terminal that would have to be engineered. It seems to me the easiest way would be over the West Side Line and under 10th Ave (possibly raised by a meter or so). The space in question is basically undeveloped, so cut and cover would be easy. I don’t see why this should be especially difficult.

AG October 6, 2014 - 10:14 pm

PATH ridership is declining…???? Plus – the Port Authority has nothing to do with NYC subways. The money the PA doesn’t come from the same pot as the MTA. The PA could indeed build an Airtrain LGA… but since it’s the smallest of the 3 major airports – I’m assuming it would happen last… That is if the MTA doesn’t defeat the NIMBY’s who killed the N train extension to LGA.

JJJJ October 6, 2014 - 10:57 am

Ive said it before but the thing that makes it idiotic is that it ONLY helps those in Wall Street.

Meanwhile, a monorail extension to Newark Penn (with new, non shit monorail cars) would help everyone.

Say you live in Newark today. Want to get to the airport by rail? You take NJ Transit, and then transfer to monorail.

Say you live in Newark in 2025. Want to get to airport by rail? You take PATH and then transfer to monorail.

2 billion well spent!

And dont forget, PATH runs only every 20 minutes on weekends. Meanwhile, monorail is every 3.

So extending monorail to Newark gives everyone from newark a one seat ride to the terminals – and that includes locals, light rail riders, greyhound riders, rutgers students etc etc.

Path makes a two seat ride continue to be a two seat ride.

Extending the monorail is also the same for those wall street riders. Whatever option you choose, they need to transfer from PATH to monorail. Why not make the transfer at Newark Penn?

Eric October 6, 2014 - 11:52 am


tacony October 6, 2014 - 3:05 pm

If you live in Newark today you take NJTransit local bus 62 to the airport, which stops at every terminal so you don’t have to take the AirTrain. Nobody who lives in Newark uses the AirTrain. ‘Cause they know it’s terrible.

adirondacker12800 October 7, 2014 - 3:19 am

Well… if you live in Newark and have luggage the cab fare is low enough that you take a cab.

Gary October 6, 2014 - 11:19 am

“Why has the Port Authority latched onto this one? Because it has a champion in Trenton. If not for turf battles between the PA and the MTA, they should spend this money on Laguardia access. If PATH can go straight to the Newark terminals and bypass the painfully slow Newark Airtrain — which it isn’t currently projected to do — this could be an acceptable project for reasonable dollars.”

Just to make explicit one factor alluded to by vanshnookenraggen (and highlight the shortcoming of our balkanized regional transit situation). This proposed project connects one Port Authority property to another Port Authority with an expansion of another existing Port Authority property. And I think that is part of the rationale within the fiefdom. PATH extension (at least in theory) increases the value/utility of all three properties. The best investment from the perspective of the Port Authority is not necessarily the best investment for the region.

The larger issue, of course, is that our current regional transit/commuter rail scheme is not optimally managed.

tacony October 6, 2014 - 3:12 pm

This proposed project connects one Port Authority property to another Port Authority with an expansion of another existing Port Authority property. And I think that is part of the rationale within the fiefdom. PATH extension (at least in theory) increases the value/utility of all three properties. The best investment from the perspective of the Port Authority is not necessarily the best investment for the region.

Another reason the PA should be abolished. It seems the Bridgegate scandal yielded nothing with regard to any push to reform. So sad.

Joe October 6, 2014 - 2:44 pm

The flaw in this plan is that the PATH Newark -> EWR line won’t actually run through the terminals. Having to transfer to the slow, disgraceful AirTrain still makes the trip a trek. This plan should include wrapping the line around A, B and C terminal for a direct route. Yes, it would make the cost insanely more expensive. But do it right if it’s going to be done at all. Otherwise, you’re still talking a minimum of two transfers from Manhattan to get to an EWR terminal.

tacony October 6, 2014 - 3:03 pm

This is so dumb. The Newark AirTrain is the worst part. Why doesn’t the Port Authority just pay my cab fare from Newark Penn to the airport? Would be cheaper to just offer cab vouchers I’m sure.

Josh October 6, 2014 - 3:48 pm

Yes, it is.

Beebo October 6, 2014 - 5:02 pm

If a train to an airport must be had, why not just extend the N/Q to LaGuardia? Newark already has train service. NIMBY? Geez, these people live right next to an airport! They knew there’d be noise. And how much noise does an El train make?

Mark October 6, 2014 - 5:56 pm

Agreed that the PATH needs to go directly to the terminals.

All this talk about the people in midtown and downtown using this to get to the airport… everyone is forgetting all of the people in Jersey City and Hoboken (and nearby communities connected by the Light Rail) who would use it for the same purpose. Not everything is about NYC. Try getting to Newark Airport via public transport from those places. Often, it’s easier to get there from Manhattan, than it is from in NJ. Ridiculous.

threestationsquare / Anon256 October 6, 2014 - 7:29 pm

The actual idea of this project is reasonable enough, but the taxpayers need to put their foot down over this kind of absurd cost number, 10 times higher than it would be anywhere else in the world (and something like 20 times higher than it would be in countries that do this sort of thing efficiently). Whoever is responsible for this cost should be in prison; there’s not plausible explanation other than the majority of the money going to theft and fraud.

AG October 6, 2014 - 9:40 pm

As to your first paragraph – none of the projects you named – except MAYBE a trans hudson tunnel would fall under the PA’s jurisdiction… PATH is responsible for the airports… This is a way to bring many more people with a one seat ride to “their” airport. It’s expensive yes – but it makes plenty of sense. Lower Manhattan is the 3rd largest business district in the country (after midtown and Chicago)… There are also many people in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Hudson County, NJ for whom it will be easier to get to Newark than taking NJ transit or cabs.

You could make the argument that having the Airtrain JFK going to Howard Beach is redundant since it goes to Jamaica. I personally would not make that argument.

WOW JUST WOW October 7, 2014 - 7:30 am



Joey K October 7, 2014 - 10:25 pm

Thank you for this. We need more comments like this!

LLQBTT October 7, 2014 - 9:21 am

Again, Chicago eats our breakfast on airport access. Blue Line 1 seat ride from The Loop to O’Hare, Orange Line The Loop to Midway. Done.

Phantom October 7, 2014 - 10:13 am

Chicago doesn’t talk about it. They just get the job done.

AG October 7, 2014 - 10:38 am

Even BART is going to Oakland’s airport now. Washington Metro — On the way to Dulles… Even car loving Miami. This PATH connection will get more riders than all of those.

Alon Levy October 7, 2014 - 3:26 pm

Bay Area transit activists hate the Oakland Airport Connector, on the grounds that it’s expensive and pointless.

AG October 7, 2014 - 4:51 pm

I can find an “activist” to hate anything. In any case – it’s in relation to availability in response to the comment posted. I’m sure when the extensions to O’hare and Midway were being done – you could find people who thought there was a better use of the funds.

Alon Levy October 7, 2014 - 5:27 pm

Don’t scare-quote them; they know Bay Area transit a lot better than you do. They’ll also show you how the SFO extension was built on fraudulent grounds, and how the construction debt forced SamTrans to cut bus service. The SF Bay Area, like Chicagoland, has not seen significant increases in transit mode share; both cities’ transit usage comes almost entirely from old CBDs and old transit lines. In contrast, Washington had a large transit mode share increase in the previous decade, before it had Dulles access. It could have even more mode share if it hadn’t just set several billion dollars on fire with the Dulles extension.

AG October 7, 2014 - 5:37 pm

First thing is you don’t know how well I know the Bay Area… (I don’t but you are still making a huge assumption). Also – my comment had nothing to with increasing the mode share in each location. I simply was stating what cities have the access. No city in this country is anywhere near the NYC area in terms of percentage – so should they not build rail at all?

JFK Airtrain sets ridership records every year (even during a huge recession). Even the much maligned Newark Airtrain is setting records again. All that means is that more people are using rail to get to NYC area airports when they are given access. I have very little doubt that will increase if/when this PATH extension is done.

The Port Authority is charged with controlling the airports – including getting people to and fro… Whether we think it too expensive (well what rail project in this area isn’t) – it does fit their mission.

Bolwerk October 7, 2014 - 6:52 pm

Airports, even internationally, make for average or worse train stops in terms of usage. That’s not an inherently bad thing. However, the justification for the stop needs to include the capital expense of the station plus the capital expense of a several-mile-long expansion that doesn’t serve any other riders. And stupid rules mean that, within the scope of this project, it can’t because no other stations can be built out of this pot. LaGuardia’s extension, which probably makes more sense, has a similar issue.

Opportunity cost is key though. I betcha you can get more riders on a carefully planned crosstown light rail line than you could on the PATH airport extension.

AG October 7, 2014 - 7:06 pm

“Opportunity cost is key though. I betcha you can get more riders on a carefully planned crosstown light rail line than you could on the PATH airport extension.”

No question that is true – but that’s not the Port Authorities gig…

LGA’s extension might “make more sense” – in that it has no rail connection at all. However, JFK and Newark, are far more important to the PA (and region). In the scope of the PA’s profile – it does make more sense to connect Lower Manhattan (and all the other communities served by PATH) to connect to Newark rather than sending an AirTrain to LGA. In the grand scheme LGA is the lowest on the totem pole… Which is probably why the city was willing to tackle it – until the NIMBY’s killed the subway extension.

lop October 7, 2014 - 8:35 pm

Newark’s passenger load is closer to LGA than JFK. Newark served 35 million passengers in 2013, LGA 26.7 million. JFK handled 50.4 million.

Is this extension because it makes sense for the PA, or because Christie wants united to run more flights to AC?

AG October 7, 2014 - 11:17 pm

9 million passengers a year is a huge difference. Also the cargo is not even close… Newark is well above in that category also. So while I don’t know the numbers – I’m sure that would translate to vastly more employees also.
Again – this was a plan long before Christie was ever involved in politics. Not sure why everyone always wants to find a conspiracy in everything.

lop October 7, 2014 - 11:34 pm

FWIW 11k employees at lga, 20k at ewr per the PA.

Plenty of other things have been planned for a long time, plenty of other projects the PA could legitimately support. Plenty more that they could illegitimately support the way they’ve paid for NJ roads. Why do you think it’s reaching to question the motives behind this project given the recent goings on with Christie’s people at the PA?

AG October 7, 2014 - 11:44 pm

9K is a lot of people.
In any event… Name one Port Authority project where this money could go to? You keep saying plenty…. A cross harbor freight tunnel could be useful – but would take many billions more and at least another decade.. The study is not even close to being finished yet.. You suggest they wait?

Alon Levy October 8, 2014 - 7:21 am

Newark and JFK are both international hubs, where people connect to domestic flights. LGA, not so much.

adirondacker12800 October 8, 2014 - 9:51 am

People at the airport to make connecting flights don’t care about how easy it is to get out of the airport except if it’s on the flight they are connecting to.

Bolwerk October 7, 2014 - 9:40 pm

Well, FWIW, I’m not categorically against the PATH extension. I just think the costs are kind of absurd and I wish the scope could be expanded to be more than just an airport extension. An airport stop on a vastly expanded PATH train is not a bad idea.

marv October 7, 2014 - 10:34 pm

How many people (trips) are expected via this extension over the next 30 years. What is the cost of extension + increased operating costs + accumulated interest of the PATH extension over these 30 years.

Let’s take this amount and divide by the number of trips – would it pay to have subsided cabs or a subsidized bus line at the Newark station with and exclusive bus/car pool lane running down McCater Hwy (rt 21) and then 1/9 into the airport?

How much would an extension to the #7 from the 23rd Street tail tracks under the hudson to a Hoboken transfer and then on to newark airport (possibly using some existing trackage) cost?

or how much cost to have have #7 terminate in hoboken with express buses/light rail then feeding Newark airport and Staten Island?

AG October 7, 2014 - 11:10 pm

yeah – well hopefully one day PATH will fold into the MTA and that can happen… as it is – the PA just won’t go out of its way.

Bolwerk October 7, 2014 - 11:50 pm

@Marv: Not many. This is known. It’s an airport extension. Nobody should pretend it’s very useful by itself.

In a sane world, it could include 1-2 stations between Newark an the airport while provisioning for further extension (to Bayonne? SI?). Right now maybe the best we can hope for is they don’t preclude a future generation from doing those things.

Nyland8 October 7, 2014 - 10:23 pm

AG … “In the grand scheme LGA is the lowest on the totem pole”

Uh … no. That would be Stewart International Airport – which is also under Port Authority auspices. Apropos of which, if one were to extend the MetroNorth Port Jervis Line northward less than three miles from the curve just north of the Salisbury Mills-Cornwall Station, we’d have a viable rail link to that airport also. It can follow a creek bed through rural farm country to just north of Little Britain Road, then link to an old rail ROW right up onto the airport grounds.

Were in not for the fact that we live in an upside down universe where trillion$ can be pissed away by foreign nation building and the military industrial complex, but much needed infrastructure and mass-transit projects go begging for mere billion$.

AG October 7, 2014 - 11:12 pm

well I wasn’t counting Stewart (nor now Atlantic City)… even that is politics. Stewart is far above the Tappan Zee… The PA shouldn’t even be involved in that. I was strictly talking out of “the big 3” airports.

Alon Levy October 8, 2014 - 7:25 am

PA owns Stewart, it’s that desperate for a faraway relief airport. How desperate, you might ask? Narita, which has a huge problem with being too far from Tokyo, is 77 km from the city, to the point that short-haul international flights (from Seoul and Shanghai) try to use Haneda if possible. Stewart is 110 km from New York.

adirondacker12800 October 8, 2014 - 10:03 am

At least it isn’t Mirabel.
NY State was desperate to get rid of a white elephant.

Alon Levy October 8, 2014 - 7:19 am

Those activists know Bay Area transit politics very well. The fact that you put scarequotes around activists when I brought up the nearly universally-reviled OAC gave me a hint that you didn’t.

The JFK AirTrain, with the recent ridership increase, is still around $100,000 per imputed weekday rider (imputed based on an annual-to-weekday rider ratio of 300).

And Port Authority is charged with many things. Improving PATH’s usefulness to non-airport riders is within its mission. Four-tracking the North River Tunnels without all the frills that NJT and Amtrak think are necessary is also within its mission. It has better uses for the money.

AG October 8, 2014 - 5:19 pm

It doesn’t matter what any of they or us think… It is the potential users who will matter. Again – you keep commenting on something that had nothing to do with my point. The point isn’t whether it’s “maligned by experts” (call the quotes whatever you want).

So you are saying the Port Authority should go itself regarding further tunnels and not include Amtrak and NJT…??? yeah ok… that will only make things more provincial than they already are.

“Improving PATH’s usefulness to non-airport riders is within its mission.”
Umm – not really. It’s “nice” – but that’s not it’s real mission. PATH should have never been given to the PA. It was a “deal” they made. So in reality – since the own the WTC – making sure PATH is useful to get ppl in and out of there is their main priority… Next would be the airport that they manage… Newark. It’s also why they were glad to hear of the plan to bring a one seat ride to JFK. They run JFK.
In any event – the money used for this is not competing with anything else the Port Authority could or would do. It’s simply not.

I’ll be glad to ride it – thanks.

Alon Levy October 8, 2014 - 8:21 pm

Those activists, experts, etc. all point out that the projected number of users for the OAC is minimal, and this is going to drive the construction costs beyond $100,000 per weekday user. That’s while transit that’s useful to the non-airport commuter routinely gets built for $10,000-20,000.

AG October 11, 2014 - 5:38 pm

Ok – that’s fine… but if money is what matters – then no subways should be built outside of Manhattan. For istance – Reagan National Airports station on the Washington Metro sees more riders than the vase majority stations in the “outer boroughs”. Chicago’s Midway and O’hare stations gets more riders than a fair amount of NYC subway stations in the outerboroughs… Newark is a busier airport than Reagan or Midway So how do we measure then? Do we say those stations are a waste of time too? All three I just named get less riders than people who paid to use JFK Airtrain.
If NYC’s airports were better connected – there is no reason they couldn’t see the ridership you see in London or Hong Kong. Check the ridership numbers at Gatwick’s airport station

tacony October 10, 2014 - 3:39 pm

To be fair, the Miami Airport transit hub is connected to the airport by a long walking route and “MIA Mover” ride. It’s not much better than using the Newark AirTrain.

AG October 10, 2014 - 6:06 pm

I know… Miami’s public transport stinks overall… As I answered the other reply – I was strictly commenting on access…

Crawdad October 8, 2014 - 9:41 am

Chicago has worse transit access to their airports than NYC. The Midway airport line stops in the middle of a parking lot, and you have to lug your stuff through the freezing cold to the terminal.

The OHare line is better than Midway, but still isn’t one-seat. Just like JFK and Newark, you have to take a monorail to your terminal.

Phantom October 8, 2014 - 10:40 am


I’ve taken the Blue Line El to and from O’Hare before – it gets you there every bit as much as a taxi gets you to that very big airport.

Michael October 7, 2014 - 2:10 pm

After having read the main article, and the ying and yang of the comments, I’m convinced that building the PATH extension to Newark Airport is the right thing to do. The money issue is not all at a huge issue, I reason because there are various items in the whole project that makes sense.

I very much question the idea of requiring or desiring an airport subway station to directly meet each and every one of the terminal buildings at an airport, a task more appropriate for an airport connector system. (It’s kind of like arguing that in the old WTC, it was a bad thing that the subway trains did not travel to the 103rd Floor, and that one had to transfer to an elevator! Oh, the horrors of transferring to an elevator!)

Nor do I find a contradiction in having the PATH system extended to the airport even though NJ-Transit also travels there. In Harlem on 125th Street, there’s the 125th Street-Metro North station to Grand Central Terminal, and there’s the #4, #5 and #6 trains at Lexington Avenue two blocks away. They service different markets and different needs – most folks living in Harlem would use the subway for several reasons.

This could turn out to be a very good and useful project, for all concerned.



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