Home Queens Out of nowhere, Cuomo announces an AirTrain to Laguardia

Out of nowhere, Cuomo announces an AirTrain to Laguardia

by Benjamin Kabak
Gov. Cuomo announced a Laguardia Airtrain via Willets Point and the Grand Central Parkway.

Gov. Cuomo announced a Laguardia Airtrain via Willets Point and the Grand Central Parkway.

After months of saying very little of anything while campaigning for a second term and hardly anything about transit for four years while governing, Andrew Cuomo stunned New Yorkers by announcing plans to build an AirTrain from the 7 train and LIRR station at Willets Point to Laguardia Airport. Cuomo, who has made modernizing New York’s struggling airports, said that the rail connection will cost $450 million and could be up and running within five years of the start of construction.

For transit advocates and, in fact, for travelers who frequent New York City airports, the announcement came as something of a bombshell. The is the first time in over four years that Cuomo has discussed a direct rail connection to Laguardia, and he seemingly announced it as a fait accompli without any detail as to how his administrative picked this alignment or, more importantly, how this project will be funded. In fact, while introducing the infrastructure elements of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Cuomo also discussed high-speed ferry service throughout the city, the Penn Station Access plan

The Laguardia AirTrain, Cuomo said, will be constructed by the MTA and Port Authority, similar to the JFK Airtrain, and the proposed routing is designed to avoid any NIMBY complaints. The proposal calls for a terminal at Willets Point above the Corona Yards in between the 7 line stop and LIRR station with a routing above the Grand Central Parkway to Laguardia Airport, under two miles away. “You can’t get to Laguardia by train, and that really is inexcusable,” the governor said.

The announcement seemed to catch MTA and Port Authority officials off-guard, and as with Mayor Bloomberg’s back-of-the-napkin plan to send the 7 train to Secaucus, the agencies had to scramble for a statement. This time, though, their boss had issued the challenge instead of just the mayor of New York City. Later in the day, Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye and MTA CEO Tom Prendergast issued a joint statement:

“Governor Cuomo has offered a clear vision and strong call for the transportation infrastructure that is absolutely essential for the New York region to compete successfully in the global economy. The Port Authority and the MTA are working closely to establish the scope, schedule and management of the LaGuardia AirTrain, just as they worked closely to create the successful JFK AirTrain. We will build this project in a cost-effective way that minimizes disruptions to nearby communities as well as airport operations, and we can get it done within five years of obtaining all necessary approvals. Both our organizations recognize the importance of these infrastructure projects and congratulate the Governor on his foresight.”

So does it work? Let’s drill down.

The Good: A Rail Connection to Laguardia

In a vacuum, a rail connection to Laguardia with political support, political capital and a political champion behind it is a good idea. The governor, who is, despite his flaws, a strong executive in New York, is talking about improving the way we travel to the airport, and he has a vision that is, compared with other New York City transit projects, affordable and practical. It doesn’t involve construction through any neighborhoods replete with NIMBY opposition and solves an immediate problem by improving access to Laguardia in a way that isn’t as stigmatized as bus service is. In broad strokes, a Laguardia AirTrain is a badly-needed service that should have been built years ago.

The Bad: The Routing

That said, Cuomo’s proposal is something of a mess from a transit planning perspective. By avoiding any battle with NIMBYs — except perhaps with those who live above the Grand Central Parkway with views of the Long Island Sound — Cuomo has essentially picked the worst of the possible Laguardia rail connection routings, and we don’t know why. As I mentioned, Cuomo didn’t discuss how other alternatives were eliminated or how he settled upon his proposed alignment.

The real issue is travel time. The 7 train from Times Square to Willets Point is a 25-minute express ride and a 30-minute local ride. AirTrain passengers would then have to switch to an AirTrain and backtrack to reach the airport. To make this work, the MTA would have to consider permanent super-express service to Willets Point during off-peak hours, and I’m afraid consider the peak-hour effect on already-crowded 7 trains. At least the nearby LIRR station can alleviate some of the pressure, but a trip that takes a good 45 minutes from Midtown can’t compete with the Q70 from Jackson Heights, a shuttle bus or even a taxi.

Now, in the past, as we know, NIMBYs torpedoed a Giuliani plan to send the N to Laguardia. You can read the original engineering report and my recent analysis of the old plan. That’s probably the ideal alignment in terms of speed as it is the most direct connection to Manhattan and major destination points from Laguardia. The second best choice would have involved staging an AirTrain station near Jackson Heights and providing service from the 7/E/F/M/R station via the BQE and Grand Central to the airport. Instead, we have a Willets Point-based plan, and we don’t eve know why. This isn’t something we should accept simply because a politician has proposed spending money on an AirTrain.

The Ugly: The Money

The money, of course, is another major issue. The MTA is in dire need of someone to address a $15 billion capital funding gap in its current five-year plan. They need to spend $32 billion but can only generate around $17 billion. Meanwhile, this $32 billion doesn’t include the capital costs for a new airport rail connection. Now, the agency is scrambling to update its documents, but the money for the badly needed parts of the plan — signal upgrades, Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway — still isn’t there.

The other issue is the cost. It’s optimistic to think that the MTA and Port Authority can build a rail extension on time for around $300 million a mile, and although the JFK AirTrain was on time and on budget, nothing else of this magnitude has been. I can run through the litany of problems that have plagued the 7 line, the Fulton St. Transit Center, the PATH Hub, East Side Access, and the Second Ave. Subway, but we know this story well: Nothing comes in on time or on budget, and cost projections often do not align with reality. Without a better understanding of the sources of Cuomo’s $450 million price tag, we can’t adequate assess this project’s chances either. Still, as I mentioned, the MTA’s current capital proposal should take priority.

The Unknown: What Happens Next

Right now, I have no idea where this goes. When Bloomberg announced the Secaucus plan for the 7 train late in his third term without the support of the MTA, Albany or New Jersey, it was obvious this plan would go nowhere. But Cuomo is at the start of this second term and has banked a lot of political capital on dealing with New York’s airports. He has the weight, the pull and the financial resources at his disposal to get this project off the table. It might just happen, and it just arrived out of left field.

Still, I have serious reservations about the way this came about. It’s not a great alignment, and it leaves commuters on a slow and crowded train. It’s a connection, but it’s not a direct one. It doesn’t help improve access to Laguardia for airport workers, and it shifts economic resources from other projects and proposals that should be a priority. Still, it’s heartening to see Cuomo paying attention to rail. Is there time to improve this idea or are we doomed to another airport connection that’s only just good enough?

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Alex C January 20, 2015 - 11:52 pm

From Willets Point to LGA? That’s it? No branch from LGA to the N train (literally just follow the highway) is rather half-assed.

Duke January 21, 2015 - 2:06 am

Going to Astoria instead of Willets Point looks quite tempting except I don’t think you can. The trouble is the Hell Gate Bridge approach – a rail viaduct that is low enough to get under the Hell Gate Bridge approach would not be high enough to clear nearby street overpasses. So you’d either have to kill the Steinway St and 44th St overpasses, built the viaduct REALLY high to go OVER the Hell Gate Bridge approach, or put the line in a tunnel.

Running to Jackson Heights is therefore more plausible.

sonicboy678 January 21, 2015 - 8:57 am

That is, if you don’t build it directly to Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard…which would essentially mean that a direct subway connection would make far more sense.

Justin Samuels January 21, 2015 - 9:10 am

Jackson Heights has skyrocketing real estate prices, and the neighborhood would not allow an elevated train to be built through Jackson Heights. The Airtrain route Cuomo has goes across industrial waterfront where there would be no community opposition. Remember community opposition killed the N train to LaGuardia, as well as other potential expansions of the train system in Queens.

So that’s why Cuomo is taking the past of least resistance, now that he has the money to pay for this (the bank settlement fees). Just make a short Airtrain to the 7 at Willets Point, where passengers can transfer to the 7 or the LIRR.

al January 21, 2015 - 10:51 am

There is a industrial fringe along the BQE. Have the train follow the BQE to IND (M,R) 65th St station and IRT (7) 69th St station.

John-2 January 21, 2015 - 11:07 am

You’d have to eliminate the medians between the GCP main lanes and the service road and reconfigure the highway so that the Airtrain basically ran like WMATA’s Orange Line, in the center median of the highway to get under the viaduct, before rising back up again on both sides, to meet the Astoria Blvd. station and to fly over the GCP interchange with the BQE.

(You’d have run the Airtrain at highway level anyway, when the line reaches 82nd Street, because as short as the LaGuardia runways are, the FAA won’t allow the line to be elevated where the GCP passes just to the south of the end of the runway, in mini-lightpole land.)

MR January 23, 2015 - 9:07 pm

Why not run the Air Train along side of the HellGate approach from Ditmars and branch off to run along GCP. At Ditmars you can then have an Amtrak and future Penn Station bound Metro North stop for LaGuardia via Air Train. Plus people in Astoria get easy train access to Westchester, the Bronx, Penn Station, and CT without introducing a new train route.

Alon Levy January 23, 2015 - 9:25 pm

The approach has no room for an AirTrain.

Building an intermodal station in Astoria is a cool idea. I’m not sure whether it’s possible (one of Metro-North’s studies on Penn Station Access said there was only room for 4 cars’ worth of platform, if memory serves), but if it is, it’s a very good location for a station. It just wouldn’t have anything to do with the airport.

adirondacker12800 January 23, 2015 - 9:52 pm

a great big meh for a Metro North Station in Astoria. The BMT gets you to where you are going faster. Change at Queensboro Plaza for Grand Central. Metro North has no urge to go over the Hells Gate Bridge to get to Grand Central if that is even possible. 4 85 foot long Metro North cars are a bit longer than 5 60 foot long B division cars. They might be able to squeeze 5 75 long B division cars into the same space Metro North demurred on.

AG January 24, 2015 - 3:54 pm

Grand Central? It’s part of Metro North’s Penn Station Access – which is a part of the current Capital Plan proposal. No station in Queens though… Deemed too expensive.

adirondacker12800 January 24, 2015 - 4:18 pm

Grand Central is where Metro North goes now via Park Ave. Why would they be interested in getting to the LIRR platforms deep under the ones they go to now? They have deep interest in luring people to trains that go directly to the West Side so that it frees up space on the trains that go to Grand Central for people who want to go to the East Side. The reverse of the LIRR’s East Side Access. Or NJTransit’s desire to go to Grand Central. I can’t imagine why they would want to get to Grand Central on the longer route. Or if it’s even going to be possible to get from the Hell’s Gate line to Grand Central other than in the dead of night. And even then it may not be possible without reversing the train.

AG January 24, 2015 - 4:28 pm

I’m confused by your comment.. Why would anyone expect MNR – Hell Gate trains to go to GCT?

adirondacker12800 January 24, 2015 - 4:35 pm

and if you will believe rumors heard on railroad.net, M8s can’t go to Grand Central via the 63rd Street tunnel. there isn’t enough clearance for them. There is for M7s. M7s can’t run on the New Haven line.

… Metro North ain’t anxious to go to Grand Central via the Hells Gate bridge.

adirondacker12800 January 24, 2015 - 4:52 pm

AG says:
January 24, 2015 at 3:54 pm

Grand Central? It’s part of Metro North’s Penn Station Access

johndmuller January 25, 2015 - 4:28 pm

adirondacker12800 says:
and if you will believe rumors heard on railroad.net, M8s can’t go to Grand Central via the 63rd Street tunnel. there isn’t enough clearance for them.

So the real reason that there are all these delays on ESA is that they are secretly working on filing down the corners and lowering the floors of the tunnels so that M8’s can run in them.

adirondacker12800 January 25, 2015 - 7:31 pm

They are going to run M7s. M7s don’t have pantographs on top. When they want to run trains from the New Haven line to Grand Central they’ll send them the way they have been sending them to Grand Central since the New Haven got rights from the New York Central to do that.

Henry January 26, 2015 - 1:40 am

In what world does MNR connecting to GCT using PSA and ESA make sense? Penn Station Access is strictly for, as the name suggests, running trains to Penn Station, and there has been no official suggestion that trains would run to, of all places, a terminal they can already access.

Alon Levy January 24, 2015 - 5:10 pm

It’s for service between Astoria and points in the Bronx, not for service between Astoria and Grand Central.

adirondacker12800 January 24, 2015 - 7:28 pm

Triboro could do that just as well. Whatever it is it should connect to as many subway lines as possible because Metro North is going to be connecting a few places in the Bronx where it makes sense to stop the train from Stamford or New Haven since it’s already going to be there.

AG January 25, 2015 - 9:54 am

True – and not just to the Bronx – but to Westchester and Connecticut… Ppl in northern Queens wouldn’t have to go through Manhattan or HAVE to drive. Alas – they say it’s too expensive.

adirondacker12800 January 25, 2015 - 11:20 am

People without cars in Queens or the Bronx are unlikely to drive anywhere. There are a lot of car free households in both. It’s too easy to drive and park between Queens and the Bronx and people who own cars may lie to you and tell you they would take the subway. They won’t.

lop January 23, 2015 - 10:22 pm

The study said it wouldn’t be very useful, 4 car platforms, and would cost more than Hunts Point, Parkchester, and Co-op City stations combined. Is room for only four cars an issue? Aren’t there plenty of other stations with short platforms?


Astoria – A station with tw o side platforms of 4 car – lengths could be located directly adjacent to the current BMT Subway line station at Ditmars Boulevard and 31 st Street in Astoria. This station’s placement on an elevated portion of track limits the feasible platform length. Acces s to the station would be from the existing subway station entrances on Ditmars Boulevard or 31 st Street. Passenger access to the platforms would be via newly constructed elevators or stairwells from within the BMT subway station complex. Structural suppo rt modifications to the existing station would also be required.

A new station for Penn Station access purposes would result in a net annual loss in transit ridership of 98,318 trips, while attracting only 310,367 person – trips per year to the station (see Table 12). It would also increase total annual Metro – North ridership by only 223,339 trips, among the worst showings of the ten station locations evaluated. In addition, the estimated construction cost for the Astoria station is the highest of the nine sites considered along Alternative 2’s alignment. The Hells Gate Bridge approaches and concrete arch, which would be involved in construction of this new station, are National Register landmarks, further diminishing the attractiveness of this site. Due t o its overall poor performance in the comparative screen, this station site will not be advanced for further consideration.

AG January 24, 2015 - 3:51 pm

The MTA said a few years ago that building a station there for the Metro Nort would be too expensive because it’s so high.

D in Bushwick January 21, 2015 - 3:56 pm

Crumbs for the plebs.

Jim K January 21, 2015 - 12:15 am

Seems like a sensible plan. LIRR is going to be better for a lot of people than a slow subway ride, but this plan, like the JFK AirTrain, provides both.

Of course if you are trying to get from Astoria to the airport it doesn’t help you much (wink).

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 12:30 am

The trip on the LIRR to Mets-Willets Point is about 16 minutes depending on the time of day, but unlike Jamaica, there’s only two trains per hour during off-peak times to SSM (and who knows what that’s going to look like after East Side Access opens), and you can’t get directly to the station from stations on Long Island without transferring at Woodside, and the train times there do not always line up nicely.

Eric F January 21, 2015 - 9:00 am

I had a similar thought. The LIRR would be a much quicker shot to the air train terminus. If this is built, there should be consideration given to having more LIRR trains stop at Willets with greater frequency on the Port Wash Line.

Ideally, they’ll improve the decrepit LIRR station and ease the walk to the air train. Depending on where they put the terminus, that could be a hike from the LIRR.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 10:43 am

There are already plans funded under the previous capital program (see this link). Work includes track and signal improvements to facilitate operations at the center platform, new passenger elevators for wheelcha ir access to the LIRR platform, new tactile-warning strips on platforms, platform/canopy extensions, pre-fabricated platform shelters and drainage improvements at track level.

Presumably Mets-Willets Point will become a full-time station stop served by everything that currently stops at Flushing-Main Street. The only problem with that, like I said, is that Port Washington Branch service is fairly infrequent during the off-peak (two trains an hour), and trains during the rush hour are typically packed by that point.

Tim January 21, 2015 - 11:36 am

Seems like they’d be able to do shuttle runs to M-WP, no? There’s certainly extra track space for layups, enough to increase frequency to at least 6tph. How long does it take to turn an LIRR train?

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 5:28 pm

About 12 minutes, but you have to think of how many additional passengers will actually be taking this thing…does that number warrant the [significant] expense of adding additional trains that travel such a short distance?

AG January 21, 2015 - 1:26 pm

I agree… My assumption is that is why the MTA is being included… The gov prob wants them to find a way to run express trains from Penn and eventually GCT (this May end up coming online around the time of ESA anyway)

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 5:29 pm

Mets-Willets Point is the first stop on the branch…running ‘express’ trains that skip Woodside won’t save you much time, and you short a bunch of people looking to transfer…

AG January 22, 2015 - 2:32 pm

when I meant “express” I should have probably said “direct”. I’m talking Penn and GCT to Willets Point

Patrick O'Hara January 23, 2015 - 12:03 am

That already happens (or, for GCT, is planned on happening). Not sure what the MTA has to “find.”

TH January 21, 2015 - 1:53 pm

But what about all the extra time it would take to get to Penn in order to catch the LIRR in the first place?

MARV January 21, 2015 - 2:14 pm

Keep in mind that LIRR/its terminals are stressed from in the morning and evening rush hours with available capacity during the day and nights.

Why not run 3 trains and hour from each of grand central terminal and penn to LGA (every twenty minutes with average tolerable wait time of 10 minutes) during off peak.

During peak periods the trains could shuttle between LGA and the Citifield station as now proposed.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 5:31 pm

You’re talking about tripling the cost it currently takes the LIRR to run off-peak service, and considering that the trains that currently run every 30 minutes have relatively few people in them, so the vast majority of that would be deadweight. A huge waste of money.

Nyland8 January 21, 2015 - 7:15 pm

The fact that “the trains that currently run every 30 minutes have relatively few people in them” says nothing about how many people will be in them once they become a faster, more viable way to LaGuardia.

adirondacker12800 January 21, 2015 - 10:02 pm

They’ll probably still run once every 30 minutes, during the day, to Port Washington. People who want to go from Great Neck or Auburndale to Woodside or Penn Station or vice versa aren’t all that interested in LaGuardia most of the time. The people who want to go to LaGuardia don’t want to get on trains that go east of Flushing much either.

AG January 22, 2015 - 6:18 am

There is supposed to be more frequency once ESA opens – regardless

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 6:26 pm

some of that extra frequency on the LIRR is going to involve a change of trains in Woodside. If it ever appears.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 10:47 pm

Does this plan say how many people will be in them once “they become a faster, more viable way to LaGuardia” [subjective]? Don’t think so. Considering not all that many people will be wanting to backtrack to Mets-Willets Point just to go west again to the airport, the AirTrain to LGA is not really a viable alternative for those coming from Long Island, especially when matched up with the Q70 Limited from Woodside.

Since the rest of the branch won’t warrant the additional service, trains would have to turn back at Mets-Willets Point, or run up the branch halfway empty, and running the big commuter trains just to SSM for the airport people will get very expensive very quickly…

lop January 21, 2015 - 8:30 pm

If offpeak in city fares matched a metrocard swipe do you think running PW more frequently out to Bayside (stopping at Willets) would be more practical?

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 10:48 pm

From a passenger-count standpoint, lowering the fares to the MetroCard fare would likely attract a number of additional passengers, but from a financial standpoint, it doesn’t make any sense at all. Reducing revenue (lowering fares) and increasing costs (adding service) does not yield a happy outcome.

Alon Levy January 22, 2015 - 12:20 am

The biggest rise in ridership would not involve the peak, because at the peak people have no other options but to pay the LIRR’s usurious fares. Off-peak service is nearly free to provide, and reverse-peak and short (i.e. alighting short of Manhattan if inbound) service is completely free.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 1:05 am

they are perfectly free to sit in traffic during rush hour. And then not be able to find anyplace to park that doesn’t cost ten bucks for the first quarter hour once they get to where they want to go in Manhattan.

Patrick O'Hara January 23, 2015 - 12:06 am

There are large amounts of people who still use local buses and subways and subways to commute form communities along the Port Washington Branch into the city, so those people do have a lot more options other than the LIRR.

Off-peak service is not completely free, especially if you are talking about substantially increasing the frequency of service.

lop January 23, 2015 - 1:05 am

Ballpark what would be the cost of running trains every fifteen minutes at subway fares off peak to little neck?


Getting rid of 14 trains to switch to hourly off peak on the PW line saved 534k.

A couple million a year maybe?

Patrick O'Hara January 23, 2015 - 10:02 pm

Roughly, to run two additional trains per hour (up from the current 30-minute headways) from New York Penn to Great Neck (Little Neck can’t be used as a terminal, so they have to run to Great Neck and turn in the pocket track), here is a rough rundown of costs:

NYK to GNK/NKP is about a 35 minute trip, allow 12 minutes for the train to turn in the pocket at NKP and the station at NYK gives you 47 minutes. To make the numbers play nice, we’ll say that’s 45 minutes. That means to provide 2 additional trains an hour in each direction you would need three crews. You would need three nine-hour shifts in order to accomplish that over the course of an entire day (since crews have to start and end at the same place, and you have to work in blocks of 90 minutes).

3 crews per day x 3 crews per shift costs you roughly $11,388.
Electricity costs to power the train are pretty insignificant, roughly $12.55 per run. Run about 48 trains over the course of the day and that comes out to a little more than $600.

Both of those together come to about $12,000 a day for the extra service. Run the service on weekdays and weekends, and the total amount for the year will be roughly $4.376 million.

This figure excludes things like maintenance, wear and tear, Amtrak track usage fees, and the like, but is a rough estimate. As long as you don’t plan on expanding AM Peak service beyond what is already planned for East Side Access, you won’t incur an incredible amount more extra costs. Since the amount of cars and crew members they need are set by the usage in the AM peak period, if you decide it is necessary to add more trains there, then you have to factor in adding additional cars to procurements, additional crew members to the roster (and benefits and pensions for them too), and you will end up with a much larger number.

In terms of lowering the fare to whatever the MetroCard fare is, let’s consider how much revenue they would lose tomorrow if they decided to charge $2.50 for intra-city travelers, by station:

WDD: $1,510,236
SSM: $0
FLS: $1,751,373
MHL: $1,197,885
BDY: $3,790,423
ADL: $1,994,954
BSD: $13,954,473
DGL: $3,902,327
LNK: $4,612,569
Total: $32,714,240

That’s a slight overestimate since a number of people do use commutation tickets, which are discounted, but I don’t have those numbers at my fingertips.

At any rate, the amount of money you would lose by lowering the fare to $2.50 is a lot compared to the operating costs.

But, add the two together and you end up…$37,089,860 short per year. You would need 1,750,248 $2.50 fares to fill in for that gap, or about 5,000 passengers per day, 365 days a year.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:08 pm

The increase in off-peak service wouldn’t be very big. Right now off-peak trains aren’t super crowded, particularly those originating at Atlantic, which are often not even carrying a car full of people. Even if off-peak inter-city ridership were to double, you wouldn’t need a ton of additional service.

That being said, Metrocard fare is way too low for off-peak. The CityTicket price is good enough. MTA should really consider having CityTicket only machines for City destinations that accept Metrocard or whatever next-gen payment is.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 2:37 pm

The trains to and from Brooklyn don’t go to the Port Washington branch and Port Washington branch trains don’t go to Jamaica.

It costs money to break trains into pieces at the end of rush hour and then put them back together again a few hours later.

There is probably a minimum train length so that at least some of the shoes are contacting the third rail when the train goes over a switch. It’s not pretty when all of the third rail shoes lose contact with the third rail.

Alon Levy January 22, 2015 - 10:49 pm

Why would there be a minimum train length? Trains routinely coast along unpowered bridges, boundaries between different voltages, etc.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 10:56 pm

Where exactly did I say I was going to break trains?

I’m saying that off-peak fares should be lowered to CityTicket, not proposing that we connect the Atlantic Branch to LGA.

Patrick O'Hara January 23, 2015 - 12:11 am

The minimum consist length is six cars long, so trains do not become stuck in gaps in interlockings. “unpowered bridges, boundaries between different voltages, etc.” are all along segments of track where trains are traveling at speed up to the interruption in power, which is not the case in the middle of interlockings where trains are typically traveling slower and may need to stop to allow other trains to cross ahead. On Long Island, there are six car gaps in VALLEY, DIVIDE, HALL, JAY, and HAROLD (off the top of my head, I even think there’s a 10 car gap someplace in HAROLD).

Under present FRA rules and regulations its not fast or convenient to add or drop cars quickly in yards or at terminals, and instead of employing the manpower required to do that, it’s likely cheaper just to run the longer consists all day.

adirondacker12800 January 23, 2015 - 12:28 am

Some idiot in charge of Metro in DC, I don’t remember which idiot or when, suggested running two car trains off peak. Until someone pointed out that they get stuck unless they are at least four cars long. And it costs money to break trains into pieces and put them back together.
I’m not in the mood to ask on Railroad.net or subchat.com if it’s possible to run less than 5 R142As or R188s at a time or if anyone would want to do that. They are two five car sets hooked together except on the very special Flushing line where they are one 5 car set and one 6 car set. And the extra very special Grand Central – Times Square shuttle. I don’t know or care what kind of cars they run on that…. they were testing driverless operation on one of those tracks back in the 60s. Totally analog system that used film to store the program. I digress too far afield.

Alon Levy January 23, 2015 - 9:28 pm


So how come the Dinky runs two-car trains? Is it a matter of catenary vs. third rail? Or of interlocking complexity?

adirondacker12800 January 23, 2015 - 9:56 pm

The dinky runs two car trains because they haven’t gotten around to converting it to two car trolley cars that could go up and down Nassau Street as streetcars. Both would be running from over head wire not third rail. Overhead wire doesn’t have switches or gaps in it.

Patrick O'Hara January 23, 2015 - 10:05 pm

Overhead wire is almost continuously running, including across switches and in interlockings, since it runs above everything. Third rail, which runs at ground level, has to have gaps over switches…there’s where the complexities arise.

Phantom January 21, 2015 - 12:33 am

This seems like an awful plan as compared with an N / Astoria connection

The 7 will be a tough slog in very crowded narrow IRT cars. ( though the 7 does run frequently, and offers an easy connection to the N and Q at Queensboro )

The LIRR connection, on the Port Washington branch, will not work for any Long Islanders not near that line, and won’t get you to downtown Brooklyn either.

Count me out. As one who travels to LGA from Brooklyn or lower Manhattan, the M60 from Astoria or even better the Q70 from 74th St will still make much more sense.

Bronx January 21, 2015 - 5:07 pm

Extend the N along Grand Central Parkway. Throw in a few stops along the way for the N and New Yorkers will especially warm up to it. Airport connection AND new communities served.

It makes much more sense long term

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:09 pm

GCP is not a great alignment, because most of what is around it is dead (either literally or figuratively, since a good portion of the southern part of the highway is a cemetery). There’s a reason why the M60 SBS doesn’t stop a lot in Queens along its route.

Bronx January 24, 2015 - 5:23 pm

Imagine how built up the area would become (exception being the cemetery) if a few new stations existed? Considering the proximity to the core, I would expect significant residential and commercial construction in the future.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 12:33 am

I’m still of the opinion that the most ideal routing of an AirTrain to LGA would be one that mirrors what the Q70 Ltd. currently follows… it goes down the BQE after leaving the airport, stops at Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue, where connections are available to the E, F, M, and R trains, and then continues to 61st Street/Woodside where connections are available to the 7 local and express, and LIRR trains to New York and Long Island. It’s much easier for people coming from Long Island to take the train to Woodside than it is to go to Mets-Willets Point, since you have to back track on the Port Washington Branch to get there (the entire trip will be like a giant zig-zag).

Phantom January 21, 2015 - 12:48 am



The engineering may be harder but that would be a better train

The Willets Point Airttrain might be like Newark Airtrain, a huge disappointment in practice

jon January 21, 2015 - 1:01 am

Since anyone from Manhattan is being forced to transfer anyway, could an LGA station be used as a northern terminal for a north/south transit line? Instead of going to the Bronx send some Triboro trains along the BQE and GCP to LGA?

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 10:45 am

As the A train shows, trying to split trains between terminals often results in one of the two (or both) spurs getting shorhanded, so it wouldn’t be really worth it. Plus, you would risk not being able to construct the AirTrain with PFC’s if you try and construct a whole new subway line while you’re at it.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:11 pm

LGA isn’t useful as a terminal station. Usually when you have rapid transit terminals, you try to send in as many bus feeders as possible, but the location of the terminals is very isolated from surrounding neighborhoods, and it would be just as quick for Elmhurst patrons to take a bus to the 7 rather than taking it to LGA, which has severe congestion on its approaches due to the way airports are designed.

Henry January 21, 2015 - 11:15 am

The main issue with that routing is that it involves a very sharp turn at Jackson Heights-Roosevelt, and building an ROW that somehow clears both the GCP/278 interchange and the landing path at 82 St.

Alex January 21, 2015 - 12:49 pm

It’s pretty clear Cuomo chose the route he did because it’s the easiest and cheapest. But it’s also the least useful. Of the 3 highway ROW options, the most useful is clearly the EMFR7. But it’s also the longest and most complicated, especially if you try to continue it on to connect with the 7 and LIRR at Woodside. Connecting to the N/Q at Astoria Blvd is only slightly longer than the proposed Willet’s Point connection, but the Amtrak bridge presents challenges, though likely less difficult than getting to Roosevelt, especially given that you have about 3 blocks of dense development between the station and the BQE.

But in the end, Cuomo has proposed the chintziest of airport rail connections. You get what you pay for, and when it comes to infrastructure that will exist well into the future, we should do it right if we’re going to do it at all. Not just so that we can say we have it.

AG January 21, 2015 - 1:30 pm

The people of Astoria were clear they want no new trains passin through their neighborhood.

Alex January 21, 2015 - 1:38 pm

I’m referring to an AirTrain over the Grand Central, not an N train extension up Ditmars.

AG January 21, 2015 - 2:32 pm

Oh ok. That could still be a possibility if there is more funding later and if the residents become “jealous” they don’t have a connection.

Bens January 21, 2015 - 2:11 pm

I am less than 100% confident that opinions expressed in 1999 are still applicable today, for what it’s worth. The city has changed a lot, including Astoria.

AG January 21, 2015 - 2:30 pm

Yeah? If anything – people are more obstructionist now!

Henry January 21, 2015 - 3:02 pm

Astoria is one of the gentrifying waterfront neighborhoods, so opinions could have changed (particularly since a good portion of the electeds who made that decision in 1999 are probably retired or dead).

The route doesn’t pass by much if you look at this map, so eminent domain is not super necessary, and certainly nothing like the destruction required to build the IND.

AG January 22, 2015 - 2:38 pm

One thing I know without looking is that things are NEVER as easy as it seems. Especially in areas near water.

Where do you get the idea “gentrifying neighborhoods” are more favorable to transit construction in their neighborhoods? People talk a good one – until it comes time to pay for things or to be inconvenienced by their building. How many people are ready to “tar & feather” the MTA board for raising fares by $.25? Yet people always “want” the shiniest project.

Alon Levy January 21, 2015 - 4:17 pm

On The Transport Politic, I’m told that the Giuliani-era plan would have had no stops between Ditmars and the airport, and that’s why the neighborhood opposed it. A connection with stops in the neighborhood could be more popular. It would also not be exclusively airport transit, which means it would have a chance of success.

lop January 21, 2015 - 9:44 pm

As long as it isn’t like the earlier PA plan that would have charged double if you don’t get on or off at the airport.

Bronx January 21, 2015 - 5:09 pm

I agree, different times for sure. Especially in the area most immidiately affected.

The key is creating a few new stations along the route too. This would be great for the city as a whole.

AG January 22, 2015 - 2:36 pm

“great for the city as a whole”? how? How is someone in the Bronx helped by that? None. Not that different really.

In any event – there is no money in the MTA budget for that in the next 25 years.

Bronx January 24, 2015 - 5:19 pm

A lot Bronxites frequent Queens, especially LIC/Astoria/Corona/East Elmhurst. Most of which rely on buses or cars to reach those areas. There would be more inter-connectivity of the transportation options improved.

New rapid transit options would also reduce automotive dependency. Less congestion and other externalities.

AG January 25, 2015 - 10:16 am

Of course they do… A Triboro line would be great… I think that after this capital plan a Triboro line is the next project that should be tackled.
My point was that no expansion helps everyone… so saying people in the BX wouldn’t be able to get to LGA faster with AirTrain doesn’t make sense to me.

Jason January 21, 2015 - 12:37 am

I am not sure of its possibility due to whatever is possibly in the way, but it would be amazing if they used the defunct platforms at Jackson Heights and build north towards LGA as a true subway extension there.

mister January 21, 2015 - 7:16 pm

That platform is being occupied by new utility spaces being built as part of the signal modernization contracts currently underway to allow for CBTC to be installed in the near future.

John-2 January 21, 2015 - 2:06 am

It’s basically the path of least resistance — Cuomo has no plans to risk any of his political capital on plowing an elevated line anywhere through Astoria, even along the Grand Central Parkway’s ROW, and running along the ROWs of limited access highways is really the only place in 21st Century NIMBYland where anything can get build without the possibility of massive legal tie-ups.

Cuomo and his aides are thinking if he were to propose the more direct route along the GCP to connect with the N/Q at Astoria Blvd., the work might start during his administration, but it wouldn’t get finished until the next governor (or 1-2 after that) could take the bows at the ribbon cutting ceremony, while Andrew gets all the headaches of being hit by Astoria residents’ lawsuits. The governor wants a project he might actually be able to start and take the credit for when it’s completed, so the Flushing Line, despite it’s already-existing capacity problems, becomes the default choice.

eo January 21, 2015 - 8:58 am

You are absolutely right. Cuomo is not stupid and is definitely taking the easiest approach with the least NIMBY. He does not want to fight a fight that someone lost so recently and it is hard to blame him for that. It is also much cheaper to build this than to extend the N. Remember that he has to find the money for this from somewhere and it is much easier to find $450MM than a billion or so for the N (I am estimating here; I have no idea how much an N extension would cost now, but with a longer routing and a couple of intermediate stations a billion seems right).

In my opinion, anything killed by NIMBY cannot be resurrected for at least 50-60 years due to fear in the powers-to-be from another failure. Also, 50-60 years gives the chance of the area to change enough so that the priorities of the locals change.

The same is likely true for projects cancelled for lack of money, even though the wait period there is likely shorter, on the order of 25-30 years.

John-2 January 21, 2015 - 10:10 am

You can’t build any subway line in New York except using the deep tunnel method anymore due to NIMBYism, and you can’t build any elevated line anymore unless it mirrors an already-noisy path as with a major highway. What started in the 1950s as push-back against the high-handed policies of Robert Moses has turned into a cancer on any transportation infrastructure growth within the city, to the point that projects that are either more logical and/or cheaper are shelved, because it’s easier for the politicians to spend a few billion extra and face a lot fewer NIMBY headaches by avoiding the most logical choice.

Henry January 21, 2015 - 3:07 pm

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that – this is how transportation planning everywhere else works. It’s just that for whatever reason (and “New York is a special snowflake” is not a valid one) it now costs a billion and a half dollars to sink a kilometer of tunnel into the ground.

If we were able to control costs better we could easily have subway extensions south down Utica, Nostrand, and Guy R Brewer, east down Hillside, Northern, and Fordham/Pelham, and north up to Co-op City, as well as finish the rest of the SAS for what Phase I cost. But instead we pay three to five times as much as the rest of the world to put subway into the ground.

Bronx January 21, 2015 - 5:45 pm

I guarantee that there are corridors you could get an elevated line constructed, e.g. Third Ave El. Not every community stands in opposition to obvious mass transportation improvements.

Henry January 21, 2015 - 5:54 pm

The same Third Av El that got torn down due to community opposition and real estate interests? That Third Av El?

adirondacker12800 January 21, 2015 - 6:00 pm

They were going to tear down the Third Ave. El and build the Second Ave Subway lickety split. Just like they did when they tore down the Second Ave. El. THey didn’t tear down the El in the Bronx until much later when the neighborhood around it burnt down.

Bronx January 24, 2015 - 5:11 pm

Yes. I frequent the immediate area and utilize a line that is saturated with commuters that would otherwise have used the Third Avenue El (5 train). The trains are overloaded, the buses are slow and the demographic is completely different today.

Bronxites want it back, badly.

adirondacker12800 January 24, 2015 - 7:43 pm

The Third Avenue El um um um ran on Third Avenue, today’s Bx15 routes. No where near the 5 except at Gun Hill Road and 149th from my point of view.
Sending one of the Second Ave subway services to the Bronx instead might make sense but it can’t be to one of the IRT system stations. The Second Avenue Subway is IND train sized.

AG January 25, 2015 - 10:25 am

it went all the way up to Gun Hill Rd. via Webster Ave.

adirondacker12800 January 25, 2015 - 11:44 am

After 1920. South of Fordham Road it ran over Third Avenue, hence the name. More or less the Bx15 routes.

There’s a nice list of how it crept north from Manhattan here:


Bronx February 1, 2015 - 7:54 am

Lots of people that live near Third Ave use the 5 train. If the Third Avenue El stood today, that number would be cut dramatically, relieving stress.

AG February 1, 2015 - 10:06 am

The original 3rd Ave. El ran all the way up to Gun Hill Rd. via Webster Ave.
If the line still existed plenty of things would be different. Both the 2 from 241st and the 5 from Dyre Ave. are standing room only by the time you get to Gun Hill Rd. in the morning rushes…
That said – if that line was rebuilt – elevated would not be the way to go…

Henry January 24, 2015 - 7:56 pm

You frequent the area, but you don’t live there. Who are you to speak for residents and business owners in the affected neighborhoods?

Third Av may well want rapid transit service in the form of a subway, but I am pretty sure that if you polled the neighborhood around it asking if they wanted a brand new El running past their windows again there’d be an emphatic “Hell no.” In any case, no one has indicated any push for it, so therefore there is no evidence of support. Even a project as contentious as Rockaway Beach at least has groups and elected officials trying to bring it back.

Most likely what will end up happening is that in the year 2400, the Second Avenue Subway is going to be extended using the MNR right-of-way, but otherwise do not count on the city building any new Els anytime soon, since the number of roads both wide enough to have them and without a subway underneath them already is quite low.

adirondacker12800 January 24, 2015 - 8:03 pm

I suspect that in 2400 Metro North will be too busy to allow the subway to take over two of the tracks. Third Ave is wide enough. There used to be an El over it.

Henry January 26, 2015 - 1:42 am

There used to be an El over it with twenty or thirty feet of clearance from track to windows. What makes you think that today’s business owners and residents would accept that?

adirondacker12800 January 26, 2015 - 2:07 am

The subway won’t be outside their windows. They might be able to hear it faintly in their basements. Or on the front stoop.

Bronx January 30, 2015 - 3:24 am

I still disagree with you,

Most people that live along the Third Ave corridor would love new rapid transportation options. That is undeniable. People in neighborhoods like Morrisania and Melrose prioritize transit far above noise, especially considering the long walks and slow buses that currently exists to reach the nearest [crowded] lines.

Much of the housing stock along/facing Third Ave was lost during the 20th century. Much of what replaces that lost housing is garages, lots, and warehouses with newer buildings only more recently popping up. These new people need to get around, and will demand rapid transit. This is the time to plan it out and build it.

As it stands now, these people are forced to travel east or west towards the Grand Concourse or Southern Blvd. Rush hour trains are as packed as they are along Manhattan length of the line. Trust me, I take the almost 2 daily. The more dense the area becomes, which is denser, the more vocal people will become.

Personally, I would love an El that ran the old Bronx Third Ave route into Manhattan, then ran west along 125th Street, terminating at the 1 train. Stations with free transfers to the 2/3/4/5/6/D along the route. This would kill two birds with one stone. Fill in two major transportation gaps, Third Ave corridor and uptown/crosstown service.

AG January 25, 2015 - 10:01 am

True indeed.. It should underground though…. Especially you see Webster Ave. now (above Fordham) there are new 80/20 buildings going up on almost ever block. Fordham – Montefiore – Zoo – Botanical Gardens were behind that rezoning (as they want more retail and residential and the like for their workers) – but I think eventually as the population continues to rise – Webster below Fordham will rezone. As you said – the 2 and 5 are already super-crowded.

adirondacker12800 January 25, 2015 - 11:36 am

You really should take a bus ride up and down Webster Avenue sometime. 169st west of Webster Ave is staircase. It’s too steep for sidewalks or automobile traffic. On the east side it’s tall elevator building. Webster Ave is more or less where the cliff is that defines “West Bronx”

It’s why the Harlem line is a few blocks east where it’s flatter and why the Third Avenue El was a few blocks farther east than that. Someplace where they could and did build 5 story walkups on both sides of the tracks.

Bronx January 30, 2015 - 3:35 am

Agreed and I think Webster Ave is just a bit too far West. Third Ave is the absolute perfect location.

Bronx January 30, 2015 - 3:31 am

I would love to see an underground line…but this is NYC. I’m sure that the VAST majority of people living within reasonable walking distance would love to see a new line constructed, regardless of whether or not it is elevated or subterranean.

Rapid transit is definitely needed in the area though. Geographically, the Third Ave corridor is an excellent place to go dense and provide even more mixed income housing. Lots of underutilized property.

LLQBTT January 21, 2015 - 12:57 pm

Plus, coming on the same day that Obama begged GOP to do what is ultimately sensible, fund infrastructure, this bodes well for Cuomo’s presidential ambitions. “I built infrastructure, and built it now.”

Spuds January 22, 2015 - 1:00 am

While cuomo may never be President, in his own mind he will.

NattyB January 21, 2015 - 10:40 am

Wouldn’t placing SkyTrain above the GC ROW block the runway?

al January 21, 2015 - 10:53 am

You have a cut and cover section there.

Bolwerk January 21, 2015 - 12:14 pm

The state and PA don’t really have the barriers the city has when planning.

The AirTrain idea is probably intended to keep the MTA a sideshow in this operation. He probably doesn’t want to feed the TWU.

Ryan January 22, 2015 - 9:28 am

Except there’s already a Port Authority-operated rail transit service that does that, is entirely more appropriate to the stated goals, solves a number of ancillary issues alongside providing airport access, and could quite easily degenerate into an A Division 8 train at some later point in time.

There isn’t a better excuse available to expand PATH. Astoria Blvd to 86 St to North Bergen, or GCP to 125 St to Ridgefield. Follow the GCP a little ways further into Queens and then curve onto 108 St and you don’t even need to give up your EFMR connection because you’ll have the EFMR at Forest Hills! And hell, you don’t even need to build all of it at once! All you have to do is ensure that phase 1 being built between LGA and Willets Point is provisioned to continue going south into Queens.

Bolwerk January 22, 2015 - 12:16 pm

PATH? What?

Steve January 21, 2015 - 3:26 am

Despite its downsides, this alignment does leave open the option of a direct, terminal-to-terminal, connection between LGA and JFK by extending it down the Van Wyck.

sonicboy678 January 21, 2015 - 8:59 am

Which is utterly pointless.

nk January 21, 2015 - 10:19 am

Pointless for New Yorkers, maybe. Airlines duplicate many services at JFK and LGA because of connections. Yet plenty of international-to-domestic itineraries (and vice versa) still require a change of airport. I suspect airlines, especially those with a presence at both airports, would very much like to see inter-airport transfers made easier with airtrain.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 10:51 am

It works in a similar way to coming from Amtrak Northeast Regional or Acela Express trains and wanting to connect to the Downeaster in Boston. The first two arrive at Boston South Station, and the Downeaster departs from Boston North Station a bit of a distance away. Passengers are left to either walk, take a taxi, or the subway from BOS to BON and vice versa.

There was a similar setup in New York when Amtrak had its NEC services going out of New York Penn and its Empire services going out of Grand Central Terminal, you had to walk, take the taxi, or subway to get between those two.

Ideally, there would be some sort of direct, convenient link between BOS/BON and NYK/GCT, but accomplishing that is too expensive and wouldn’t serve an extraordinary amount of people. Amtrak even ran a shuttle bus between NYK and GCT at one point before everything was consolidated at NYK, but they stopped that service shortly after it began because it just wasn’t possible to get everything to conveniently line up.

Ryan January 22, 2015 - 9:34 am

Yeah, unifying two completely separate commuter rail districts that both suffer from an artificial capacity crisis due to an inability to adequately distribute loads around limited infrastructure is a real waste of time and money. Glad to hear that you oppose through-running on MNCR/LIRR/NJT, too!

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 11:43 am

It make much more sense to park LIRR trains under the office buildings being built at Hudson Yards than it does to run them almost empty to Poughkeepsie or Trenton. Or almost empty from Trenton and Poughkeepsie in the afternoon. Some NJTransit trains becoming some New Haven Line trains may make sense someday. Metro North and NJTransit already coordinate on that 12 Sundays a year during football season.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:18 pm

He was talking about Amtrak.

On paper, all you really need to do to turn LIRR into a through running station is build a NJT terminal in Long Island City and have trains terminate there. LIRR trains terminating in West Side Yard are not really where the congestion issue is.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:19 pm

That should read Penn Station, not LIRR.

Tower18 January 21, 2015 - 10:22 am

Yeah this would be useful basically for certain Delta passengers, and that’s it. If it was so critical for Delta, they could run a private shuttle for the couple hundred passengers a day (if that) who would need this connection.

Bgriff January 21, 2015 - 11:08 am

The real value to New Yorkers of this idea is that reducing duplicated flights between the airports (which will also require some incentive-setting for airlines, like stronger incentives to use bigger planes rather than lots of small planes) will free up scarce airport capacity and better use our limited runway resources.

Unfortunately, freeing up capacity at the airports is exactly the opposite of what Delta would want, since it could create new competition for their leading positions at LGA and JFK. So they are unlikely to want to encourage or pay for it.

Bens January 21, 2015 - 2:22 pm

That depends on what Delta is given in exchange. If Delta is allowed to take over all or a large percentage of the slots freed up (say, 70% or something), they might see it as a worthwhile way to increase the options they can offer from NYC.

Billy G January 22, 2015 - 4:49 am

Actually, it is very significant.

This extension would make transferring passengers between airports much more reliable and predictable, and could save airlines money and improve efficiency. As such, any Van Wyck link should be subsidized by the airlines or it shouldn’t happen. There are also halo effects from availability of services and competition for things like hotel accommodations and car rentals. Also, it makes an outerboro loop to connect several subway lines.

So, not utterly pointless.

AG January 22, 2015 - 6:27 am

Yeah – if the airlines pay for it – then fine… If not – then it would be a waste.

Alex January 21, 2015 - 1:07 pm

Seems like the greater benefit would be enhancing the transit connections to LGA and making Jamaica the one-stop shop for NYC airports. Long Islanders would certainly benefit and it would make getting to LGA somewhat easier for Brooklyites. But for anyone coming from Manhattan and points west, going all the way out to Jamaica to get to LGA seems downright nuts.

Eric January 21, 2015 - 7:42 am

1. Why should the MTA have to pay for this extension? It only serves airport passengers, shouldn’t it be paid for by airport PFC fees?

2. The Astoria alignment would be the most direct, but you are overstating how fast it is. From Times Square to Ditmars in Astoria takes 23 minutes. From Times Square to Willets Point takes 31 minutes on a non-express train. That’s an 8 minute difference between your ideal route and the option you say is unworkable. And the actual difference would be less than 8 minutes, because Airtrain would get to Willets faster than to Ditmars. Plus, if you planned or got lucky with the timing at Willets, you could take a LIRR train which would be way faster than any subway.

Phantom January 21, 2015 - 8:13 am


I’d think that a lot of New Yorkers work at the airport – it would serve them too.

The N/Q has larger cars, and has trains that go through the east side, into lower Manhattan deep into Brooklyn. The 7 goes to 42nd St and soon the Convention Center, that’s it. I think that the N or Q would be totally the way to go, if people would fight for it.

The only so often service of the LIRR Port Washington spur will mean that a lot of regular travelers won’t bother with thinking about it – just as a lot of regular passengers don’t bother thinking about the every so often, bunched, NJT service from the so called Newark Airport train station. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. A lot of people go right back to taxis after being fooled twice.

I am simply amazed at how few people take the EWR Airtrain. This Airtrain will be much better in that it connects to a subway train with very frequent service, but I think that the LIRR stub will get as many passengers as NJT gets out of EWR, which is not that many.

Benjamin Kabak January 21, 2015 - 10:03 am

Eric: I think you’re underselling the time difference. In transit planning, attractiveness and economic benefits, the 8 minutes is a huge amount of time. Considering that the N train proposal also involves a subway spur rather than a transfer to another mode of transit, the time savings are huge.

Thomas Graves January 21, 2015 - 12:37 pm

The N extension is a pipe dream. It will never happen, despite it making the most sense.

D in Bushwick January 21, 2015 - 4:06 pm

SAS covered this rational idea last year, a Ditmars Reverse.


bens January 22, 2015 - 12:43 pm

Better solution: close the Ditmars Blvd station to spite the NIMBYs.

Henry January 21, 2015 - 3:09 pm

8 minutes is a lot of time for the journey to the airport, but most likely an airport trip involves getting there at least one to three hours ahead of time to get through check-in, security, and all that nonsense.

BenW January 22, 2015 - 12:33 pm

“At least 1 to 3” is a kind of big range, especially for LGA. Regular business travelers routinely get to the airport with under an hour even for regular flights (leaving aside the Delta Shuttle at the Marine Terminal, which is a sort of bizarre corner case of short arrival times), but even assuming just a single hour, 8 minutes compared to 60 isn’t exactly insignificant.

Jedman67 January 21, 2015 - 3:54 pm

If the LGA air train uses IRT rolling stock, and becomes an extension from LGA to Jackson Heights via the Willets Point/7, can something like that be viable?

Alon Levy January 21, 2015 - 4:58 pm

Building it as a spur of the 7 means fewer trains serving Flushing, the busiest station outside Manhattan.

Bolwerk January 21, 2015 - 7:55 pm

Does it really? The 7 is getting CBTC in the next few years, and the airport hardly demands a lot of service anyway.

Does Flushing single-handedly demand ~25 TPH of service, or whatever the peak service level is?

adirondacker12800 January 21, 2015 - 10:25 pm

a secondary reason they are installing CBTC on the Flushing line is so that they can squeeze and extra train or two out of the tracks with CBTC.

Bolwerk January 22, 2015 - 10:45 am

I can believe that, but diverting 2-4 TPH away from Flushing to serve the airport probably doesn’t impact Flushing much one way or another.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 11:58 am

The MTA publishes ridership figures for each station in the system going back five years. Feel free to go look at it. I’m not going to bother because Flushing Main makes it onto the list of top ten stations some years.
Sending ten car subway trains to all the terminals and the consolidated car rentals and the parking – if they want to do that too – like they do at Newark and JFK and SFO and…. keeps the buses out of the terminal. The people going to car rentals and long term parking get better service. There is more to life than shuttling people to Manhattan.

Bolwerk January 22, 2015 - 12:23 pm

I’m familiar with the figures. As usual, nobody said a word about shuttling people to Manhattan.

The rest of that comment was so incoherent I don’t even know how to make sense of it.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 12:57 pm

what part of Flushing Main being the busiest station in the line in Queens don’t you understand? It’s the single station east of Willets Point Blvd.

Bolwerk January 22, 2015 - 1:09 pm

Yep, that’s precisely the point. However busy Flushing is, it’s a terminal with spare capacity for passengers so it can live with a loss of a few trains per hour for airport serive.

Besides, those Flushing riders are mostly heading to/from Manhattan. As you keep pointing out, nothing about shuttling people to Manhattan matters.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:25 pm

I think what he’s trying to say is that the smaller size of the AirTrain lends it better as an airport shuttle service. LaGuardia is a fairly small airport, but it still has multiple terminals. A subway would probably only reasonably stop at the Central Terminal, whereas an AirTrain can go around the lots and to the other terminals.

LGA passengers trying to reach the Marine Air Terminal or the Delta Terminal would be out of luck.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 2:40 pm

If the train isn’t going to Flushing that means the people who do want to go to Flushing will get on the the next express or local to Flushing. Crowding the train that could be serving people at the local stops or the other express stops along the line who went through the turnstiles 62 seconds later and missed the train that goes to the airport. They all end up loitering around in Grand Central not falling off the platform.

Alon Levy January 22, 2015 - 3:51 pm

Why can’t a regular subway line make several terminal stops? The Piccadilly Line does at Heathrow.

Bolwerk January 22, 2015 - 4:34 pm

Transfer penalties are annoying. Transfer penalties with luggage are more annoying. Therefore airport shuttles tend to be annoying. Fine to use a shuttle if you absolutely need a shuttle, but this doesn’t appear to be a case where you do.

I’d love to see a breakdown of how Flushing traffic goes, but I suspect it can probably stand to survive with even 5m headways. If there is an exception, it’s only at rush hour.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 5:13 pm

Picadilly has multiple terminals served by one stop, and then far away satellite terminals. With a subway line with reasonable stop distances, you could have a Central Terminal stop and one at Terminals C/D, but the Marine Air Terminal is out of the question unless you take the line underground to avoid runways, but that also complicates things because LaGuardia is one of the first places to flood in a major storm, so you have to build in additional defenses to make sure we don’t wind up with New South Ferry: Electric Boogaloo.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 6:40 pm

There’s more to life than hauling people to Manhattan. There’s getting people between the terminals without them clogging the roads with buses. Getting people to the car rentals and remote parking without them clogging the roads with buses. Getting people from the LIRR from points east of Willets Point to the airport. Someday getting people from Jamaica to the LGA without them changing to the subway in Jamaica or changing to the subway in Woodside.

Bolwerk January 23, 2015 - 11:27 am

AWwwk! More to life than hauling people to Manhattan! AWwwk!

Cute little birdie.

Henry January 21, 2015 - 11:51 pm

Flushing is the busiest single bus-subway transfer hub in all of North America, and a few years ago it cracked the top-ten busiest list for the system, so yes, it needs all the help it can get. 60,000 riders a weekday is a remarkable amount for an outer terminus with no connecting rail services.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 12:35 am

In theory you could change to the Port Washington Branch there. Almost no one does but you could.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:50 am

That’s sort of like saying that the G at Fulton has a transfer to the LIRR at Atlantic Terminal because it’s within walking distance. The distinction doesn’t mean anything.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 2:36 am

On Main Street, unless someone has gone and moved a whole lot of things around since the last time I was on Main between Roosevelt and 41st Ave. it’s a whole block away. Closer than changing from the LIRR to the subway is in Penn Station.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:26 pm

It’s more like two blocks due to the confusing way the entrances for the platforms are configured, and even the renovation and upgrading plans for the station don’t seem to make the station any less mazelike.

Bolwerk January 22, 2015 - 10:51 am

Whether that’s true or not, the peak load point on the 7 is well west of Willets, at least according to something official-ish lop posted.

Jedman67 January 22, 2015 - 11:40 am

Can the ROW for the 7 accommodate another pair of tracks and extra platforms?
Any Air Train should have no more than 2-3 cars per trip, or 16 cars per hour (four 2-car trains per hour in each direction).
The LGA ==> Willets Point ==> Jackson Heights train would share track and rolling stock with the 7, but shouldn’t replace 7 service. I don’t see any other way to get to Jackson Heights

Bolwerk January 22, 2015 - 12:25 pm

Even if it’s technically possible (I doubt it), NIMBYs would kill it.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 12:18 pm

There’s one station east of Willets so it’s not all that surprising that Willets and points west have more ridership. Especially since most of those stations have local only service. and for anyone to get back to Flushing Main they have to pass through a turnstile that isn’t Flushing Main. Since none of the stations west of Willets ever make the top ten list of stations systemwide is more interesting, to me anyway.

Bolwerk January 22, 2015 - 12:29 pm

Interesting, but it means that Flushing probably still has a lot of spare passenger capacity. Trains need to terminate somewhere and probably don’t much care where.

Jonathan January 23, 2015 - 11:19 am

United States, yes, but not busiest in North America. Toronto’s suburban terminus Finch station moves over 97,000 riders a weekday, with the overwhelming majority transferring in from buses. Sorry for the pedantry!

Bolwerk January 23, 2015 - 11:29 am

Isn’t PABT bigger than either of those? I guess I’m not sure how many PABT users transfer to the subway, but it’s probably a ton.

BrooklynBus January 21, 2015 - 8:48 am

This is how we plan. When politicians do not want something to be built, you complain you do not have the money and must first do countless studies and pretend to seek community participation. When you want something, you just find the money and announce it will be built. Other opinions do not count. It’s really sad. Just proves where there is a will, there is a way.

One question. wasn’t Airtrain much more expensive at $3 billion?

Eric F January 21, 2015 - 9:06 am

There is no way this will cost $450mm!!!! If this is built and comes in under a billion, I’ll be impressed. Just think about how they have to thread this alignment!

Benjamin Kabak January 21, 2015 - 9:43 am

The JFK Airtrain came it at $1.9 billion, but it’s also significantly longer (8.1 miles vs. 1.5-2) and includes 3 lines. The LGA plan won’t be as complicated, but it’s also going to be built 15-20 years later. What the actual price is remains anyone’s guess.

Eric F January 21, 2015 - 9:57 am

The round number seems comically low. They are going to need to acquire a power system, signal system, rolling stock (presumably with it’s own maintenance yard because even if they use the exact JFK rolling stock, the stock will not be connected to the JFK system and yards), on-airport terminal, elevated terminus above a rail yard, alignment running through Flushing Bay and threaded through highways… Not happening at 450mm.

marv January 21, 2015 - 10:02 am

Good point by Eric F regarding cost of rolling stock and maintenance facilities – how much would be saved it this was directly connected to the current airtrain? how much would such a connection cost?

John-2 January 21, 2015 - 10:12 am

It wouldn’t be a shock to see the LGA Airtain end up with its own fleet of IRT-width cars, so they can be handled and maintained at Corona Yard.

Tower18 January 21, 2015 - 10:24 am

Isn’t Corona Yard out of space?

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 10:58 am

It looks very full to me. Now add in more equipment to support the extra frequencies that CBTC will offer (and the LGA Willets-Point Expresses from Hudson Yards that crazy people keep going on about), and there doesn’t look like there would be much yard or maintenance space left over at all.

Henry January 21, 2015 - 11:18 am

Couldn’t you just build a new deck over Corona Yard and place yard tracks there?

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 5:36 pm

That would come at a significant expense. There’s no details on where the proposed yard facility would be (likely on the airport grounds), so it’s too early to pick at details that specific.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 10:56 am

I’m sure any money you would save on a maintenance facility would be blown away several times over by continuing the AirTrian many miles down to JFK. And it’s not like the AirTrain JFK was designed with twice the yard and maintenance capacity in the event that a magical AirTrain form LGA wanted to use those facilities. If the LGA AirTrain would be serviced at JFK, they would likely have to significantly expand the maintenance facility there, so you’ll very likely end up in the red on that deal.

Justin Samuels January 21, 2015 - 10:05 am

You’re completely correct when officials decide they are going to do something, they just find the money and announce it. It’s like the MTA Capital budget. They decided to include funding for Second Avenue Subway Phase 2, the engineering design for Phases 3-4, the rest of the funding for LIRR to Grand Central and Penn Station Access. It now needs approval from Albany, but notice they did not ask for community participation or federal approval (federal funding may or may not come, better for cities and states to have their own funds for mass transit expansion and new projects).

Henry January 21, 2015 - 3:11 pm

Despite how high SAS costs, it also has some of the best cost per rider states of any rail project in the country due to sheer volume, so federal funding is not an issue (and if it was, SAS would not be the first thing on the chopping block instead of some of the more comically wasteful streetcar, light rail, and commuter rail projects being funded in the States.)

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 5:41 pm

Projected passenger volume. It’s not actually open yet.

BrooklynBus January 21, 2015 - 6:04 pm

And most of those riders will not be new riders, so little extra revenue.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:28 pm

Induced demand can work in the subway’s favor. There’s certainly no shortage of East Side transportation demand, and in any case new revenue is generally not a transportation criteria used by the FTA to grant money (otherwise I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have new transportation projects in most of the country)

AG January 21, 2015 - 8:51 am

Well there is no question it is planned this way as path of least resistance. While it’s nt the best scenario if it turns out this way – it can still be useful. For subway riders – the 7 goes to Grand Central – and eventually to Hudson Yards and near Penn. The Port Washington branch will be at both Penn and Grand Central. I guess the question regarding that would be – “how many Long Islanders use JFK versus La Guardia?”…. If the majority use JFK then this is “fine”.

MAYBE – just maybe there will be a second spur a la JFK – Jamaica and Howard Beach – to E/F/M…. Of course that will require more time and more money.

Michael January 21, 2015 - 11:36 am

From the Bronx, there’s the Q-44 Bus to Flushing, and a short ride on the #7 to Wilets Points, and the LGA Air-Train.

For folks on Long Island, getting to/from Wilets Point is not extremely difficult.

Too much of this discussion has only looked at getting to/from LGA for folks coming from Manhattan.


Berk32 January 21, 2015 - 12:44 pm

“For folks on Long Island, getting to/from Wilets Point is not extremely difficult.”

Unless you’re on the Port Washington branch this will be useless for the majority of people on LI.
(and most of those people on the Port Washington branch have cars anyway and will prefer to drive)

AG January 21, 2015 - 2:40 pm

The reality is that most airport links in major cities are for the purpose of serving the CBD’s…

Jeff January 22, 2015 - 7:47 am

I guess this will be the best direct link to the fancy new CBD they are building at Hudson Yards.

AG January 22, 2015 - 1:34 pm

Yup… That’s sure part of it… Also will certainly help people in town for conventions. The amount of hotels are booming that in area…

marv January 21, 2015 - 8:54 am

*instead of building it as an airtrain, build it as a branch off the #7
*to compensate for reduced service to the Flushing 7 terminal:
——–lower the fair on the LIRR at/to Flushing
——–have a branch of the Queens Blvd IND run through the jamaica yards
up to the LIE and then east to north along the Clearview Expressway
getting many present 7 train riders


instead of a branch, build it as an extension of the 7 up main street to the northern blvd and then out to LGA – only a few blocks of tunneling along a wide street and then back over highways to LGA. You would then be providing a direct link from LGA to the Flushing bus hub.

Tower18 January 21, 2015 - 10:28 am

Non-starter. Flushing-Main St is the busiest station outside Manhattan in the entire system. You CANNOT reduce service there. If you think about it, the 7 Express service exists pretty much solely for Flushing riders.

Bolwerk January 21, 2015 - 11:08 am

I think Marv had the best idea mentioned here. Without a transfer penalty, the routing is even acceptable IMHO.

Except for one thing: I don’t think you need to touch Flushing-bound trains. With 11-car 7 trains, I doubt you need more than 2 TPH to serve the airport. Flushing seems to have around 25 TPH at peak; if it can’t spare 2 TPH, it probably doesn’t have to.

Henry January 21, 2015 - 11:23 am

The issue with making trains branch is that you inevitably end up with the same problem as 125/Park; it makes sense in the short term, but in the long term, if you want to extend it you can only extend to one place instead of two (since, with the exception of the A, all lines only have two branches).

MTA uses service guidelines that prevent running that kind of bare-bones service. Heck, I don’t even think 2 TPH is permissible during night hours with the service guidelines (although I could be wrong).

Bolwerk January 21, 2015 - 12:06 pm

Bugger the MTA’s service guidelines. They can be dismissed with a wave of Cuomo’s stubby carguy member. Such a service violates them no more than the old school Train-to-the-Plane (which was no such thing), Aqueduct racetrack services, and even ballgame services.

Ever wanting to extend the alignment is also rather far-fetched. It looks like it was selected almost to preclude extension. And it’s not 2-3 TPH likely to ever interfere with future 7 Train branches, if there are any before the universe reaches heat death.

Henry January 21, 2015 - 3:20 pm

Using the 7 as a LGA connector from Willets is a “when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” solution. LGA almost certainly does not need a 11-car set servicing the terminals, and a two-car AirTrain running every 7 minutes is more useful than a 11-car subway train running every 20 or 30 minutes.

Comparison to the Train-to-the-Plane isn’t very flattering; that service always had low ridership, most of which was just Rockaways passengers paying a premium fare to avoid city folk. Ballgame services on the subway are generally run to relieve congestion, and I don’t think the congestion from LaGuardia for 7 train passengers would be anything close to warranting more 7 service.

Flushing getting subway in the near future is very doubtful, but at some point something needs to be done, because traffic/sidewalk congestion from all the bus/subway transferring is only getting worse and worse. Once we finish the giant money hole that is SAS, we need to seriously look at decongesting the major corridors and hubs at the ends of lines, and the top of that list is Nostrand, Utica, Flushing, and Jamaica.

Bolwerk January 21, 2015 - 4:08 pm

It wasn’t a comparison to the service, it was a comparison concerning operating rules. They don’t seem to have any hard, fast rule about special services even if they prefer not to implement any.

LGA almost certainly does not need a 11-car set servicing the terminals, and a two-car AirTrain running every 7 minutes is more useful than a 11-car subway train running every 20 or 30 minutes.

Is it? Consider the audience. Every transfer is a drag with luggage. These aren’t hugely time-sensitive passengers. Heading to the airport, they can work with the schedule and lose nothing for the trouble.

Maybe Manhattan-bound waits are a bit harder to cope with, but at worst average wait times are ~15m. Getting a seat and claiming some space for luggage is probably more important than time for users leaving the airport. At busier times, I think Manhattan-bound traffic from Flushing can see trains already filled.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:29 pm

The Main St terminal extends north to almost as far as Union St. You can’t really tunnel back to LGA like that, and on top of that it would be extremely circuitous.

stan January 21, 2015 - 8:58 am

since this plan (at least right now) is just a fantasy, let’s fantasize some more…

perhaps the future of this air train is not just as a single spur from mets-willets point, maybe the train can be extended in the future toward astoria? you could then have a more convinient way to get to LGA from points in the city via the subway plus a way to get there from LI via the LIRR

just a thought, but this plan does not preclude future expansion in the other direction

AG January 21, 2015 - 9:14 am

Yeah I was thinking the same thing. It would be a long way off but there is a chance for another spur later – JFK

Jay January 21, 2015 - 8:59 am

Why not loop it to Jackson Heights? That’s a better connection from manhattan and an easier connection for the main Line of LIRR that goes through Jamaica so that you don’t have to backtrack from Woodside.
Another thought, why not have a branch off the current Airtrain from Jamaica up the Van Wyck then to LGA? That would connect JFK/LGA/LIRR.

Justin Samuels January 21, 2015 - 9:04 am

Queens residents tend to block new trains. This Airtrain path goes through run down neighborhoods where residents from neighbors isn’t a factor. You could not put a new elevated train through Jackson Heights, where real estate has prices have skyrocketed.

It’s pretty easy to take the 7 to Willets Point,ditto the LIRR.

Cuomo says this will be paid out of the 5 billion New York is getting in settlements from banks, so it’s not a fantasy.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 11:02 am

It’s easy to take the LIRR to Willets Point from Manhattan, not so much from Long Island. For most, it would require taking three different LIRR trains with connections that don’t line up (a train to Jamaica, a train to Woodside, and then finally a train to Mets-Willets Point).

People do it for Mets games where it’s still the best alternative, but it will be very difficult to compete with driving/the bus for those coming from Long Island…

Henry January 21, 2015 - 11:24 am

It’s very doubtful that the Q70 or M60 will be thrown under the bus once the LaGuardia AirTrain is up and running. There’ll most likely still be an option for this kind of service.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 5:41 pm

So why are we building this, then? So three million people who live on Long Island, another 3 million or so people who live in the Hudson Valley, and probably another 1.5-2 million people who live in Southern CT can take the bus?

Henry January 21, 2015 - 5:46 pm

Because we have a man who delusionally thinks he can run for president in the Governor’s mansion.

The AirTrain JFK did not result in the cutting of the Q10, Q3, or B15 from the airport. Even if you build the AirTrain, the M60 is still useful for people coming from 125th and Columbia, and the Q70 offers superior transit access to nearly every subway line in Queens and the LIRR.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 10:53 pm

The AirTrain JFK is better and faster than the per-existing surface transit routes to JFK (save you living right next to one of the bus stops close to the airport), which is why the AirTrain JFK is moderately successful. The AirTrain to LGA is not [expected to be] faster than the current surface transit routes, so anybody who doesn’t like wasting time on various different rail lines through Queens will most likely stick to the Q70 or M60SBS.

A new system that is projected to be no faster or more convenient than the existing alternatives is not one worth building…

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:31 pm

I think we’re arguing the same point, that the AirTrain is not worth building.

marv January 21, 2015 - 9:00 am

Actually this looks like another piece of the originally planned airtrain from JFk to LGA to an east side terminal. If so it may not be such a bad idea. Is the LGA end planned with possible west extension in mind?

lop January 21, 2015 - 9:56 pm

You mean the 22 mile rail line from JFK to LGA over the QB bridge to Lex/59 that would have charged double if you didn’t get on or off at an airport? Let’s not rehash that one.

ajedrez January 22, 2015 - 6:55 pm

In theory, the best way to enforce the fare would be to have a POP system (just don’t check the fare within the bounds of each airport). In practice, of course, it might work out differently.

lop January 22, 2015 - 8:33 pm

Swipe (or tap) when you enter and when you exit, charge based on that. Seemed to work fine when I was in DC. My point was the PA was planning to use PFCs and came up with a ridiculous idea of a new elevated line snaking around queens and then over the bridge to Manhattan that would by design not be available to Queens residents living in its shadow.

lawhawk January 21, 2015 - 9:00 am

There’s a bit of realpolitik behind this, as with anything Cuomo does. The choice of terminus at Willets Point is to provide access to LGA for the LIRR commuters from Nassau and Suffolk; the 7 train is almost an afterthought (as others have noted, the 7 is overcrowded at best, and a better alignment would involve the N). He probably figures that the combination of connection and cost will get the political support needed to get this done, avoiding the NIMBYism that destroyed the Astoria connection plan that goes back to Rudy’s iteration.

But given that Cuomo seems to have the money to make this happen (all part of the windfall from the bank settlement penalties), he’s directing where and how the money will be spent and increases the chances that this gets done. It’s not ideal, but it will improve mass transit to LGA.

Eric F January 21, 2015 - 9:02 am

And once it’s built, you’d have the trains and the systems, and perhaps a future extension could be built to Astoria.

Justin Samuels January 21, 2015 - 9:06 am

Having the Airtrain connection to the 7 and the LIRR also helps develop this part of Corona. The Port Washington Line only goes to Nassau so it would not bring in people from Suffolk. But Nassau Passengers could come, and passengers from Manhattan could take the 7 train to Willets Point and transfer to the Airtrain (or passengers from other places that must go through Manhattan).

Eric F January 21, 2015 - 9:42 am

On the topic of redevelopment, I was a little surprised that the proposed alignment does not front the new neighborhood being built adjacent the west side of Shea. That would give hotel guests there a very short shot to LGA.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:32 pm

By “this part of Corona”, do you mean “parkland that can’t be replaced without building new parkland in other areas by state law?”

Eric January 21, 2015 - 10:54 am

“the 7 is overcrowded at best,”

It’s only crowded in rush hour (i.e. a few percent of the time). And even then, it’s much less crowded than the Lexington or Queens Blvd lines. And the number of people going to/from the airport is very small compared to the present ridership of the 7.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 11:03 am

Getting to Mets-Willets Point is only really convenient if you live along the Port Washington Branch (which only a small percentage of western Nassau County/Queens riders do). For most, it would require taking three different LIRR trains with connections that don’t line up (a train to Jamaica, a train to Woodside, and then finally a train to Mets-Willets Point).

People do it for Mets games where it’s still the best alternative, but it will be very difficult to compete with driving/the bus for those coming from Long Island…

bens January 22, 2015 - 12:46 pm

Not really. That particular LIRR line (Port Washington) only serves a small slice of Nassau and doesn’t go anywhere near Suffolk.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 1:12 pm

It’s the busiest line on the LIRR. The usual number tossed around is that it carries one quarter of LIRR riders.

Eric F January 21, 2015 - 9:01 am

One might also consider using part of the Shea lots as LGA intercept parking at Willets using the Shea lots linking up with the air train. Either existing lots could be used, or perhaps a deck over the rail yard.

marv January 21, 2015 - 9:06 am

Any idea of what the fare would be on this 5 minute shuttle – would there be free transfers with the subway and/or and offset of the LIRR fare? How about a combined parking/train ticket for the willets lots when the LGA lots are full or LGA roadways are congested?

Eric F January 21, 2015 - 9:45 am

I figure they’d charge what the other air train systems charge. I think that’s $5.50 these days. Combined ticket prices would be nice, and would be new, as I don’t think the other systems do anything quite like that.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 11:06 am

NJTransit tickets to the EWR rail link station come pre-loaded with the $5.50 fare to get through the fare gates, there’s no separate fare payment required and it’s included in the steeper ticket prices to the airport.

Similarly, the LIRR has Green TVM’s at New York Penn and Jamaica (and maybe Brooklyn too) that sell tickets to Jamaica with $5 or $10 MetroCards on the back to get through the AirTrain fare gates at Jamaica.

Jeff January 22, 2015 - 7:51 am

Pretty sure the Shea lots is being developed as a new mall.

Peter January 21, 2015 - 9:09 am

Ben, I am not sure I buy your assertion that “a trip that takes a good 45 minutes from Midtown can’t compete with the Q70 from Jackson Heights, a shuttle bus or even a taxi”. First off, a trip to LGA on surface roads can easily take up to 45 mins during rush hours – to be on the safe side I would never allot less time than that for the journey unless traveling late at night or very early morning. Second, the AirTrain option is also competing on price, which gives it a real opportunity to appeal to the 75 percent of LGA travelers who shell out as much as $40-50 for cab/car service.

Another thing: the Mets-Willets station is currently only served on CitiField game days; I assume Cuomo’s proposal includes making that a full-time station? But I haven’t seen that clearly spelled out in any of the coverage.

Last, an aside, but why the heck does the Times story (link) describe this as “an ambitious, Robert Moses-style proposal”. Moses’ Godlike power meant he never had to take the path of least resistance; he would have plowed a rail line wherever he damn well pleased. But he never would have built a rail line because he shunned public transit and specifically blocked an AirTrain-like rail alignment down the center of the LIE. So no, there is nothing about this proposal that is “Robert Moses-like”. I’d expect the Times’s former transit reporter to be capable of a more historically coherent analogy.

victor January 21, 2015 - 10:54 am

I assume that Airtrain serve would mean that Mets-Willets would be a full-time station. One additional stop for the Port Washington trains should only add 2-3 minutes to the schedule. It does mean that the LIRR should run more frequent service however, say every 15 or 20 minutes; maybe just a shuttle between Woodside and Willets if there’s room to turn a train there.

NattyB January 21, 2015 - 1:15 pm

“an ambitious, Robert Moses-style proposal”.

Yea, seriously. If it was a Robert Moses ambitious style proposal, the N Train would’ve already been extended from Astoria to LGA, notwithstanding Moses’ disdain for transit generally. I’d like to think, or am near certain, no NIMBY would get in his way.

Or as Eliot Spitzer once said: He got it built.

mister January 21, 2015 - 7:32 pm

Mets-Willets Point is a full-time station.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 10:54 pm

Not presently. It’s only served by Port Washington Branch trains on event days.

Phantom January 22, 2015 - 12:07 am


I thought that the Mets parking lot was used by commuters who then took the 7 or LIRR into Manhattan on non game days. They ised to do this and promote it?

Patrick O'Hara January 23, 2015 - 12:16 am

No, that was never the case. SSM hasn’t been open on a daily basis since the World’s Fair days.

Park and Rides can be a fairly lousy idea anyways…if people are going to want to take the train, they are most likely going to take it from someplace closer to their house. What’s the point of sitting in traffic for an hour to get to SSM if you’re just going to get on the LIRR there anyways?

sonicboy678 January 21, 2015 - 9:09 am

What’s out where the proposed station is?

Two rail lines with stations that are only heavily used when there are sports games (IRT Flushing Line and LIRR Port Washington branch)
One bus route
Citi Field
Some other sports-related crap
Parking lots
Casey Stengel Bus Depot
Corona Yard

Seeing how this is a remote location away from where most of the airport traffic is (and away from where most traffic is in general), I don’t see how having AirTrain run there makes sense.

marv January 21, 2015 - 9:14 am

1- to transfer to the 7 and LIRR (to have increased service with trains to both Penn and Grand Central once ESA opens)
2- to utilize often available parking

this is how it makes sense – maybe not the best of the ideas, but it certainly (especially with politics thrown in) makes sense.

sonicboy678 January 21, 2015 - 9:26 am

Weak supports, at best.

Henry January 21, 2015 - 11:28 am

The fact that the stations aren’t heavily used is actually a positive thing; they’re already designed for random giant loads of people, so they can definitely handle the capacity of an AirTrain.

It’s also positive, because given the age of the Flushing Line, doing it at a more used station would essentially mean that commuters and air travelers have to jostle in a station for space.

Secaucus Junction is the least busiest station on the NJT network by entries, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important station.

Peter January 21, 2015 - 9:27 am

One more thought on the price: even though Ben is surely correct that Cuomo’s price projection is a lowball, I think it’s fair to say the Willets plan would be a lot cheaper to build than an either a Jackson Heights alignment or an extension of the Astoria Line. So yes Willets is more circuitous and less well-connected to other services, but it might come out ahead in a full cost-benefit analysis. I hope that at least this proposal leads to a full airing of the alternatives; but Cuomo prefers the fait accompli.

Andres January 21, 2015 - 9:30 am

This approach is not useful for folks coming from Brooklyn or Manhattan…

…but it helps cab medallion owners sleep at night.

marv January 21, 2015 - 9:40 am

Brooklyn?: If the gap between Jamaica and Willets Point is filled in, then trains on Atlantic Avenue (LIRR) and Broadway (BMT J) would enable transfers at Jamaica.

Filling in the gap may be best left to another administration – given the history of this city, let’s get something built and hope to leverage on it.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 11:10 am

It’s only really useful for those coming from Midtown Manhattan, or from someplace close to the Flushing Line or the Port Washington Branch. It’s pretty inconvenient for everyone else, including most people on Long Island.

Jeff January 22, 2015 - 7:57 am

Come on, the Flushing Line isn’t that bad. Its access to every subway line in Midtown Manhattan guarantees a maximum two transfer trip for most who have access to the subway.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 11:30 am

Without studying a map intently the only places I can think of with a three seat ride are stops on the L-train in Brooklyn and First Ave. And some J and Z stations. Change to the M at Fifth Avenue. I think the thing they have to complain about most is that they lost their one seat ride on the Second Ave El and that’s not coming back.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:35 pm

Whereas the Q70 has a direct transfer with not only the Flushing Line, but three out of five Manhattan trunk lines, and all the LIRR trains that stop at Woodside.

Why exactly do we need to spend money on airport access again?

AG January 22, 2015 - 1:56 pm

Because in major cities – buses can never have the capacity that trains do.

lop January 22, 2015 - 4:53 pm

There are thirty or so bus routes that have greater ridership than paying airtrain customers.

AG January 22, 2015 - 9:10 pm

You are seriously comparing entire bus lines to a single purpose train??? Are you kidding?
Well do those bus lines have parallel train lines? If they do – which has more riders? That’s a more honest comparison. Are there buses to JFK or Newark that carry more passengers than the Airtrain?

lop January 22, 2015 - 9:23 pm

Why not? The five or ten thousand people you might get per day to board the train shuttle could easily be handled by buses.

AG January 22, 2015 - 9:30 pm

Oh really? Buses are more expensive to run per passenger than the subway… What about the Airtrain???
Also where are all those buses going to come from? What traffic are they going to magically ride over? If buses were the answer we wouldn’t need trains anywhere at all. Let’s be serious. Someone should have told London and Hong Kong they only needed buses for their airports.

This might not be the preferred route – but it’s pretty ridiculous to say buses can handle it all.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 9:47 pm

It already is, for the most part, handled by buses. Rail and subway have 16% modal share for passengers at LGA. You can catch the M60 at Astoria Blvd NQ, or along 125th, and a 15 minute bus ride along the Q70 will get you to express EFMR trains at Jackson Heights, and express 7 trains and the LIRR at Woodside.

But if everyone else has rail access to an airport, we have to have it too, right? Regardless of whether it makes sense from a transportation or fiscal point of view. Just like how if London has a ferris wheel, Staten Island should get one too.

AG January 22, 2015 - 10:27 pm

again – the word was “capacity”…

also why are you bringing up a wheel? that’s private money – not tax dollars – so what are you really complaining about?
Btw – if you didn’t know that cities all across the nation and the world compete against each other – then I don’t know what to tell you. You must have guaranteed employment.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 10:23 pm

There are people advocating putting a Ferris wheel on Staten Island. Just like buses still go to Newark Airport and JFK, buses will still go to LGA.
My flight was delayed from an early afternoon arrival to the peak of a rainy rush hour. I didn’t think about sharing a cab into Manhattan with someone. I got on the bus to Jackson Heights. And since getting from the subway to a NJTransit Train is a PITA I took the E all the way to the World Trade Center and went down all the way until I walked a few feet to the cab stand at Penn Station in Newark. Took a bit longer but I was going down escalators instead of hauling my baggage up and down stairs.

AG January 22, 2015 - 10:37 pm

“Just like buses still go to Newark Airport and JFK, buses will still go to LGA”

Yeah I’m perplexed… If people want to still take the bus they can do so…

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 10:42 pm

… capacity. I can’t find a capacity number or the number of bench seats on an r188. They are so similar to R142As that the MTA is converting R142As to R188s, R142A “a” cars have a capacity of 176 if I’m reading Wikipedia right. Or 1936 if an 11 car train was made up of A cars only. They aren’t. How many 11 car trains have to run to LGA every day? Ten? Twenty?

Bolwerk January 22, 2015 - 10:45 pm

It is? Just how big are those buses’ contributions to the airport?

The transportation point of view is that rail is the only urban transit mode that deals with airport trips especially well. Buses are small vehicles with constrained space. They do some things well, but baggage on buses is disruptive.

The fiscal POV may be more complicated, but it still bears considering that the marginal cost of airport (or any periphery) service is really pretty low.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 10:45 pm

I’ve yet to hear that existing public transit to the airport is crowded. If need be, bus headways can be improved on the M60 that runs every ten minutes, the Q70 that runs every fifteen minutes, and the Q48 that follows the route of the current AirTrain proposal and goes into Flushing, but which only runs every 20-30 minutes because demand for it is appallingly low.

There is more than one way to skin a cat. Likewise, there is more than one way to offer rail access to LaGuardia, and I’m not sure that a hastily announced shuttle that goes in the opposite direction of the primary origin and destination of airport travelers to an outer subway station and a poorly served LIRR stop is the way to go.

Is rail access to the airport something we should look at? Sure. Is this the right proposal? Probably not. Is any solution better than nothing, particularly in the context of an unfunded Capital Plan that could use an extra half billion? Definitely not.

Bolwerk January 22, 2015 - 11:57 pm

Of course it’s not crowded. It’s an airport bus service. Those are busy-ish lines, but they’re probably not busy because of the airport.

There is a bus solution to this issue: commuter buses (or a rough approximation) with large luggage compartments. They aren’t as cheap as trains to run, but you don’t really need more infrastructure. Usually fares are higher, but the train likely has the same issue.

I agree this is not the right proposal. It’s a really bad proposal. Maybe rail access to LaGuardia really isn’t worth it given the political limitations. But this is a transit application where buses just blow.

adirondacker12800 January 23, 2015 - 12:19 am

20 seconds of putting the right thing into Google and another 180 or so making sure I found the right thing



There’s Super Shuttle too.


Henry January 22, 2015 - 9:49 pm

Well, it certainly puts things into perspective when the average commuter has to suffer on those thirty or so bus routes, but we’re considering throwing half a billion dollars at a problem that largely impacts business travelers and tourists, and this is before there’s been any time for cost overruns.

AG January 22, 2015 - 10:30 pm

Is someone killing the bus system? I’ve yet to hear that.
Also – in case you didn’t know tourism brings in literally billions of dollars to the city… Also businesses and rich people pay a HUGE portion of the taxes in NYC… So if don’t do things that cater to the economy then you fail as a major city. Might as well be Tampa… Except Tampa is cheap and has no state income taxes.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 10:49 pm

Tourists who fly into EWR or JFK don’t care much one way or the the other about transportation to LGA. Nor do the people who arrive by bus. Or train. Or drive, those silly silly people. There is a perimeter rule for LGA. Most of the tourists who fly to New York cannot fly into LGA unless it’s because they flew into a hub airport within the perimeter. Someplace to O’Hare for instance and changed planes in Chicago.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 10:53 pm

Well, the bus system is only getting slower and slower, we have a $15B hole in the capital plan funding ongoing replacement, and only 2 out of 20 promised SBS routes from the de Blasio administration is actually being considered, let alone implemented. Likewise, we have entire wishlists for subway extensions that could move people off of crowded bus lines and into faster subway cars. But of course an airport shuttle is the best use of half a billion dollars, not counting overruns.

Do you really think a tourist or a business traveler looks at a map of the US and says, “I’m going to do my business in Chicago instead because one out of three New York area airports doesn’t have a rail connection?” LaGuardia offers the least utility of any of the area airports due to the range cap on its flights, to boot; any destination out of LGA can also be accessed via EWR or JFK. London has had its airport connection since the ’30s, and Hong Kong has had it since the ’90s. If businesses and tourists really cared that much, they would’ve probably moved in the last couple decades that we haven’t had a LaGuardia rail connection.

AG January 23, 2015 - 6:19 am

Before talking of the MTA Capital Plan – first we would need to know where this money is coming from. it’s like people complaining about the PATH extension to Newark when that money could never be used by the MTA.

To your last paragraph… If you don’t think they look at which airports have rail capacity then you don’t know the business environment.

In case you didn’t know there are plans being worked to improve all the airports – including LGA to make them more competitive… Why? The economy. This is not just about “a nice idea”… NYC is in competition. In fact it’s amazing it hasn’t fallen behind more with all the political paralysis that goes on.

Bolwerk January 23, 2015 - 11:22 am

How is the bus system getting slower?

There probably isn’t a far-reaching economic argument to be made for proper airport transit. There are planning arguments: LGA is made more convenient for more people who might otherwise go to JFK or maybe even inconvenient Newark. There are airport users, and really rail is a rather low-cost way to move them, and better for the riders.

Still, I doubt convenience has no bearing at all on people’s decisions to do business in NYC. It probably impacts longer-range decisionmaking more than short-term ones.

Henry January 23, 2015 - 2:25 pm

@AG: The last I checked, the Port Authority raised fares and tolls because it was having problems funding the World Trade Center rebuild along with the rest of its commitments. Unless there is extra PFC money lying around from airplane tickets, this money could be better used for other Port Authority projects that are way overdue, like actually upgrading PABT instead of building a $90 million annex as a bandaid.

I’m sure it would be very negative if New York had no rail access to airports, but that’s not true. Any flight you can catch at LGA can also be caught at Kennedy or Newark, and businesses are not really going to bat their eyelashes about which airport employees fly from. Either way, I’m pretty sure “access to airport” is much lower on the priority scale than “delayed flights” or “limited destination”, which is a much bigger problem for LGA.

LGA’s terminal facilities are being improved because they’re out of date, but this won’t do anything to make the airport more “competitive.” In fact, the FAA has a strict limit on how many flights LGA can handle, and actually lowered this limit as recently as 2008 due to all the delays LaGuardia suffers from. Flight offerings is ultimately what makes airports more competitive, not the difference between getting into an AirTrain and a fairly comfortable four-seater taxi ride that is fairly quick unless you’re trying to travel to/from LaGuardia in the peak direction during rush hour.

AG January 23, 2015 - 5:00 pm

To your last paragraph – I’m not talking about only the terminals – though that is part of it…. I’m talking about the airspace. The airspace is being reconfigured between here and Philadelphia… Then GPS is being added… Both of these will increase capacity for flights at all flights in this area. That affects both passengers and cargo. It affects cost of doing business – just as access to the airport does/will. It will take years and cost billions…

Those things absolutely count. Part of the threat to NY/NJ seaports are freight rail access… The other is cost. Savannah and points south are lobbying companies to drop their goods there – rather than come up here. Some are taking the offer – and others won’t. There are many facets to how and why different industries do business where they do it.
Part of the reason Mercedes is locating to the Atlanta area is lower taxes… but it’s also the fact that the Atlanta airport gets so much traffic. It puts them close to their factories a couple of states over (and easy access to the home country of Germany) – while giving close access to the ports in Savannah where they have a lot of dealings. Obviously MB execs don’t need rail access to Atlanta’s airport. London and Hong Kong have people fly in – take a train directly “downtown” – do a deal in a day – sometimes two and fly right back out. That’s not hyperbole but fact.That’s why PATH is being extended from WTC to Newark Airport. If there was to be a one seat ride from LGA that would certainly happen. It won’t be that convenient of course (if this gets done)… But to think it doesn’t matter…? That’s simply not true.

Henry January 23, 2015 - 2:29 pm

@Bolwerk: I’m not saying rail access to LGA is inherently bad, but this proposal has some serious flaws in the routing, and I’m not sure whether spending half a billion on slightly lower airport rider operating costs is worth it, particularly in the context of LGA being limited by the FAA on how many flights it can handle per hour.

Half a billion is a lot of money. The Woodhaven BRT is high-quality for a BRT (and is probably one of the only corridors we could reasonably put it on) and only costs $200M. It would go even farther if we spent that money on any number of bus routes that could be upgraded to SBS service.

Henry January 23, 2015 - 2:39 pm

@Bolwerk: also, this link from the Straphangers campaign lists bus speeds as falling from the year 1996. Granted, the data only goes to 2006, but actually combing the MTA site for more recent information is fairly difficult, given that the non-public facing stuff like bus speed data is often hard to find or lost due to site rebuilds.

In any case, buses in New York are the slowest in the country, so upgrading bus service seems like more of an issue than the business traveler who is sitting in a taxi rather than taking a train.

adirondacker12800 January 23, 2015 - 2:41 pm

There’s more to life than the Upper East Side. Newark is the most convenient airport if you are on the West Side almost anywhere. You can sneak out of Manhattan through the Lincoln or the Holland without having to deal with crosstown traffic. The IND and IRT drop you right in Penn Station if you are going for train to Airtrain. Or JFK if you want to do train to Airtrain. Maybe LGA if you are on the Upper Upper West Side and can scoot across the Triboro in a cab or on the bus. But then you can scoot across the George Washington without dealing with cross town traffic too. And there is life outside of LGA’s perimeter too. It might be more convienent to hop in a cab on the Upper East Side and get a non stop to Seatle from Newark or JFK than it is to go to LGA and have to change planes somewhere in the Midwest.

adirondacker12800 January 23, 2015 - 2:46 pm

The solution to the PABT’s woes is to move people off buses and onto trains instead. Not build more PABT and implement another XBL lane.

Henry January 23, 2015 - 8:36 pm

@AG: Mercedes is locating to be close to their factories to be close to their factories, as you say. It wouldn’t make sense to operate a headquarters in New York for a manufacturing company that doesn’t manufacture here, and given that we have scarce land and deep demand for housing, using artificially cheap land to maintain a citywide industry policy (as we did prior to the 2000s) is not particularly wise. Also, in cases like those, freight connections are what matters, so you could also sink that half billion into moving the Cross-Harbor Freight tunnel or its associated studies along. An LGA AirTrain would not convince those people to move their business here, since an AirTrain wouldn’t be hauling cargo containers and LGA doesn’t handle much freight – that would require upgrading the tracks into and out of the Port of Newark and the infrastructure around Kennedy and EWR, which are also valid uses of half a billion dollars.

AG January 24, 2015 - 3:49 pm

You’re really not getting it. You are so against the idea you skip over the fundamentals… Who said anything about LGA being able to convince Mercedes???? Mercedes USA was headquartered in Jersey for decades (mainly because it was right across the water from NYC)! I listed the reasons why it left New Jersey. I gave the example why they left and gave examples of how airport rail access affects business in places like Hong Kong and London – which are NY’s contemporaries on the world stage. That was also separate from the issue of cargo ports competing with each other. You must have missed it.

In any event – the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel is needed – however that is FAR from coming to reality… So you are saying they should bank that $500 mill aside for hopes that the tunnel gets approved in a decade? Are you serious? For one thing if it’s “airport money” to be used – then it can’t even go for the freight tunnel.

AG January 24, 2015 - 4:03 pm

You’re really not getting it. You are so against the idea you skip over the fundamentals… Who said anything about LGA being able to convince Mercedes???? Mercedes USA was headquartered in Jersey for decades (mainly because it was right across the water from NYC)! I listed the reasons why it left New Jersey. You especially must have missed the part where I specifically said rail access to the airport wasn’t why MB USA is moving – but infrastructure certainly was a part of it. I gave the example why they left and gave examples of how airport rail access affects business in places like Hong Kong and London – which are NY’s contemporaries on the world stage. That was also separate from the issue of what I said regarding cargo ports competing with each other. You must have missed it.

In any event – the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel is needed – however that is FAR from coming to reality… So you are saying they should bank that $500 mill aside for hopes that the tunnel gets approved in a decade? Are you serious? For one thing if it’s “airport money” to be used – then it can’t even go for the freight tunnel.

adirondacker12800 January 24, 2015 - 4:13 pm

Why would a Mercedes executive working in suburban New Jersey live near LaGuardia airport? There may be someplace in New Jersey where it’s easier to get to LGA to fly to Atlanta to change planes to get to the plant but I can’t think of one. They had their Mercedes limo drive them to Newark or they drove their personal limo to Newark and parked to get to Atlanta or Birmingham or wherever it was easiest to get to the plant from their base in suburban New Jersey. Or an executive working at all of the other multinationals with headquarters in suburban New Jersey when they can fly out of Newark? Is LGA on a New Jerseyan’s radar unless the fare out of LGA is extraordinarily low compared to EWR? Or they can get a non stop out of EWR instead of changing planes within LGA’s perimeter?

AG January 24, 2015 - 4:26 pm

Where does Mercedes and LGA even come into the conversation?

adirondacker12800 January 24, 2015 - 4:51 pm


AG says:
January 23, 2015 at 5:00 pm

…Part of the reason Mercedes is locating to the Atlanta area is lower taxes… but it’s also the fact that the Atlanta airport gets so much….

AG January 25, 2015 - 9:25 am

And what is your point. I said they moved because of lower taxes and but also because the Atlanta airport is closer to both their factories in the southeast – and to the port in Savannah (which I was incorrect because it’s actually in Brunswick) where their cars are shipped. It is also fairly convenient to go to the home country of Germany for execs.


There is no mention of LGA when I made that comparison… It was demonstration of how companies decide where they locate jobs. I guess you missed it too.
I was debunking the idea that companies and business persons don’t take a myriad of factors into play. That is especially the case in a dense and very expensive region like this one. This area needs every advantage it can have – however small to be able to compete. You guys didn’t get it.
This region can’t compete with a region like anywhere in the southeast on costs – but it has to compete with global cities like Hong Kong and London etc. If you think things like one seat rides from the airports to the business districts don’t make a difference then you don’t know how major cities function. The fact is no money is putting up the money for those types of things – so we have to be realistic in what we can get. So unless someone wants to put up another billion or two to go to Jackson Heights – this is better than nothing.
And no – I’m not saying this is the only infrastructure that matters either… Again – it’s just one facet.

adirondacker12800 January 25, 2015 - 11:14 am

The rest of us are busily discussing LaGuardia Airport and then you bring up Mercedes Benz moving to Atlanta and you are wondering why the rest of us are talking about LaGuardia?

I dunno why, why are you bringing up Atlanta and Mercedes Benz?

AG January 25, 2015 - 12:01 pm

Reading comprehension… If you don’t get infrastructure and how it affects jobs then don’t waste time responding… I know it’s the internet – but act like a grown up.

I won’t waste time responding to the rest of your comments individually.
You want to sound like you know all things about everything – but you don’t. I personally know persons who own cars and commute by subway – the long way – now between the Bronx and Queens. Likewise I know persons from Westchester and Connecticut who fly out of LGA… I’m also pretty sure I spent more time walking on Webster Ave. in my life than you did. I also wasnt’ saying the “Third Ave EL” – duh – used Webster Ave. the whole time in The Bronx. Actually that would have been impossible. My point was that a good portion of it used Webster Ave. after 180th st. I know the area quite well. I don’t need Wikipedia.

adirondacker12800 January 25, 2015 - 12:43 pm

Get some reading comprehension yourself. You bring up Mercedes Benz and then want to know why anyone is discussing Mercedes Benz. Concentrate on that for a bit before you start yammering about other people’s reading comprehension.

And I know lots and lots of people who own cars and commute to work by mass transit. And lots and lots of people who abhor LaGuardia so much they go to Newark. Mostly on the West Side of Manhattan but some in Westchester and Connecticut. Except for the ones who are willing to pay a bit more to fly out of Westchester Airport to avoid LaGuardia or Newark or JFK and can get to where they are going that way. But then the people I know in Connecticut who use Newark don’t depend on Google Maps to tell them how to get there and use the Tappan Zee to get there. It’s a bit longer but it’s more reliable when it comes to traffic and much less stressful
There my anecdotal stories match yours.

I worked on Washington Avenue for years and took the what’s now the Bx15 to work every day. Where I got in a van most days. I used to know where all the streets on Webster Avenue turn into staircases. And where the El was because they were busy cutting it apart. It was over on Third Avenue. There was more around it than what’s on Webster back in the day. And more to be redeveloped over on the wider Third than on Webster. Third was wide enough for an El, it’s wide enough for a subway. Webster below Fordham Road has lots of tall buildings. Still does from what I can see on Streetview. The staircases going up the cliff are sorta kinda where I remember them to be.

Bolwerk January 25, 2015 - 7:09 pm

lulz about Adirondacker complaining about non-sequiturs.

Taxes are always cited as an excuse, but the more likely reasons for manufacturing to go southeast (or north, to Canada) revolve around land use and labor regulations rather than taxes. Transportation might play into that, but only so much.

I don’t think airport rail connections are bad, but they probably have a really negligible effect on economic competitiveness. If you want transit investments that really help the economy, support things like RBB and Triborough RX.

Re the Straphangers link: no methodology or explanation from an organization with a history of shoddy research and claims. I can believe they slowed, but why and did they necessarily slow in a way that is bad for the bus network?

Henry January 26, 2015 - 1:44 am

Slowing the bus network has various negative benefits for travelers using the bus system. Bus speeds end up slower, reliability decreases, and cost of providing the same services increase (since to maintain frequency on a slower bus route, you need to up the amount of buses running it. How wouldn’t slowing the bus network be negative? Bus ridership has fallen even as subway ridership has been shooting to record highs in recent years.

lop January 26, 2015 - 4:27 am

Re bus speeds

NTD lists expenses per vehicle revenue mile and vehicle revenue hour. Doesn’t give an average speed per passenger mile on the bus – maybe speeds increased or were maintained on lightly travelled stretches but dropped significantly when buses were most crowded – and doesn’t take into account the relative share of bus miles spent on highways (has that been static?), but it’s something.


Change 2012 to whichever year you want, 2008 is the agency number for NYCT. 2013 they broke up bus into commuter bus, bus rapid transit, and bus.

2013 bus – 7.17 mph
2013 commuter bus – 16.42 mph
2013 bus rapid transit – 5.92 mph (really?)
2012 – 7.68 mph
2011 – 7.71 mph
2010 – 7.64 mph
2009 – 7.74 mph
2008 – 7.77 mph
2007 – 7.75 mph
2006 – 7.79 mph
2005 – 7.87 mph
2004 – 7.91 mph
2003 – 7.86 mph
2002 – 7.77 mph
2001 – 7.90 mph
2000 – 7.83 mph
1999 – 7.88 mph

Henry January 26, 2015 - 10:14 am

Keep in mind that “bus rapid transit” most likely includes the M34 SBS, which even in the best case scenarios would probably be slower than average bus speed due to the nature of its short crosstown routing.

Bolwerk January 26, 2015 - 7:00 pm

@Henry: a slower bus network could just be indicative of a network where people are making shorter use of routes that make more stops, where longer routes that were poorly patronized are cut, or any number of things. It could be a bad thing, but it isn’t necessarily. The subway is for longer trips.

And I really would take any performance metric Straphangers makes up well salted.

Stephen Bauman January 21, 2015 - 9:45 am

The proposed route has an obstacle as formidable as the Amtrak Hell Gate Bridge approach did for using a link to the Astoria line. It’s where the GCP crossed under Roosevelt Ave.

marv January 21, 2015 - 9:54 am

Roosevelt/GCP intersection

GCP = level -1
Roosevelt Ave = level 0/ground level
vacant (track leading to train yard turn off to the level = level 1
#7 train = level 2

There just east of the grand central, on level 1 there is space LGA shuttle.

I do question if the Hell Gate viaduct is over the GCP is not high enough for a train to go under it but over the GCP. What is its height over the highway and how much height does and elevated train require?

Henry January 21, 2015 - 11:30 am

There are two overpasses that the AirTrain would have to suddenly dive under to GCP level due to a landing path at 82 St where the GCP has to use mini-floodlights. That’s the other complication.

Stephen Bauman January 21, 2015 - 1:54 pm

Take another look at the elevations.

At GCP the levels are:

GCP -1
Roosevelt Ave 0
#7 train yard leads + city bound local +1
#7 train express + Flushing bound local +2

Just east of GCP (on Shea Rd) the levels are:

Shea Rd -1
#7 train year leads 0
Roosevelt Ave 0
#7 train 1

The #7 train is still in the way from a LGA shuttle crossing Roosevelt Ave.

Michael January 21, 2015 - 9:14 pm

It simply could be that this is the first aspect of the plan that gets changed in a very simple manner.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Willets Point-Shea Stadium (see, it’s been a while), but if the Air-Train is simply a 2-car long train with a similarly sized platforms then creating the terminal might not be as much of a problem.

At the western end of the Willet Point station, all of the #7 trackage aligns to one level above the street just before the western edge of the #7 platforms. One the Flushing side of the station, alongside the Main-Street bound platform – build the separate tracks and center platform of the Air-Train. For example build that Air-Train platform at the position of the #7-type car lengths 9-8-7-6, meaning one still has a full half-length of #7 type train length to simply raise the Air-Train tracks. Raise the Air-Train tracks high enough to completely clear the entire single level of the #7 tracks just past the platforms and canopies of the Willets Point station. Of course below the platforms there would be passageways that connect all of these platforms. The LGA Air-train could then be on its way to the airport. Thus not interfering in any way with any of the express track and yard access trackage of the #7 line as the #7 proceeds to the 111th Street local station.

Just an idea.

While I do not have a visual graphic to better explain what I’m suggesting, I believe that this a solvable problem.


Jim D January 21, 2015 - 10:04 am

I don’t get the complaints about transit time – an express 7 train from Willets Point to Times Square takes a mere five minutes longer than a local 7 from Jackson Heights with a transfer to an express at Woodside. I have to imagine that the AirTrain will be a faster and more reliable ride from LGA to Willets Point than the Q70 bus is today without the hassle of getting on and off a bus and navigating the stairs to the IRT elevated or the IND subway platform.

Ideally, the AirTrain alignment could loop through Corona to include a stop adjacent to a rebuilt Willets Point 7 station, then curve south to a second station adjacent to the LIRR stop before returning to the airport. The LIRR could potentially offer frequent Willets Point-Penn Station shuttle trains every 15 or 20 minutes.

Eric F January 21, 2015 - 10:12 am

Realistically, even if ESA is built out, if you have $30 or whatever it is, you are taking a cab from the east side of Manhattan to LGA. Given that you spent $400 on plane tickets, you probably have $30. LGA is just very close to Manhattan and the traffic is relatively predictable. You have to factor in transfer times, walking times and general annoyance. The time/cost/reliability advantage may be there for trips from the west side, however. The LIRR blasts through Manhattan to Willets very quickly, and the 7 express is not terrible either, especially if you are starting from the the Javits area.

John-2 January 21, 2015 - 10:28 am

The only problem with the 7 is for business day travelers out of New York who use LGA, the express will be counter-directional from where they’d most likely prefer to have it — i.e. headed to Willets Point from Manhattan in the morning and headed to Manhattan from Corona in the evening.

If you’re flying into the city for the day from Washington, Boston or some other nearby city, the plan’s great, because you’ll have morning express service into the city and evening express service back out to Willets Point.

Theoretically, with the express track on the Astoria line and the express platform at Astoria Blvd., the MTA could make that connection more friendly to LGA users if the Airtrain went there, with N or Q service (or W, after SAS opens) opening morning express from Queensborough Plaza to Astoria Blvd. and afternoon/evening service running express into Manhattan. But given the Astoria NIMBYs who’d already sue over a new elevated line running along the GCP through their neighborhood, they’d really howl if the MTA offered express service for airport passengers (even though the plan wouldn’t take away a single rush hour train going to or coming from Manhattan).

Eric January 21, 2015 - 11:08 am

The express only saves a couple minutes compared to the local. That’s insignificant given how much time you have to budget for security, boarding, etc. before departure time.

Eric F January 21, 2015 - 10:18 am

If this actually got built, it would have one of the most interesting urban vistas I could imagine. In the space of a short ride, you’d see an active urban airport, Flushing Bay with its a marina, complex highway interchanges, the Manhattan skyline, Shea Stadium, the U.S. Tennis Center, the newly built out Willets Point development, the elevated 7 line, Flushing Meadows park and the old World’s Fair grounds and the rail yard/bus depot between the 7 and LIRR stations. I would ride this thing even if I didn’t have a plane to catch.

victor January 21, 2015 - 10:31 am

I actually think this alignment is great. Connecting from LGA to Willets Point and then LIRR/subway to midtown should give a reasonable travel time, 30-40 minutes via LIRR and 40-50 minutes via subway. The proposal also seems positically feasible and buildable in a reasonable timeframe, positives not to be discounted. The LIRR connection is also very important, enabling the Airtrain to serve the greater regional population, not just NYC, via connection at Penn (and eventually GCT). Any airtrain proposal that only links to the subway (e.g. Astoria extension or Airtrain to Jackson Heights) and not the LIRR should be a non-starter if one considers the transit needs of the entire region. I think the only area that gets short-changed is Long Island, since LIRR to Woodside, transfer to Port Washington branch, and then transfer to Airtrain is unreasonable. But since the Q70 ltd runs from Woodside, Long Islanders already have a practical means of getting to LGA without driving.

In an ideal world, we should be branching the LIRR so that it directly goes to the airport instead of building a special-purpose train that mandates a transfer to the wider transit system. Imagine a train running between LGA and Woodside or even Penn; that truly would give fast and convenient access to LGA for the entire region. Unfortunately we can only build what’s possible and practical, and I judge Cuomo’s Airtrain proposal overall to be a good one.

Eric January 21, 2015 - 11:11 am

This line should be planned so that such a LIRR connection is possible in the future (i.e. make the elevated tracks capable of supporting LIRR trains). You know how many people want a direct JFK-Manhattan connection, and can’t have it because Airtrain JFK was not built to hold LIRR or subway cars? Let’s not repeat that mistake.

victor January 21, 2015 - 11:20 am

Yes but isn’t it often mentioned on here how airport-tax-derived funds can only be used for airport-exclusive lines? It’s a stupid restriction for sure, but that’s a constraint. That’s why I said //ideally// a direct LIRR ride from Woodside to LGA would be best, but I don’t think it’s possible. You’d have to curve the tracks from the Grand Central Parkway to swing southwest towards Woodside. Looking from google maps, it doesn’t seem like there’s much room for that.

Eric January 21, 2015 - 4:00 pm

You can also use those funds for an airport-specific extension to an existing line. It was done in Portland OR and I think in St Louis too.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 10:54 pm

And they are planning on using PFC’s to construct an extension of the PATH to Newark Airport.

David A January 21, 2015 - 10:34 am

I’m curious, what is the value of Long Island commuters in designing this Airtrain link? The connection to Willets Point provides access on the 7 and on LIRR from Manhattan, presumably service from Penn and Grand Central in the next decade, but how does this connection provide utility for Long Island residents who do not ride the Port Washington branch? There would be no direct connection from Jamaica for LIRR riders, save for what I imagine is a pretty lengthy and circuitous subway ride. Is increasing transit usage to LaGuardia for LI residents a priority of this project, or is it mainly meant to provide a linkage for New Yorkers?

As long as we’re throwing out alternatives, what about an extension southward to Jamaica? Jamaica is already a major transfer point; adding LGA Airtrain service would further consolidate transfer opportunities, while serving both Manhattan and Long Island commuters.

I am not personally familiar with the geographic particularities of this route, but I imagine highway median running may be very feasible depending on the mode chosen, whether the selected technology is Bombardier’s ART (as used at JFK), or something else- including monorail options, with slender beams and a lower visual profile than either ART or heavy rail.

Patrick O'Hara January 21, 2015 - 11:12 am

For most Long Islanders it would require taking three different LIRR trains with connections that don’t line up (a train to Jamaica, a train to Woodside, and then finally a train to Mets-Willets Point). Not the most convenient or fast alternative.

Tower18 January 21, 2015 - 10:51 am

I don’t see what value this provides over the current Q70 service, other than rail vs. bus. The Q70 offers transfers to a multitude of lines, and the LIRR, and this offers only the 7. As far as travel time, from a neutral spot in Manhattan (Bryant Park), travel times are as follows:

To 74th/Jackson Heights: 17 minutes
To LGA (Delta Terminal) on Q70: 14 minutes
Total Google Maps Transit Time: 40-45 minutes depending on the transfer (10-15 minutes longer than time in transit)

To Willets Pt: 30 minutes via local, 24 via express
To LGA (Delta Terminal), estimate: 5-7 minutes
Total estimated time: 40-50 minutes depending on transfer (5-10 minutes longer than time in transit)

Even accounting for a smoother and more frequent transfer, a la JFK, this is money spent chasing zero net improvement in travel time.

Can you imagine the clusterf* on Mets game days? You can barely get on a 7 train at Grand Central as it is, what happens when hundreds of people start missing flights because they can’t get on the trains with their bags?

I’d love to be wrong, but this just seems to be a bad idea, with the only redeeming value being that it’s a train not a bus, and thus more “world class” whatever that means.

Bolwerk January 21, 2015 - 11:22 am

Rail is a big advantage here, from the oft-forgotten user perspective. There are things transit buses are piss-poor at dealing with, and one of them is passengers with a lot of luggage heading to airports. Even the biggest BRT vehicles are meh for it. (Airport buses resembling commuter buses with dedicated luggage compartments and point-to-point service make more sense.)

The routing is just stupid though.

Eric January 21, 2015 - 11:24 am

The bus might be equally fast on average, but I’d consider the train to be more reliable when making my choices.

The Mets thing is a good point (and the LIRR will be just as jammed as the 7). Perhaps the solution is to make a direct LIRR connection to LaGuardia rather than requiring a transfer at Willets.

Phantom January 21, 2015 - 1:43 pm

The LIRR will never go to LGA and never should – for a million reasons, including the dead weight of their overpaid employees, whose highest ambition in life is to file a fake disability claim.

R2 January 21, 2015 - 11:25 am

That joint statement was so painful to read. Must have been torture to write such BS.

Rich January 21, 2015 - 11:28 am

A few people commenting on how poor the LIRR service is. Whilst that is undoubtedly true at the moment, if AirTrain opened, surely there would be at least calls for intensifying the service from Willets to Manhattan, even if you could not/did not want to add extra trains all the way to Port Washington?

EG: Make it every 10-15mins with some terminating at Willets Point. This is especially true once East side access opens up, so there should be more capacity available to add extra trains to Penn (7 already services GCT so that market is at least partially covered for LGA travellers) . You could theoretically even consider changes to allow some NJT trains to be extended from Penn to WP, which would add extra connections and open up LGA to a wider market.

AG January 21, 2015 - 3:01 pm

Yeah I agree… Though not sure of the NJT necessity. They might be better off flying out of Newark anyway.

Maggie January 21, 2015 - 10:39 pm

EG: Make it every 10-15 minutes with some terminating at Willets Point.

Would it work to instead take the same train from Penn Station through WP to LaGuardia? Like just run the LIRR from Manhattan to the airport?

Henry January 21, 2015 - 11:32 am

The journey time is a wash, but hey, someone’s running for president and needs to sound important.

If this happens it’ll probably be the biggest catalyst to Flushing and Willets Point development; there are already large amounts of hotel rooms under construction in Flushing.

Michael January 21, 2015 - 11:44 am

This message is basically a response to the entire stream of messages.

Guys (however you define yourselves) just take a step back and reflect upon the entire conversation. Over good periods of time (like this) and others – on the message forums a whole variety of issues get hashed out and talked about.

Serious ideas, fanciful ideas, critiques of ideas, discussions of ideas and even rejections of ideas — all take place here. The advancement of the discussion of this LGA – Air-Train simply does not “come out of thin air” but rather from the wonderful interplay of ideas, thoughts, critiques and messages back and forth.

Whatever the particular merits or the fine print of the various issues of the LGA – Airtrain – just step back and reflect upon the various contributions message forums like this add to the discussion.

I return you now to your regularly scheduled …


Alon Levy January 21, 2015 - 1:01 pm

Meanwhile, people in East Harlem are going to keep crowding onto the 4/5/6 or taking slow buses (but they’re SBS, so they’re marginally faster than walking, yay BRT). The jet set gets an AirTrain, Manhattan’s poorest neighborhood gets to eat shit.

Bolwerk January 21, 2015 - 1:13 pm

Just curious: what would you do?

The limousine libservative electeds in Harlem did their best to make the BRT as crappy as possible.

Bolwerk January 21, 2015 - 1:52 pm

(In case it wasn’t clear, I meant what would you do with Harlem transit?)

tacony January 21, 2015 - 2:49 pm

To be clear, the point is that this crappy Willets Point alignment actually won’t really create a faster trip than the M60. Come to think of it, if you live around the east side of 125th you actually have the quickest trip to LGA in Manhattan, and this won’t change that, maybe barring the height of rush hour when bridge traffic chokes. (Not arguing on the quality of that trip, or that it’s not ridiculous how slow that bus travels…)

You could also argue that this plan simply segregates the hoi polloi from the jet-setters who clutch their pearls at the thought of public buses and don’t think twice about the $5 AirTrain fee. Newark and JFK still have local NJTransit and MTA buses that are well-patronized by locals and low wage airport workers. If you ride the AirTrain you don’t have to see them. Riding the M60 crammed up against people commuting from Harlem to Queens is simply “uncivilized!,” and unbecoming of a World Class City ®, which apparently hides its poor from its visitors, regardless of travel time.

Bolwerk January 21, 2015 - 5:52 pm

I don’t know if I buy anti-bus rider chauvinism is operable here. Buses have never had that much stigma in NYC period, and if anything political noblesse oblige has made them politically rather popular. If anything, NYC is the only city I can think of that won’t consider rail unless it absolutely can’t get away with anything else even if “anything else” costs more.

Airport service really does have criteria that demand rail. I just think this particular alignment sucks, especially if it imposes a transfer.

Alon Levy January 21, 2015 - 4:06 pm

SAS Phase 2, of course.

Would be nice if there were POP on all buses on 125th (and elsewhere in the city) and not just the route that has white neighborhoods at both ends, but the main priority is subway expansion. Odd how city elites neglect further SAS phases now that the next phase serves a low-income minority neighborhood and focus on random crap like the 7 extension and airport trains, no?

Bolwerk January 21, 2015 - 6:18 pm

Heh. Let’s see if the next uptown phase is canceled in favor of the next downtown phase!

lop January 21, 2015 - 10:07 pm

Did the political class ever favor a full SAS over the airport trains?


“The economic and cost benefits of a rail link to La Guardia far outweigh those of a Second Avenue subway” – CLAIRE SHULMAN

Alon Levy January 22, 2015 - 12:13 am

Bloomberg included SAS Phase 2 in PlaNYC.

LLQBTT January 21, 2015 - 1:05 pm

The Prince has spoken. Now, do thy duty as a royal subject and get it done.

Put me in the ‘what a flawed concept, but at least something will finally get done already camp’ (since it will be done indeed)

marv January 21, 2015 - 1:05 pm

Consider the option of extending the Qns Blvd IND local from the Jamaica train yard bridge over the GCP up the midian of the parkway straight (almost) into LGA.

*The local tracks have available capacity
*you would have a one seat ride with good connections to LGA
*construction would be ground level
*land taken to replace lanes could be replaced with decking over the parkway.

NattyB January 21, 2015 - 1:36 pm

So the real question is: Who gets rich off of this proposal?

Then we’ll know what’s driving it. Like, when Cuomo was pushing all this shit at the Aqueduct (Brand New Convention Center to replace Javits –> To be built Genting — Who?) Oh, some Malaysian conglomerate that lobbied for it. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06.....aiser.html

So is that what we need to do? Just get some billionaire who loves transit to lobby the F out of Cuomo? Oh, Astoria NIMBYs? Well let’s just give them a tax credit that off sets any diminution in property values by loss of AirRights or what not.

Spuds January 21, 2015 - 4:14 pm

You can’t forget the “Wilponzis”! Even Mario helped his buddy Fred Wilpon from going broke by acting as a mediator on his behalf due to the Madoff scandal. Follow the Money, indeed!

TH January 21, 2015 - 2:08 pm

Problems with the alignment aside, if this IS going to be the alignment, why make it an AirTrain versus an extension/branch of the 7, connecting between 111 and Willets? You could even potentially build a wye connecting to the 7 in the other direction for potential additional shuttle service between Flushing and a new station somewhere in the vicinity of 34/37th Aves.

italianstallion January 21, 2015 - 2:33 pm

There is enough room in the Willets Point subway yard for the 7 to branch south into it, then loop around to the north and west along the periphery of the yard and continue on the proposed AirTrain alignment to LAG. That would be a good routing.

Henry January 21, 2015 - 3:26 pm

There would be a severe capacity mismatch between what the airport would demand and a remotely decent frequency of 11-car trains.

The current AirTrain JFK runs a two-car automated train from Jamaica and Howard Beach every 7 to 8 minutes at best. The same should be okay from LaGuardia, and a wye would just make things terribly expensive.

Peter M January 21, 2015 - 2:18 pm

I still think the best option would be to run the N train underground after Astoria Blvd, as two tracks, to Con Ed and rebuilding the Ditmar’s station underground, and up 19th avenue to La Guardia. Throw a bone to all. Best utilized route – most bang for the buck.

italianstallion January 21, 2015 - 2:36 pm

While I have also considered that idea, there would be little space in the 31st St. roadway to place the portal to the tunnel. The portal would also probably block several cross streets, like 24th Ave. There is also a large public school just about where the portal would enter the ground. Construction and later train noise would disrupt the school.

tacony January 21, 2015 - 2:25 pm

I assume there’s a good reason, but have wondered why not send a proposed AirTrain west on the Grand Central Pkway and I-278 to meet the N at Astoria Blvd, instead of the NIMBY-rattling Ditmars routing. This could also meet the M60 to connect Upper Manhattan. It’s obviously longer than the Willets route, but at least heads in more of the right direction, and similarly avoids barreling into a “residenshial neighborhud[sic]!!” where obviously we cannot build anything ever because people who live there have the right to obstruct anything that might possibly bring noise, crowds, people, friction, puppies, sunshine, etc.

Jackson Heights would be ideal, but the last 2 blocks of the routing between the BQE and the station complex on 74th seem more of a fight…

italianstallion January 21, 2015 - 2:38 pm

Severe engineering problem getting such a routing over/under the Amtrak/Hall Gate approach that crosses the GCP east of Steinway St.

Spendmor Wastemor January 21, 2015 - 3:12 pm

Such problems can be worked around: move the route sideways, down or up as needed. Perhaps the thing should hook the F train line in Queens. Or perhaps there is an old commuter/freight ROW leading sorta towards LGW.

Nimbys will cry, so
i) make the el portions vibration/sound absorbing (easily done with modern concrete and roadbed)
ii) station the loudest, ugliest construction gear directly in front of said Nimby for the duration of the build, or
iii) Set Nimbys to No-Fly from LGA. They will perhaps find an equivalent flight from JFK, else take the bus to EWR until the bond is paid off 😉

Take a train to the end of a subway line to another line to where I’m going, plus airport hassle plus screaming kid on board: nope, not worth it. For the billion or so that would cost, one could offer fifty million twenty dollar cab rides free to the public.

Henry January 21, 2015 - 3:30 pm

Elevating over the GCP is tricky, because there is a landing path that cuts right across it that requires 10 ft tall streetlights. Median is also tricky, since the right-of-way of the GCP is fairly constrained at the 278 interchange and west of it.

Spendmor Wastemor January 21, 2015 - 2:49 pm

1) Take da plane
1a Deal with cattle seats, TSA creeps and LGA misery.
1b Both ways, uphill.

2 Go to the end of a long, Sloooow subway line with cars too narrow for a checked bag. Wait again while billyun dollah Airtrain retraces part of the distance the 7 jerked you through (I hate being jerked sideways). Drag self, bag(s) off/on train.

3 Bow to Prince Andrew in thanks for this glorious gift to us prole masses brainwashed fools.


Spuds January 21, 2015 - 4:25 pm

This is what you get for voting for this clown. Metro NY has nobody to blame but themselves. Unless he runs for president and wins, we are stuck with him til 2019.

Larry Greenfield January 21, 2015 - 3:02 pm

This announcement raises many questions, some of which are listed below:

1. Was it “planned” without either MTA or PANYNJ involvement? Is sure seems so. If so, who planned it?
2. Why are both agencies needed? Funding from both?
3. How was the route selected? Any involvement from either MTA or PANYNJ in the process?
4. Is it part of a larger plan?
5. If it involves PANYNJ, was Christie consulted? If so, why wasn’t he part of the announcement?

Jeff January 22, 2015 - 8:09 am

If the Airtrai. Is to be built on top of the Corona rail yards I assume they would need the MTA involved for that.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 11:33 am

The MTA isn’t going to raise a serious stink.

Jeff January 22, 2015 - 4:13 pm

Who said anything about a stink? Parts of Corona Yard will most likely need to be reconfigured in order to accommodate an elevated station above it. Work would have to be coordinated since parts of the yard will need to accommodate construction. That’s where the MTA would come in.

I think its mentioned that the PA would build it, with the MTA as consultant, anyway.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 6:32 pm

The same way they need the DOT involved to build it over the Grand Central Parkway. There isn’t going to be much of a problem.

JOhn January 21, 2015 - 3:08 pm

I live down the block from where the Hell’s Gate passes over the Grand Central on Astoria Blvd.
There SEEMS to be enough space for an elevated train to duck under…


Spendmor Wastemor January 21, 2015 - 3:18 pm

One can also move the roadway a little if need be, or make clearance by shaving grade level down a foot or two. There’d be a drainage issue, but that can be more-or-less mitigated by protecting the sunken area and with a drain/storm pump.

Dunno if that has other complications, but it at least looks possible.

Italianstallion January 21, 2015 - 7:23 pm

The real problem is, yes, they can duck under next to the GCP roadway, but then the tracks have to duck UP to get over the adjacent Steinway and 44 Street overpasses. A complete reconstruction of those would be required.

Larry Greenfield January 21, 2015 - 3:15 pm

While the idea of a rail connection to LGA is a good thing, the fact that the planning, if there was any, was done without any apparent input from either the MTA or the PANYNJ is discouraging; it leaves many questions unanswered and sounds suspect.

Spendmor Wastemor January 21, 2015 - 4:08 pm

You suspect well. Prince Andrew does not plan to use the train himself. It’s for the benefit of his next campaign, not for us cattle.

Luke January 21, 2015 - 3:40 pm

Follow the money. Look at what’s going on around Willets Point. There’s a megaproject mall/condos/real estate empire right past the stadium. Who is behind the project, you say? The Related Companies, one of Cuomo’s top donors this cycle at $589,700. Not to mention, there’s also a slew of real estate projects in and around Flushing these days.

I wonder if Cuomo isn’t trying to look like a hero and satisfy his donors with a convenient transit connection all at once.

Spuds January 21, 2015 - 4:18 pm

The Wilponzi’s are in deep financial doo doo and we Mets fans are tired of it. The cost of the cleanup for the “automotive parts redistribution facilities” and the rest of the historical hazardous wastes that lays beneath Willet Point will probably equal the proposed airtrain line.

John M January 21, 2015 - 4:00 pm

This is certainly not a new idea as this blog had a related story dated Feb 6 2014 that State Senator George Onorato proposed something very similar and I doubt he came up with the idea himself.

I agree that this is not a very good or wise solution. A very crowded 7 train will now be more crowded, especially on game days or when there is tennis. The LIRR will be a good option from Midtown and the station will have to go full time.

Regardless I suppose something along the port Washington line in Queens/Nassau but that is it. but is better than nothing in this case as the ideal option of extending the N Train will most likely never happen due to community opposition.

guy January 21, 2015 - 4:30 pm


JJJJ January 21, 2015 - 4:35 pm

Would any alignment allow for the creation of a new station for Amtrak, LIRR, and NJ Transit* trains to access the Aitrain, a la Newark airport station?

*Yes, why not?

adirondacker12800 January 21, 2015 - 5:12 pm

sending the LIRR to LGA instead of Airtrain and have the LIRR run a three car shuttle every half hour? All that changing could then happen at Penn Station. Or Woodside or Willets Point. That assumes they aren’t going to do other things with Airtrain like shuttle passengers between the parking lots and the terminals and rental car customers and hotel shuttle passengers and even city bus passengers to the other side of all the traffic at the terminals. Running a sorta trolley car every few minutes is a better solution, in my opinion, if they are going to do more with an Airtrain solution.

Herbie January 21, 2015 - 4:36 pm

So would connecting the two AirTrains via Main St or Kissena/Parsons be out of the question? (map)

adirondacker12800 January 21, 2015 - 5:18 pm

I’d be inclined to look at using the Van Wyck and Flushing Meadow park before local streets. Design the station at the Flushing Park end so that could be done someday….

lop January 21, 2015 - 10:13 pm

I’m guessing Herbie wanted to serve Flushing-Jamaica corridor trips, not just airport users. The buses are pretty well used.

Spuds January 21, 2015 - 4:56 pm

This is what is called the Tappan Zee Effect. Make grandious statements about a project without a susinct plan then scramble to find ways to actually pay for it. Cuomo knows that he has to raise tolls on the Tway NEXT year because even a merger with the Bridge Authority is not going to fill in the financial gap. The same will go for this project which he conveniently low balled and without a realistic plan to boot.

MARV January 21, 2015 - 5:28 pm

a quick review of the options of Possible Rail Access Corridors

Previous studies of airport access have identified

•A northern extension of the Astoria line from Ditmars Blvd station via local streets to the Con Ed generating plant, then east via local streets to the Airport property (in the vicinity of the Marine
Air Terminal)
• An eastern branch from the Astoria line at Astoria Blvd station via the Grand Central Parkway to the Airport Property (in the vicinity of the Central Terminal Building)
• A northern branch from the Queens Blvd line at 74th St- Roosevelt Ave station via the Brooklyn – Queens Expwy to the Airport Property (in the vicinity of the Central Terminal Building)
• A northern branch from the Flushing line 111th St station via the Grand Central Pkwy to the Airport Property (in the vicinity of Terminal D)
• A new LIRR service branch from Sunnyside Yard via the Amtrak Hell Gate line and the Brooklyn – Queens Expwy to the Airport Property (in the vicinity of the Central Terminal Building)
• A northern branch from the LIRR Main line at Woodside station via the Brooklyn – Queens Expwy to the Airport Property (in the vicinity of the Central Terminal Building)
• A western branch from the LIRR Port Washington branch east of Mets
– Willets Pt station via the Grand Central Pkwy to the Airport Property (in the vicinity of the Terminal D

Beebo January 21, 2015 - 7:34 pm

Crappy routing. Instead, send the N or Q off at Grand Central Parkway. Which? I don’t care… Send ’em both 🙂

physically, as elevated track above Astoria Blvd. Run alongside until BQE and then make your way onto 23rd avenue. (Hitting the rental cars places). Continue along 23, over GCP, and you’re at the parking lot. Done.

Shorter route, less NIMBYs (or is someone going to claim Astoria Blvd is a quiet road?!?)

marv January 21, 2015 - 10:32 pm

While connected by a walking bridge (allowing access to both citifield and the US open) the LIRR station and the subway station are fairly far apart especially when considering that users will have some luggage.

marv January 22, 2015 - 12:25 am

It has been pointed out that the proposed transfer point is a dead location except for the US open and 81 ball games. Rather than this being strike, why not sell off air rights to the bus and train yards creating a hotel/entertainment hub. Given the short ride into penn and grand central, the walkability to Queens Chinatown, and Flushing Meadow Park, the area could be a draw which would justify more trains and help finance the project.

That Flushing is the busiest subway to bus transfer point is a problem. Conversion of the PW line into a premium subway at moderated fares and subway extensions along the Whitestone and Long Island Expressways would better serve the users and distribute boards.

lop January 22, 2015 - 1:23 am

Flushing Creek and the Van Wyck do a lot to work against the walkability to flushing. Lower fares off peak for in city travel and you might justify more trains along PW to Little Neck, not just potential development around one station. Decking over rail yards and bus depots isn’t free, not sure how much you could net from it.

AG January 22, 2015 - 6:25 am

The Mets owners are already approved to build a huge shopping plaza right there… Also – Willets Point (the neighborhood) has development plans in the billions already – once the poisons are cleaned out of the soil.

Jeff January 22, 2015 - 11:20 am

Yup. That’s a big reason why Cuomo wants to build the transfer point there. Willets Point is the last of Bloomberg’s megaprojects to go up and they need to prop it up as much as possible. Direct airport-rail connection to the site would be enormous in terms of attracting the financing needed for those projects.

Keep in mind that there will be convention centers there as well as substantial business development. Nearby Corona and Downtown Flushing are seeing a surge of huge developments as well.

As usual NY politicians are backing transportation projects for the $$$

lop January 22, 2015 - 12:20 pm

Why would a shopping plaza benefit from an airtrain? Unless there’s a hotel somewhere I don’t see the appeal.

AG January 22, 2015 - 1:53 pm

None… People just want to make everything a political conspiracy.

Jeff January 22, 2015 - 4:06 pm

There are hotels and, like I said, a convention center, in Phase 1. Phase 2 might have more.

AG January 22, 2015 - 1:42 pm

Where did you come up with that? Bloomberg isn’t in office – so Cuomo doesn’t need him… He’s back running his old company and doesn’t stand to benefit one iota… He could buy the Mets and the whole surrounding area with change left over in the billions. You think Bloomberg in involved in this??? Seriously??? For Cuomo – this is simply about going the path of least resistance. It’s cheaper and less complainers going this route. It just so happens that all the thousands of people living there will have more convenient transit.

Btw – those “conventions” to be held there will be small and local… They will not be competing with the Javits in any way. That said – this will connect to the Javits – which is where out of towners go…

Jeff January 22, 2015 - 4:10 pm

I didn’t say Bloomberg involved… Just said its one of his last megaprojects to go up. Nothing else on the plate in NYC is to the scale of these projects.

However, as mentioned above, Related which is developing the site is one of Cuomo’s biggest donors. Just saying.

AG January 22, 2015 - 4:28 pm

Yeah – but an Airtrain doesn’t make the developments in Willets Point any more viable at all. The government has been trying to develop that land since the days of Robert Moses… Even he couldn’t get it done. There is immense pressure to make use of land in NYC… An Airtrain there won’t affect that.

For people who will move there and increase in #7 (only possible with CBTC) and the LIRR could make it more attractive… You brought up a convention center though. That convention center is more akin to the Westchester County Center in White Plains – or this new one in Brooklyn:


It will be no where near the type of crowds that will go to the Javits (which will soon be connected to the #7). Hotels? There are now about 100k hotel rooms in NYC…

A 200 room hotel there won’t do much at all. It will serve the Mets – US Open – people looking for a cheaper stay than Manhattan. Airtrain or no Airtrain – that’s the clientele that hotel will serve. I didn’t vote for Cuomo but he wouldn’t be dumb enough to “prop up” that tiny convention center and tiny hotel (or maybe 2). This route is simply the cheapest and easiest politically to achieve.

Henry January 22, 2015 - 1:42 pm

Aside from projects already approved, state law requires that projects developing parkland must find suitable replacement parkland, which is a big reason as to why Yankee Stadium construction was very complicated.

Flushing-Corona Park is there as a nice park, but it’s also there as a floodplain so that when a big storm occurs, it has a nice little tub to go to instead of wrecking Flushing and Corona. Developing it would go against anything the city has learned about flooding since Sandy.

lop January 22, 2015 - 2:16 pm

Do the railyard or bus depot count as parkland? Maybe decking over either would make it harder to expand the railyard into the bus depot or parking lot south of roosevelt to accommodate higher frequency on the 7 train or an extension of the line, but how would it reduce it’s effectiveness as a storm drain?

Henry January 22, 2015 - 2:27 pm

I misread the comment as “Lets build a hub in the park”.

However, let’s consider whether or not the cost of decking over all of that would pencil out. Atlantic Yards was undersold, and is still struggling to reach the finish line. Hudson Yards went through several contract changes to get a fair price, it only really works because 25 million square feet next to the most desirable real estate is available, and even then we’re pouring tax breaks into companies moving there like no tomorrow. Amtrak is having trouble finding companies that want to deck over the much more centrally located Sunnyside Yards, so why would a Corona Yard decking go over any better, considering it is pretty well sealed off from the neighborhoods around it?

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 6:17 pm

a little deck that disguises itself as the platform for the trolley cars that go to LaGuardia could have one end at the subway platform and one end at the LIRR platform. I’m not in the mood to wait for New York City tax maps to reveal who owns what out there. Google has the park ending at the LIRR ROW. Everything between the LIRR and the Subway belongs to somebody other than the park.

lop January 22, 2015 - 8:17 pm


Looks like the parking lot between the railyard and roosevelt is part of the park. Citifield and the parking lots north of roosevelt are even though google maps doesn’t show it. That’s why there was that whole big thing about the Wilpons building a mall in the park.

The 7 and LIRR are ~ 900 feet apart. The airtrain won’t be that long anyway.

Jros January 22, 2015 - 12:10 pm

1) the famous “single seat” airport ride is a fantasy. Save taking a car or a cab, you will have to transfer somewhere, often twice- even if it was a subway extension (N or R) directly to the terminals.
2) being able to take either the 7 (30-45 min or the LIRR (15 min) to get to an airtrain transfer is better than only having the subway opition. Knowing how long the trip will take is more important than saving a few minutes.
3) we take the train from penn to both EWR or JFK because it is easier, cheaper and less stressful than a cab, so we try not to use LGA.if you have more 1 or 2 pieces of luggage you are taking a car of some sort no matter what.
4) off peak, there no only 2 tph from ewr to penn. waiting at ewr for the train into the city is maddening. Jamaica to penn is much better.
5) Clearly, Cuomo is championing this project for 3 reasons. One , it is the cheapest and fastest project to provide trains to LGA. Two, There is a lot of big players ( related, wilpons) in the willets points area. Three, ( and most important!)–If the Governor of NJ gets to extend the PATH to Newark airport, then NY gets a train to LGA!

Just my 3 cents.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 12:54 pm

Conceivably it could be a one seat ride to any terminal at JFK. One can walk to Howard Beach or Jamaica. Or not count the car trip to the long term parking lots. The only way to arrive or depart from the Airtrain/ train-station station at Newark is by Airtrain or train. You can’t walk up or take a bus there. Hauling the train to Podunk’s airport with ten gates means people have a one seat ride. Hauling the LIRR to the airport means some of the people have a one seat ride. the rest of them have to get on Airtrain anyway. Or to one of the terminals at Newark. The Airtrain would still have to exist to get people between the terminals and to the parking lots and the hotel shuttles and car rentals and all the other obscure things the Airtrain does.

AG January 22, 2015 - 1:49 pm

I agree… The main reasons for the this route are cost and being able to connect to both subway and commuter rail – like JFK – and soon Newark (PATH is essentially a subway)… The plan that would connect to more subway lines and LIRR is much more complicated… Which means it would cost at least $1billion more and take several extra years. Does anyone really have the stomach for it? Nah..

Jeff January 22, 2015 - 4:30 pm

Not to mention LGA is getting a $4 billion makeover. Now’s the time to upgrade transit access.

Bolwerk January 22, 2015 - 4:39 pm

#1: just because not everyone can have a single-seat doesn’t mean no one should.

#2: I guess, but I doubt the LIRR would see much traffic. The 7 likely would.

#5: Maybe the governor of NJ should pay for it.

Frank B January 22, 2015 - 8:19 pm

?”If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with…”?

Let’s face facts, Giuliani first proposed a train to LaGuardia. When I was in the 3rd grade. If this is going to happen at all, then so be it. We’re unlucky with the alignment. Obviously anyone looking at a map can see that the Port Washington Branch is the only LIRR train that doesn’t run through Jamaica; its desirability from Long Island is limited. We also know that the IRT Flushing Line might get a small boost in capacity from CBTC, but ultimately an 11-car subway train with IRT loading gauge can only carry so many…

But still, c’mon, realistically, when do you see anyone with Cuomo’s level of influence ever caring about this again in our lifetime? Let’s just take it. The Port Authority is pissing over a billion dollars on a PATH extension to Newark, so we might as well get something too.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 8:49 pm

The Port Authority is pissing away a billion because when they extend the storage yard “west” or “south” of Penn Station for ten car trains they are in Newark Airport. Might as well move all the storage to the cheap land on the airport and make those moves revenue moves. The railroad part of the station is built to accommodate that.

marv January 22, 2015 - 9:05 pm

Divide the day into peak and non-peak

Non-peak (18 hours/day M-F + 24hrs/day Saturdays & Sundays) #7 trains are not running capacity so why not have direct Manhattan-LGA service of 6 trains per hour (leaving capacity for 20+ trains/hr out of/to flushing)

Peak (6 hours/day M-F) have an LGA-Corona shuttle providing transfers to #7 and (hopefully increased) LIRR service to both Penn and ESA/Grand Central.

The added cost is having to provide a connection to the #7 line (using the corona yard tracks where they pass over the Grand Central Parkway.) The wye does not have to be a flying junction as the system would only be operating in one mode (#7 Manhattan linked or to the corona transfer) at any given time

The savings are on a train yard and a repair facility.

Gained is a one seat ride 18/24 hours daily with connections to all subway lines and MetroNorth in Manhattan. Transfers to both the Port Washington and Main Line line would be available at Woodside.

Lost is the potential of having an inter-airport LGA to JFK line (as you would have IRT vs airtrain loading gauge and electrical systems).

Still available would be the potential to expand past “the Corona transfer” down the van wyck into Jamaica Station providing LGA access to the Jamaica LIRR/subway/bus complex, an easy one transfer ride between the airports and some intra-Queens transit mobility.

This seems as a much better package at a small increased cost to the Cuomo shuttle and should still be eligible for airport fee funding.

adirondacker12800 January 22, 2015 - 10:07 pm

until the flushing line goes driverless running six trains an hour to to the airport means running almost empty 11 car trains to the airport. Or a special fleet of four car trains that move at the same speed as the local without opening the doors at most of the stations. With a person getting paid well and a very nice benefits package. And changing to a bus or the people mover if you aren’t going to the terminal lucky enough to get the station. Going with the same technology as the JFK Airtrains means some day they could have one seat rides on thingies that are sorta like trolley cars from any terminal in LGA to any terminal at JFK and LGA connections to all the other LIRR lines, the buses that go to Jamaica, the E, J/Z and the A. If you are starting out in Brooklyn or Queens at an A station using Airtrain from Howard Beach to LGA may look attractive.

AG January 22, 2015 - 9:13 pm

It’s not pretty – but what you said is exactly the truth.

Frank B January 22, 2015 - 11:16 pm

Thanks. Nice to know I’ve got the ear of another realist.

You know what I realized as well? Once they open up East Side Access, commuters from Upstate and Conn. will be able to transfer directly at Grand Central Terminal to the LIRR and will be able to access LaGuardia as well as JFK.

That’s a major advantage; most Long Islanders can already access Kennedy from Jamaica; assuming the MTA can do this properly, Upstaters will be able to access both LaGuardia Airport and Kennedy from Grand Central Terminal.

adirondacker12800 January 23, 2015 - 12:34 am

They can do that with the Flushing line right now. Change in Jackson Heights to the bus. Or just get on the Grand Central-LGA bus.


Frank B January 24, 2015 - 1:42 pm

As as you say above, those buses are “perfectly free to sit in traffic during rush hour.”

A bus is not a train. Period. As much as most politicians would hate to admit it, in any city with booming population growth, buses, even bus rapid transit, are a short-term solution which will eventually have to be replaced with rapid transit or light rail.

This plan is not an ideal alignment, far from it. But perhaps the MTA will package some kind of Upstate-Grand Central-LaGuardia package, where riders can ride to Grand Central from Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Conn. etc. for one flat rate, and at Grand Central, transfer downstairs to the LIRR going straight to Wilets Point & the new AirTrain. It could work. It could have some pretty decent ridership. And it could justify running extended 7 Express service throughout the day, which Queens riders would greatly appreciate.

So, we shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. As AG says below, “So seems many think not to use the money at all.”

adirondacker12800 January 24, 2015 - 2:09 pm

If there is a train station every 20 blocks and you are ten blocks away from one or ten blocks away from the other you get stuck in traffic whether you are on `the bus or or in a cab or in a private automobile. The train doesn’t work very well if you are on the bus, in a cab or a private car to go ten blocks away from any train station and want to go someplace ten blocks away from any train station. Like from home to your doctor/dentist/bank/store that is the only place you can get that, that is 22 blocks away and only passes one train station in the 22 block trip. Or work that is 36 blocks away and only passes two train station and you would want to use the bus to get to one and the bus from the second one to get to work. It makes more sense to just sit on the bus. Or the bus line runs someplace that is only vaguely parallel to the train like Northern Blvd is in places. It’s why subway lines in Manhattan have very busy parallel bus routes.

AG January 24, 2015 - 4:19 pm

Your idea makes sense. If you can buy a ticket on LIRR that also doubles as a pass to enter Long Beach or take a ferry to Fire Island… I think an “airport ticket” could certainly be an option.
IF this actually does happen (well I think it will in some form) – hopefully the MTA and PA will have a modern payment system that can read between the different systems (Metro North – LIRR/subway – AirTrain). I’m pretty sure that would be an easy ask for task for software engineers. Since Google has been hiring people in droves in NYC and even helping Cornell-Technion out while they build their new campus on Roosevelt Island – someone should get them on the case now.


As to the first part of your comment…. I remember a guy telling me autonomous cars and buses would make the Second Ave. subway line obsolete. I guess he was just in love with the idea of computers controlling everything. Yet I said “how could they possibly carry as many people as a train controlled by computers”? There is only so much space on the road.

adirondacker12800 January 24, 2015 - 4:49 pm

you can make a pitstop at a MetroCard TVM a few days before your trip and add enough money to cover your PATH fare to Newark and your Airtrain ride. and your return Airtrain ride and your return PATH trip. Why you wouldn’t roll the Airtrain fare into you NJTransit ticket is beyond me but there may be someone for who it makes sense. Same thing with JFK Airtrain,you can put value on your unlimited ride MetroCard that you can use on Airtrain.

Alon Levy January 24, 2015 - 5:07 pm

Why would such a plan work? People from Upstate New York are in no hurry to use LaGuardia, because a lot of the places they can fly to from LGA they can also fly to from Albany. People in Westchester can fly out of White Plains. Long-range regional rail and intercity rail is good for connecting to major international airports, like JFK, serving traffic that the local secondary airports don’t. For connecting to domestic airports? Meh.

Here’s a longer version of this.

adirondacker12800 January 24, 2015 - 7:26 pm

But but I though people in upstate New York were all just chomping at the bit to fly out of Stewart. Even though they could have for the past few decades and haven’t.

In the much longer version people upstate said that it makes much more sense to pay the extra 100 bucks and fly out of the closest airport where they can get non stops to a few places or flights to the hubs where they can change to almost anyplace with a reasonable layover. Which is sometimes much shorter than the trip to a major airport.

AG January 25, 2015 - 9:28 am

When some “city people” say “upstate” – they often mean anywhere north of 241st street in the Bronx. Plenty of people from Westchester, Putnam etc. (and even some from Fairfield in CT) use LGA. I’m assuming that’s what he meant – rather than people in Albany.

adirondacker12800 January 25, 2015 - 11:18 am

They usually mean north of 96th Street in Manhattan.
96th is suspect of being too rural.

Plenty of people in Westchester use Westchester County Airport. Plenty of them in Connecticut use Newark because it’s easier to get to. The three of them a day that use Amtrak instead of Metro North go to EWR on one of the trains that gives them a one seat ride to EWR’s Airtrain. Plenty of them use JFK because the totality of their trip means using JFK makes the most sense.

All of the airports have a ground transportation page. Look at them sometime.

AG January 23, 2015 - 6:23 am

Be prepared to be inundated with “that’s a waste” – “that’s too long” – “people will never do it”.

A lack of realism is pervasive in this society. It would be great to get $5 billion with one seat rides all over the place… Just not reality and not going to happen. If someone can come up with another billion or two we could get the link through the BQE… I seriously doubt it. So seems many think not to use the money at all..

Nyland8 January 25, 2015 - 1:17 pm

Personally, I would never take a bus to catch a plane. My infrequent flights are far too important to risk taking anything that can so easily get trapped in a traffic situation. Unlike a cab, busses can’t just turn down any side street when there are suddenly fire trucks in front of them. And I’m certainly not comfortable bringing large luggage onto them, as I have in the subways. But that’s just me. While we might all think of routes we’d prefer to see, ANY subway-to-AirTrain option is better than none. I hope they build it.

Anecdotally, on September 10, 2001, all the late-afternoon/night flights out of Atlanta back to JFK had been overbooked, or cancelled. The airline offered me a nearby hotel, a 9:30AM flight home, and $300 as compensation … my only other choice was a flight into LaGuardia. I opted for LGA that night, and went out-of-pocket for a car service home. A little inconvenient, a little expensive, but as it turned out, a whole lot better than getting trapped in Atlanta on the morning of September 11th. It would have taken me a week to get home.

marv January 25, 2015 - 6:18 pm

There is no conspiracy – Metro North will not access GC via 63rd Street for good reason:

-metro north trains go to Grand Central via the shorter route of the 4 track Park Ave tunnel into Grand Central Terminal which has 44 platforms serving 67 tracks and has easier street egress

there is no reason to waste the limited 2 River Tunnel 63rd Street tracks that will connect to but 4 platforms serving 8 tracks.

With Penn Station access, in case of problems Metro north will have an alternate routing available.

marv January 25, 2015 - 6:42 pm

the notion of directing up to 6 #7 trains/hr to LGA (giving one seat airport access) has been viewed negatively here as the view is that LGA demand does not warrant 11 car trains and that sending them there would waste money.

if this is the case, why not build a guideway of about one track wide and have half width vehicles run on them in (ie like the London Airport automated pods to long term parking). Greater frequency with less capacity would transport the desired number of people with less waiting.

Alternately build only one track and have trains shuttle back and forth (like a linear elevator). The “round trip would be about 12 minutes.

When demand merits (or linkage to other locations (jamaica, flushing, JFK and/or manhattan) is built, a parallel track could be added.

For the short distance involved, maybe a two bus way (looped at each end) would be best as there would be no need to have an maintenance facility.

Bolwerk January 25, 2015 - 7:17 pm

I have yet to see a coherent objection to that idea. Operating costs should be about the same whether the trains terminate in Flushing or LGA.

From a marginal cost perspective at least, the cost of operating shuttles is probably higher.

adirondacker12800 January 25, 2015 - 7:37 pm

there are those pesky pesky passengers who like to use Flushing Main Street because their bus doesn’t go west of the Van Wyck. And all the people west of Main Street that are really really glad that every last train goes to Main Street which means those people get on the next train out instead of loitering around clogging the platform and crowding the next train to Flushing.

marv January 25, 2015 - 8:00 pm

yes – maybe we should be thinking more comprehensive including:

such a major transfer area as Flushing/corona should have a real self contained enclosed bus station connected to (maybe situated between) the LIRR and #7 stations

*The station should be for local as well as buses to JFK and Jamaica via the GCP/678, to the north east via 678>Whitestone Bridge, and the Bronx.

*Buses should be routed through Flushing on dedicated bus lanes over the Roosevelt Ave bridge to the new station.

*The redevelopment of the Willets Point triangle should include a linear elevator to the new bus station/train hub (basically making the new development transit friend and thus reducing its impact on congestion.)

Henry January 26, 2015 - 1:52 am

Flushing’s major demand points are from the east, south, and north (Jamaica, Northern Blvd/QCC, College Point/Bronx), so exclusive bus lanes from the west would do jack shit for the majority of commuters. (To put things in perspective: all frequent routes entering Flushing come from the east, north and south, with the one exception being the Q66, which doesn’t even go near LaGuardia.)

Anyone who visits Flushing on a regular basis can tell you that there aren’t any decent-sized places to put such a big terminal. The sites that are large enough are either too far away from the stations and activity areas, or don’t have appropriate access roads for buses from all directions; the most likely candidate, the soon to be developed Union St parking garage, has no decent access from the south since Union St does not intersect the major bus corridors in the area (Main St and Kissena Blvd) at any point, and nearly all access roads between these areas are not contiguous, switch direction midway, or both. Flushing’s main problem is that all north-south traffic is funneled through one four-lane road, and unless we start blasting crossings through the Port Washington Line or build a subterranean bus/light rail tunnel through congested areas, that is not going to change.

marv January 26, 2015 - 7:42 am

Maybe extending Prince Street under the Port Washingon LIRR to 41 Ave is a good idea.

Near citifield is a good location for a bus station.
*land is available
*the bus garage is already there
*bus lanes along Roosevelt would funnel the buses to such a station.
*the total commute time would not change
*the transfer would be climate controlled and less chaotic. *Each of the many buses could have their own loading bays and payment/metrocard swipes could be done off bus in a fare controlled area to speed through buses
*the many buses that go to flushing would gain access to both sports stadiums and the LGA connection

Bolwerk January 26, 2015 - 12:09 pm

It’s not a bad thing to have buses drop off at the existing rail terminal. Trains usually wait a few minutes, giving bus riders opportunity to situate themselves.

(It’s why Adirondack’s complaint about crowded platforms is stupid.)

adirondacker12800 January 26, 2015 - 12:23 pm

The people who get off the bus in the morning like to get on the train in Manhattan in the afternoon and get back to Flushing where they get on a bus to go home. Almost all of them almost all of the time. And the ones who don’t do it the same day, many many many of them eventually do it.

Henry January 26, 2015 - 1:54 am

That depends on what you define as marginal costs. Given that the existing AirTrain JFK is automated, its finances are significantly easier to deal with. Vancouver’s SkyTrain uses the same technology and never runs more than ten minute headways, even at night, because the marginal costs of one additional train do not have to take salary into account.

Bolwerk January 26, 2015 - 9:28 am

The ART tech is cheap to operate, but it still operates in addition to whatever is already operating, so it costs more. Diverting a few trains an hour from Flushing doesn’t meaningfully cost more until you actually add TPH.

There are small operating costs that happen either way, like electricity, track maintenance, and maybe station attendants.


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