Home PANYNJ On Cuomo’s $4 billion overhaul for ‘un-New York’ LaGuardia and his lackluster support for transit

On Cuomo’s $4 billion overhaul for ‘un-New York’ LaGuardia and his lackluster support for transit

by Benjamin Kabak

The $4 billion LaGuardia, seen here with an inexplicable Willets Point AirTrain, raises more questions than it answers. (Photo via Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office)

Ask any New Yorker about LaGuardia Airport, and you’ll likely get a sigh in reply. LaGuardia is Just One Of Those Things New Yorkers seem to tolerate about the city. It’s old and charmless, with certain terminals meeting standards of acceptability and others held together, often literally, with duct tape. It is constantly ranked as the worst airport in America for traveler amenities and suffers from chronic delays due to a distinct lack of runway space. It’s not a particularly welcoming gateway to the city for New Yorkers arriving home and travelers stopping by for a visit.

A few months after the Vice President called LaGuardia a “third-world airport,” Joe Biden joined with New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday to unveil a $4-billion plan to replace LaGuardia with a modern terminal with the bells and whistles travelers have come to expect while expanding runway space to increase flight capacity. The first part of the project should wrap by the early 2020s with the fate of the rest of it in Delta’s hands. The plan in a vacuum is laudable, but there’s something about Cuomo’s approach to LaGuardia along with his words and actions on transit that has me and many other transit advocates casting rightly wary eyes toward this project.

Let’s start with the details. What do we get for our $4 billion? Based on the Governor’s Airport Master Plan Advisory Panel report [PDF], LaGuardia will morph from an airport with multiple disparate terminals to one with a signal unified building. The new structure on the western half of the LaGuardia site will include terminal space, a centralized arrivals and departures area and a link to Delta’s terminals. Delta will be in charge of redesigning its terminals and is amenable to seeing out the panel’s suggestions.

The new terminal will be a significant upgrade over the old. It will be physically closer to the Grand Central Parkway and will feature an island gate system with raised pedestrian bridges. As Cuomo’s office said in a subsequent release, “Together, the relocated terminals and island-gate system will create nearly two miles of new taxiway space. This allows for a more efficient circulation of aircraft and reduced taxi-in and taxi-out times, which will yield shorter and fewer gate delays.”

Because every 21st Century airport needs a heavily subsidized and underutilized ferry terminal a mile away from the departures area. (Photo via Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office)

In addition to these physical improvements, the panel put forward a number of recommendations that weren’t included in Monday’s $4 billion reveal. Chief among those were the transportation access suggestions. The panel, for some reason, endorsed the Willets Point airlink and urged New York to include ferry access to LaGuardia. It also called for increased parking at LaGuardia as something that would, inconceivably, benefit surrounding communities. Finally, the panel urged the Port Authority to develop a unified security area and, building on the lesson of Sandy, storm resiliency. It’s not yet clear how these elements of the plan would be funded.

“New York had an aggressive, can-do approach to big infrastructure in the past – and today, we’re moving forward with that attitude once again,” the Governor said during his press conference. “We are transforming LaGuardia into a globally-renowned, 21st century airport that is worthy of the city and state of New York. It’s the perfect metaphor for what we can achieve with the ambition and optimism and energy that made this the Empire State in the first place.”

While speaking off the cuff, though, Gov. Cuomo led slip that he felt LaGuardia had become “un-New York,” because, he said, the airport is considered “slow, dated, [and] almost universally derided.” And herein lies the rub. If an airport that’s slow and dated and universally derided is considered un-New York, what exactly does that make the subway system and remainder of the transit network that millions use on a daily basis to navigate around the city? I’m not the only one asking this question; Streetsblog’s Ben Fried posed a similar one late on Monday afternoon. From there, we see the blowback against the plan.

That Cuomo is thinking big about something transit-related isn’t a new development. After all, his administration is building the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement, for now awkwardly called the New New York Bridge. But what do his projects do? Who benefits? By and large, airport projects are aimed at improving the lives of those traveling to and from a city, not those traveling within a city. These are transient travelers who do indeed add to the economy of the city but aren’t living in it and of it.

As with many Cuomo projects, it’s hard not to feel that this one came from his personal experiences flying between the city and Albany. In terms of bang for your buck, an overhaul of the Port Authority Bus Terminal or a real plan to rebuild Penn Station and start moving on trans-Hudson tunnels would affect far more daily travelers than a rebuild of LaGuardia airport, and the dollars would be comparable. But Cuomo doesn’t talk about these proposals because he doesn’t take buses or trains; he flies and he drives, and as the lack of public process shows, he doesn’t really care what anyone else thinks. He wants it; it becomes reality.

Meanwhile, the access components to the LaGuardia overhaul as bad as they were in January. The Willets Point AirTrain routing remains worse than a no-build option; as I explored then with help from Yonah Freemark, sending airport travelers to the 7 saves no time and will cause massive headaches for 7 train operations. The Queens ferry terminal — a bus ride away from the new LaGuardia terminals — is a laughably ridiculous idea that doesn’t even need to be logically debunked to seem silly.

Finally, as LaGuardia soars, the subways sink. Cuomo won’t commit to a progressive traffic pricing plan to fund New York City transit, and the Governor now has to console, for example, C train riders who don’t care much one way or another for a LaGuardia overhaul over the fact that 50-year-old subway cars are considered acceptable. If it’s “un-New York” for something to be slow, dated and derided — if we need a 21st Century city — why do the subways, without a contactless fare payment system, city-wide countdown clocks, or an expansion plan to meet demand, get short shrift while the airport is lavished with dollars? That’s Gov. Cuomo and his transit priorities for you.

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NattyB July 28, 2015 - 1:29 am

I will never take the AirTrain to LGA. Why? I hate taking the 7 train to Citi Field. It takes forever. So, with my luggage and shit, I’m going to take the 7 train to Citi Field, then back track, on the Disney Monorail? I don’t think so.

If I can afford airfare, I can afford a $35 cab ride from Manhattan to LGA.

And WTF is up with the Ferry fetish. Now, I would take a Ferry to Citi Field! But for some reason, they’re not offered anymore.

Meanwhile, the fucking chutzpah of Cuomo. He’s got some fucking balls. To grandstand like that while . . . literally, the Hudson tunnels fall apart and, FFS, fiddles while the MTA capital budget goes further in the red,.

I wish the local media could properly convey just how utterly fucking awful our governor is on transit. Instead of treating him like he’s a god damn emperor. Wow, look at his wonderful new clothes!

Alex B. July 28, 2015 - 9:05 am

I haven’t seen any details about this, but given the plan to move the terminal where the current parking structures are located, I wonder if part of the logic behing a Willets Point Air Train is for the remote parking.

Tim July 28, 2015 - 1:47 pm

I had that exact though. Use that area as the Rental Car and parking area, connected via AirTrain.

Marc Shepherd July 28, 2015 - 11:55 am

There are a lot of false dichotomies on this and other websites: since he’s failed at other transit initiatives (Hudson tunnels, MTA capital plan, PABT replacement, congestion pricing), you refuse to give him credit when he actually comes out with a good idea.

The Willets Point AirTrain is actually a decent idea, assuming they provide regular train service from Penn Station and Grand Central (after ESA goes in), which is quite do-able. Everyone talks as if the 7 Train would be the only option, which I’m sure it wouldn’t.

To be fair, a lot of politicians seem to be obsessed with ferries, not just Cuomo. I guess it’s because there are no NIMBYs to upset, since no one lives in the middle of the bay. I think that part of the project will fall by the wayside, but the ferry proposal isn’t fundamental: the rationale doesn’t depend on whether ferry service is offered.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 12:42 pm

Willets Point AirTrain might really be a flawed but passable project, since it’s probably more luggage-friendly than the bus alternatives. Nearly everyone bitching about it really is forgetting the audience. But it’s a far cry from an optimal project, and even some sort of extension via Astoria probably need not be much more expensive.

But his other problems aren’t failures. He deliberately sabotages other important projects, and they nearly always happen to be rail and transit projects.

AG July 30, 2015 - 2:57 pm

What rail and transit projects did he sabotage??

Bolwerk July 30, 2015 - 7:34 pm

The MTA capital plan might be the 800 lbs gorilla. That’s basically every transit project in the MTA region, rail or otherwise.

He also canceled the transit portions of the TZB.

AG July 30, 2015 - 9:03 pm

Didn’t he just pledge $8 billion for the MTA capital plan?
As to the transit on the Tappan Zee – even Metro North admitted it was a VERY long shot… It’s much more wise to add those 4 stops in the East Bronx as a part of Penn Station Access…

Bolwerk July 30, 2015 - 9:25 pm

I honestly forgot how many billions that leaves the capital plan short at this point. Custom is the state finances the capital plan.

Last year he imposed rider-unfriendly contracts that pretty well guarantee extra fare increases. Related shenanigans: the VZB toll was cut, further starving the MTA. This was all election year antics.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 4:25 pm

The Willets Point AirTrain is stupid regardless of what mode you use to connect from Willets Point to Manhattan. It goes in the wrong direction, and can’t beat taxis on time unless it’s 8 in the morning. Everything Ben and Yonah said six months ago about the alignment is still true.

Ryan July 28, 2015 - 6:59 am

I have no real comment on this article since I couldn’t get through half of it on my mobile phone before needing to go retrieve my laptop to write this comment out.

Ben, whoever you’re using for advertisements is absolutely out of control. This site isn’t readable on mobile phones anymore, with every single attempt at loading any page here resulting in a forced redirect to a malicious full-page ad trying to trick me into downloading a virus. Please do something about it.

Chet July 28, 2015 - 7:44 am

He knows about it and is trying to fix it.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 9:23 am

At least if you use Android, use Firefox and AdblockPlus. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/android/addon/adblock-plus/

Google, being evil, I think removed AdBlockPlus from its “Play” store, but you can probably get it to work on other mobile browsers if you DuckDuckGo around. 😀

I don’t really use iPoo products, but you can probably find a way to use it there too.

LLQBTT July 28, 2015 - 11:13 am

The site is working fine on iPad mini with Retina Display, Safari browser.

We must taketh whatever the Prince (Cuomo) giveth.

Benjamin Kabak July 28, 2015 - 10:15 am

Ryan: What was the landing page for that advertisement? It wasn’t a virus; it was likely a redirect to the app store for an app download. I can’t address it without more information, but I’ve already told my ad networks this has to stop.

Ryan July 28, 2015 - 10:39 am

I sent you some more details through the contact me prompt on your home page.

Let me know if you didn’t receive them.

Pete July 28, 2015 - 7:08 am

Subsribe to bens email delivery instead. And no trouble loading on my samsung galaxy.

Rich B July 28, 2015 - 7:10 am

Of course I agree that Governor Corrupto has been neglecting transit (MTA Captial Plan, Hudson Tunnels, etc.) to a degree that seems criminal. And his AirTrain is idiotic. There should obviously be some real subway link to LGA. How’s that not part of this, I have no idea. You’re probably right that Corrupto simply can’t relate because he doesn’t travel the way most New Yorkers do.

It’s mind-blowing and endlessly frustrating that an “independent” commission agreed with these ideas. I smell corruption.

HOWEVER, I like two things about this:

1. LGA needs to be replaced, and the overall concept is smart. New buildings built in the parking lots, with bridges (over the old buildings) to new gates, built out in sections? Then tear down the old buildings to make new taxiways? It’s bold and smart. It will get a great new airport built quickly. I like it. The cost actually isn’t bad, either.

2. The ferry service could be good. If it’s close to the terminal building and they have very frequent, free shuttles, it could be extremely useful for many. A good express ferry from Pier 11 would actually save me a TON of time getting to LGA. I’d use it. I’d love it, if it were done right.

I agree that ferries are no replacement for subways, and river ferry service as regular local transit is often silly. But this airport express service is a different beast, IMO. They could still screw it up, but the idea has potential.

Joe Steindam July 28, 2015 - 10:18 am

It would perhaps be one thing if the proposed ferry service to the new LaGuardia ran to Flushing Bay and dropped passengers close to the existing Terminal D (the original Delta terminal), which would be part of the future unified terminal. That would be a good convenient service, provided the new terminal has an entrance and security clearance area to cater to those passengers.

However, the current envisioned ferry service will go to Bowery Bay and the old Marine Air Terminal, which means almost all passengers arriving by ferry will have to be moved by bus around the airfield to the new terminal (I think they plan to still use the Marine Air Terminal, which seems silly). That’s two modes to get to the check-in counter and security gates, and that’s assuming that passengers don’t need an additional mode to get to the ferry terminals in Manhattan in the first place.

millerm277 July 28, 2015 - 11:40 am

The Marine Air Terminal is on the National Register of Historic Places and it’s also hidden in a corner of the property that you couldn’t really use for anything else aside from parking/hotels/other non-flight functions.

It works well for it’s current purpose (hourly Delta Shuttle flights), no reason to change.

Joe Steindam July 28, 2015 - 1:26 pm

I’m not arguing for the demolition of the Marine Air Terminal or really it’s disuse, except it seems silly to argue for a unified terminal building and still keep flights in a terminal building totally disconnected from the rest of the airport terminals. There’s always a need for non-passenger service spaces at the airport, like PA administrative offices, they could go there if they are able to consolidate all operations into this unified terminal.

My argument was mostly about the logic of offloading ferry passengers at a site that’s not near the overwhelming majority of passenger operations, especially when there’s a potential site that might better meet the mode at Flushing Bay. Yesterday’s presentation mentioned the possibility of an airside people mover to cover the distance between the gates in the main terminal. If an entrance to the terminal, complete with a security checkpoint and a station for the people mover, existed near the shore of Flushing Bay, that would be an easy interface between a ferry terminal and the new LaGuardia.

Chet July 28, 2015 - 7:10 am

There are points you make that I agree with and disagree with in this post, and while I will at times, defend the Governor (well, a bit), trust me, as a teacher and fan of mass transit (from transit starved Staten Island), I am not a fan of his at all.

First, I’m surprised that it was not mentioned at all here that the Governor announced that the state will fund $8.3 billion of the MTA’s Capital Plan short fall. With the reduction in the cost of the plan to around $28 billion, I believe that leaves a gap of about $2 or 3 billion. A large sum of money for sure, but a lot better than the $15 billion we were talking about.
Second, something definitely needed to be done about LaGuardia. I’ve only been there once in the past 25 years, and that was to pick someone up. Living on Staten Island, Newark Liberty is the airport of choice. It is less than 20 minutes away; it is easy to get around; it is generally fast to get from car to gate; and upon landing, fast (certainly compared to JFK) to get from plane to car or other ground transport- even from international flights. I always knew that LaGuardia was the place to avoid.
Okay, so what do I see as good and bad.

The good is that is smart to basically replace LaGuardia. It does make a lot more sense to just build an entirely new terminal than try to retrofit the existing one. As far as cost, $4 billion is a lot of money, but like subways, there’s a lot of money spent on things we don’t see. Judging from the rendering, the terminal building is big and airy, but it isn’t some Calatrava like insanity. If you’ve ever seen the “guts” of an airport building- the baggage handling system, air traffic control systems, and of course today’s security systems, etc., I think we can be sure a large part of that $4 billion is not being spend on just a fancy building to hold everything.

The bad comes in two parts. Yes, the AirTrain to Willets Point really makes no sense. Extending the N/Q train to the airport, or building a spur of the LIRR from Sunnyside (if possible) to the air port makes a lot more sense and would be a one seat trip from Manhattan. There is no doubt they went with the AirTrain because it is cheaper to build and more importantly, they won’t have to deal with any NIMBY issues in Queens, the borough that practically invented whiny nimbyism in the first place.

The other bad is the continued dependence on LaGuardia and JFK, and leaving Newark by itself because it isn’t in New York. In a common sense world, Stewart Airport would be getting a lot more passenger attention than the cargo role it received yesterday. While 60 miles from Manhattan, Stewart is at the intersection of two major interstate highways. A high speed train, from airport to Grand Central and/or Penn could make that trip in 45 minutes (with an intermediary stop if needed). That could move a lot of traffic away from both JFK and LaGuardia. The rebuild of LaGuardia could have been made smaller scale.

Finally, what about Penn Station and Hudson River rail tunnels? I don’t like playing one project against another, I believe that both need to be done- airports and rail. I don’t believe that money isn’t available for both. Politics is the true roadblock, and the Governor obviously is part of that as well. At the federal level, a tiny (.25%) financial transaction tax could raise over a trillion dollars a year for all sorts of things, not just infrastructure. For the Governor, his insistence (so far) on refusing to consider the MoveNY plan is just stubborn and stupid. He needs to be a major cheerleader, along with the governors of the other states along the Northeast Corridor to get the money not just for new Hudson River tunnels, but to rebuild the entire route into a true, 21st century high speed line with trains going 200mph. That also would make life at LaGuardia easier even if you left the decrepit present in place. How may Boston/ NYC and DC/NYC shuttles would be taken out of the sky with a 95-minute train ride between NYC and Boston or DC?

In my opinion, the Governor’s biggest fault yesterday wasn’t his announcement of a new LaGuardia, or an AirTrain connection that really doesn’t save much time. His biggest mistake was not saying that while a new LaGuardia is vital new New York, so is a new Penn Station, high speed intercity rail, and modernized and expanded subway system and that he was going to fight for more capital money for all those things as well. Because without those, no one moves in the city- visitors or residents

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 11:26 am

Why would anyone build HSR to Stewart? It’s not on the way to anything (no, not even to Albany – the optimal Empire HSR alignment stays east of the Hudson until crossing into Albany).

Why would anyone even build fast legacy rail to Stewart? The airport would still be too far away. Consider that Narita’s location, an hour from Central Tokyo by rail, makes it too inconvenient for travelers, and as a result, Haneda is adding international flights.

As for stuff we can’t see: sure, airport rehabilitation costs a lot of money. That’s why it’s usually a bad idea. Consider the fact that Berlin-Brandenburg, currently at $8.5 billion and counting for projected 27 million passengers, is derided as a boondoggle, and was so derided even when the budget was around $5 billion.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 12:16 pm

There already is legacy rail to Stewart, or near enough. A spur, I think a two-track spur, connecting to the Port Jervis Line passes through Maybrook. I think state-owned parkland even affords some room for a ROW.

Had the TZB rail connection been built, the case for rail to Stewart might have been good.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 1:15 pm

Carving a ROW across Rockland County because Manhattanites think they will get cooties riding a train through Bergen County isn’t a good reason to carve a ROW across Rockland County.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 1:27 pm

What the fuck are you talking about? You really need to stop and think before you mention Manhattanites. Without failure, your shrill whining about what Manhattan residents supposedly think is stupid. Nobody cares what you think Manhattan residents think.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 1:41 pm

How do the trains get from the bridge to Suffern? Clamp a helicopter to them and fly them there?
There’s perfectly good underutilized railroads that people in Rockland can use to get to Manhattan. They don’t point at the Tappan Zee bridge.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 2:00 pm

Is it non-sequitur day, and nobody told me? Fuck, guys, not fair!

In case you weren’t paying attention, there is plan for a railroad connection across the TZB. The governor of New JerseyYork canceled its construction, but if it is revived then a Stewart connection probably makes a lot of sense, and probably would have a catchment of several million people on both sides of the river: Hudson, Bergen, Rockland, Westchester, and (I know it’s not important) New York Counties.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 3:33 pm

Oops, I realized I forgot the real forgotten borough, Bronx County.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 3:37 pm

Yes they had the people who know how to use theodolites, terrain maps and and how to get GIS’d tax maps of Rockland county onto their computer figure out that there isn’t a railroad ROW from the Tappan Zee bridge to Suffern. Or from the bridge to Port Chester. Or any other place. The bridge teeters high above the Hudson line and getting from the bridge in Tarrytown to the tracks was gonna be very pricey. And that the Palisades go all the way up the river past the bridge. To get a train from the bridge to Suffern would need a new ROW. Through very hard rock or very expensive fully developed suburbs. Well the fully developed suburbs are on top of the very hard rock and the train will be down where the bridge is. Pesky engineers with their terrain maps.

They gave it thought. They figured out that carving a new ROW across Rockland County so people can get to Manhattan would cost too much since they already have a way to get to Manhattan.

They had to plan it because people who think suburbanites who own cars are gonna get on a shuttle bus to the train station so they can take the train across the river to get on another shuttle bus would do that. And that all the jobs are clustered around station or shuttle bus stops. And have working hours when the shuttle bus-train-shuttle bus extravaganza isn’t on once an hour frequency.

They figured out that people who take an express train from Suffern or Spring Valley to Manhattan can not-stop in Secaucus just as easily as they can not-stop in Yonkers and it’s much cheaper to do it that way.

There ain’t a whole lot of people in the Bronx who want to commute to Orange County. Compared to all their other work destinations, people in Rockland County don’t want to get to Westchester. Or people in Orange County. And most of those jobs aren’t along the Hudson Line. Though they did explore the option of connecting it to the Harlem Line. The tunnel from the bridge teetering high above the river to the railroad tracks down on the shore was going to be very very expensive. And doesn’t get the few people who would tolerate a shuttle bus ride from the station in White Plains to their suburban office park, to White Plains.

If the train is departing Grand Central to go to Stewart Airport on the Hudson Line or Harlem Line it’s not going to be very convenient for people in New Jersey. If it departs Grand Central to Stewart Airport via New Jersey it’s more convenient for New Jerseyans. They can coat the train with anti-cootie spray and the people who got on in Grand Central can be distracted by their smartphone as the train doesn’t stop in Ridgewood as easily as they would be distracted when the train doesn’t stop in Ardsley. Or Scarsdale. Pick your poison on how much it would cost to get trains from the bridge down to where there are railroad track.

The people in Ardsley and Ridgewood where the airport train wouldn’t stop have been able to drive to Stewart and park really cheap for decades. They don’t appear to be interested.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 5:03 pm

Nobody “gave it thought.” Cuomo dropped it unilaterally without community or public input.

And anyway, I didn’t say anything for or against it. I said, “Had the TZB rail connection been built, the case for rail to Stewart might have been good.”

If the train is departing Grand Central to go to Stewart Airport on the Hudson Line or Harlem Line it’s not going to be very convenient for people in New Jersey

No shit? Did you need a terrain map to figure that out?

With TZB rail, a track connection between an existing west of Hudson Line can suffice to allow Stewart traffic between both Grand Central and Hoboken. With only a west of Hudson Line, it becomes sillier than the Willets Point AirTrain.

Though maybe Gatweway could make such a connection useful. I haven’t really thought about it.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 5:19 pm

They spent millions of dollars finding out that yes there is no railroad ROW across Rockland County and would cost a reallllllly big amount of money to send trains that few people would use, across the bridge.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 5:39 pm

You are saying they spent millions of dollars to discover I-84 doesn’t exist?

SEAN July 28, 2015 - 6:36 pm

You know something – a new rail row from Beacon along I-84 to Stewart isn’t a bad idea all be it expensive. It could bring rail service to communities such as Newburgh where no commuter rail service exists. Plus There isn’t much development along the highway to get in the way.

Along the Hudson line, only a few stops would be required like Peekskill, Croton-Harmon, Ossining, Tarrytown & Yonkers. Infact you could run trains to Tarrytown & Croton only to speed up service.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 8:17 pm

I-84 is miles and miles north of the Tappan Zee and it’s bridge. The Tappan Zee is I-87 and I-287.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 8:53 pm

My bad. Does either exist?

@SEAN: you used to be able to to get to Binghamton and beyond on that route (well, sort of that route), but there was never any talk of using it for regional or long-distance rail.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 9:09 pm

The Thruway exists between Tarrytown where I-287 merges into I-87 and Suffern where I-287 diverges off. For miles and miles in trench with little more than a Jersey Barrier between the opposing lanes of traffic. And bridges over it because the people who live on the flatter land up on the top of the trench insist on going from one side of the trench to the other. It gets really really expensive to build viaducts teetering over that. Or even more expensive to burrow a tunnel under it. For a few thousand passengers a day.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 9:18 pm

Sean, the west-of-Hudson travel demand is mainly north-south. For Rockland County and points south, this means the correct investment is in the Erie lines (including the Northern Branch). For Orange County, especially Newburgh, this means investment in the West Shore Line… except that it’s a major freight line and if you propose to make it passenger-primary, CSX will send thugs to tear out your arms and replace them with screaming monkeys.

Michael K July 29, 2015 - 4:33 pm

The Piermont would accomplish this pretty easily and was one of the final alternatives for commuter rail to the TZB.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 4:55 pm

The Port Jervis Line’s ridership is a rounding error. It’s also circuitous, which ensures its ridership will remain a rounding error, unless for some reason the Satmars decide to build their suburbs right next to the stations, which they won’t. (The whole point of the move away from New York was to be more isolated.) As a result, investing in it so that trains would actually be able to get to New York in an hour, rather than an hour and a half, is uneconomic.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 5:34 pm

Well… if they electrify to Suffern and build the loop in Secaucus any speed increase they get between Suffern and Grand Central the Port Jervis trains can take advantage of.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 5:37 pm

Across the TZB to Stewart isn’t that circuitous. Sometimes it’s stupidly angular.

I wasn’t really commenting on the usefulness of the TZB rail connection, but I can go either way on it. Can those counties embrace TOD? Then, sure, go for it. But if it’s just going to stay as it is, then it is rather silly.

millerm277 July 28, 2015 - 12:29 pm

Berlin-Brandenburg’s overruns are due to architectural insanity along the lines of what screwed up the WTC station as well as general incompetence.

SHoP (who did this LGA design) has a pretty good track record to date of not coming up with impractical/exorbitantly over-budget major projects.

Rich B July 28, 2015 - 12:51 pm

BER indeed has outrageous problems delaying its opening, stemming pure incompetence.

But it’s sorely needed. Have you actually flown through Tegel? I have. That’s SO much worse than La Guardia – no exaggeration – and it’s Berlin’s main airport until Brandenburg opens. BER can’t open fast enough.

Tim July 28, 2015 - 3:06 pm

Have flown through Tegel, can confirm, it’s awful.

BUT the new airport has direct S-Bahn one seat rides into the city, and I believe it’s on the DB rail network as well.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 4:36 pm

I have flown through Tegel. It sucks. It’s also close to the center of Berlin, whereas Berlin-Brandenburg will not be; they put the terminal even farther than where Schönefeld’s terminals are. Somehow, despite the fact that an alternative airport exists, the more prestigious airlines stick with the place that’s closer to city center. It’s purely a prestige move: Germany wants Berlin to be a Great Capital City, never mind that it has much lower incomes than Frankfurt and Munich or that Germany can’t be made as capital-centric as Britain or France. Moving the capital to Frankfurt would’ve been too defeatist, or something.

And Berlin at least has a transit system to connect with the airport. New York refuses to extend the N and goes for fanciful garbage like Willets Point; 7 stands both for the designation of the train and the shape of the route from LGA to Manhattan via Willets Point.

Rich B July 28, 2015 - 4:46 pm

Tegel may be close to Berlin city center, but it’s tiny and crappy, with no rail link. It also has the same problem most old, close-to-the-city airports have: there’s no room to expand it. So they had no choice but to focus on a new location further out, just like Denver did, and San Diego keeps talking about doing.

The new Berlin-Brandenburg will have a great rail link from day one, and it should be a pretty quick ride to and from Berlin.

My understanding is that Tegel will shut down completely when Berlin-Brandenburg opens.

There are a lot of similarities between LGA and TXL. They’re both close to downtown, boxed in, and run down. It’s fascinating how the approaches have differed. At least the Germans were smart enough to build a well-designed rail link for their new airport.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 7:24 pm

Berlin isn’t growing. There’s an exodus of East Germans to the West, the immigrants largely move to the rich Western cities (especially Munich and Frankfurt), and German birth rates are so far below replacement that constant immigration is required to keep population steady. I know people who’re considering moving to Berlin purely for the affordable housing, which is what prevents it from emptying. Nor is Berlin an international hub, so air travel growth there has to be supported by the city’s internal growth, and there’s not enough of that.

Elsewhere in Germany, they understand this and don’t overbuild infrastructure. For example, I’m told that Heidelberg has (or had?) a huge housing crunch because, anticipating the closure of a US military base, the city isn’t building any housing, figuring it’ll soon have way too many housing units anyway.

But in Berlin, the logic flies out the window, because it’s a Great Capital City and must imitate what London and Paris have. Well, other than pesky bits like how average salaries in Berlin are two thirds as high as in London and Paris. Nothing that a few megaprojects won’t change, amirite?

Rich B July 28, 2015 - 7:29 pm

Really? I’m certainly no expert on Berlin’s population trends, but nearly every article I’ve read about the new airport says it may be too small:


Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 9:30 pm

Berlin proper is seeing some population rebound, but this just cancels out population decline around it, in Brandenburg. See relevant Wikipedia articles on both states.

Nathanael July 31, 2015 - 7:55 am

The Eastern Bloc housing-permit system prevented a lot of the moves from rural to urban areas which happened in the West. This is happening now in an accelerated fashion.

In China, a similar permit system still exists, but people are just moving illegally, and it’s creating a whole mess which is causing major social pressure…

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 9:17 pm

Mm, 4% growth over the past 15 years. Not so bad in a country that has actually seen a decline of over 1% during the same period. How many places on the continent are growing faster?

Pro-tip for EU passport seekers: The German diplomatic service seems to absolutely love getting as many foreign birth passport sign-ups as possible, though it typically requires a German citizen parent. Just make sure your papers are in order. <g>

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 9:19 pm

Oh, and by that last paragraph, I mean avoid the domestic civil service. They’re much more reactionary.

Alon Levy July 29, 2015 - 12:22 pm

4% growth in the city is paired with negative growth in the suburbs. In contrast, the entire urban areas of Munich, Frankfurt, and Cologne are growing pretty heftily by German standards.

AG July 28, 2015 - 10:49 pm

I agree with most of your comment – but Stewart is too far from major population to warrant high speed rail.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 8:17 am

It’s the perfect metaphor for what we can achieve with the ambition and optimism and energy that made this the Empire State in the first place.

Canals and trains? Airports and highways are pretty good symbols of our decline, especially in the rest of the state. Cuomo governs out of the Dewey era.

That ferry picture is funny. Look at the crowds. It’s the same kind of delusion that the QueensWay people have about their park. As if just supplying something is enough to make people want to use it. There is no need to think about the need to be filled at all. No need to think about why most parks/ferries that came before have failed to attract users.

Jedman67 July 29, 2015 - 11:01 am

A direct ferry link to the Staten Island ferry could be useful. Ferrys are cheap and if ridership doesn’t pick up, you just cancel the ferry; it costs practically nothing. Although true transit focus should either build an airtrain direct to Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Ave or extend the N from astoria. If you build to Jackson Heights, you can pick up a lot of central Queens traffic – suddenly, La Guardia is a lot closer than JFK.

lawhawk July 28, 2015 - 8:40 am

For $4 billion you get a new LGA, but you need more than twice that amount to get a new PABT that handles more than twice the passengers on a daily basis? The PABT handles 66 million bus trips annually, which is more than double the under 30 million trips at LGA.

I get that there’s significant costs to land acquisition for an expanded PABT, but there’s got to be a way to get the PABT done.

At the same time, the $4 billion quote doesn’t include transit – it’s only the construction of the new terminals and related structures. So, we’re really talking about far more than $4 billion as a baseline.

Then there’s the choice of doing ferries – as though that can handle the transit load. It’s a sop to a few rich folks who live along the East River or the handful of people from Wall Street who will take it to LGA rather than establish a true 1 seat ride on the subway that would benefit everyone from the Wall Street types to the workers who actually work at LGA and everyone in between that lacks a subway option.

I’m still fuzzy on the financing details though – where is all this money coming from? I’m figuring that some will be PANY funds that have freed up as the WTC construction winds down, and other parts will be from new fees imposed on LGA travelers. But that the financing seems an open question, it’s fair to ask whether this will be done the same way as the TZB – where financing and funding is an open question even as the bridge goes up. Toll hikes are inevitable there, but the size of them is the question that Cuomo ducks. I sense more of the same here.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 9:01 am

For the amount the PA is demanding for a new PABT, they could literally extend the 7 Train or another rapid transit line several miles into New Jersey and let buses drop people off there. They could extend HBLR along the surface on 42nd Street, maybe even putting surface light rail tendrils on other streets, letting buses feed HBLR in New Jersey. They could rebuild the current bus terminal on the same footprint for the buses that still need a terminal (especially long-distance buses).

They could probably do all three and probably have something left over! The PABT is probably an inconvenient modal break for the majority of its users.

Michael K July 28, 2015 - 9:22 am

The PA surveys have found that about half of the users of the PABT walk to their NJ origin bus stop and to their NYC destination.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 9:26 am

So I’ve read, but I don’t know what to make of it. Needless to say, many of those might be long walks based on the desire to avoid spending another fare.

So it’d be nice if NJT and the MTA could work out some kind of cross-honoring agreement for such riders.

BoerumBum July 28, 2015 - 9:51 am

Intra-state NJ Transit trips are cheaper than cross-Hudson trips. If the NJ Transit ticket is cheaper, the Metrocard spend wouldn’t hurt as much.

Tower18 July 28, 2015 - 9:59 am

Metra, Chicago’s suburban rail operator, offers a “link up” addition to a rail monthly pass. For $55/month in addition to their monthly train fare, Metra riders can get a CTA pass for city transit, which is valid only from 6:00-9:30am and 3:30-7:00pm.

The normal CTA 30 day pass is $100, so this is a substantial discount to those riders who cannot (or would not) walk to their final destination from any of Chicago’s handful of rail terminals.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 12:51 pm

Or long walks to avoid buying a second car to get to the bus.
Contrary to Manhattanites opinions New Jerseyans aren’t stupid. If they work in Rockefeller Center they get on a bus to the PABT and walk there. If they work in the Empire State building they get on the train and walk from Penn Station. If they work in the World Trade Center they take the train to Hoboken and change to PATH.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 12:58 pm

Actually, you make them sound stupid. Either that, or you don’t understand west-of-Hudson transit dynamics. Or both. :-O

But who cares? They can pick the route they want based on the options available. Giving them better options lets them make better choices for themselves.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 2:03 pm

After living in New Jersey for 47 years where there was local and express bus service to the PABT and local and express bus service to Penn Station in Newark, I understand how it works. When the Garden was up on 50th Street I’d take the bus to the PABT and walk. When it moved to 33rd Street I’d take the bus to Newark and get on a train. When I worked in Times Square I’d take the bus. When I worked in the garment district I’d take the bus to Newark and get on a train just like I did when I was going to the new Garden. And when I worked off of Wall Street I’d take the bus to Newark and use PATH to get to the World Trade Center. Since there wasn’t a subway that went that way, I’d walk.
And I’d walk to the buses. Being able to walk to the bus was always on the must-have list for a new house. And off street parking. It’s one of the things people love to put in their real estate ads. Things like “walk to train” or “bus at corner” or both.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 5:06 pm

How about things like “network effects”? Discrete user habits are only so interesting.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 6:24 pm

The observed effect along the Morris and Essex lines was that once they could get to midtown fast they stopped taking the buses. They kept on taking trains to Hoboken to get to PATH to get downtown. If they have service to downtown from their suburban station they aren’t going to change to PATH in Hoboken or Newark anymore. Or Long Islanders go to Penn Station to change to the subway.

Having a train to downtown once an hour and train to midtown once an hour will induce demand. But people aren’t going to take downtown train and switch to the subway to get to midtown or vice versa. They’ll change trains out in the suburbs. From the train on their branch that is going downtown to the train on another branch that is going to midtown. And a half hour later they’ll change from a train on their branch that is going to midtown to train on another branch that is going downtown. Or just arrange their schedule so they get on the right train.

Michael K July 29, 2015 - 4:44 pm

Consider that every transfer introduces a new potential for delays. Walking is almost always consistent in terms of on-time performance.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 12:04 pm

The correct infrastructure to build is two tunnels across the Hudson: a tunnel to Penn Station and Grand Central, with a stop at Bergenline Avenue, where passengers would connect from the many buses on the Hill; and a tunnel from Pavonia Terminal to Fulton and Flatbush, which would entail through-running between the Erie lines (Main, Bergen County, Pascack Valley, Northern Branch) and the South Side lines of the LIRR. I believe that this would effectively railstitute a large majority of commuter trips into Port Authority.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 1:35 pm

New Jerseyans aren’t stupid. If they work on Wall Street they take the train to Hoboken or Newark. Or a bus to Journal Square or Penn Station in Newark. And use PATH. There are some poor unfortunates that only have bus service to the PABT. Running trains to Wall through a station 5 miles away isn’t going to help much.
Ya gonna build a tunnel from Jersey City to Brooklyn all of the trains in New Jersey could use it. All of the trains on Long Island could use it except for the Port Washington Branch. Keeping it simple if there are 20 trains an hour through the downtown tunnel each branch has service twice an hour at peak. Off peak they can do cross platform transfers out in the suburbs.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 2:03 pm

Where are you getting “New Jerseyans are stupid” from? Alon didn’t say it. I didn’t say it. Ben didn’t say it.

Actually, I will say it: they reelected Christie, so they are indeed stupid. This is incontrovertible proof. Sorry.

But Manhattanites still aren’t persecuting you.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 4:09 pm

You’re the ones who think New Jerseyans go down to the train station with service to Newark or Hoboken, get on a bus to the PABT and take the subway to their job down on Wall Street, not me.

Tunnel from Jersey City to Brooklyn gets New Jerseyans who use PATH off of PATH and gets Long Islanders out of Penn Station and off the west side subway lines. Pairing up Metro North and SIR gets Metro North passengers out of Grand Central and off the Lexington Avenue subway.

People in New Jersey whose only option is the bus to the PABT will probably still get on the bus. There would be plenty of room for them in the existing PABT if NJTransit could entice more people onto the trains.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 4:58 pm

A lot of the bus ridership consists of people who live next to the Erie lines or on Bergen Hill and don’t have rail service to Manhattan. There’s PATH, yes, but buses offer a one-seat ride whereas changing at Hoboken doesn’t, especially if your destination is close to Times Square but not to 33rd Street.

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 5:22 pm

Who is “you’re,” white man? I know how Manhattan-bound Jersey commuters behave. Detailed reports on it are publicly available. Most times I see you have a sperg-out about something I post is when I’m advocating something that mostly benefits people outside of Manhattan. It’s you who always redirects attention back to Manhattan.

I actually favor heavy decentralization of transit investment away from Manhattan. I hate speaking for other people, and I have no idea if Alon or anyone else in particular agrees with me on that point even in general, but I somehow doubt anyone here matches your caricature.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 9:31 pm

What do you mean by “heavy decentralization of transit investment away from Manhattan”?

Bolwerk July 28, 2015 - 10:27 pm

He has this rage-boner that says everyone who supports anything tangentially beneficial to Manhattan is just trying to direct people/traffic to Manhattan. I do believe that includes you too.

Personally, I just want to see a lot more emphasis on rapid transit links between NYC neighborhoods or even suburban neighborhoods outside of Manhattan. More like Paris. That doesn’t mean ignoring Manhattan, but its rapid transit system at least is overall pretty mature.

Alon Levy July 29, 2015 - 12:32 pm

Ah, that.

So, the issue here is, decentralization of jobs from the CBD is pretty bad for transit. Auto access is better outside the CBD, and building transit access from multiple directions is expensive.

It’s also bad for equity, because the jobs tend to move in the direction of the favored quarter (west, in Paris’s case).

Grand Paris Express is a nice project, but ultimately it’s €26 billion that the region is spending because it wouldn’t allow tall buildings in the Paris CBD. No tall buildings in city centers -> edge city CBDs -> bigger infrastructure needs.

Bolwerk July 29, 2015 - 1:53 pm

Isn’t Paris’ CBD matter more a zoning than transportation issue? We already have quasi-CBDs in at least LIC, downtown Brooklyn, and Flushing. There are other examples in the suburbs. Generally they seem to fill niches that the Manhattan CBD does not (startups, minor professionals, import/export businesses).

Be that as it may, I’m not saying totally decentralize the transit network. But would it kill us to make trips possible between, say, southern Brooklyn and Astoria without passing through Manhattan?

Alon Levy July 30, 2015 - 12:32 am

That’s what I said – Paris isn’t allowing tall buildings around Les Halles (or really anywhere in the city proper), which limits job density. It’s still a CBD, it’s just a fraction the size of Midtown or Central Tokyo. So businesses decamped to La Defense.

Allowing circumferential trips is great! But there’s a hard limit to how much you can build a transit network that way. Only very thick markets (Bergenline) or lines that happen to preexist (Triboro) can justify rapid transit.

Bolwerk July 30, 2015 - 7:36 pm

I guess I don’t see your concern then. We already have the periphery-to-job/population center network. It will always be predominant. Attempts to drive jobs out of Midtown have generally failed. If anything, that is why there remains need to supply new rapid transit to Midtown even at ginormous expense. But even without that, we just have the opposite problem of Paris: decent jobs outside the CBD are rather scarce.

I’m not sure I like the idea that all rapid transit must respond to density. It’s acceptable for rapid transit to facilitate the planning of density too. In the case of NYC, there is often rapid transit-level density anyway, but no rapid transit in any direction except toward Manhattan, if that.

adirondacker12800 July 30, 2015 - 9:20 pm

Mediocre jobs outside of the CBD are plentiful. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to make a long commute, especially a suburb to suburb one, for a mediocre job. There’s plenty of them nearby. It’s why more people in the Bronx work in the Bronx than in Manhattan or anyplace else and more people in Westchester in Westchester than in anyplace else or Queens or Brooklyn or Staten Island or…

Bolwerk July 30, 2015 - 9:29 pm

I mean, I agree, but how did that hamster-wheel powered gizmo behind your eyelids turn “decent jobs” turn into “mediocre jobs”?

A so-called “living wage” is probably already mediocre.

adirondacker12800 July 30, 2015 - 10:35 pm

If the jobs worth a long commute are in Manhattan just who is going to be on the wundertrains that run through Penn Station?

Nathanael July 31, 2015 - 8:09 am

Do you still not get that through-running through Penn Station is not actually intended for passengers to ride from one side to another?

Same as in Philadelphia, it’s intended to allow more trains per hour, because they don’t have to stop, reverse, and criss-cross tracks downtown.

The way to do the same thing with a terminal station is demonstrated at Sydney Central, but there’s no way in hell to build that here. Through running is much easier than building Sydney Central style grade separated reversing tracks.

Nathanael July 31, 2015 - 8:04 am

Michael: Even if they are used to “one seat rides” on the bus, I think they’d still be willing to take the #7 or HBLR under the river. Studies have shown that people WILL do bus-train transfers.

If you could run HBLR through the Lincoln tunnel (and I suspect you can’t because of the curves and grades), the right thing to do would be to do that, run HBLR down 42nd Street (giving it its own pair of lanes, and put the big bus terminal at the western Lincoln Tunnel portal. Ideally, you’d have a ‘high level terminus’ for buses off the 495 highway to avoid that very slow and congested loop.

anon_coward July 28, 2015 - 9:25 am

for the airport they will most likely sell bonds which are backed by fees from airline tickets and landing fees paid back to the Port Authority.

AG July 30, 2015 - 3:01 pm

As to how this will be paid. The developer is paying for much through bonds for the rights to control revenue from the airport. Fees at the airport will pay for the rest. So essentially this is competing with nothing. I’m a little confused by the “anger” in some of the other comments. No one’s pet project was cancelled for this.

Shawn July 28, 2015 - 9:16 am

I’m happy we have the ability to replace LGA, I don’t have any problem with spending the money to modernise that dump.

I will admit, though, that the airtrain to willets point makes no sense. That does reak of “mass transit is here for the poor who can’t afford cars/taxis so who cares if its cumbersome or slow” thinking.

Kevin Walsh July 28, 2015 - 9:24 am

Cuomo revealed privately what the actual completion date for the New LaGuardia:

Michael July 28, 2015 - 9:25 am

Hearing that today’s LGA press conference will also include an announcement that SAS Phase II will be funded.

While this LGA plan has it’s flaws (the airtran route, ferry, and parking plans during LGA construction), not a bad day for transit.

Peter M July 28, 2015 - 9:38 am


My thoughts on this project, whether worth the cost or not – something needs to be done with LaGuardia. I agree with VP Biden regarding the the 3rd World feel of the airport. The aspects of the plan that will bring the airport to the current standards people expect seem worthwhile for the cost.

As for the transportation aspect of it, the AirTran to Willets Point is a total waste of money. Once the AirTran is up and running, people will realize that using it to get to the 7 train is not worth the time, cost and effort. Governor Cuomo should use his gubernatorial powers to push the N/Q train extension to LaGuardia. As a resident of Astoria, some accommodation can be reached with the community to make the extension work. As long as residents know it’s going to happen, they can at least compromise for the best possible result with the lease impact to the community.

The ferry service is a nice touch but only time will tell if it’s successful. The idea with the ferry is to make sure options are available. Not only ferry to Manhattan, but to Connecticut, Westchester, Long Island and Staten Island should be included. Once you get the volumes on the ferry, then it’s going to be successful. It needs to be a cost effect option that includes ferry parking and/or public transportation at the starting point of the ferry.

Without direct link to Manhattan with a subway, LaGuardia is going to find itself with same negative jokes as before.

eo July 28, 2015 - 9:46 am

Ben, you said it all:

“But Cuomo doesn’t talk about these proposals because he doesn’t take buses or trains; he flies and he drives…”

Cuomo drives and flies. In his career before being a governor it is certain that the Tappan Zee was always his worst bottleneck. LGA is second, because clearly that was and remains the closest airport to his home in Westchester. Cuomo never held a job in the city that required regular commute, so even though his town has Metro-North he never perceived transit as being not well taken care of — it was something other people took to work, not him. On top of that Metro-North tends to be better that most other railroads when it comes to delays (compare to NJT), so his neighbours probably never complained much. Cristie in NJ did the same: he used to drive in his life before becoming governor and it is a fair bet that “the Merge” had caused him a fair amount of frustration on summer weekends going to the beach. He has never put a foot on a train, so he cancelled the ARC and put the money in the Turnpike widening near Tranton (and other roads including Pulaski — I would love for the SEC to come back and tell the Port Authority to get its money back from NJ for that project. I would be fun and the right thing to do.). Corzine commuted from Summit his whole life, so he supported and started the ARC (even though ARC hads its problems).

The reality is that the personal experiences of the politicians influence their decisions when it comes to cars vs. transit vs. planes much more than one would hope. Projects are not evaluated based on their overall worth to the society, but to their worth to the decision maker as a private citizen with their unique travel needs. Next time we should elect people who have at least put their foot into a commuter train and the subway if we want any improvements …

JJJJ July 28, 2015 - 9:57 am

Im pretty sure if you check any LaGuardia related article posted on this website during the past 3 years, I left a nice ferry related comment. I also remember many responses saying it would not be feasible.

Tooooold you.

Eric July 28, 2015 - 1:00 pm

If Andrew Cuomo says a transportation plan is feasible, that’s actually evidence that it’s not feasible.

JJJ July 28, 2015 - 1:23 pm

Lets clarify. Its feasible in that the water is deep enough and the bridges tall enough to get a ferry from the airport to Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Elizabeth.

At the end of the day, fiscally feasible doesnt matter.

Kevin Walsh July 28, 2015 - 10:25 am

Biden thinks LaGuardia is third world? I’ll show him third world.


Kevin July 28, 2015 - 10:32 am

I think the unified theory of Andrew Cuomo is to think about him as a cranky lawyer that lives and works in Westchester. If you look at it with that in mind, it all makes sense. Of course the Tappen Zee Bridge and LGA are super important. Of course connecting Metro North trains to Penn Station is a great use of money.

And what the hell are subways?

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 1:03 pm

Very silly of Andy to shift people who are going to the West Side off trains that are going to the East Side. Keeping them out of Metro North’s Park Avenue tunnel, off the shuttle and for some of them off the West Side subway lines. Even though this has been planned for decades.

Metro North’s Penn Station Access is gonna be really really cheap. Amtrak trains use those routes everyday. It postpones adding tunnels to Grand Central for a while. And gives people on the Hudson and New Haven lines faster rides to the West Side. New stations in the Bronx and the West Side of Manhattan are going to cost quite a bit. And there will probably be some nearly invisible upgrades that have to be done. But it’s gonna be really really cheap.

Tim July 28, 2015 - 3:20 pm

In fairness, MNR to Penn is a very logical extension. Plenty of people coming down the NH line hop the S to the west side. And with the opening of Hudson Yards in the near future, I’m thinking a lot of folks will be needing to head over there as well (although I guess the 7 train is a better bet).

D in Bushwick July 28, 2015 - 10:36 am

Someone here had mentioned that the Airtrain was built to LIRR standards. Is it possible there would one day be an Airtrain from Penn Station or East Side Access to JFK and to a new LaGuardia?

Marc Shepherd July 28, 2015 - 10:48 am

If by “possible” you mean physically possible, then the answer is yes. Whether they will ever find the money to do it in our lifetimes is doubtful.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 12:56 pm

So instead of changing to Airtrain in Jamaica you would change to Airtrain at Federal Circle. Whoopee. And all the people who don’t use Penn Station or Grand Central would have to change in Jamaica to the LIRR and then change to Airtrain at Federal Circle.

JBS July 28, 2015 - 10:37 am

The way an AirTrain to Willets Point could theoretically work would be to connect it into the Port Washington Line and have direct service into Penn Station or Grand Central, assuming East Side Access is complete beforehand. Have fare control at the LGA end or run it POP. Having a transfer at Willets Point is worse than useless.

Josh July 28, 2015 - 11:26 am


Not sure of the technical details – but my understanding is that since Airtrain was built with a federal surcharge on ?JFK? ?JFK+EWR+LGA? airline tickets, that it could NOT directly connect into our transit systems. It has to remain an “airport” system. Hence the tracks terminating at Jamaica, next to the LIRR, rather than coming into the station or continuing onto Penn.

Marc Shepherd July 28, 2015 - 11:43 am

No, that is incorrect. The JFK Airtrain was built so that it could connect to the transit system at a future date, and they’ve drawn out in some detail how it could work. The only thing standing in the way is money.

Unfortunately, where there is a provision for future service, it is seldom built, which explains all the station shells and bellmouths in the subway system that were never used. If you don’t build it up-front, it probably will not happen.

fbfree July 28, 2015 - 11:29 am

As I heard this story on NPR this morning, I was dreaming packing the security lines at LGA to crush load standards, as a protest.

tacony July 28, 2015 - 2:55 pm

There was ferry service from Manhattan to LGA for years in the 90s branded as the “Delta Water Shuttle” and it was a failure because it was slower than a cab from any point and even slower than a transit trip unless you lived at the ferry terminal.

The geography of New York hasn’t changed, but now that we have the Q70 and the M60 SBS, transit travel times to LGA actually have improved a slight bit. There isn’t enough demand to offer the frequencies of service on an airport ferry that would be remotely competitive vs just heading to the train/bus, or worse yet, entice someone to take the train to the ferry, wait for the ferry, and take a shuttle bus from the ferry to the airport, instead of just staying on that train to make their way to the airport as a transit trip alone with no extra ferry fare.

Train to bus beats train to ferry to bus.

tacony July 28, 2015 - 3:05 pm

Oh, also, this article is great: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01.....dyear.html

Despite the financial troubles other ferry services have had, the company that takes tourists to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island plans to start running passenger boats from Manhattan to La Guardia Airport by midyear.

Circle Line Harbor Cruises intends to start running high-speed ferries every 30 minutes on weekdays from Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan to 34th Street and then to a dock near the Marine Air Terminal at the airport, J.B. Meyer, the president of the company, said. The trip would take 30 minutes and cost $25 each way, Mr. Meyer said.

Establishing ferry service from downtown to New York’s airports has been a pet project of Gov. George E. Pataki, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority. He said the agency was seeking proposals from companies that would run a similar service to Kennedy International Airport starting in 2006.

The more things change…

Jason B July 28, 2015 - 4:13 pm

I last took the Delta Water Shuttle around Xmas 1999 or so, and I could be remembering incorrectly, but it seemed a hell of a lot faster and cheaper than a cab ride would have been. I was working downtown at that time so perhaps I was just in a good position — it picked me up at Pier 11 (close enough to where I worked) and dropped me at the Marine Air Terminal, which was a short walk (with lots of good free magazines) to my Delta shuttle. It was basically the best air travel experience I’ve ever had.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 5:07 pm

Trollish question to the gallery: how many people here have been through a third world airport?

To clarify, major international hubs do not count, even if they’re located in developing countries – for examples, Shanghai, Istanbul, and Bangkok. The example I have in mind is Siem Reap.

Fbfree July 28, 2015 - 5:54 pm

Santiago de Chile three months after the 2010 earthquake. With part of the main terminal building closed, there were tents set up on the parking lots to handle security and baggage. It worked well. Public transport into the city was non-existent. On my way back to the airport, I took Metro line 1 as far as it went, a bus, and walked the last 4 km in order to avoid a $30 cab ride.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 6:25 pm

Does Rochester count?

SEAN July 28, 2015 - 6:48 pm

HPN anyone?

Tower18 July 28, 2015 - 7:22 pm

The closest I have is GRU before renovations.

JJJJ July 28, 2015 - 10:36 pm

10+ airports in Brazil, 3 in Mexico, 3 in Argentina, 2 in Venezuela, Costa Rica, Honduras, San Juan, Athens, Istanbul, probably a few more I’m forgetting.

Maggie July 28, 2015 - 10:44 pm

Several. They’re usually pretty nice – they’re basically the nice entry for the elite. Similar phenomenon to $300 hotels for NGO workers in developing countries where income is like $5 a day.

Maggie July 29, 2015 - 12:12 am

Why do you ask, Alon? I’ve been to a bunch of EM airports – Hanoi, Bucharest, Dakar, Vientiane, etc. plus places like Mumbai, Moscow, Manila, Dar es Salaam, and so on – but the worst, filthiest airport hotel I’ve ever been to, anywhere, was the Ramada at JFK.

Alon Levy July 29, 2015 - 12:37 pm

Because the airports in the third world that weren’t prettified for first-world travelers (i.e. Bangkok and such) are far worse than even Terminal 2 at JFK. At least the ones I’ve been to, which are in small South/Southeast Asian cities, are.

Maggie July 29, 2015 - 8:12 pm

Worse how? Weren’t you suggesting last week that all we need for Penn Station are TVMs and a set of sidewalk cellar stairs? ;P

Alon Levy July 30, 2015 - 12:41 am

Worse in senses like “no jetbridges even for mainline international flights,” “no air conditioner even in tropical climate,” “baggage claim takes a while for such a small airport,” and “the immigration line involves five people looking at your documents before stamping them and you have to pay them a $20 bribe to get in.” (Mind you, the US immigration line is worse than any I’ve been to, but that’s meanness rather than inefficiency.)

And yes, I think train stations should be TVMs and sets of access points. Retail’s nice, but when the station’s at the center of a city, it’s fine to put the retail in buildings around the train box and not on top of the train box.

As an intermediate possibility, a glass ceiling/floor at street level plus climate control underneath would be nice. But let’s not compare New York with just about anywhere in South or Southeast Asia now.

Maggie July 30, 2015 - 7:40 am

Hmm, why not compare New York’s airport access with Hong Kong? Both have global economies centered around finance and trade. Hong Kong has a pretty seamless one-seat train direct to the city that jet lagged travelers happily take; New York has a pockmarked highway, political taxi cab interests, and classist canards about business travelers never taking trains.

I stood in longer customs lines in Bangkok than I ever thought possible… but to be fair I waited in lines about as long at Charles de Gaulle.

AG July 30, 2015 - 5:14 pm

Yeah we know a one seat ride to the airports here is a pipe dream. Hong Kong rail operations make money off of real estate… Not so with the MTA – so there is no money for that. Ironically – this deal (developers and airport fees paying) is the closest thing we have to the way Hong Kong pays for transportation.
Now that China has taken back Hong Kong – they are building bridges to the mainland and Macau… It’s a different world out there. China’s government obviously can do things we can’t. That project right there is almost akin to the feds building Gateway and the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel – and another car tunnel for good measure.
I mean you have people on this thread cursing ferries and there are ferries running almost constantly between these three (Shenzen – Macau – Hong Kong)… Again – it’s a different world out there.

Maggie July 30, 2015 - 7:59 pm

This seems like a fever dream of excuses. Apart from ‘China’s government can do things we can’t’, it doesn’t make sense to me.

What on earth is La Guardia’s operator PANY doing at WTC – and why? – if not trying to make money off of real estate?

Bolwerk July 30, 2015 - 8:50 pm

Historically the WTC was a mix of an urban renewal project run amok and a financier’s wet dream. It was about attracting trade, not making money off real estate.

AG July 30, 2015 - 9:07 pm

Maggie – You seriously don’t get why the Chinese government is able to get things done that basically no other country can do right now?? Really? You don’t get why they are able to build a high speed rail network that’s larger than Europe’s in such a short space of time? Too complicated for this space.

As to the WTC – well you have to go back and learn your regional history why they are in control of the WTC… It’s too long a story. That said – what the rail operator in Hong Kong does is just how they operate – it’s not just one piece of property. Not even close to being the same.

Bolwerk July 30, 2015 - 9:31 pm

^- mansplain alert

Maggie July 30, 2015 - 11:26 pm

AG, I think you may have misread my comment. I agree with you that China’s government is different than America’s. The rest didn’t make sense to me, is all. Also, Hong Kong’s direct, comfortable, city center to airport train started running in 1998. You’re mistaken if you’re thinking of it as part of China’s infrastructure investment and fiscal stimulus from 2009.

I think you also ellided over the point that travelers and residents in Hong Kong have ferries and a good train to the airport. The issue is that New York keeps getting asked to accept ferries instead of trains to the airport that we need.

AG July 30, 2015 - 11:47 pm

Well yes I did misunderstand your first comment.
No – I talked about Hong Kongs system separately to what has gone on since China “regained” it. Different issues.
But yes – they have ALL of those options. Unless the MTA becomes like Hong Kong’s system – we won’t get a one seat ride. Based on how much the rest of the nation hates the northeast – we won’t be getting a lot of things as easy as Chinese cities. As I said before – it’s a different world.

Maggie July 31, 2015 - 5:00 pm

“We won’t get a one-seat ride. Based on how much the rest of the nation hates the northeast – we won’t be getting a lot of things as easy as Chinese cities”

Huh?? The rest of the nation definitely does not hate us. NYC hosted 40 million tourists from the U.S. last year. The Vice President of the U.S. and Secretary of Transportation both reached out to NY and NJ this week, offering federal help and nudging Christie and Cuomo back towards investing in the public interest on transportation policy and funding. Whether our dysfunctional leadership is going to get it together, I think it’s too soon to say. But it’s crazy that PANY is spending $4 billion for a new airport (or $8 billion? $16 billion today?) and Cuomo still doesn’t plan to provide single-seat train access to the city for LGA travelers.

AG July 31, 2015 - 5:17 pm

I’m not talking about tourists… I’m talking about Congressional voting. That is the reason the NEC states have such a low return from what we send to Washington.

We couldn’t even get a one seat ride after all the 9/11 money… When the goal was stated to do such to Lower Manhattan. Sorry – but I don’t think it’s going to happen and it has nothing to do with Cuomo.
Half of the money for this is coming from the developer… The rest coming from airport fees. I would love it (one seat ride) but I don’t see any scenario where it happens in this generation – no matter who is in leadership.

adirondacker12800 July 31, 2015 - 6:04 pm

You haven’t spent enough time with Real Americans ™. Except on Sept. 11th when Real Americans ™ delude themselves into thinking everyone in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on flight 93 was a straight W.A.S.P. from The Homeland ™ ,New Yorkers are evil. And they aren’t shy about saying so.

Maggie July 31, 2015 - 6:21 pm


“Tourism numbers in New York improved across the board in 2014, and the total number of tourists is up about 23 per cent since 2009.

Domestic visitors made up the bulk of the 56.4 million people visiting New York in 2014, with about 44.2 million tourists coming from within the US. Of the 12.2 million foreign visitors, the majority came from the UK, followed by Canada, Brazil, China and France.

New York City is the most visited city in the US, the top port-of-entry for foreign visitors, the top city for tourism spending, and has the highest share of foreign visitors to the U.S. — approximately one-third.”

AG July 31, 2015 - 6:28 pm

how does that affect the way congress votes? it doesn’t

Maggie July 31, 2015 - 7:16 pm

help me out. Do we need Congressional approval for a PPP to run a train to the airport, and not for a PPP to sink $8 billion into building the airport?

If yes, how hard could this really be? Trade some horses, crack some heads. It would be a nice opportunity for Cuomo to show he can deliver on behalf of the city.

AG August 1, 2015 - 4:52 pm

Ummm – yes it is that difficult. Airports are “profitable”… Trains are not. No PPP will want to agree to build it in exchange for revenue.
For instance – my family is from a developing country… The Chinese built a toll road on their own dime – but they keep revenues for 35 years. The toll road allows for them to be able to easily transport minerals and agricultural goods they control. Nobody does something for nothing… There is nothing in a PPP to operate trains – which need subsidy to operate. Unless you do like Hong Kong and other places and give them control of other sources of real estate revenue.

adirondacker12800 July 31, 2015 - 7:28 pm

That they wanted to go to New York is evidence that they aren’t Real Americans ™….

adirondacker12800 July 31, 2015 - 8:02 pm

It’s a bit more complex than this but you can’t spend airport fees outside of boundaries of the airport. The state highway department along with the Federal government can spend rivers of money on the roads outside of the airport. Real Americans ™ drive to the airport when they are forced to fly. Anyway those people who want to take a train or the bus to the airport aren’t Real Americans ™ so why spend money on them?

Maggie August 1, 2015 - 6:23 pm

1 – this airport is not profitable. It had $200+ million of capital investment for 27 million passengers and $19 million in operating profit last year.

2 – what is the difference between airport fees and revenue? Bonus if you explain this without saying “it’s complicated, you wouldn’t understand.”

3 – AG, what you’re saying about airport financing doesn’t match what Port Authority says here: http://www.panynj.gov/airports.....rtsLGAQu10

4 – Cities – global and US cities – build trains to airports. It happens. They are a thing, that exists. Cuomo and the PANY powers that be may not be interested in building one in his new $8 billion airport (unless it goes the wrong way and inconveniences everybody except his corporate donors), but that doesn’t mean the need for one will go away. Trust me. It just makes him look less effective.

AG August 2, 2015 - 10:55 pm

Hmmm – so you don’t get the difference between capital outlays and operating profits? In any event – I really don’t have time to go back and forth over the same thing… The bottom line is this was needed long before Cuomo and it will be needed long after him. If you don’t get yet why it hasn’t happened long before Cuomo and won’t happen in the near future – then hey – that’s not my fight.

adirondacker12800 August 1, 2015 - 7:10 pm

If the buses to LaGuardia aren’t to your tastes the trains go to JFK and Newark.

Maggie August 4, 2015 - 8:18 am

That depends on the usable life of the asset, I think. La Guardia is deemed fit for demolition, scrap and a complete rebuild after $820 million in capital expenditures over the last ten years – $440 million after depreciation – and $361 million in operating profit.

Just saying, since we’re now at the point of tearing the whole thing down and starting over for $8 billion, it’s hard to think of the airport as profitable. The cap-ex is money that wasn’t spent elsewhere, and seems like it had poor marginal returns.

With respect, Adirondacker’s comment is basically how LGA ends up in the toilet on every traveler satisfaction and efficiency level.

Alon Levy July 30, 2015 - 8:53 pm

My recollection is that Bangkok’s customs and immigration lines are pretty short, but I haven’t been there in almost ten years (with Don Mueang, not Suvarnabhumi).

There’s Singapore, but it’s first-world and not third-world. The lines there are very short. The government of Singapore has spent an inordinate amount of effort making sure airport travelers have a good experience, and not so much effort making sure people have enough social security savings to retire.

Nathanael July 31, 2015 - 8:15 am

I suppose technically China is “second world”. I saw a bunch of those airports back in the 1980s. They were pretty nice. The airPLANEs, on the other hand, were frightening rattletraps which I expected to fall apart in the air.

Nathanael July 31, 2015 - 8:18 am

“Worse in senses like “no jetbridges even for mainline international flights,” “no air conditioner even in tropical climate,” “baggage claim takes a while for such a small airport,” and “the immigration line involves five people looking at your documents before stamping them and you have to pay them a $20 bribe to get in.” (Mind you, the US immigration line is worse than any I’ve been to, but that’s meanness rather than inefficiency.)”

Oh, I remember all of that stuff. Russia was a worse than the third world for that stuff.

Ithaca, NY, however, was worse than that for everything except the bribe (no, you didn’t need to pay a bribe). I remember staggering through the snow to get to the snow-covered steps of the airplane…

One of the great advantages of airplanes is actually the fact that they *don’t* need much infrastructure — land on a grass strip, plop the stairway down. They’ve become much less economically efficient since the Temples To Air Travel started being built.

Maggie July 31, 2015 - 4:26 pm


No air conditioning in uncomfortably hot weather, and longer-than-reasonable wait times of varying, unknown length are very annoying. For some weird reason, I kept thinking about this while I was waiting on the MTA subway platforms this week. But I’d give places like Siem Reap a pass for having a very basic, low frills airport. It’s catering nearly all to foreign tourism, bringing comparatively wealthy visitors into a country where GDP per capita is ranked 158th globally, at $1,000 per person per year. So less than $3 a day. Plus the reason most people are visiting is to see the UNESCO world heritage temples that are centuries old and need a lot of care, preservation, respect: some restored, some in atmospheric jungle ruins. I think the ecological and archaeological considerations keep that airport low-frills, just the basics.

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 9:18 pm

If they didn’t have first world travelers they wouldn’t have airports.

Alon Levy July 30, 2015 - 12:47 am

That’s just not true. There are airports in cities that have very few tourists. I’ve heard stories from academics about visiting China thirty years ago and riding on a plane to an outlying airport where everyone except for them was Chinese, and some people stared at the academics because they’d never seen white people before. In India there’s a lot of domestic air traffic for the local middle class (which despite the name “middle class” is like the top 10% of the income distribution), because ground transportation is horrific.

Maggie July 30, 2015 - 7:25 am

In my experience, this is not exactly true. Plenty of secondary and tertiary cities in China are putting up huge, shiny airports. Google for images of Huanghua airport and you’ll see what I mean.

Nathanael July 31, 2015 - 8:14 am

It’s been a long time. Back when I was a kid, Ithaca NY was more Spartan and utilitarian than most o those third-world airports — walk thorough the “security line” directly onto the tarmac, and then stagger through the rain to your plane’s staircase.

The third-world airports often were basically the same, except they had carpets laid out and snappily dressed guides to escort you to your plane. (Labor’s cheap, y’know?)

R2 July 31, 2015 - 1:21 pm

Ho Chi Minh
Santiago, DR
Santo Domingo
Puerto Plata

Calling LGA “3rd world” is an insult to the above airport

Walt Gekko July 28, 2015 - 6:45 pm

This is probably something those on the Federal level want done and that’s why this is being pushed. Like it or not, LaGuardia needs to be worked on extensively and this sounds like a good plan there.

Now, if that could somehow include an extension of the (N) train there as some have suggested, then it would be worth it. That said, I would look at actually extending the (N) train to The Bronx via one or two new bridges that would add one new Queens stop most likely at 20th Avenue before heading over such (two new bridges if such included a stop on Rikers Island) and then going underground after Food Service Drive in The Bronx to a new terminal in the area of Jacobi Medical Center, which currently doesn’t have subway service. This would include stops at transfer points to the (6) at Westchester/Elder Avenue and the (2) and (5) at East 180th. That to me would be a much more welcome (N) extension since it would then become the one Bronx line that would NOT directly go to Manhattan and would be attractive to those in Queens who want to go to The Bronx without going through Manhattan.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 7:36 pm

For Queens-Bronx service, there’s always Triboro RX.

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 7:26 pm

Update: remember how it’s a $4 billion plan? Turns out it’ll cost $8 billion.

The sad thing about it is that, per daily user, it’s still less than various airport connectors.

adirondacker12800 July 28, 2015 - 9:03 pm

I’m sure since LaGuardia is so fabulous compared to Newark and JFK the passengers will be willing to pay the fees to finance it.

wise infrastructure July 28, 2015 - 8:50 pm

Recognize that Cuomo’s LGA shuttle is but another disconnected piece of the original JFK-Jamaica-citifield (then shea stadium)-LGA-LIC-Queensboro Bridge – East Side airtrain route.

Just maybe, some day the entire line can provide really meaningful transportation.

Connecting just the Citifield and Jamaica sections (requiring either a reverse move, loop, or a bypass of/at Jamaica) would create a route reliable enough to allow JFK and LGA to be treated as one airport with through ticketing and elimination of redundant routes. That connection would run along side the elevated Van Wyck and then over the Van Wyck nowhere near residences or schools.

Factor in the one stop connection between the Citifield and downtown flushing, and add a direct non stop shuttle bus running via the Whitestone Bridge and Expressway between between West Farms (Bronx) and Citifield and you have really connected:

LGA, JFK, Jamaica/Jamaica Bus Hub, Flushing/Flushing Bus Hub/LIRR/E and J, Citifield LIRR/#7 and the Bronx (2/5 and bus hub)

Alon Levy July 28, 2015 - 9:34 pm

You’re in love with nonstop routes. Please stop it. There exist people on the way. They’re not just NIMBYs; they’re also potential riders.

Brooklynite July 29, 2015 - 9:27 pm

Connecting JFK and LGA via Airtrain is a good idea though. A one-seat ride from Astoria Blvd N/Q, via LGA, Jamaica, and JFK, to Howard Beach on the A would be quite popular.

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 10:19 pm

With people who keep lists of the car numbers of subway trains they ride. With other people not so much.

Alon Levy July 30, 2015 - 12:52 am

First, no, it wouldn’t. Airports aren’t compelling enough destinations, Astoria/31st is dreary, Howard Beach is a random neighborhood, and the only place on the way that is a strong destination is Jamaica.

Second, the route would skirt important population centers in between, because it would have to avoid East Elmhurst to serve LaGuardia.

Third, it wouldn’t even be a one-seat ride. The JFK AirTrain leaves the Van Wyck ROW to access Jamaica. You’d get two routes, one Jamaica-LGA-31st and one Jamaica-JFK.

If you want a rail transit route going north of Jamaica, make it light rail, put it on dedicated lanes on Main Street, and send it up to Flushing. Main and Kissena-Parsons are two of Queens’ strongest bus routes, and Flushing and Jamaica are both compelling destinations in ways nothing near the expressway ROWs is.

Brooklynite July 30, 2015 - 11:01 pm

Obviously I do not foresee many people riding from Astoria to Howard Beach. However, as an airport route it has lots of potential. People seeking LGA would be able to access it from Manhattan via the 7 or N, while people coming from the east would be able to use Jamaica. JFK-bound riders would also be able to transfer at Willets Pt if they were coming from Flushing.

The main point is the integration of the airports into one connected system. Even if rebuilding Jamaica to remove the stub end is impossible and trains have to reverse there, run-through service could still be operated. Think Amtrak Keystones at 30th St: train changes direction but people stay on.

Finally, no this airtrain won’t be the answer to Queens’s transit woes. It’s not meant to do that, though, but instead to connect airports.

wise infrastructure July 30, 2015 - 7:54 pm

There is not a block in nyc that is not within walking distance of a bus stop, and I am not suggesting to replacing existing local bus service with direct service.

In advocating for nonstop routes, i am trying to get as many people as possible to their destinations as quickly as possible.
-let local buses do their jobs – feed the hubs
-then have non-stop hub to hub lines move users over longer distances as quickly as possible. Use existing expressways and bus lanes where possible. (I note that the south bound the Whitestone Expressway is one of the few in the city that rarely backs up.) The Whitestone Bridge approaches in both directions could be improved by implementing a bus/hov/HOT? priority approach lane.

I note that your “potential riders along the way” can be converted to actual riders when they board at the closest “hub” after a short local rides.

Alon Levy July 30, 2015 - 8:59 pm

What you’re offering people is three-seat rides: bus to a hub, nonstop to another hub, bus to their destination. It’s not competitive on time with a solid grid of bus and subway services that enable two-seat rides, with stops on the way; the local trips to the hubs would be too long. If you want to shorten the local trips then you have to add more hubs, and then the frequency on each hub pair is going to be too low to be usable.

This is with bus networks, where the hub system you propose is plausible. With rail networks, it isn’t, because trains can’t just pull over to the side and make a stop the way buses can. So either trains have to make normal stops, as they do on normal rapid transit systems, or they have to have long nonstop segments, in which the only available local service is slow buses, rather than much faster local trains.

AG July 28, 2015 - 10:51 pm

Maybe I’m missing something – but isn’t this project being paid for by the developer and by airport fees? If so – it can’t be compared to other projects… So I’m not sure why people are talking about funding comparisons.

ME July 29, 2015 - 12:52 pm

Wouldn’t it be better to extend the JFK AirTrain up to LaGardia? It could run along the Van Wyck & Grand Central. It would cross 5 Subway Lines (J,Z,E,F & 7) and the LIRR.

Michael K July 29, 2015 - 4:41 pm

One of the fatal flaws of having subway service at the old LGA was that it was very difficult to have a station for each terminal – the terminals were so close together that either two terminals would have to share a station with long walks of have an on site 2-4 car shuttle train.

This design, with the single terminal makes the Astoria Line connection much better – a single station can serve the entire airport, with additional stops beyond the airport for parking.

Brooklynite July 29, 2015 - 9:48 pm

The comments in this thread have touched upon all sorts of topics, so allow me to find an overarching theme here: tying the region together while not interlining everything under the sun.

In no particular order:
-Airtrain from Howard Beach (A) via JFK, Jamaica, Willets Point, and LGA to Astoria Blvd (N)/(Q). This will help connect the completely separate and (if it weren’t for capacity issues) redundant airports in NYC.

-A new four-track tunnel from Midtown to NJ. Two tracks for mainline rail, two for the 7 to Hoboken (or maybe Secaucus). Let’s face it: if Hudson County were an NYC boro it would have multiple subway lines by now, similar to Brooklyn. The fact that a line somebody drew on a map to divide two colonies in pre-Revolution North America has a major effect on modern transportation is silly.

-Much of Alon Levy’s NY-RER proposal. A Flatbush-Fulton-Hoboken tunnel crossing with a GCT-Fulton tunnel would powerfully tie the region together. The second Hudson pair of tunnels connecting to Penn and then GCT would help with this.

-De-interlining the subways will become increasingly necessary as demand increases and capital funding cannot keep up. Until the MTA’s arcane work rules and infatuation with CBTC are taken care of such low-cost solutions will prove to be valuable.

-Triboro RX, Rockaway Beach Branch, and perhaps even the Montauk Branch (and Bushwick Branch?) should be London Overground-ified. Subway-style service with commuter rail cars is a viable system for NYC.

In short, the NYC region is currently very segmented; areas that are close by seem incredibly distant simply because of the way transportation networks have formed. As we progress through this century we need to work on changing that.

adirondacker12800 July 29, 2015 - 10:31 pm

Airlines are very very very good at making sure every seat is occupied. There are no redundant flights.
Why should anyone in metro New York care even a tiny little bit that people would like to fly into JFK and fly out of LGA or vice versa?
Since it would be really really difficult to cram all of the flights at the three airports into one it’s very nice that people on the Upper East Side can get in a cab – because if they are paying for a business class seat they ain’t gonna take the subway – and fly to Chicago. And people in Westchester and the Bronx. And that people in Eastern Queens and Brooklyn and Nassau can fly to Chicago from JFK. And people in New Jersey can fly from Newark.
Half of Hudson County is a swamp. One line running up and down the spine of the ridge that isn’t swamp would serve most of them.

Michael K July 30, 2015 - 9:51 am

I think most of those lines would fan out of Hudson County to Eastern Essex, Northern Union and Southern Bergen Counties.

adirondacker12800 July 30, 2015 - 11:39 am Reply
Michael K July 30, 2015 - 9:53 am

RER-ing the commuter rails would likely take 500,000 riders off of the subway each rush hour.

cpatransit August 5, 2015 - 5:09 pm

Will the reconstruction bring more passengers into the airport/nyc?

Will users be willing to pay more money for the nicer experience?

How much of that increased revenue will flow to NYC? the PA? NYS? or private businesses?

Will sales tax collections, corporate tax collections etc increase (directly or indirectly) as a result of this project?

Let’s compute: What is the total revenue increase vs the total costs?

then assign a monetary value to the non-monetary factors including:
*times savings
*nyc’s reputation
*user happiness

then determine how the return on this investment compares against other possible projects.

To spend $4+ billion dollars so that the same number of users can look at prettier walls would seem very outrageous if it is the case.


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