Home Queens The Laguardia AirTrain is still happening, for some reason

The Laguardia AirTrain is still happening, for some reason

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

The Willets Point AirTrain is inching closer to reality.

As bad transit ideas go, New York City has had its fair share in recent years. While it shouldn’t have been canceled, the ARC Tunnel featured a dead-end terminal half a mile beneath Macy’s, and it was topped by only the ongoing money pit that is East Side Access, a dead-end terminal half a mile beneath Grand Central. The BQX, likely the city’s greatest bit of vaporware ever, still hasn’t been canceled, and then we have the Laguardia AirTrain in a class all of its own.

The Laguardia AirTrain is the stubborn bad idea that just won’t die. It came out of nowhere in early 2015, and while it could have been a good idea pushed by a strong state leader, Cuomo’s plan sent the AirTrain in the wrong direction. The system would connect LaGuardia with the 7 train and LIRR at Willets Point. So while most LaGuardia travelers just want to get to Manhattan, this thing will take them further away from where they want to go. When the plan first came out, I discovered how, in a true alternatives analysis, the no-build option would be best.

The idea fell by the wayside for a while, but now it’s back. Cuomo, who could have tried to push through an N train extension to the airport, seems intent on realizing this cockamamie transit plan. “The millions of passengers who travel through LaGuardia each year deserve a convenient and reliable mass transit option that connects this key transportation hub to the heart of Manhattan,” he said in a statement a few weeks ago. “We are transforming LaGuardia into a world-class transportation gateway, and an essential piece of the puzzle is ensuring rail mass transit access to the airport. With this action, we’re taking the next major step toward making this a reality.”

The latest announcement concerned the RFP for the entire project. It will eventually involve significant work on the current Willets Point station and construction of the AirTrain over the Grand Central Parkway. Cuomo’s release claims this new AirTrain will provide a ride of less than 30 minutes to Midtown, but that relies on a significant increase in LIRR service along the Port Washington line or an impossible two-way express service on the 7.

The costs meanwhile have, not shockingly, creeped ever upward. What was once billed as a $400 million project is now budgeted for over $1 billion in the latest Port Authority capital plan, but it’s not clear exactly how much the LaGuardia project itself will cost. The budget includes money for AirTrain improvements at both LaGuardia and Kennedy, but the LaGuardia proposal will cost at least $1 billion.

So why is this plan proceeding? Over at The Village Voice, Max Rivlin-Nader offered up his view. He writes, “Cuomo is insisting on the Willets Point connection because it’s the most expedient. By building above a train depot and having the train zip alongside the Grand Central parkway, he’ll avoid any community complaints. And, he’ll finally have a train.”

The problem, of course, is that once this train is built, we’re stuck with it. The N train will never go to Laguardia; a potential routing from Jackson Heights will fall by the wayside. Cuomo won’t be the governor forever, but New Yorkers will have to live with a Laguardia AirTrain routing that makes sense for umpires tasked with games at Citi Field, U.S. Open fans, and the Braves trying to get back to Atlanta. It will, in every sense of the word, become a transit boondoggle, used by few and scorned by many, another arrow in the quiver of the argument that we can’t build useful transit projects at reasonable costs.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Cuomo could use his political capital to push back on whoever remains from the late 1990s Astoria NIMBYs who fought against an N train extension. He could promote something useful and direct, that would benefit workers and travelers. He could leave a positive legacy on Laguardia and its accessibility. Instead, the AirTrain to nowhere inches closer to reality. It just won’t die.

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Transit Lover February 26, 2017 - 11:58 pm


Rick February 27, 2017 - 1:16 am

The whole airport obsession is stupid. People looking for a memorable airport experience go to Atlanta, not NY. There’s charm in LaGuardia’s third-worldness. The money budgeted toward its “improvement” could build out the the entire Second Avenue Subway or the Hudson rail tunnels that are vital to our functioning. Even the construction of a few new stations on existing lines — 63rd St & York, 14th St & Av C, 41st St& 10th — would improve life in NY far more than an upgraded LaGuardia.

john February 27, 2017 - 2:58 am

A vast majority of the money to replace/upgrade the terminals will come from private corporations and PFCs. Neither of those funding sources can be used for SAS or any other MTA project.

Marc Shepherd February 27, 2017 - 8:01 am

The whole airport obsession is stupid.

This sounds like a perverse example of New York exceptionalism. “Sure, we have lousy access to our airports, but who needs that? We’re New York!!!”

Even the construction of a few new stations on existing lines — 63rd St & York, 14th St & Av C, 41st St& 10th — would improve life in NY far more than an upgraded LaGuardia.

I am pretty sure all or most of those are impossible, as the tunnels at that point are not level. They are at an incline, as trains are heading towards the bottom of the river.

Bolwerk February 27, 2017 - 10:53 am

I don’t think there is anything wrong with airport transit access. And I even think LGA AirTrain opponents are exaggerating how bad it is, in a sense anyway. Yes, it’s more useful than doing nothing. Airport users have luggage, need rail access. That’s fairly basic.

But LGA AirTrain is still much less useful than a similarly costly one-seat-to-Manhattan LaGuardia subway extension. It doesn’t even seem to include the things that could arguably make some sense, like eventual completion to JFK.

mister February 27, 2017 - 1:37 pm

Why does having luggage mean that the vehicle carrying people to the airport needs to be a rail vehicle? How does operating on a fixed guideway make things automatically better than a bus with dedicated luggage storage?

The absolute most convenient way to get to the airport is not by rail.

Bolwerk February 27, 2017 - 4:27 pm

Transit airport access needs to be rail because rail has the most capacity. Proper transit access anyway.

Rail could easily be the most convenient way to the airport given our region’s traffic issues. But even if that generalization is true, rail is still the most convenient way to the airport that is still economical.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 5:52 pm

it needs to be rail, in NY metro airports or other big cities, to keep the buses out of the terminals. Buses have enough capacity. The other reason for it to be rail, in big cities anyway, is that buses get stuck in traffic. Automobiles would have to be banned for there to be enough demand, in North America anyway. Enough demand to be filling ten car LIRR trains …. you are going to be running ten car LIRR trains that are full in the peak of rush aren’t you? From Grand Central and from Penn Station that cuts frequency in half, aren’t you?

Bolwerk February 27, 2017 - 6:34 pm

Ugh, don’t involve the commuter railroads either. That’s also doing it wrong.

The best way to do it is to site a rapid transit terminal at an airport. Airports are a great place for a train terminal, precisely because an airport is spacious and not very busy for transit. Rapid transit tends to offer frequent CBD-bound service, which maximizes people who could use the airport station. Being a terminal, airport users leaving their flights get the choice of the best seating for themselves and their luggage.

In the case of LGA, the Astoria Line is almost perfect.

And, yes, I agree, this is mainly an important point for large cities. It is not so critical for a city like Syracuse, which can get by on commuter buses or maybe even transit buses.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 6:44 pm

I’ll bite.

What’s the difference between sending the J train out to JFK where most of the people are going to have to change to the Airtrain anyway because there isn’t going to be a J train station at every terminal along with an Airtrain station that does other useful things in the airport and changing from the J to Airtrain in Jamaica? Or cutting frequency to the Rockaways even more and sending the A train into the Airport.
I’m sure that strap hangers in Astoria will be thrilled to be standing while someone from the airport takes a seat and manspreads luggage all around. Ecstatic even.

Bolwerk February 27, 2017 - 7:42 pm

You’ll have to tell me. You made the scenario up. If any subway goes to JFK, it should probably be the A or E, and probably to the busiest terminal. Maybe the M would work if it could use RBB.

I’m sure that strap hangers in Astoria will be thrilled to be standing while someone from the airport takes a seat and manspreads luggage all around.

Didn’t realize Astoria was exempt from SRO. LGA AirTrain it is!

Though, seriously, airports don’t generate that much traffic, and it’s distributed throughout the day. It’s not all peak-of-the-peak. They’d be fine.

mister February 27, 2017 - 10:51 pm

Though, seriously, airports don’t generate that much traffic, and it’s distributed throughout the day. It’s not all peak-of-the-peak. They’d be fine.

This is why rail is not needed.

The LGA rail proposal is about as bad as it gets. Build an expensive piece of infrastructure for low ridership that offers worse travel times than the current solution. We’ve got the trifecta of reasons to not build.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 11:32 pm

You are the one who thinks it’s a fabulous idea defend it.
Some highlights of why the various options are a bad idea.
We both agree that the demand is never going to particularly high. I think that frequent trolleys are a good solution. Not running almost empty 10 car subway trains infrequently. Or even emptier subway trains more frequently.
Something could be squeezed in to off peak LIRR service. Either there is a reallllllly long gap in service to the airport during rush hour or …. you can tell the people whose standing room only train has been canceled so a short sorta kinda full train can go to the airport. It looked good when LIRR ridership was half of what it is today but not now. Dedicated LIRR trains are not an option. There would be one LIRR station in the airport, many of the people who took the LIRR to the airport would have to change to Airtrain anyway. I’d be willing to hazard a guess that most of them would make the compromise to have fairly frequent choices to Jamaica and change there instead of someplace on the airport. The LIRR is not a good option. No matter how hard you clap, click the heels of your ruby slippers together or wish upon a star using the Rockaway Beach Branch screws all the people who use Jamaica, there would have to be tracks elevated over the A train and since there is only going to be one station in the airport…. it would probably be Howard Beach, elevated over the A train station. You do understand that the Rockaway Branches of the A train are where the LIRR on the Rockaway branch was going…
Looking at a subway map I can tell the E train tracks don’t point at the airport. Something could probably finagled that involves abandoning the level the E train runs on to Jamaica and telling all the people who use those stations that they have to take the J train and change trains. Including the people who use the LIRR from the Island and all the buses that focus on Jamaica. Not many of them but they do it. Or Airtrain keeps running to Jamaica but has less passengers. People who are already on the E will go to the airport…. and change to Airtrain there. There is only going to be one E train station and most won’t be going to the terminal it goes to.
Clap harder, click the heels of your ruby slippers, Airtrain as it is is good enough.
…that’s only the highlights, I left things out.
… and keep in mind half of the people who tell you they wish there was a train right to the airport have some fantasy train that stops at their doorstep and the doors open to waiting skycap. And that that they are saying that because it would be rude to say “What are you NUTZ, I always take a cab”

Bolwerk February 28, 2017 - 8:55 am

@mister: “This is why rail is not needed” – by that logic, rail is never needed. Airports can still contribute pretty average levels of traffic, which is probably the most you want at an outlying station.

@Adirondacker12800: AFAIC, the only way to make JFK subway access worth bothering with now is if it’s part of another project that closes other transit gaps. Sure, an extended E Train with intermediate stops could make sense. Then the airport is automatically a good place to terminate the E.

Adirondacker12800 February 28, 2017 - 12:25 pm

So all of the people who use the bus to get to Downtown Jamaica to change to E to get to and from work and all of the people who change from the LIRR to get to and from work and all of the people who use the E to get to or from Downtown Jamaica, Downtown Jamaica is a destination in itself … have to use the J instead of E so that a few people don’t have to change to Airtrain, The ones that happen to be using the terminal the E train goes to. Okay. The rest of the people who are going to or coming from other terminals still have to use Airtrain to get to the E. Make mass transit worse for bus riders and LIRR riders so a few solons from Manhattan don’t have to get on that filthy Airtrain! Whoopeee! it will make those few stops on the J a lot busier.

Bolwerk February 28, 2017 - 1:05 pm

“Oh no, more options!”

That entire muddled paragraph doesn’t name a single potential problem, theoretical or practical. AirTrain is overall a good system and shouldn’t go anywhere.

Adirondacker12800 February 28, 2017 - 1:15 pm

It’s less options for the people who use the E train to do something other than go to the airport. So that a few of them can avoid an Airtrain ride and the rest of them have a slightly shorter one.

Adirondacker12800 February 28, 2017 - 1:45 pm

You wanna give airport riders, who you admit will never generate much demand, more options, you ignored the very obvious option to send all of the F trains to the airport too! All of the people on the local branch to the other side of downtown Jamaica can get on a shuttle train! Even more frequent almost empty trains going to the airport where most of the people will still have to get on Airtrain! At least they won’t have to do it… in Jamaica… too bad there isn’t a disparing-sneer font. But they will be able to get trains to the airport along 8th Ave. in Manhattan and 6th Ave! Put it on the west side of the airport and there could be a short track to the A train and service to the Rockaways could turn into a all shuttle all the time service too!

Bolwerk February 28, 2017 - 2:24 pm

How does extending one line to the airport take away any other option, including catching the E in Jamaica? Nobody has proposed demolishing AirTrain.

Anyway, who said I want anything? I clearly said no extension to JFK at this point makes sense without it being part of another project that turns the airport into a convenient terminal landing for trains.

…airport riders, who you admit will never generate much demand…

OK, Dr. Gish. I’m not going to correct every deliberate mischaracterization you make. But I think I said that about LGA. It’s true of JFK too, but JFK is considerably bigger than LGA.

Also, there is no need for to “admit” it. I regard it as a good thing.

Adirondacker12800 February 28, 2017 - 9:10 pm

Because geography is a bitch and it seems you don’t understand that the E train tracks, the J tracks and the LIRR track don’t point at the airport. And it is unfortunate that you don’t want to understand that. I tried to keep it focused and simple. I’m not going to spend waste anymore time with someone who is choosing to be deliberately stupid or is just naturally stupid. Geography is a bitch.

Bolwerk March 1, 2017 - 7:19 am

If that is what you meant, why didn’t you just say so? You pissed away several boring paragraphs basically not emphasizing its importance.

Of course, you seem very, very wrong. Did you initiate The Gallop to cover that up? Seems to me either the J or E could be extended straight east along the LIRR route for most of a mile before gently turning toward the airport.

I just don’t see why anyone would bother unless you get at least some intermediate stations in South Jamaica.

mister March 1, 2017 - 9:52 pm


Yes, your point about ridership is true, but in this case, the lack of high ridership here means that there is no reason to build a rail link that is also slower than the current surface transit.

Bolwerk March 2, 2017 - 8:36 am

Speed isn’t very important here, at least as long as it’s not significantly slower than the surface transit (which is really unlikely). It needs to be easier to use for people going to the airport.

mister March 2, 2017 - 10:15 am

I think a lot of people would disagree with that assessment.

Bolwerk March 2, 2017 - 10:51 am

I’m sorry the universe doesn’t work the way they think it should.

mister March 2, 2017 - 1:54 pm

Haha, no, your opinion isn’t automatically correct while everyone else’s is wrong.

Bolwerk March 2, 2017 - 2:12 pm

I didn’t say that it did. But then, I’m not the one projecting my opinion onto a nebulous “lot of people.” I’m sure all those people have anuses too.

mister March 2, 2017 - 3:17 pm

Who is projecting their opinion? The fact that there are two branches of the JFK airtrain makes it pretty clear that, at the very least, someone thought trip speed was important. There’s lots of other factors that suggest people care about this too, but then again, “I’m sorry the universe doesn’t work the way [you] think it should.”

Bolwerk March 2, 2017 - 11:03 pm

You obviously are, in projecting your opinion onto (unnamed) others. In any case, I never completely discounted speed, but in a comparison like this it’s clearly pretty secondary to reliability and convenience. Nobody will care if the bus schedule is a few minutes faster than a train schedule, and most will never know. People want to get from A to B, probably with minimal time spent hauling baggage, using stairs, and going through turnstiles.

JFK AirTrain is a very different comparison. It provides different routing options to JFK (very wisely, IMHO). That offers some redundancy for Midtown travel, but also doubles the geographic catchment for transit users who can feed AirTrain. I’d probably dispute that it was built for speed, but Jamaica and Howard Beach options compare two very different trips on the same mode, not two ways to make the same trip using different modes. And even then, some west side riders might be fairly indifferent between Howard Beach and Jamaica.

AG March 4, 2017 - 10:53 am

I agree totally with your second paragraph… The Airtrain at JFK going to both Howard Beach and Jamaica makes it much more useful. That’s why this LGA one should got to Woodside. It shouldn’t be “just” about getting into and out of Manhattan – but to as much of the rest of the region as possible as well. The only hope can be that another extension will be made to Woodside in the future.

mister March 3, 2017 - 8:09 am

You obviously are, in projecting your opinion onto (unnamed) others.

In Ben’s original article on this subject, he linked to a takedown written by another blogger where the primary reason for excoriating the project was trip speed. In both that post, and this one, there are many comments that agree with this assertion. So at the very least, trip speed matters to Ben, Yonah, and a number of others here.

In fact, the very nature of air travel (having an absolute time when you must be there) means that trip speed to the airport is often (though not always) a critical factor. If I’m a family of 4 headed off for a vacation, probably not. If I’m taking a short work trip, then it’s probably a major factor. But all of this highlights a critical point about this whole exercise:

People want to get from A to B, probably with minimal time spent hauling baggage, using stairs, and going through turnstiles.

Even the most optimal route of an LGA Airtrain will NEVER be the best way to meet this demand. For the family of 4 above, putting all of your luggage onto a subway, riding a train to a transfer station, and then switching to the Airtrain is always going to be less convenient than taking a private vehicle. If you’re traveling by yourself, it’s far more convenient to take something like the “Airporter” bus service, which will require no stairs, and no transfer. Even taking something like the M60 means no stairs to climb.

The train option is better than private motoring because of cost, and better than the bus because of speed. When a proposal to build an expensive piece of rail infrastructure cannot guarantee that reason #2 will be met, then you have to question the merit of such a proposal.

Bolwerk March 3, 2017 - 10:01 am

I agree with Freemark, in fact. The speed penalty is pointless. I’m firmly in the “extend the Astoria Line” camp. But the cold, brutish, existential reality of actually putting the LGA AirTrain into service is a few minutes is not going to matter to the user. They won’t ever know. They won’t know what they’re missing, they won’t know a bus could maybe be faster, just as many here probably don’t remember the days before the timers installed in the wake of the Union Square accident.

…trip speed to the airport is often (though not always) a critical factor.

Of all transit trips, speed to the airport matters least. Few people fly on a whim, and most can plan their trips to the airport days or weeks ahead of time. Presumably any that can afford to fly on a whim can afford a cab if they need speed demon service.

Even the most optimal route of an LGA Airtrain will NEVER be the best way to meet this demand.

You keep responding to me as if I like the LGA AirTain. I don’t. And the same can be said of any bus option. That’s why not extending the Astoria Line is kind of a headscratcher.

mister March 3, 2017 - 11:02 pm

But the cold, brutish, existential reality of actually putting the LGA AirTrain into service is a few minutes is not going to matter to the user. They won’t ever know. They won’t know what they’re missing, they won’t know a bus could maybe be faster…

The thing is, much like JFK, I don’t think bus service completely disappears from LGA. The M60 likely still operates, which means that Google Maps will be showing faster trips on the bus than the train.

Of all transit trips, speed to the airport matters least. Few people fly on a whim, and most can plan their trips to the airport days or weeks ahead of time.

I don’t think anyone wants a trip to take longer, no matter how much time they have in advance to plan said trip. I know that weeks from now, I will be getting up everyday in the week and traveling to work. That doesn’t mean that I am just going to accept it being slower unnecessarily.

You keep responding to me as if I like the LGA AirTain. I don’t. And the same can be said of any bus option.

I’m not a fan of the bus option either, but it’s markedly better than the proposal to build an expensive train that will take longer. That’s the point that we seem to disagree on, and it’s the central point of Yonah Freemark’s article, even though you said you agree with him.

Bolwerk March 4, 2017 - 10:45 am

I certainly don’t see bus service to LGA disappearing. The route that exists will still make no matter what else is built. It’s presentations of buses as an alternative to rail that don’t make sense. It cannot be ignored that even a shitty AirTrain has distinct advantages over buses, mostly coming down to transfer convenience and capacity.

Freemark noted a minor disparity in scheduled trip times favoring the bus. That cannot be justified on practical grounds, but it’s not going to change many people’s behavior. I read the article months ago, but don’t remember him claiming it would. (Maybe I remember wrong, but I think Freemark was a proponent of a different AirTrain routing, which I still think makes less sense than the Astoria option.)

mister March 6, 2017 - 11:53 am

A transfer can be made conveniently to a bus, at a fraction of the cost of this AirTrain. And you mentioned above that capacity is not really an issue, because airports generate relatively low ridership.

But I think you’re absolutely right that the best option here is extending the Astoria line. The next best option would be routing an AIRtrain down to Roosevelt Ave/Jackson Heights. But neither of those proposals are on the table here, regrettably.

Adirondacker12800 March 6, 2017 - 2:25 pm

The bus can be cheaper. Most of the time it doesn’t take much longer. But the traffic reports on the radio aren’t going be reporting some snafu at the terminal…. and they are 20 minutes out of date. If I’m spending hundreds of dollars to take a trip on a airplane and I haven’t decided to spring for cab or even a shared van, knowing that I’m not going to get stuck in traffic is worth the few extra bucks. … and there are some very frugal people who will leave an hour earlier to save 3 bucks. Good for them! There aren’t many of them.

Bolwerk March 7, 2017 - 4:21 pm

A transfer to a bus works if not too many people use it. Dumping a lot of people with space-hungry baggage from a big vehicle and forcing them onto a small vehicle is not a particularly good idea.

Adirondacker12800 March 7, 2017 - 5:19 pm

Well if you cancel some standing room only rush hour LIRR trains and spend a lot of money to send those trains down the abandoned Rockaway Beach Branch and do it cheap by abandoning all A train service out there and send the E trains to a different Airtrain station in the airport and tell all the people who use the E train to the nether ends that they can just suck up using the J as shuttle to get to the E and still send Airtrain to Jamaica anyway because you didn’t want to tell people who aren’t Very Important Airline Passengers that they would have to use the J as a shuttle to the E and most of them would have to transfer to Airtrain anyway because the E only goes to one terminal and it’s not the one they want. …. you might be able to scare a few busloads per hour on each of the three ways to get to the airport.

AG February 27, 2017 - 10:52 pm

Well no I disagree about not involving the commuter railroads. Long Island’s traffic is terrible. The problem with this is that it only connects to the Port Washington Line. If it connected to all the LIRR lines that would be a good thing. In the same way a person with more bags would more likely take LIRR out of Penn and soon Grand Central rather than the subway. An Airtrain isn’t a terrible idea – it’s just that this is the wrong location. Woodside would be a better idea. It would connect with more subway lines and all the LIRR (except the Port Washington ironically).

BronxSteve February 27, 2017 - 11:32 pm

It is possible to build a simple wye in Queens to connect trains from Jamaica to the PW branch towards Willets.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 11:42 pm

Port Washington branch trains stop in Woodside, it’s how people on the Island get to Citifield. The subway line that serves Willets Point is the same one that serves Woodside.

AG February 28, 2017 - 7:33 am

?? Most people on the Island??? For most people it would be far better to drive to Citifield than drive up to the Port Washington Branch. It serves a small section of Nassau. Surely not most people. At Woodside Airtrain would access more lines going bother directions to/from both future Manhattan terminals. It would also access more subway lines. I’m sure it’s the more expensive option – but it would also prove to be much much more useful. A person living in Long Beach who has a PM flight at a peak hours would be much more likely to us the service and not have to fight Nassau and Queens country traffic to get to LGA. That person would also be going against the traffic since the trains coming out from Manhattan would be more crowded. Transit should be about giving people the most options. Or the best bang for the buck.

Bolwerk February 28, 2017 - 9:01 am

That’s not what I meant. I meant don’t extend a commuter line to the airport to meet an urban transit need. There is no cost-effective way to do it, and the frequencies are awful.

By all means, offer a transfer to a commuter rail service if one is convenient. Though in the best-case scenario, an Astoria extension, one wouldn’t be.

AG March 1, 2017 - 12:08 am

Ok – then I would agree.

AG February 27, 2017 - 10:55 pm

The same reason bus ridership has been dipping for years while the subway and commuter rail riders were going up up up until last year. Buses get stuck in traffic and trains don’t.

mister February 28, 2017 - 7:55 am

So create a dedicated bus lane. Building a train that goes out of the way means that the bus that gets stuck in traffic could probably break even with most train trips. Buses that don’t get stuck in traffic will beat train trips.

AG February 28, 2017 - 1:50 pm

Dedicated bus lane where? Granted – Willets Point is the wrong place to put an Airtrain – but a study just came out showing NYC has the 2nd worst congestion to LA (DC and Atlanta sometimes show up)… I mean getting from Harlem to LGA can be a disaster at certain times of the day when driving. This project again is not maximized at Willets – but you would be VERY hard pressed to say a train doesn’t beat a bus on NYC streets – except after 9 pm to 6 am…

Adirondacker12800 February 28, 2017 - 6:05 pm

One has to keep one’s options open. I had to have very very good reasons to use LGA or JFK, when I lived a short reasonably priced cab ride to Newark. More than once the plan was to do both directions of the trip during the mid afternoon lull, when all the options are reasonable. The return flight was delayed and the best option was the bus that doesn’t get on the highway to get to the subway. ( Twas a long time ago before Airtrain ) My other options involved getting stuck in rush hour traffic or sitting an airport bar for a few hours until things thinned out. . . there are very pleasant very helpful people at the ground transportation desk who will help your explore options. And the Port Authority website. I’m going to assume you have access to the internet and know how to use since you posting here.

mister March 1, 2017 - 10:14 pm

This is the problem here though: Even with bad traffic, in your Harlem scenario, would taking the subway to Willets and then getting on an Airtrain be faster than the M60? From Madison Ave and 116th to LGA is pegged at as low as 40 minutes using Google Maps suggested route of taking the 6 to the M60. On the other hand, the trip using the 6 to the 7 to Willets Point alone takes 56 minutes, plus transfer time and a jaunt on the airtrain. So, potentially, the proposal here is to spend $2 billion so that the guaranteed trip is over an hour, as opposed to having a bus that will take this long only when there is bad traffic.

AG March 1, 2017 - 11:55 pm

No transit mode is ever going to satisfy everything. Almost everyone knows that Willets Point is not the right place – but it still doesn’t negate that for most people in a crowded city – a train will he faster than a bus.

lawhawk February 28, 2017 - 9:59 am

Agreed that there’s need for airport transit access, but one that makes rational sense for the number of people who use it and after a proper cost/benefit analysis. The routing Cuomo suggests would deliver the least bang for the buck, while the route that Ben and others have suggested by extending the N from Jackson Heights would be more useful and better integrated with the local communities whose residents actually work at the airport.

With limited funds, a transit project to the airports needs to be well thought out and the Willets Point route seems predicated entirely on getting it done quickly because there’s no community to consult – it’s along a highway ROW.

Bolwerk February 28, 2017 - 1:49 pm

I’m not sure how you read “it’s more useful than doing nothing” as an endorsement of the project.

I more or less agree with Ben. It’s a mutilation of future transit potential. Maybe a deliberate one.

Avi February 27, 2017 - 11:36 am

41st and 10th is level. The MTA engineers knew excluding a station was stupid. They weren’t given any funds to build a station, but they made sure a station COULD be built in the future. The other two are old tracks and likely have level issues.

Marc Shepherd February 27, 2017 - 11:48 am

Sorry…yes, I misread it. 41st and Tenth is level and buildable. The other two are not.

BruceNY February 27, 2017 - 1:25 pm

If the Port Authority builds a new bus terminal west of the current facility then completing a station at 41st & 10th becomes imperative.

As for 63rd & York, I’m not so sure. The tracks between Roosevelt Island and Lexington are pretty level. The uphill climb is after Lexington heading towards 57th. But York is a stone’s throw away from Roosevelt Island so placing another stop here is impractical.

Tim February 27, 2017 - 2:23 pm

Yes, but there’s a massive body of water there separating the two stops.

I’d never considered a York/63 stop, but thinking about it (I used to live @ 74/York), it makes mounds of sense. The F lines run next to each other and not above each other at that point, and there’s a LOT of jobs in that area, due to hospitals. It’d actually be a great infill candidate.

Fool February 27, 2017 - 8:23 am

The reason airport connections get finding in excesses of their utility is it is the area of transit in which the politically connected are forced to use public transit with alternatives available only to a select few.

Benjamin Kabak February 27, 2017 - 10:44 am

There’s no charm in LGA’s third-worldness. We don’t need to have decrepit outdated infrastructure; it’s a political choice (exacerbated by cost problems).

jb diGriz February 27, 2017 - 12:35 pm

Hmm, I’d have to disagree on that – at least as it pertains to the Marine Terminal. Love that place. It drips with WPA goodness. Feels like an 80s bus depot in St Louis with an amazing mural. You can’t buy that kind of contrast anymore.

AMH February 27, 2017 - 3:08 pm

Absolutely agree, the MAT is a landmark and must be preserved.

NattyB February 27, 2017 - 12:35 pm

what discourages me the most is just how much of a coward Cuomo is. Yes, you’ll get some pushback from Astoria residents. You’re also the relatively popular governor of NYS with an economy that’s in decent shape.

Just expend the slightest bit of political capital, and it’d totally work. The city would support it. It wouldn’t be too expensive. It’s such an obvious no-brainer. And unlike Hells Kitchen, the locality of which can rightfully say, they’d be just fine without a gigantic Bus Terminal — extending the N to LGA, while disrupting the sunlight a little, would greatly enhance the mobility of the locals, thus blunting any possible NIMBY momentum.

Long and Short. Cuomo sucks. No one can hold him account. And we all suffer for it. And yet, we’ll all be forced to rally around him in 2020 for POTUS.

Spendmore Wastemor February 27, 2017 - 2:46 pm

This is the case for nearly everyone who got their fame or office because Daddy was somebody, but we elect them. This illustrates why Democracy was considered a disaster, not a goal in 1789.

Bolwerk February 27, 2017 - 4:46 pm

Even assuming the Cuomobot’s programming is ready and it tries to run in 2020, it’s up against probably as many Dems as there were GOP candidates in 2016. Of that number, maybe up to two (Sanders and Warren) could be ideologically distinguished from the rest and have an above-average chance at going somewhere (and they may neutralize each other, or split the “Bernie Bro” base). I suppose non-entities like Webb might come in for some debates, but overall most of the rest will be fairly indistinguishable from Cuomo.

Cuomo is low-energy and establishment as hell, and 2020 Dems and Americans will want red meat. Fuck, Booker has a better shot on charm alone. O’Malley is arguably more accomplished, though not much less milquetoast. Even Hillary Clinton could probably emit some pheromone that will keep Cuomo away if she wanted.

I won’t say impossible, but Cuomo’s odds are remote.

Spendmore Wastemor February 28, 2017 - 1:21 am

If they run Jim Webb, they’ll
A. Drive away the spoiled child crowd and
B. Win

Bolwerk February 28, 2017 - 9:10 am

A. But you weren’t going to vote Dem anyway, were you?

B. The only way someone like Webb wins is on sufferance. That’s the kind of person you nominate to make the base of either party stay home. Like, well, Hillary, except maybe worse since there is at least a significant portion of the Democratic Party that agrees with Hillary ideologically. I don’t even know what you call Webb. A paleocon?

MDC March 2, 2017 - 8:32 pm

Jim Webb is himself a spoiled child.

AG February 27, 2017 - 10:48 pm

Private companies are rebuilding LGA with the concession to receive the money it generates. This is not from the MTA nor the PA’s capital plan…

meesalikeu February 27, 2017 - 1:57 am

there is an upside, but its future oriented. a further extension to jamaica someday would connect both airports and provide outer-borough crosstown rail service.

JJJ February 27, 2017 - 12:52 pm

Im sure the folks at the outer-borough are itching to pay a $10 one way ticket which is separate from their MTA monthly

Marc Shepherd February 27, 2017 - 7:56 am

While it shouldn’t have been canceled, the ARC Tunnel featured a dead-end terminal half a mile beneath Macy’s…

I have to disagree with you there. At most one new Hudson River rail crossing is going to be built in our lifetimes. Building that one would have precluded Gateway, which is a far better design.

…and it was topped by only the ongoing money pit that is East Side Access, a dead-end terminal half a mile beneath Grand Central.

You need to separate costs from merits, because excessive costs are a constant feature of all transit projects in this region, be they good or bad.

The LGA Airtrain is a bad project even if we could have it for free. ESA has been far too expensive, but no one denies its importance. Yeah, Grand Central Terminal is a dead end, but it has always been. ESA doesn’t rectify that, but it doesn’t make it worse either.

Phantom February 27, 2017 - 9:07 am

Why is Grand Central a dead end?

Could you not some day have trains that would run from Jamaica via GCT to Westchester ( not saying that this is a good idea, but you could one day do that if the technical issues were taken care of ? )

Marc Shepherd February 27, 2017 - 10:18 am

Grand Central is a dead end, because it served the purposes of the railroad company that designed it. Like most railroads in this country, it was built to go where people wanted to go 100-odd years ago, not where they want to go today.

Could you not some day have trains that would run from Jamaica via GCT to Westchester ( not saying that this is a good idea, but you could one day do that if the technical issues were taken care of ? )

Not believably. East Side Access trains will go into GCT from the north, headed south, and into a stub-end terminal below GCT’s current lower level, with no track connections to Metro-North. Anyhow, Westchester is in the opposite direction.

Passengers who desire to go that way could ride the escalators one or two levels upstairs, and then catch a Metro-North train.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 11:51 am

When Grand Central was built not a whole lot of people wanted to go there and the consensus was that it was kind of silly to put it so far away from everything.

Benjamin Kabak February 27, 2017 - 10:47 am

As Marc noted, ESA is essentially a second different terminal underneath the current Grand Central. Despite available track space, turf battles between LIRR and Metro-North during planning ensured that there is no direct track access from the new tunnels to the old. So no Westchester-Long Island through-running now or ever. It is incredibly short-sighted.

Bolwerk February 27, 2017 - 11:03 am

Is that really much of a loss? If you want Westchester-LI service, which could make sense, why not just skip going to Manhattan? All that’s missing is a cross-Bronx railroad link to the Harlem and Hudson lines. New Haven may already be feasible.

Both LI and the northern burbs have the population and job density to support some commuter rail to each other. If NYC weren’t there, this would be considered a no-brainer.

Plus the problem with GCT/ESA isn’t quite analogous to Penn, where services from both directions are terminating.

Marc Shepherd February 27, 2017 - 11:24 am

It isn’t really THAT much of a loss. I have never heard of a significant demand for a one-seat ride from Westchester to L.I.

Sure, if you built it, it would get used. But in a ranking of transit needs from first to last, I doubt it would make the top ten, and many of those ranked higher are nowhere near getting started.

Even if EAS had connected to the existing Metro-North tracks, it would have headed south into GCT, not north into Westchester. Getting Long Islanders to Westchester is not the problem that EAS was built to solve.

Bolwerk February 27, 2017 - 12:12 pm

There is also the back way through Penn and up the Hudson River. This will certainly be feasible when ESA is done, no building required (though trainsets compatible with both networks will be needed).

Though the most valuable LI-Westchester trip would probably be up the Harlem Line, and there is no way to do that directly right now.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 12:36 pm

Not that any of the agencies has stuff laying around that is available to do it. They have to go out and buy more stuff to increase the size of the fleet. If they are going out and buying new stuff there are a lot of options. . . there is very very long thread on Railroad.net that explores them.

Bolwerk February 27, 2017 - 4:28 pm

Perhaps. I assume most current equipment would have to be altered or replaced to do anything of the sort anyway.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 6:03 pm

Most current equipment is being used too hard to go wandering off to a new route. It’s not like they have 15 trains sitting in a yard somewhere not being used. They have to buy more stuff.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 12:44 pm

Meh. Lets say you add a local between Croton and .. Far Rockaway… via the Hell Gate Bridge. Anybody who is not on that particular line has to change trains anyway. Meh.
Do something clever like pair up the Hudson line with the Far Rockaway branch and the Harlem line with the Port Jefferson, unless you want to run almost empty trains over the bridge, it cuts frequency and everybody is changing trains. Meh.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 11:56 am

When the tunnel was planned back in the 60s the LIRR had just been taken over by the state and the New York Central was desperately trying to find ways to make money. Including tearing down the headhouse of Grand Central…. like the PRR had done to their station. The plan back in the 60s was a separate terminal on 48th and Third. If it had been technically feasible to turn over the lower level ( or the upper level ) to the state who would be paying rent to the New York Central, the New York Central would have jumped at the chance. And the state would have too because it would be cheaper than tearing down a block of the East Side at 48th and Third.
….. Metro North can’t have a turf war with someone in 1969 if they don’t get formed until 1983.

mister February 27, 2017 - 12:21 pm

The turf war occurred much, MUCH later than the time period you are mentioning. When the current ESA was actually planned, using the lower level loop was actually an option, but it wasn’t selected.

What happened back in the 60s has no bearing on what is being built today.

Adirondacker12800 March 1, 2017 - 2:01 pm

Alternatives analysises examine all sorts of options so they can document that yes it’s not technically feasible and here are the reasons why. I want to see the report. I find it realllly reallllly realllly hard to imagine that Metro North, a subsidiary the MTA had a vigorous turf war with the LIRR, a subsidiary of the MTA without the head of the MTA knocking some heads together or even having the governor and mayor get involved. Especially when someone whispered that it was going to save billions and billions of dollars. That would have been a really spectacular story arc in the newspapers and TV. I find it really really hard to believe that railfans are better at finding a solution than the architects and civil engineers and tunneling specialist who use the project as THE major project on their resume didn’t come up with. That the hundreds of people who have experience and degrees who were involved didn’t come up with it. Really hard to believe that. I want to see the report that documents the rational reasons why they did it.
… and these two agencies who are supposedly at each other’s throats, Metro North, without much drama and committing storing cars in the Bronx instead in Grand Central, gave up track space. I find it reallllly hard to believe that it was a turf war. Really reallly hard.

BronxSteve March 1, 2017 - 3:35 pm

There was no turf war. The analysis was simple. The cost of building a track connection in bedrock from one level to another was not worth the small benefit of ultimate through-routing of trains with different voltages and third rail systems far into the future.

Adirondacker12800 March 1, 2017 - 3:59 pm

I don’t think the fantasy plan that was quashed by the evil cabal of Metro North and the LIRR’s turf war involves through running trains. It’s something like the LIRR takes over the lower the level and Metro North restricts itself to the upper level. There was no turf war, it requires too many fantastical things to occur.

mister March 1, 2017 - 10:59 pm

No, as the Irum documents I linked in another comment point out, the proposal gave LIRR only the upper level loop track and 3 platforms served by 5 tracks. Incidentally, there would have been a track connection, but not to be used for regular service.

Adirondacker12800 March 1, 2017 - 11:13 pm

Without seeing three dimensional maps of Grand Central – that part of Midtown would be even better – I see a bit of problem of putting the trains near the surface in the Park Avenue tunnel on the lower level and the trains deep in the 63rd Street tunnel on the upper level. Just maybe a bit. I’d really need to see 3-D maps but suspect that presents challenges.

mister March 2, 2017 - 8:15 am

Inability to construct the tunnels was never listed as a reason not to build the ULLA. In fact, the Delcan report issued highlighted how the process would have been handled. The bigger challenge would have been the MNRR throat to the terminal being reduced to 7 tracks during construction.

mister March 1, 2017 - 10:55 pm

Well, I have worked as an architect and construction manager for the MTA in the past, so now you can take my word for it 🙂

You’d be surprised at how turf wars between agencies can be. Even within NYCT, I recall departments getting into squabbles with one another and driving project costs up significantly over things as inane as trash rooms.

That said, I cannot speak to the turf wars Ben mentions. I can point to a number of documents that do exist explaining the Upper Level Loop Alternative (ULLA) because Irum made a huge case for going this route, and now in hindsight, it seems downright prescient. At the time, Irum said that it would save up to $2 billion and save time on the schedule’s then completion date of 2012. Considering how much the schedule and cost have slipped, it’s pretty clear that the ULLA, with it’s substantially smaller Manhattan construction scope, would have fared much better than what is actually being built.

You should read a lot of the documents they published regarding this proposal. Specifically, a good one is the response to MTACC’s letter on why the ULLA was not selected. Some of MTACC’s listed reasons are pretty much nonsense. For example, the loop track would become a single point of failure if a train stalled on it. While this is true, it’s effectively the same condition if a train stalled anywhere between Sunnyside and GCT under the current proposal.

In addition I frequently chuckle at the armchair quarterbacks who think they know more than the professionals, but I think looking at reports produced by professionals with a critical eye is still important. Sam Schwartz’s firm was paid to produce a study that says that the BQX is a good project. The Port Authority’s professionals said it was a good idea to spend 4 billion on a terminal for PATH at the World Trade Center. Some firm will produce a report for Governor Cuomo saying that the LGA proposal is a great idea. The result is determined by non planners/engineers and then they are tasked with writing a report supporting the conclusion.

Adirondacker12800 March 1, 2017 - 11:09 pm

they should have let Dagny Taggart do it.
Who besides the President does anything for IRUM. Apparently he is the press secretary. And chairs the meetings ….. because he is the only one there….

Avi February 27, 2017 - 11:33 am

No, they’re different stations/tunnels. There is no connection between the MNR upper GCT and the new LIRR lower GCT.

AG February 27, 2017 - 11:44 pm

Strange because whenever I pass through and see the construction barricades inside (one upstairs and one downstairs) they advertise that those will be the connections to the LIRR terminal below…

Roy March 1, 2017 - 12:57 pm

I think the previous poster meant there’l be no rail connection between MNRR and LIRR at GCT. There will indeed be connections for the ESA passengers to the rest of the terminal.

(And then the 4/5/6 will get even more hellish.)

Webster February 27, 2017 - 5:05 pm

Or, rather, why couldn’t ESA and what eventually is to become “Gateway” – and potentially, “West Side Access” – not have been planned in conjunction so as to allow an eventual connection between GCT and Penn?

Could have meant complete redundancy of both Hudson/East River crossings (2×2), and opened up a bit of capacity – particularly if NJT could then through-run to GCT and turn trains around at Sunnyside (although, I know very little about Sunnyside, so maybe that’s impractical); or else, make necessary upgrades to LIRR and just through-run some/most NJT/LIRR trains without having to turn around in the City.

Ralfff February 27, 2017 - 12:08 pm

I absolutely deny the importance of digging a redundant layer of platforms under the existing one, which is what’s taking all the time and money, apparently. As Ryan has pointed out on these boards, the cost to complete now exceeds the total cost of the project when announced. It’s not at all clear that this bad project will ever be completed! Also, most of all, it is a gigantic subsidy to Long Island commuters and the same Long Island railroad that city and upstate taxpayers are forced to subsidize to a ridiculous degree already, with no changes or improvements in sight. These include people in the top 10% of income already, whose representatives are happy to help screw over city taxpayers time and again.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 12:53 pm

To keep this short and simple, anybody who lives north of Poughkeepsie is sucking great big subsidies from people downstate and should SFTU when it comes to where the state spends it’s money.
The State Treasurer has detailed reports. People upstate aren’t subsidizing anyone.

Ralfff February 27, 2017 - 4:03 pm

As a native New York City-er, I consider everything north of the Bronx “upstate” and I don’t mean that pejoratively. But yeah, lots of areas of the state are on the dole.

Phantom February 27, 2017 - 7:57 am

Welcome back!

I hate the idea of the ” Mets Airtrain ” also.


Interesting idea.

Irwin Gratz February 27, 2017 - 8:57 am

What about an Airtrain running the other direction down the GCP to connect with the Astoria line at Astoria Boulevard station? Not as smooth as “N” extension, but avoids “NIMBY” opposition.

BruceNY February 27, 2017 - 1:48 pm


BronxSteve February 27, 2017 - 2:14 pm

Tell me how you will get around or through the Hell Gate line viaduct that crosses the Grand Central Pkwy at 43rd St.

Brooklynite February 27, 2017 - 6:51 pm

There appears to be space to put one track on each side of the expressway, between the bridge pier and the service road.

Larry Littlefield February 27, 2017 - 9:11 am

How about this. We won’t object to Cuomo’s LGA Airtrain if it runs down to Jamaica like we were promised, and connects to the existing Airtrain for a through run. And decent headways are restored.

Benjamin Kabak February 27, 2017 - 10:51 am

Through-running AirTrains is relatively useless. An exceedingly small number of travelers are connecting in NYC via two different airports. An LGA AirTrain to Jamaica would be more useful since Jamaica is a huge LIRR station with frequent service.

Larry Littlefield February 27, 2017 - 11:40 am

The number of connecting travelers is not zero, and Cuomo’s proposed fourth lane notwithstanding a bus ride on the Van Wyck (truck ride for luggage) is no one’s idea of a reliable trip.

More importantly, two separate Airtrain’s means to separate train storage and maintenance facilities. At LaGuardia, where would it go? It would probably cost more than extending the Airtrain down to Jamaica.

Ralfff February 27, 2017 - 12:09 pm

Agreed. It’s the only way to salvage any value out of this idiotic project.

Bolwerk February 27, 2017 - 12:45 pm

It would be very cool if it could be part of a luggage transferring scheme between LaGuardia and JFK. But that’d be too practical.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 1:53 pm

Making it easier for people from Chicago to change planes in New York so they can get a lower fare to Boston really isn’t a priority. Or Detroit to Richmond or London to Pittsburgh. Or people on the thrice weekly flight to and from Obscuristan to some secondary airport in the Northeast….

Larry Littlefield February 27, 2017 - 2:03 pm

Such as international travelers to Syracuse, Rochester or Buffalo?

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 2:21 pm

Airline service patterns are ever shifting. This may change by later this afternoon, It may have because I’m trusting lists of destinations not airline reservation system info.

If you are in Syracuse just take the direct flight to JFK. Or Newark. If you goal is to get someplace outside of the Northeast just change planes in Chicago, or Minneapolis or Charlotte or Atlanta. Or Detroit or Philadelphia or…

I’m not gonna check the other airports. I do check how to get from Albany to other places now and then. I pick things like changing planes in Chicago or Charlotte or Detriot versus changing planes in New York.

Again I haven’t checked in a while and I’m not going to. The last time I looked the cheap flights from Albany to Washington DC involve Dulles or BWI and changing planes in places like Detroit or Charlotte with a 90 minute layover. The slow creaky train is faster. So is driving. With all my choices if I was offered an option to fly into LGA and use Airtrain to get to JFK, if the airline reservations systems even offered, so I can fly out…. the flight would have to be free…. and the airline reservations systems would do something like allocate a minimum of three hours to that.

…. it’s a fantasy that almost no one use…. and it’s not a priority for metro New York to enable more cheap flights between places not New York.

Larry Littlefield February 27, 2017 - 3:42 pm

“It’s a fantasy that almost no one use.”

I’ve met people who’ve done it. Foreign student friends of my daughters going to school upstate.

And the Port Authority operates (or at least used to operate) a bus between the airports for a reason.

But that isn’t the important goal. The important goal is to accommodate transfers at Jamaica as well as Flushing. The second goal, once you get to Jamaica, is to avoid the second maintenance and storage facility.

Help for the travelers who “don’t matter” or exist are a side benefit.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 4:00 pm

There are some. I’ve been in Newark when the flight is overbooked and a masochist takes the offer to schlep to LGA or JFK for an alternate flight. It does happen. There aren’t a lot of them and making flights from Pittsburgh to Boston cheaper is a really low priority for anyone in New York. Or saving a few bucks for someone who spend a lot of money to fly in from Obscuristan. That they will be able to do if Airtrain goes to Jamaica, for the rest of the LIRR and the E and J and all the buses, is a minor side benefit. Not something to consider much. Fly in from Albany and use the Airtrain to make my connecting flight? It would have to be free. I can change planes across the concourse in other airports.

Larry Littlefield February 28, 2017 - 12:11 pm

Does Air Iceland fly to Albany? There are a host of international carriers at JFK that only serve a few U.S. airports, or one. Sometimes you can change to a different carrier at JFK, and sometimes you can’t.


Adirondacker12800 February 28, 2017 - 12:57 pm

They can take the flight to JFK and take a much shorter Airtrain ride. There are other hub airports in the country that offer good or better service from Albany. Where I don’t have to take a long walk from the gates, leave the secure side, get on a half hour train ride, go through security again and take another long walk. Something involving transferring between LaGuardia and JFK would have to be free.

Ray Cev February 27, 2017 - 9:47 am

The N / W is at capacity. Astoria is only seeing larger developments RIGHT NOW that will push capacity problems beyond their limit. Even if the route was extended with a 3 track terminal, it would not open more slots in the 60th street tube for more trains. So forget the nimbys – N extension wouldn’t work.

The 7 train is at capacity. Where are all of these people carrying luggage supposed to fit on these trains? There will be no serious capacity expansions on the 7 to absorb current (rising) ridership demands, let alone airport travelers.

LGA needs an entire new transit route from Manhattan but Cuomo continues to try give us breadcrumbs as tell us it’s a thanksgiving feast.

Eric March 1, 2017 - 11:36 am

“The N / W is at capacity.”

Incorrect. It runs about every 4 minutes in the peak hour. The only reason it can’t run every 2 minutes is because it shares the 60th St tunnels with the R which is also about every 4 minutes. Currently the R doesn’t run to Astoria because then it wouldn’t have any train yards along its route to store out-of-service trains in. But if the Astoria line is extended to Laguardia, then a new train yard can be built somewhere along the route, and the R could also run to Laguardia for a total frequency of every 2 minutes.

mister March 1, 2017 - 11:03 pm

The R operates at 6 minute frequency at best. In addition, switching the R over to the Astoria line, at present, reduces local service on Queens Boulevard to an unacceptable level.

Justin February 27, 2017 - 9:59 am

Not to say it’s a good idea or use of money at all, but I think people will use it anyway. I take the G+E+Q70 now, and have to plan at least an extra half hour for traffic at both ends. BusTime is useless, since it can often take the bus 10 minutes to go 300 feet through the terminals or the Broadway/Roosevelt gridlock. I would happily add 10 minutes to the trip time if I knew traffic wasn’t a factor. And if they really do increase headways on the LIRR, that would be a very nice option from Midtown.

Marc Shepherd February 27, 2017 - 11:50 am

I agree with you, it is not totally useless. It is a better option than the current bus service, and a decent option for Long Island travelers. It is just not nearly as useful as it could have been, if Cuomo had been willing to break a few eggs, as Robert Moses put it.

Jacob Morgan February 27, 2017 - 10:11 am

I’ve looked at the analyses of travel times for the various options to the airport and it appears that the time increase will only be around 5-7 minutes from most places in Manhattan. It’s really not that much extra time to make it not worth considering this if it were an option.

The main benefit of the Airtrain is reliability. The existing bus routes are extremely variable since they can get stuck in traffic. My commute to the airport from Upper Manhattan can take as little as 45 minutes or as long as 1.5 hours if the M60 gets stuck in traffic on its route. I have to pad my arrival to LGA with so much time that a small additional travel time cost over whatever is considered typical is well worth it for me.

Another benefit is that the Willets Point connection is useful for both airport users coming from Manhattan and from Long Island, and with both subway and commuter rail options. You guys may forget that there are another 4 million people living east of that connection point that could benefit from using it.

Also keep in mind that those travel time analyses had some significant caveats: they assumed that the LIRR would not increase service from Penn, since the railroad had not responded about that for the study. But if they did increase level of service, the total time from Penn is around 25-30 minutes, and that is better than any subway or bus option currently available.

Benjamin Kabak February 27, 2017 - 10:52 am

The fares would need to be rationalized to encourage use at that point.

Craig February 27, 2017 - 11:55 am

Although this LIRR connection is only to one line
And better hope the 7 train doesn’t have any issues (at least they have 3 tracks)
I suppose you can take the LIRR from Penn Station, too; it’s a lot of transferring either way (for me coming from Bushwick, three transfers on the weekends, and surely no time savings)

What if Triboro RX were a thing that could actually happen, and a LGA connection were added in there? Maybe include a new LIRR transfer station near tracks cross in Elmhurst?
A guy can dream, I guess.

AG February 27, 2017 - 11:48 pm

Of note… The Bronx Borough President just called for the Triboro RX to be built (see speech below). Might sound insignificant – but he and the Governor are very close. Almost anything he has asked the Governor has come through for him – including 4 new Metro North stations for Penn Station Access – and getting rid of the Sheridan Expressway. I think it’s an open secret the Governor would support him for mayor. Him speaking on this in his state of the borough address could mean some talk is going on with Albany… I hope so…


AG February 27, 2017 - 11:51 pm

Sorry – it’s page 6 in the speech

Ralfff February 27, 2017 - 12:22 pm

We have not forgotten about Long Islanders- This is on the Port Washington Branch. Look at a map.

“The main benefit of the Airtrain is reliability. The existing bus routes are extremely variable since they can get stuck in traffic. My commute to the airport from Upper Manhattan can take as little as 45 minutes or as long as 1.5 hours if the M60 gets stuck in traffic on its route. ”

A problem that can be solved with basically no money and increased political will by the state and city to prioritize bus traffic.

BronxSteve February 27, 2017 - 2:20 pm

The LIRR connection is only to the PW line. Now, if they built a wye in Queens so trains could acces Willets Pt. from east of Jamaica, that would be something. (It would also help Mets fans.)

AMH February 28, 2017 - 8:48 am

Now that’s an idea.

Tower18 February 28, 2017 - 1:45 pm

How would such a service run? Which trains would be diverted from Penn Station or ESA (ie. where 99% of riders want to go) in order to serve the airport? Such a service could see no more than shuttle service, or special game-day service.

Besides, looking at a map, such a connection would require some pretty significant takings, and some not-trivial infrastructure challenges, so for such limited value, I can’t see it happening.

BronxSteve March 2, 2017 - 5:32 pm

Actually, no significant taking would be required. According to NYC tax maps, the LIRR owns enough land at the junction to build a wye. There appears to be some encroachment on LIRR’s lot by a truck parking lot, but that can be fixed. In fact, the shape of the lot suggests there may have once been a wye there. The set-up would be similar to the MNRR wye from the Harlem Line to the Hudson Line near Yankee Stadium.

Adirondacker12800 March 3, 2017 - 12:05 am

On the southern end those pesky pesky people on the A train are using and on the Manhattan end, during rush hour anyway, you to tell people on trains that are usually standing room only that their train has been canceled so that one can go to the airport. Whether that is a train on LIRR or the Queens Blvd. line.

Dan February 27, 2017 - 10:14 am

It really is insane that this is the plan. When Cuomo’s JFK plan is supposed to explore options for a direct route to Manhattan, his plan for LGA is this air train. Any chance someone can convince them to use the right of way planned here, but instead run it as a branch off the LIRR Port Washington Branch? Not perfect, but a lot better than an air train.

Tim February 27, 2017 - 3:04 pm

That’s actually not a bad idea, you can easily have a flying junction to make the spur, and it’s a lightly used enough line that it could handle the additional traffic that close in.

Bolwerk February 27, 2017 - 12:02 pm

The BQX, likely the city’s greatest bit of vaporware ever, still hasn’t been canceled…

This touches on what I don’t get about these dopey planning processes. Okay, anyone relatively objective about it can see BQX has real flaws (route, costs, better places for light rail, etc.) but serves a purpose to some people. LGA AirTrain is even more unambiguously flawed.

So why not do what Cuomo does and try to ram BQX through as quickly as possible? Agree with it or not, that’s best for everyone if it’s going to be built anyway. Once it’s complete or even mostly complete, it will make no sense to not use the infrastructure. As it stands now, the next mayor, possibly as soon as next year, could pull a Christie and up and cancel a barely-started or still-in-planning BQX.

And BQX is just an example here. No normal project* should be taking more than an election cycle, maybe two, to complete from the moment it’s concocted. It’s remarkably inefficient. And light rail is not even that hard to build.

* Exceptions for really crazy megaprojects like the new water tunnels.

Ralfff February 27, 2017 - 4:10 pm

It’s a chronic problem which only non-car transportation is subjected to. See: the endless “community input” sessions on Woodhaven Blvd SBS. It gets back to the reason we’re all here: because NIMBYs and parking spaces get primacy. The sole advantage of the AirTrain proposal is that it avoids NIMBYs and actually somehow adds parking.

Ralfff February 27, 2017 - 4:14 pm

In the specific case of NYC government every idiot council member gets to block stuff, to say nothing of meddling state legislators who apparently think their job is to run New York City. So those people have to be placated by de Blasio in a way that Cuomo clearly does not require.

Bolwerk February 27, 2017 - 4:33 pm

It was sort of a rhetorical point. But absolutely none of these politicians even try to work around it (except arguably Cuomo). I can understand not being able to work around it, in de Blasio’s shoes especially, but at least use the bully pulpit and what horsetrading powers you have to try.

Scott February 27, 2017 - 12:26 pm

I hope that the Airtrain from Willets Point to LGA is only a precursor to Willets Point to Jamaica. A direct connection from LGA to JFK via Airtrain would create an amazing new opportunity as a transportation hub. Effectively creating one giant airport. Flight transfers could occur across airports not just terminals. This could lead to a more intelligent routing of Airliners

Imagine an even larger project that could join JFK and Newark using the old Cross Brooklyn Expressway right of way. It could be dual level track with one level for the Airtrain and another level for a portion of the Triboro RX. At the Brooklyn water front the Airtrain could travel directly across the harbor to NJ (on to Newark) and the subway portion could turn and link up with the Staten Island Railway.

JJJ February 27, 2017 - 12:55 pm

The planned PATH extension, using the PA pot of money is just as bad, if not worse. EWR needs a modernized airtrain that connects to Newark Penn, not a transfer station

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 1:58 pm

What’s the significant difference between changing from PATH to the people mover in Penn Station Newark versus changing at the airport station? Other than that there is a McDonald’s Express in Penn Station that they don’t know about? Or changing from NJTransit or Amtrak?

Ralfff February 27, 2017 - 4:18 pm

Have you ever ridden the stupid people mover? When it’s working it moves at a gentle jog, and even though it’s at the end of its miserable service life, the genius plan is to replace it with the same thing. At least PATH can theoretically move faster.

The obvious move, if the Port Authority took its job of running the airports seriously, is to use the same infrastructure for the AirTrains of all three airports, and yes, extend the PATH if it’s one or the other, to add at least a Weequahic-accessible stop. We know from experience that the Port Authority is incapable of taking any task seriously.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 4:45 pm

No one is suggesting extending the execrable people mover at Newark. It’s at the end of it’s service life and doesn’t have enough capacity. To be polite it has reliability issues. It is not going to be replaced in kind. I don’t think anybody makes it anymore. … most or all of the other systems that used it have been put out of their misery. It’s is going to be replaced because it does all sorts of things that don’t involve Manhattan. Extend something like JFK’s Airtrain – which is the Metro in smaller cities – which means somebody somewhere and maybe even multiple vendors will be supporting it for a long time- it will be a lot less bad. What’s the difference between changing to it downtown instead of out at the airport?

Bolwerk February 27, 2017 - 6:05 pm

Changing sucks. Airport transit users are often forced to change several times, so a last-mile change is kind of dumb. Changing is most of the problem with Cuomo’s scheme.

That said, the ART system may be the best option if PATH can’t get its labor in order (and we know it can’t).

Eric March 1, 2017 - 11:49 am

PATH to all three Newark airport terminals would be nice, but it’s not gonna happen. PATH to the Newark Airport transfer station is the more likely, but nearly worthless, plan.

Eric March 1, 2017 - 11:47 am

JFK Airtrain is exactly the same as the Vancouver subway.


Adirondacker12800 March 1, 2017 - 12:34 pm

…the paint on the outside is different…
There are a lot of commodity parts in them. They might be different between each iteration… but overall they are the same. Parts are going to be available for a long time. And while it has a whiz bang linear induction propulsion system if that goes out fashion, when they need new cars in 30 years, it’s close enough to trolley cars that more than one vendor will be interested in the contract.

JJJJ February 28, 2017 - 11:10 am

The difference is that extending the PATH ONLY benefits PATH users. Extending the monorail to Newark Penn would:

-Provide the same exact benefit to PATH users
-Provide benefit to EVERY through NJ Transit customer that sits on a train which stops at the Airport station
-Provide benefit to EVERY through Amtrak customer that sits on a train which stops at the Airport station
-Provide a benefit to NJ Transit customers who wants to go to the airport and would have higher frequency (all trains stop at Newark)
-Provide a benefit to Amtrak customers who wants to go to the airport and would have higher frequency (all trains stop at Newark)
-Provide a connection to Newark residents without forcing 2 fares
-Provide a connection to Greyhound
-Provide a connection to Bolt Bus
-Provide a connection to Newark light rail

Extending PATH is the worst case option for EVERYBODY.

And again, the monorail needs a complete replacement anyway. Why not replace it with one that runs to Newark Penn?

JJJJ February 28, 2017 - 11:20 am

To clarify, I am proposing that the existing transfer station is closed, and the monorail only run to Newark Penn. That is why all through NJ Transit and Amtrak passengers would benefit because they would make one less stop.

Also, the existing NJ Transit schedule is NYC focused. So EWR trains really only stop there off-peak. While the NEC might have 4 trains in an hour, only 1 of them stop at EWR, but they all stop at Newark Penn. A monorail at Newark Penn would mean all NJ Transit passengers, even those coming from the south would benefit from improved frequencies.

NJ Pax coming from the west into Newark Broad would also benefit via a light rail to monorail transfer, vs broad->light rail->path->monorail

The plan to extend PATH only exists to sell space at the WTC. It does not take into consideration the regional use of EWR.

Adirondacker12800 February 28, 2017 - 12:44 pm

They have to extend PATH to the airport to have room to store trains when they extend the World Trade Center-Newark trains to ten cars. They are going to be 25 percent longer.

JJJJ February 28, 2017 - 1:54 pm

Are you sure about that? the PATH storage tracks already extend deep into Newark. The plan is also supposed to cost more than 1bn. How much would it cost to increase storage in the Harrison yards? There seems to be a lot more space there.

Adirondacker12800 February 28, 2017 - 6:52 pm

There isn’t a lot more space there. NJTransit and Conrail are real persnickty about it. You do like to eat and those freight yards interweaved into every thing out the are important. Not so much space out there, that NJTransit is looking at former industrial sites in Jersey City for more yard space. They are going to need it when demand skyrockets after Gateway opens and they buy lots of trains to meet it.
… they are going to the airport anyway, that’s going to cost a lot of money. They might as well put a station out there. It shuts up the people who whine about PATH not going to the airport, who would never use it but whine about it anyway.

Jon Y February 27, 2017 - 2:12 pm

The PATH extension is happening to accommodate storage for the 10-car new sets that the PA is investing in. The tail tracks would need to extend nearly all the way to the airport anyways, so the PATH is essentially adding a station in because they can.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 2:35 pm

I know that but he seems to think there is a significant difference between changing trains in downtown Newark versus changing trains at the airport.

Tim February 27, 2017 - 3:08 pm

For one thing, you’ve got a two seat ride to lower Manhattan instead of the current three seat ride. Not to mention, more frequency.

Ideally they should just send the PATH to the terminals, like the CTA blue line, but that would make too much sense.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 3:52 pm

The choices are to extend PATH to the airport or extend the people mover to Penn Station. There’s no significant difference between change from PATH to the people mover in downtown versus changing at the airport. Building three PATH stations inside the terminals would cost a lot of money. Significantly more than three times as much. The people mover would still have to be there to get people between the terminals, although they could use PATH, to the parking lots, the car rentals, the hotel shuttles etc. The train station on the NEC is still going to have to be there with a people mover station because people from south of the airport will want to use it.

Jack March 1, 2017 - 4:43 am

We’ve been talking about replacing the silly people mover at Newark, right? Why not use the people mover’s space & track bed for PATH trains?

It may be impossible since the people mover looks like it has really sharp curves, possibly too sharp for PATH subway cars. But I’m armed with nothing but Google Maps in this case!

Eric March 1, 2017 - 12:07 pm

Minimum PATH turning radius is 115 feet.

The curves at EWR are much larger than that.

The question for me is the fare system – how they would accomodate free passengers to the parking garages as well as paid passengers to Manhattan. I suppose they could have no fare gates at the airport stations, and rely on proof-of-purchase as you leave the airport. This would work, but would require a mental revolution.

My other worry is construction – the current Airtrain is built on pillars that stand within the terminal building. The pillars look very thin, and PATH would probably require heavier pillars to support its weight. Building new pillars within the terminal would be extremely disruptive. You could get around that by building in a different location, just outside the terminal, though.

Bolwerk March 2, 2017 - 12:56 pm

Could do an inner loop and outer loop service. The outer loop could be PATH, with faregates, and it would loop back to Manhattan. Incoming passengers could exit at their desired terminal. The inner loop could be a single unidirectional track of the ART system across the platform from PATH for moving between terminals.

Adirondacker12800 March 2, 2017 - 1:06 pm

OOOOOh that sounds good! Instead of taking the people mover one or two stops in the correct direction a lot of people will be getting a grand tour of all the terminals and the short term parking lots! Will it be one loop so they get to see all of the parking lots too? Or will there be a terminal loop and a parking lot/car rental/shuttle bus loop so that frequency gets cut in half for everyone who isn’t Very Important Manhattan Traveler who gets very very very sad if they have to transfer to the people mover?

Bolwerk March 2, 2017 - 2:40 pm

What is it about airport discussions that wind you up into a frothing rage beyond the ability to think critically?

The longest trip under such a system would be a bit over a mile from Terminal C to B or from B to A. Say 1.3 miles. At a glacial average 15mph, that’s a trip of well under 6 minutes. 25mph brings it close to 3 minutes.

Adirondacker12800 March 3, 2017 - 12:00 am

You think it’s such a good idea defend it effectively. You want to screw over a lot of people so that minority people get something very marginally. and it’s very marginally better for people who can brave the trials of transferring at a frequent connection, one seat ride.

Bolwerk March 3, 2017 - 10:12 am

Defend it from what? You won’t say what the problem is, or present an alternative, supposedly better idea. So what is there to say?

Adirondacker12800 March 3, 2017 - 7:19 pm

You are being deliberately obtuse, lazy or just too stupid. Or there’s bit of odd emotional satisfaction you by being a troll. I don’t feed trolls. Go someplace and contemplate whatever your next cockamamie schemes with multiple fatal flaws,flaws that a friend of a 13 year old railfan could see, has.

Bolwerk March 4, 2017 - 10:50 am

You didn’t answer my point about trip times, won’t say who you think is being screwed over, leave everyone to guess what you mean, and insult people. But I’m the troll?

If you are going to troll, at least be mindful of your obligation to be entertaining.

Adirondacker12800 March 1, 2017 - 12:51 pm

The people mover is really light. PATH cars over the ROW they would fall through. Out in the parking lots it wouldn’t cost much to tear it all down and rebuild but the terminals were designed for some thing light like trolley cars, not PATH cars. Making that strong enough would be really really pricey. Or even more expensive, digging tunnels. Which is unwise if you can avoid it. The reason the airport is there that it’s a swamp and it was empty back in the 1920s because nobody wanted to go do stuff in a swamp. It’s waterlogged.
…. and there isn’t going to be six PATH stations at the parking lots…. Ten car PATH stations cost a lot more to build than two or three car trolley stations.

Jeff February 27, 2017 - 1:44 pm

The whole point of the Airtrain to Willets Point keeps getting missed… As part of the same RFP, Cuomo is requesting ideas from developers for moving the airport parking/rental cars to Willets Point as well… Why? Because expanding the LGA taxiways and moving the terminals out towards the highway creates a need to place those elsewhere, and Cuomo wants to move those to Willets Point because there simply aren’t a lot of other open spaces in Northern Queens that can accommodate them.

Essentially, this means the Airtrain is there not just a transportation tool but also as a shuttle for some very essential airport services.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 2:03 pm

Respectable people who know what they are talking about analyze things and come up with “close LaGuardia” if the question is “how do we get the maximum numbers of lights into and out of metro New York”

AG February 27, 2017 - 11:53 pm

Respectable people? Close LGA and put those millions of flights per year – where?

Adirondacker12800 February 28, 2017 - 12:17 am

JFK and Newark. If flights to and from LaGuardia aren’t being weaved in and out of flights to and from Newark and JFK more flights can go to Newark and JFK. LaGuardia can be bulldozed and the condos on the waterfront with spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline and the bridges will get really high prices. People on the Upper East Side who are a short cab ride from LaGuardia would be very very sad.

AG February 28, 2017 - 8:17 am

With all due respect- That’s in a dream world. Even with GPS tracking replacing satellites- JFK and Newark cannot be expanded enough to handle all those extra flights. This is the most crowded airspace in the world. Atlanta has the single busiest airport- but not the busiest skies. Londons skies are also busier than Atlanta. Neither London not NY have the space to close an airport and expand the others enough. That will change if planes no longer need long runways and become much quieter.

Bolwerk February 28, 2017 - 11:41 am

I do believe you are being trolled.

AG February 28, 2017 - 1:44 pm

I can’t be sure… But a correction is due anyway. It should have read “GPS satellites replacing radar” for air traffic control (NextGen as they call it).

Adirondacker12800 February 28, 2017 - 3:13 pm

Sorta kinda like how fusion power has been ten years away since the 50s NextGen has been a few years away for decades… They may actually pull it off, brawny computers keep getting cheaper, smaller and less power hungry.
There are respectable people who say the way to get the most planes in and out of metro New York is to close LaGuardia. Newark and JFK are far enough away from each other that they don’t significantly affect each other. LaGuardia is too close to both of them. Some of that may be that planes take less than optimal paths for noise abatement. People on the Upper East Side who would lose their short cab ride to LaGuardia would be very very sad so the chances of it happening are very very low.

Ian Mitchell May 25, 2017 - 6:30 pm

Let’s also talk about the relationship between aircraft movements and passengers.

First,two non-NYC examples:
DXB (Dubai)
Passengers 66,431,533
Aircraft movements 357,960
Cargo (metric tonnes) 2,435,567

ORD (Chicago O’hare)
Passenger volume 66,909,638
Aircraft movements 883,287
Cargo (metric tonnes) 1,434,377

As you can see, Dubai has about the same number of passengers, and much more cargo,with about half the number of aircraft.

Now, back to NYC:
EWR (newark):
Aircraft Movements: 431,595
Passengers: 40,351,331

LGA (LaGuardia):
Aircraft Movements: 369,987
Passengers: 29,786,769

Aircraft Movements: 448,903
Passengers: 58,956,288

So we get 93 pax per movement at EWR, 80 at LGA, 131 at JFK, 76 in Chicago, and 185 in Dubai.

Now, DXB is famous for flying a lot of A380, 777x, big planes. London Gatwick is not, it’s mainly LCCs flying 737s and A320s, yet it still manages over 150 pax per movement.

If EWR and JFK moved as many people per aircraft movement as Gatwick does, we’d move more people than we do today, with no LGA.

This doesn’t even take big planes, Southwest’s standard 737 accommodates enough passengers to make LGA unnecessary without any additional aircraft movements at EWR or JFK.
737s aren’t particularly huge planes.
Ryanair’s 737s fit 189- so you could potentially keep some of the puddle jumpers (not that you should).

LGA is unnecessary. The gates at JFK and EWR need to be allocated more efficiently, and those airlines flying more passengers to/from those gates will pony up more cash to pay for using them.

Let that “free market” thing do its magic, and bulldoze LGA for some very nice condos (which should, indeed, be on an N extension)

BronxSteve February 27, 2017 - 2:02 pm

If they insist on this routing, at least use it to extend either the subway or the LIRR directly to the airport. Unlike at multi-terminal JFK, there’s no need for an airport style people mover at LGA. Just make it a branch of the 7 or the LIRR, so there is at least a one-seat, one-fare ride to the city.

Matthew February 27, 2017 - 2:06 pm

I think if we are building the Airtrain to Willets Point then it makes sense to make 2 alterations to the plan. First – We should build all of the airport parking garages at Willets Point. This will allow us to shift most of the airport traffic off of Grand Central Parkway, and we can reduce traffic on the ramps and service roads around LGA to improve bus access to the airport. LGA does not have enough land for parking and it is to expensive to build it there. Secondly, extend the ‘express’ track on the 7 train so it runs between 33rd St, Rawson Street and Hunters Point Ave with a flyover above Sunnyside Yards.

BronxSteve February 27, 2017 - 2:26 pm

Your last point does nothing. The new express track still has to merge with the local tracks at HP. And it misses the big transfer station/business hub at Queens Plaza.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 2:33 pm

It’s going to do little if anything at all to shift traffic off the GCP. Instead of getting on and off the parkway at the airport they will be getting on and off the parkway in Flushing Meadow Park. It would cut traffic inside the airport and at the airport exit from the parkway but it’s not going to cut traffic on the parkway much if at all.

TheConductor March 3, 2017 - 10:19 am

“We should build all of the airport parking garages at Willets Point. This will allow us to shift most of the airport traffic off of Grand Central Parkway, and we can reduce traffic on the ramps and service roads around LGA to improve bus access to the airport.”

This could be done independent of the AirTrain, though. If parking and rental car infrastructure is moved off site, as you mention, more shuttles could be run, and these buses could continue to the 7/LIRR station. If there is to be a rail connection to LGA, it needs to be convenient to Manhattan, and that means the N/W train.

Spendmore Wastemor February 27, 2017 - 2:40 pm

So to from LGA to any part of NYC, I’m going to get on a newly build $$$$$ things which goes several miles away from where I’m going AND away from the subway line which hooks into Manhattan & Brooklyn. I’m sure there’s some amazing backscratching going on.

Impeach that &$%* grifter already.

Eddie Sporn February 27, 2017 - 3:53 pm

I couldn’t agree with you more! From any and all perspectives, except for construction-related disruption, the Willets Point-LGA plan makes zero sense.

The option that I think would work best is an AirTrain-type connection between LGA and the Astoria Blvd/31st St. station. The Willets Point-LGA route is approximately 2 miles. The Astoria Blvd-LGA is only 2.5 miles, just 1/2 mile longer.

The major difference between the Astoria Blvd and Willets Point plans is the travel time to/from Manhattan. The Astoria Blvd station is 5 stations away from the Queensboro Plaza station. Willets Point on the 7 local is 13 stops from Queensboro Plaza. Based on 2015 published mph data of NYC subway lines, the travel time for the N-W between Queensboro Plaza and Astoria Blvd is 7 minutes. The travel time between Queensboro Plaza and Willets point on the 7 local is 19 minutes. That’s a 12 minute differential which is huge in terms of customer acceptance.

For sure constructing the Astoria Blvd-LGA connection would be more disruptive to traffic. But once its complete, NYC will finally have a viable rail connection with LGA.

BronxSteve February 27, 2017 - 5:13 pm

Tell me how you will get around or through the Hell Gate line viaduct that crosses the Grand Central Pkwy at 43rd St.

Brooklynite February 27, 2017 - 7:00 pm

As I said above, there appears to be room between the bridge piers and service roads, one track on each side of the highway.

BronxSteve February 27, 2017 - 11:27 pm

Maybe; but then the tracks would have to rise precipitously get over the street level overpasses over the parkway, which are only a block or 2 from that spot. Impossible.

Spendmore Wastemor February 28, 2017 - 1:32 am

This seems like a civil engineering problem, one that can be solved if there is enough need + motivation.

e.g. Service road is blocking stuff? Put the service road underground. OR, put the subway underground, as subways are sorta known for that. Blocked by water around LGA? We know how to build subways through it. The question is whether the amount of work required is worth it, I’d say yes considering the massive traffic tangles getting to/from the airport.

Eddie Sporn February 28, 2017 - 12:09 pm

The distinguished “Mr. Wastemore” is correct. There are obviously ways to circumvent the obstacle posed by the Hells Gate Viaduct.

Somebody in this string suggested a connection with the LIRR. The first question that came to my mind is whether 85′ railroad cars can maneuver within the tight confines of the GCT ROW and LGA.

Even if it can, I contend that a subway-AirTrain connection is a far better option than a railroad connection. (I believe the opposite for JFK: I’m strongly in favor of running LIRR trains to JFK via a revived Rockaway ROW.)

Even though it’s a 2-seat ride, there are far more connection points with the subway than the railroad which would have only 2 connection points–Penn Sta and GCT.

Spendmor Wastemor February 28, 2017 - 4:47 pm

“The distinguished “Mr. Wastemore” …”

You made me laugh.

That’ll be $18.72. Exact change, please.


Eddie Sporn February 28, 2017 - 11:08 pm

I’ll pay you from my share of the proceeds of the trillion dollar infrastructure bill 🙂

Instead of using my real name, I should have come up with a nom de transit too. Is it too late to rechristen myself “Rabid Transit”?

mister March 1, 2017 - 11:07 pm

I recall someone using that one already…

Rick February 27, 2017 - 5:09 pm

If there is going to be an LaGuardia Air Train, the same amount of construction could send it west on the GCP, then south on the western branch of the BGE to Bulova Avenue, then west across two short industrial blocks where the line would join up with the existing Amtrak tracks into Penn Sta (and, someday, into the ESA to Grand Central Station). None of this route would incur any NIMBY, since it doesn’t go near a single residence. And it would be a single-seat ride from Manhattan.

BronxSteve February 27, 2017 - 5:18 pm

Not a bad plan. It does, however, go past multiple single-family homes fronting Astoria Blvd. North in the 70s. But they already have the noise from the GCP to deal with, so maybe they won’t care.

Rick February 27, 2017 - 8:56 pm

The JFK AirTrain is hardly noticeable from the service roads of the Van Wyck. Homeowners in the 70’s along the GCP would hardly notice a difference if the LaGuardia Airtrain is also elevated in the middle of the highway.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 6:10 pm

No, you don’t want to be running two or three car trolley cars along tracks that are so well used they don’t have much capacity, if any at all, at rush hour for 12 cars trains.

BronxSteve February 27, 2017 - 7:00 pm

No, you’d run 6-car commuter trains every 30-40 minutes.

John February 27, 2017 - 10:49 pm

You want to add up to a 40 minute wait to a 30 minute journey?

BronxSteve February 27, 2017 - 11:23 pm

A direct LIRR ride from LGA to Penn would take, what, 15 minutes. So if you run trains every 30minutes, the Average wait is 15 minutes. Average ETA to Manhattan, 30 minutes.

john February 28, 2017 - 1:51 am

Penn to Flushing is 20-22 minutes so to LGA would be 26-28 minutes.

Adirondacker12800 February 27, 2017 - 11:37 pm

You can tell the thousands of irate LIRR passengers whose train was cancelled so one could go the airport… Anything that goes to the airport, during rush hour anyway, means canceling a standing room only train to the Island.

Rick February 28, 2017 - 2:25 am

Penn Station congestion through the East River tunnels will be greatly relieved by ESA, creating room for frequent LaGaurdia trains. It would even be possible to send the LaGuardia Airtrain through the F train’s level of the 63rd St tunnel and down the 6th Avenue line, replacing the M train. An 8th Av local train could be added to the Queens Blvd line, sharing the 53rd St tunnel with the E.

Adirondacker12800 February 28, 2017 - 3:31 am

It would have if it had opened in 1980. Metro North is going to absorb a lot of it. They don’t want to run trains from the New Haven Line to Penn Station because they are nice people and want to make it easier for their customers to get to the West Side. They want customers who are going to the West Side to be on a train that does not use Park Ave and Grand Central so that other people can use Park Ave and Grand Central. Amtrak has their eye on it too. Keep in mind that Amtrak owns it not the MTA. … and if one of the railroads that Amtrak is a tenant of wants something, they are going to get it… even though that railroad is part of the MTA. There’s no capacity…. find some other way to do it.

Rick February 28, 2017 - 10:46 pm

OK, OK — so here’s the plan. We’re gonna use the subway tracks. The LaGuardia Airtrain goes west on the GCP, then south on the west branch of the BGE, then across Bulova Avenue two short industrial blocks to the Amtrak tracks, then into the 63rd tunnel ( F-train level), where it joins the F train at 21st St and down 6th Av, replacing the M train. The two Queens Blvd line local trains will be the R and a new 8th Av local that joins the E at Queens Plaza and terminates at the World Trade Center.

mister March 1, 2017 - 11:08 pm

Just curious, in you scenario how do the C, E and your new proposed service share tracks in Manhattan? There are already days where congestion delays C and E trains.

Adirondacker12800 March 1, 2017 - 11:15 pm

Details details, those pesky peons using the subway to get between work and home or school or just going out for dinner will have to part way for Very Important Airline Passengers.

Rick March 1, 2017 - 11:35 pm

Good question, mister. Well, the E will join the A on the express track and take over the C’s Fulton Street service in Brooklyn. The local track will be shared by the C and the new Qns Blvd local, both of which will terminate at World Trade Center. Some local trains may have to be turned around north of World Trade Center — their final passenger stop will be Canal Street. But the congestion will be no greater than at the Main St stop on the 7 train. Meanwhile the LaGuardia AirTrain can even have a station near the point where it turns south from the GCP, bringing greatly improved service to northeastern Astoria. Those “commuting peons” would end up with more, not less, service into Manhattan from Queens.

mister March 2, 2017 - 2:01 pm

The idea of sending the E and A to Brooklyn gets kicked around from time to time, but it dramatically over serves the Fulton Line and requires a bit of gymnastics to get everything to fit in the Cranberry Tube. Not saying it can’t be done, it just seems like it’s a solution in search of a problem.

Adirondacker12800 March 3, 2017 - 12:01 am

The A goes to Brooklyn. It’s how it gets to Queens.

Brian Power February 27, 2017 - 10:50 pm

This is the most inept transit plan I have ever seen. If the Astoria nimbys don’t want an extension, then my suggestion would be to turn the line at the Grand Central Pkwy, demolish the Elevated north of Astoria Blvd Station and move the Astoria Blvd Station south. That way they can complain all they want while riding the bus to the Astoria Blvd Station.

Spendmore Wastemor February 28, 2017 - 1:35 am

That sounds pretty good to me actually … and I live in Astoria.

VJV March 8, 2017 - 3:09 pm

Couldn’t they even do that as a spur? I don’t know enough about capacity and storage to say if this is feasible but the N and W trains both run along the Astoria line. Move the Astoria Blvd station a little bit to the south, send W trains to LGA via the Grand Central and N trains up to Ditmars.

Headways on the Grand Central line would probably not be great (every 10 minutes, maybe?), but the airport and the relatively low-density neighborhoods in-between don’t need super-frequent service and it would be better than this silly plan.

BronxSteve March 8, 2017 - 3:21 pm

One issue is moving the Astoria Blvd station south. It’s already very close to the previous station, 30th Ave. Any closer and it would be like a block away. The other issue, which I’ve already mentioned, is getting an el that travels over the GCP past, through, under or over the massive Hell Gate viaduct at approx. 42 St. Being very familiar with that structure, it would be nearly impossible to go under the viaduct (the only feasible way) and also have the el rise up enough on either side of that viaduct to avoid the overpasses over the GCP. By contrast, the original N extension plan, north from Ditmars, has almost no engineering impediments, unless you consider NIMBYism an engineering impediment.

Larry Littlefield February 28, 2017 - 8:55 am

I get the feeling that no one here knows the history.

When the Port Authority imposed the Passenger Facility Charge at all three airports — late 1980s — it was in exchange for a complete airport access program. With the Airtrain running from JFK up to LaGuardia and on to Long Island City, with transit connections at Jamaica, Howard Beach, and LIC. I know. I was in meetings representing City Planning where this was presented.

Then the deep early 1990s recession hit, worse for the Northeast than any since. Governor Mario Cuomo’s fellow Democrat Jim Florio of NJ was in trouble. So he agreed that even as NY raised its transit fares and tolls, the Port Authority would keep its tolls and PATH fares down, cancelling most of NY’s Airtrain to pay for it.

You know who else almost certainly knows this history? Andrew Cuomo.

Then Pataki and Giuliani came in and started demanding a better deal for the Port Authority. I know — I was asked to do some spreadsheet work for a City Planning report detailing how the PA’s budget had become slanted against New York. There were a variety of issues, including how much the PA paid NYC to lease the airports vs. paying Newark for Newark airport. But one part of it was the PA agreed to fund the N to LaGuardia. Which the NIMBY’s killed, and that money was transferred to the general MTA capital plan.

Then you had 9/11, and the “New York” money went to rebuilding the WTC and the NJ money went to rebuilding the PATH. Then other needs came along. The Port Authority is deep in debt, with uncertain revenues and many needs.

But the bottom line is LaGuardia passengers have been paying that “Airport Access” passenger facility charge for what is not approaching 30 years. So I think the Governor, thinking back to the early 1990s, may perhaps be determined to do “something” for them, even if it doesn’t make sense.

Bolwerk February 28, 2017 - 9:57 am

I remember much of that, and concur with your account, but then why isn’t Andy at least commenting on why the N shouldn’t be extended? A bad reason is better than no reason. Other than some comments boards and an editorial in one major paper, I haven’t seen this matter discussed in public discourse at all.

Larry Littlefield February 28, 2017 - 10:24 am

Back in the day veteran reporters would go to the “morgue” to look for old press clippings for the backstory when writing about something like this.

Now the internet makes it easy, but there are no veteran reporters.

It took me four minutes and 20 seconds to find this.


A little more effort could probably get the articles from when the passenger facility charge was first proposed.

Bolwerk February 28, 2017 - 10:44 am

Haha. I almost said something to the effect that most journalists today are probably either too young or too transplant or both to know anything about it.

Oddly, the only NYC paper that’s kind of pro-mass transit is the Daily News.

And if that article shows anything, it’s that the war on New York has been going on for a very long time.

Tim February 28, 2017 - 10:17 pm

I don’t believe any PFC revenues could have been given to the MTA. PFC monies must be spent on Airport related projects of which over the past 25 years there have been many unrelated to Airport rail access.

I personally don’t think the Willis Point AirTrain plan is very good but I disagree with the sentiment that the monies spent on it can somehow be transferred to other more valuable projects. My biggest concern is making sure PFC revenues from JFK passengers aren’t mixed in to help fund this Willets Point project. It is more important for JFK revenues to continue to maintain JFK AirTrain in a state of good repair.

Larry Littlefield March 1, 2017 - 7:32 am

“Money is fungible.” And the airports are profitable.

The PFC took the place of some of those profits, and some of those profits were transferred to the MTA.

I wouldn’t count too much on profits in the long haul, however. The Port Authority Bus Terminal was profitable at one time too.

Tim February 28, 2017 - 10:33 pm

I will also point out that despite the bad rap JFK AirTrain gets by going to Jamaica Station instead of one seat to Manhattan, Jamaica is something like the 5th or 6th busiest commuter rail station in the entire Metro area and on of the very few commuter lines to have 24 hour service.

Phantom February 28, 2017 - 11:27 pm

I take JFK Airtrain and A train a few times a year to lower Manhattan and I like it a lot.

Fairly frequent, fairly cheap. And with the wonderful Jay St. connection, JFK to Bay Ridge is easy too

A bit off topic I know, but I tip my hat to the JFK Airtrain/ subway and personally see it as 1 million times better than any option out of Newark

AG March 1, 2017 - 12:09 am

Agreed – regarding JFK Airtrain. I’ve used it on short trips where I’ve only had one bag. I never had any problem…

LLQBTT March 1, 2017 - 9:05 am

The main benefactors would seem to be folks east on the Port Washington Branch (i.e. not many), and the airport workers who live by nearby 7 stops and may find it a more reliable option to get to and from work.

Otherwise, since LGA doesn’t carry international flights and is mainly a domestic business hub, most business folk will continue to take taxis on the corporate dime, and have a DIRECT route to Manhattan CBD.

Dave of Sunnyside March 5, 2017 - 12:52 pm

Let’s push for an Airtrain from Jackson Heights to LGA. The simple truth is airport travelers want options and Jackson Heights gives you options. Furthermore, the M should be extended from Metropolitan Ave to Jackson Heights and the Rockaway Branch should also use the Queensway and be connected to Jackson Heights. This way all parts of the city.

Ian Mitchell May 25, 2017 - 7:20 pm

LGA isn’t necessary. Others have brought up the face that LGA limits the number of aircraft movements that EWR and JFK can handle, but I’d rather talk about the relationship between aircraft movements and passengers.

First,two non-NYC examples:
DXB (Dubai)
Passengers 66,431,533
Aircraft movements 357,960
Cargo (metric tonnes) 2,435,567

ORD (Chicago O’hare)
Passenger volume 66,909,638
Aircraft movements 883,287
Cargo (metric tonnes) 1,434,377

As you can see, Dubai has about the same number of passengers, and much more cargo,with about half the number of aircraft.

Now, back to NYC:
EWR (newark):
Aircraft Movements: 431,595
Passengers: 40,351,331

LGA (LaGuardia):
Aircraft Movements: 369,987
Passengers: 29,786,769

Aircraft Movements: 448,903
Passengers: 58,956,288

So we get 93 pax per movement at EWR, 80 at LGA, 131 at JFK, 76 in Chicago, and 185 in Dubai.

Now, DXB is famous for flying a lot of A380, 777x, big planes. London Gatwick is not, it’s mainly LCCs flying 737s and A320s, yet it still manages over 150 pax per movement.

If EWR and JFK moved as many people per aircraft movement as Gatwick does, we’d move more people than we do today, with no LGA.

This doesn’t even take big planes, Southwest’s standard 737 accommodates enough passengers to make LGA unnecessary without any additional aircraft movements at EWR or JFK.
737s aren’t particularly huge planes.

Ryanair’s 737s fit 189- so you could potentially keep some of the puddle jumpers (not that you should).

LGA is unnecessary. The gates at JFK and EWR need to be allocated more efficiently, and those airlines flying more passengers to/from those gates will pony up more cash to pay for using them.

Let that “free market” thing do its magic, and bulldoze LGA for some very nice condos (which should, indeed, be on an N extension).

The PA could then use those funds gathered from the re-development of the LGA site on useful transit improvements, or (more likely) piddle them away in their seemingly bottomless incompetence.


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