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Gov. Cuomo Pitches AirTrain LaGuardia, Other Transit Improvements

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I've been reading this thread about the LaGuardia AirTrain proposal, as well as the one on Subchat, and Ben Kabak's and Yonah Freemark's articles. I've got to say, I'm not convinced the Governor's proposal to connect to the already-overburdened (7)<7> at Willets Point is the right one. If you're carrying at least one suitcase, you're not going to want to cram yourself and it onto an overcrowded 7 train. At least the (A) has larger, wider cars, so hauling a big suitcase on that train on your way to Kennedy Airport isn't so bad. But the (7) is a completely different story with its tiny, narrow cars that are standing room-only often from start to finish.

 

To be honest, I like the Jackson Heights routing shown in the map from Yonah Freemark's blog post. At Roosevelt Ave/74th St, you have five subway lines, not just one. It does help that there's an unused station platform in the station mezzanine, where the train can terminate. It will probably cost more because it will need to go underground to get there, but isn't it better to have a choice of five routes to get to Midtown, rather than just one already-overburdened line plus one LIRR branch that runs much less frequently than any of the subway lines in Queens?

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To be honest, I like the Jackson Heights routing shown in the map from Yonah Freemark's blog post. At Roosevelt Ave/74th St, you have five subway lines, not just one. It does help that there's an unused station platform in the station mezzanine, where the train can terminate. It will probably cost more because it will need to go underground to get there, but isn't it better to have a choice of five routes to get to Midtown, rather than just one already-overburdened line plus one LIRR branch that runs much less frequently than any of the subway lines in Queens?

It's a good idea but too expensive because the unused platform is on the wrong side of the station complex...

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People like Joe Addobo are supportive of the RB reactivation, but they don't support the plan because the MTA isn't interested. Why isn't the MTA intereste? Becasue they can't even fund their own capital plan. Why can't they do that? Because Cuomo doesn't give the MTA the funding it deserved and by vetoing the lockbox bill. If Cuomo gave the MTA the money to fund is capital plan, the MTA would have money for the RB Line or other improvements. Also, instad of throwing money at the line to TA, which Stephen Bauman said would be around 140th in ridership, the money could be thrown at the Rockaway Beach Line. The line would be able to be completed with this money, reviving communities, and providing cross queens transportation that is needed. 

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7-to-LaGuardia plan prompts transit-advocate uproar

 

A rendering of the AirTrain. (Governor's office)

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By Dana Rubinstein 5:41 a.m. | Jan. 22, 2015 follow this reporter

On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared LaGuardia Airport’s lack of rail access “inexcusable” and promised to fix the problem by building a train to the plane by way of Willets Point.

 

By Wednesday, the transportation-nerd backlash was intense.

 

“If you’re going to build transit, you have to have more criteria than just avoiding public opposition, and I think that’s why this route was chosen,” said Jon Orcutt, the former policy director at the New York City transportation department.

 

“As proposed, the project would do next to nothing to improve access to the airport,” wrote Yonah Freemark, a well-regarded transportation blogger, on the Transport Politic.

 

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“Cuomo’s proposal is something of a mess from a transit planning perspective,” wrote Second Avenue Sagas blogger Benjamin Kabak.

 

Some critiques were less harsh in tone, but only marginally less damning. 

 

“We should have something more like the Heathrow Express, where you pay $25 one way to get on a real train where you have a seat and a luggage rack and you go to central London,” said Nicole Gelinas, a transit- and infrastructure-focused fellow at the Manhattan Institute, who added that she thinks the governor's proposal "would be better than nothing and people would use it.”

 

“I applaud the governor for at the very least taking this on as an important issue and putting forth an actionable idea,” said David Giles, research director at the Center for an Urban Future. “I do think it would be a mistake to spend a half billion or more on AirTrain without seriously studying the alternatives.”

 

So what is the governor’s proposal?

 

There are only bare bones so far. It would be an elevated train to LaGuardia Airport much like the AirTrain that connects subway riders to JFK Airport. Cuomo says it would be 1.5 miles long. (Freemark questions how accurate that number is). It would run along Grand Central Parkway and, by Cuomo's estimation, cost roughly $450 million.

 

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which Cuomo jointly controls with New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and the M.T.A., which Cuomo effectively controls on his own, would build it together. It’s not clear which authority would foot the bill or how, exactly, either authority could afford it.

 

(The governor's press office didn't answer that question, though a spokeswoman did say the project would be subject to an environmental impact study.)

 

Politicians have longed for rail access to LaGuardia since at least Mario Cuomo’s time.

 

“Gov. Mario Cuomo tried to advance a one-seat ride elevated ‘monorail’ plan that would have provided a grand tour of Queens— beginning at the old Alexander's dept store at 59th St. and Lex. crossing the Queensboro Bridge past Queens Plaza, then continuing to LGA, then on to Willets Point and on to Jamaica and JFK Airport, with a spur to Howard Beach,” said former New York City Transit executive George Haikalis in an email. “Gov. Pataki trimmed this to the Jamaica-JFK and Howard Beach-JFK segments, that are today's AirTrain.”

 

He called the younger Cuomo’s rendition of the older Cuomo’s plan “costly and circuitous.”

 

It’s the circuitous part, and the sense that Cuomo is privileging airport-using business travelers over regular New York transit users, that’s irking transit people.

 

In order for riders to get from Manhattan to LaGuardia via this still-aspirational AirTrain, they would either have to take the 7 train past LaGuardia Airport to Willets Point and then backtrack by way of the AirTrain, or travel along the infrequent Port Washington branch of the Long Island Rail Road to the same stop.

 

"The 7 is well-connected, but you have to go to the end of the line and you pass LaGuardia to get there,” said Orcutt. “And the Long Island Rail Road is pretty negligible, because it’s not to the main line so it doesn’t connect Long Island to the airport at all.”

 

And then there's the question of crowding on the 7 train.

 

In 2001, when the M.T.A. was considering extending the N train through Astoria—a plan that is pleasingly direct and politically difficult—M.T.A. planning director Bill Wheeler was asked why the 7 train couldn't simply be extended to LaGuardia instead.

 

"Wheeler said that the high capacity of passengers the 7 Train has each day, unlike the N Train, makes branching service off from that line a more difficult and less viable option," according to an article in the Queens Chronicle.

 

When Capital asked the M.T.A. what had changed since then, M.T.A. spokesman Adam Lisberg pointing to signaling improvements coming to the 7 line. 

 

"We’re installing CBTC on the 7, which will be up and running by 2017 and will increase capacity along the entire line," he emailed.

 

"The Governor's Office consulted the MTA and the Port Authority and determined the 7 line was the less expensive option and we the least intrusive to neighborhoods," added Beth DeFalco, a Cuomo spokeswoman, when asked to comment on the backlash.

 

Or, put another way, it beats having nothing.

 

“Of course they have better options,” said Steve Sigmund, a former Port Authority executive who's now executive director of Global Gateway Alliance, a group that supports improvements to New York's airports. “The N train would be a one-seat ride. It would be great, it would be preferable to having a two-seat ride. But those better options have never happened. They’re probably not going to happen. They encounter lots of community opposition. This one encounters a lot less. In the category of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, this is a significant improvement to what’s there now.”

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didn't they think they want to rebuild the airport first? i remember biden said it look like third world reich in that airport. hmm strange

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I live right next to the Q72 , M60, and Q33 at Ditmars like 2 mins away waling distance from the airport. Hell to the no for extending the (N) to LGA. That would disturb the hell outta me. 

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So stupid... the Q70 will still be the better option from midtown by far.

 

Better idea would be to run it from Woodside & Jackson Heights and have the MTA discontinue the Q70 (the Port controls all buses that come onto airport property and can tell the MTA to stop running it). Or just extend the (N)(Q) ... but the Port probably wants an AirTrain more than direct subway access so they can tack on an extra fare for it like they do at JFK and EWR. Though they probably could tack on an extra entry/exit fee for people going to the airport station on the (N)(Q) anyways, knowing the Port they would probably want a project like that under their control and having MTA operated trains and tracks enter their property would obviously not be Port controlled.

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Problem with sending the (N) to LGA is the serpentine routing required to get there. Distance might be short as the crow flies, but you'd either teardown a boatload of apartments or have it go up to 20th, run past the Rikers bridge, bend south around the runway, and then arrive at LGA, adding about a mile to the trip. In a perfect world, that is the best solution. Unfortunately, unlike several other countries, we can't just force people out of their homes for a new Subway line and the cost would be extravagant. Add a LIRR track at Citi Field and run shuttles between there and GCT or Penn that connect to AirTrain. As an engineer, I don't like that, but as a taxpayer, other transit improvements (i.e. the (T)) would be a better use of the money at this point.

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So stupid... the Q70 will still be the better option from midtown by far.

 

Better idea would be to run it from Woodside & Jackson Heights and have the MTA discontinue the Q70 (the Port controls all buses that come onto airport property and can tell the MTA to stop running it). Or just extend the (N)(Q) ... but the Port probably wants an AirTrain more than direct subway access so they can tack on an extra fare for it like they do at JFK and EWR. Though they probably could tack on an extra entry/exit fee for people going to the airport station on the (N)(Q) anyways, knowing the Port they would probably want a project like that under their control and having MTA operated trains and tracks enter their property would obviously not be Port controlled.

Right. Like the (A) , the Port Authority has no saying whether what line runs and stops whenever passing by or stopping on PA Property

 

 

Problem with sending the  (N) to LGA is the serpentine routing required to get there. Distance might be short as the crow flies, but you'd either teardown a boatload of apartments or have it go up to 20th, run past the Rikers bridge, bend south around the runway, and then arrive at LGA, adding about a mile to the trip. In a perfect world, that is the best solution. Unfortunately, unlike several other countries, we can't just force people out of their homes for a new Subway line and the cost would be extravagant. Add a LIRR track at Citi Field and run shuttles between there and GCT or Penn that connect to AirTrain. As an engineer, I don't like that, but as a taxpayer, other transit improvements (i.e. the  (T)) would be a better use of the money at this point.

 

 

^Like you just said, why would the MTA or PA waste more money on whats already coming. If the (N) were to extend to LGA, the 2001-2010 routes will need to return because people will need direct transport to LGA, especially many in Manhattan. (ex: From the QBL (F)(V) from Mnhtn, to the (7), then the Airtrain from Willets Point to LaGuardia)

Edited by Priincenene

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^Like you just said, why would the MTA or PA waste more money on whats already coming. If the (N) were to extend to LGA, the 2001-2010 routes will need to return because people will need direct transport to LGA, especially many in Manhattan. (ex: From the QBL (F)(V) from Mnhtn, to the (7), then the Airtrain from Willets Point to LaGuardia)

 

Wouldn't need the (V), but you would need the (W) to make up for the (Q) going to Second Avenue in a few years.

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If the AirTrain goes to Willet's Point, won't most people coming from point west just take the Q70 anyway? It's going to be faster and less crowded than taking the (7) all the way to Willet's Point and transferring to the AirTrain to go back northwest for an additional $2.50? Even if it is a bit nicer on the AirTrain. If that happens, then only people coming from Flushing and maybe the Bronx would take it, and the AirTrain wouldn't really be worth all the effort (I mean, do that many people take the Q48 from Flushing to the airport?).

Edited by TrainFanInfinity
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That's ultimately what's going to kill this off. While it's a nice shuttle between Flushing and LaGuardia Airport, it doesn't do much else. After the novelty of Cuomo's proposal wears off, you realize this doesn't help a lot of people. I'm actually surprised with myself that I didn't see this sooner. It won't be able to pull riders off many of the other methods of getting to LGA. The local buses already in place will still be quicker options from most places with the only exception being along the Q48 since the AirTrain would practically parallel the bus line. But that's it. If you're taking the M60 or the Q70, you'll likely continue doing so since the time-savings, if there are any, would be negligible. In most cases there wouldn't be because riders would have to take the 7 train or take the LIRR to Willets Point, which would add time to the trip. Speaking of the LIRR, only the Port Washington branch runs to Willets Point. The JFK AirTrain on the other hand, has connections from the east from almost every LIRR service at Jamaica, as well as from the west from both The Basement* and Atlantic Terminal.

 

As many others have stated, it does bring into question what the intended goal of this "AirTrain" is. If it's to fix the transit desert that is LaGuardia, then it leaves a lot to be desired. However, if it's supposed to be a link between the airport and a soon-to-be up-and-coming Willets Point/Citi Field area, as this is quickly turning into, well we know what the governor is doing, don't we?

 

*Penn Station

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I live right next to the Q72 , M60, and Q33 at Ditmars like 2 mins away waling distance from the airport. Hell to the no for extending the (N) to LGA. That would disturb the hell outta me. 

GREAT WE HAVE NIMBYs on the forums.

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I think the main reason JFK has an Airtrain and LaGuardia doesn't is because of what they actually serve. This LG Airtrain will run parallel to the Q48. Useless, eh? The Q48 is solely for the airport. You have the Q23 and (7) there for those who don't need LG. Plus, about 9 bus routes ain't enough? You have plenty of reliable buses for those who want the airport. And what does the Airtrain connect to anyway? The JFK Airtrain connects to many LIRR trains, plus, many, many buses. There is also the Q3, but it was made also to serve Farmer's Blvd. This LG Airtrain will be useless. You could send the Airtrain to LIC, but I doubt they want LG and where would it go?

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I live right next to the Q72 , M60, and Q33 at Ditmars like 2 mins away waling distance from the airport. Hell to the no for extending the (N) to LGA. That would disturb the hell outta me. 

This is why we can't have nice things.

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I think the main reason JFK has an Airtrain and LaGuardia doesn't is because of what they actually serve. This LG Airtrain will run parallel to the Q48. Useless, eh? The Q48 is solely for the airport. You have the Q23 and (7) there for those who don't need LG. Plus, about 9 bus routes ain't enough? You have plenty of reliable buses for those who want the airport. And what does the Airtrain connect to anyway? The JFK Airtrain connects to many LIRR trains, plus, many, many buses. There is also the Q3, but it was made also to serve Farmer's Blvd. This LG Airtrain will be useless. You could send the Airtrain to LIC, but I doubt they want LG and where would it go?

 

JFK is busier than LGA, I think that's why they have Airtrain and LGA don't. Also what you mentioned about the location of JFK near better transportation opportunities makes sense too.

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We can't have an (N) extension because of neighborhood disruption.

We can't have a mets-willets Airtrain because of low ridership.

We can't have the Airtrain go to Woodside because of the Q70.

There really isn't much to put out here....

The only thing I see LGA getting a train line is Cuomo's sh!tty plan. Maybe (and I doubt it) extend the line to hit Flushing and Hunts Point so it isn't that "useless". (Cue reasons why extending the Airtrain to Hunts Point and Flushing won't work)

Edited by MysteriousBtrain

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We can't have an (N) extension because of neighborhood disruption.

We can't have a mets-willets Airtrain because of low ridership.

We can't have the Airtrain go to Woodside because of the Q70.

There really isn't much to put out here....

The only thing I see LGA getting a train line is Cuomo's sh!tty plan. Maybe (and I doubt it) extend the line to hit Flushing and Hunts Point so it isn't that "useless". (Cue reasons why extending the Airtrain to Hunts Point and Flushing won't work)

 

Extending the Airtrain to Hunts Point or Flushing won't work because of low ridership. The only way the Airtrain could possibly have a steady amount of ridership is if they discontinue the Q70 and run the Airtain to 74th/Roosevelt and Woodside. (Both stations underground). Other than that I think LGA having any type of train/subway service will not happen unless somebody builds another subway trunk line or residents in Astoria will just have to suck it up, use earmuffs and extend the (N) to LGA.

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We can't have an (N) extension because of neighborhood disruption.

We can't have a mets-willets Airtrain because of low ridership.

We can't have the Airtrain go to Woodside because of the Q70.

There really isn't much to put out here....

The only thing I see LGA getting a train line is Cuomo's sh!tty plan. Maybe (and I doubt it) extend the line to hit Flushing and Hunts Point so it isn't that "useless". (Cue reasons why extending the Airtrain to Hunts Point and Flushing won't work)

What Cuomo should do instead is bring back the 2001 routes Brown (M)(V)(W) and (G) to Forest Hills-71st Continental and save money that way.

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What Cuomo should do instead is bring back the 2001 routes Brown (M)(V)(W) and (G) to Forest Hills-71st Continental and save money that way.

 

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

 

Before 2010...

Most Myrtle Av riders got what they wanted - a two seat ride (to Midtown).

(V) had low ridership.

(Q) only sucked up Brighton while (W) sucked up Astoria. People going from CI to Astoria piled on the (N). Why not just phase out the (W) and send the (Q) up Astoria? It makes more sense that way.

(G) always got delayed and also some other QBL lines too due to constant construction and flagging.

 

Before 2010, service was basically made for railfans. What do they do? Spend $2.50 and get access to all of the NYC Subway museum.

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You make it seem as if a two-seat ride is the end of the world.

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It's a big deal for Myrtle because the majority gets the two seat ride. Let the non-majority get the two seat ride.

 

As for the (Q) and (W), I was saying that it made no sense at all that the (Q) served the southern portion and the (W) served the northern portion, with both having nearly the same starting points. It would make more sense if the (Q) got extended to Astoria to phase out the (W), thus, saving money.

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It's Cuomo trying to make himself look good really.

 

Once the Port and MTA do studies and all that they'll see it's a bad idea. Even if he's not just trying to make himself look good and he really wants this done, what Cuomo says doesn't automatically go at either agency, the MTA has commissioners appointed by NYC & the other counties in the area and the Port has commissioners appointed by the governor of NJ and ALL no matter who they're appointed by have to make decisions that make financial sense to the MTA & Port and this will not.

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I'm once again going to pose the 100% not going to happen IND Jxn-Rockaway Beach Line from LGA-Roosevelt (7)-63Dr (M)(R)-Jamaica Av-Howard Beach. Not going to happen, but hey, it's like a straight line from LGA to JFK and serves Central Queens.

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There was a plan that an extension to LGA Airport from Jamaica was included, that was scrapped and only built the JFK to Jamaica route. Because of a budget the idea is scrapped.

 

Another problem with the Willets Point Station, the MTA has to rehabilitate both Mets- Willets Point station to ADA regulations, which means getting rid of the side platform of the Flushing bound by making the station in a 2 side tracks, 2 island platforms, and a center track configuration, adding a new walkway for the LIRR, 7 Line and LGA Airtrain separate from the walkway going towards Flushing Meadows Park, and building under or over the Roosevelt Ave Overpass which carries the Flushing Line with a flying express track that descends towards Mets-Willets Point station

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