Recently, we blogged about State lawmakers approving the AirTrain legislation on the final day of the session. Governor Cuomo is looking to make a mark on infrastructure, and transportation to LaGuardia Airport is on the top of his list. The proposed legislation allows the state to acquire public land along the Grand Central Parkway and the No. 7 line without using eminent domain to take private property.
Although there has been significant criticism of the plan, Governor Cuomo has announced that the plans will continue. Let’s take a moment to talk about the current plans. The proposal is to create an AirTrain that would offer a 30-minute trip to La Guardia from Midtown Manhattan. Mark your calendar for the 2022 opening.
Sounds good so far, right? Actually, not so much. Imagine you are on the LIRR or subway and you watch the airport out of your window as you and the train go by. Travelers would first have to go past the airport and go east to Citi Field where the Mets play. Then travelers would have to catch the AirTrain and go back a bit to get to the airport.
The idea is that this circuitous route would actually take only 30 minutes. But there is a catch here too. That amount of time is based on no waiting for trains. While it might only take 16 minutes to travel on the Long Island Rail Road from Manhattan to the Willets Point station in Queens, the reality is that travelers would have to wait a while for the trains to come. Then it’s another six minutes on the AirTrain from Willets Point to the airport. Plan B, which is really not such a great alternative, is to take the No. 7 subway line to the Mets-Willets Point station to catch the AirTrain. If you’ve ever taken the No. 7 train before you know local trains make a lot of stops. Plus, it’s always so crowded there’s hardly room for luggage.
The cost of the AirTrain has nearly tripled, from $450 million when Mr. Cuomo proposed the idea in 2015. The two other major airports in the region, Kennedy International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport, both have AirTrains. Although, let’s face it, Newark’s is totally unreliable and you need certainty when trying to catch a flight.
The current methods of getting to LaGuardia airport are quite miserable. Travelers need to take a taxi or Uber using highways that are notorious for heavy traffic. Talks of trains to the airport have been going on for years, but no elected have been able to get past the daunting logistics and costs.
We’ll have to wait and see…just like on the train platform!