Rendering of future AirTrain LaGuardia
|Locale||Queens, New York City|
|Owner||Port Authority of New York and New Jersey|
|Operator(s)||Port Authority of New York and New Jersey|
|Line length||1.5 mi (2.4 km)|
AirTrain LaGuardia is a proposed 1.5-mile-long (2.4 km) people mover system and elevated railway in New York City, United States, that would provide service to LaGuardia Airport in Queens. It would connect with the New York City Subway and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) in Willets Point, similar to how the existing AirTrain JFK system connects with the subway and LIRR in southern Queens.
The system will be constructed and operated under contract to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the operator of the airport, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Construction is expected to begin in 2020, and opening is projected by 2022.
LaGuardia Airport had no rail service when the AirTrain was proposed in 2014. The only public transportation is by bus via the Q47, Q48, Q70 SBS, Q72 and M60 SBS routes, all of which connect to the subway. The Q70 also connects to the LIRR at Woodside station, while the M60 SBS runs to Manhattan, connecting with the Metro-North Railroad at Harlem–125th Street station as well as with several subway routes. In 2014, 8% of LaGuardia's 27 million passengers took the bus, compared to the 12% of the 53 million passengers using John F. Kennedy International Airport who took AirTrain JFK. Similarly, in 2008, 75% of LaGuardia's passengers took a taxi or car service, but only 16% rode a bus or van.
The New York metropolitan area's other two major airports have rail connections. AirTrain Newark, the monorail at Newark Liberty International Airport, has connected that airport to commuter trains since 1996. AirTrain JFK, the people mover at JFK Airport, opened in 2003. AirTrain LaGuardia is proposed to be a people mover like the one at JFK.
As currently planned, the AirTrain LaGuardia would run from LaGuardia Airport with two stops within the airport, before running over the Grand Central Parkway for 1.5 miles (2.4 km) before terminating in Willets Point near Citi Field and Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, and would connect there with the New York City Subway's 7 and <7> trains at the Mets–Willets Point station and, via an existing passenger bridge, with the Long Island Rail Road's Mets–Willets Point station. The AirTrain trip would take 6 minutes, while the LIRR ride to Manhattan would take 20 minutes.
The Mets-Willets Point subway stop would be rebuilt, and $50 million has been allocated toward planning and designing this work in the 2015–2019 MTA Capital Program. Also as part of that Capital Program, the LIRR stop would be rebuilt for $75 million. The subway station and the LIRR station would be integrated with nearby buses as part of the overhaul for greater intermodal connectivity.:4, 8, 37, 56, 118, 140 The station could also possibly hold ancillary airport functions, employee parking, and a Consolidated Rent-a-Car facility.:30–31 To allow for the AirTrain station in Willets Point to be built, the Casey Stengel Bus Depot will need to be relocated. $50 million was allocated in the 2015–2019 MTA Capital Program to acquire property for a replacement depot.:6, 37, 45
A rail link to LaGuardia Airport had been proposed since 1943, when the city Board of Transportation proposed an extension of the New York City Subway's BMT Astoria Line (currently served by the N and W trains) from its terminus at Ditmars Boulevard. This would be one of 20 proposals for direct links to New York-area airports that would all be canceled.
In 1990, the MTA proposed the New York City airport rail link to LaGuardia and JFK airports, which would be funded jointly by agencies in the federal, state, and city government. The rail line was to begin in Midtown Manhattan, crossing the East River via the Queensboro Bridge's lower-level outer roadways, which had been formerly used by trolley cars. It would stop at Queens Plaza, then use the right-of-way of the Sunnyside Yards and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to access LaGuardia Airport. After stopping at LaGuardia, the line would continue parallel to the Grand Central Parkway an intermediate stop near Shea Stadium in Willets Point, with a connection to the 7 and <7> trains at Willets Point Boulevard. Continuing down the parkway, the line would have another intermediate stop in Jamaica, connecting to the LIRR at Jamaica Station, and then proceed nonstop down the Van Wyck Expressway to JFK Airport. The Port Authority seriously considered the proposal, commissioning an environmental impact statement for the rail link. However, due to rising costs, the Port Authority canceled the direct rail link between LaGuardia/JFK and Manhattan in May 1995.
Prior to the construction of AirTrain JFK in 1997, Mayor Rudy Giuliani opposed the AirTrain at JFK because of a monetary dispute between the state, city, and Port Authority. Giuliani wanted the Port Authority to study the possibility of extending the BMT Astoria Line to LaGuardia Airport, among other things. Later that year, Giuliani agreed to the AirTrain JFK plan, and the Port Authority agreed to conduct a feasibility study on a similar LaGuardia rail link. In 2003, $645 million was budgeted to extend the Astoria Line to the airport, but the extension was never built due to community opposition in Queens.
Planning and construction
On January 20, 2015, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to build a people mover similar to AirTrain JFK. It would follow the Grand Central Parkway for one and a half miles, similar to how the AirTrain JFK runs along the median of the Van Wyck Expressway between Jamaica and JFK. The line would terminate in Willets Point near Citi Field and Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, and would connect there with the New York City Subway's 7 and <7> trains at the Mets–Willets Point station and, via an existing passenger bridge, with the Long Island Rail Road's Mets–Willets Point station on the Port Washington Branch. The governor's office estimated the cost for the project to be $450 million, which later increased to $1.5 billion.
The first contracts for the AirTrain itself were awarded in May 2016. A pair of contracts, totaling $7.5 million, were awarded for preliminary engineering work at the two Willets Point stations and expected to be completed in 2017. One contract, costing $4.6 million and awarded to STV Inc, was for studies of the LIRR station's platform lengthening and an ADA-accessibility retrofit. The other, a $2.9 million contract given to HDR Architecture and Engineering PC, was for studies regarding the subway station's complete renovation and ADA-accessibility. The airport renovation as a whole started construction on June 14, 2016. $1.5 billion was allocated for the construction of the rail link as part of the introduced 10-year $29.5 billion plan for the Port Authority. New York Commissioner Kenneth Lipper tried to have the plan amended with all funding for the AirTrain removed, citing concerns that the project would leave the agency in financial difficulty.
In January 2017, the PANYNJ released its 10-year capital plan that included AirTrain LaGuardia funding. Construction is projected to start in 2019, with passenger service in 2023.:35 On February 6, 2017, the PANYNJ announced that it had opened a four-week-long request for proposals. The firm that is awarded the RFP would design three AirTrain stations—two inside the airport's new terminals and one at Willets Point—as well as plan the right of way from Willets Point to the airport. In May 2017, WSP USA was hired to design the AirTrain. The PANYNJ awarded another $55 million to the project in November 2017, bringing the total funds allocated for planning to $75 million. In April 2018, the Port Authority ruled out the possibility of routing the AirTrain along Grand Central Parkway, after consultation with residents of nearby East Elmhurst who opposed such a routing. The other options for routing the AirTrain included either placing it on a promenade adjacent to Flushing Bay, or over the bay itself.
In June 2018, the New York State Legislature approved a law for the AirTrain LaGuardia project. This allowed the PANYNJ to start acquiring public land for the AirTrain's route, as well as for environmental impact studies to be conducted. Under the plan, the AirTrain would start construction in 2020 and be complete by 2022. The Port Authority subsequently began environmental studies for three possible routings of the AirTrain, as well as the no-build alternative. Some residents and environmental groups opposed the project, and so they requested results from the environmental study upon its completion. Environmental groups worried that the AirTrain's construction would pollute Flushing Bay.
The proposal has been strongly criticized by transit advocates as being slower than existing transit modes and likely to increase loads on the 7 and <7> trains, which already operate at full capacity. This would be alleviated somewhat by the automation of trains on the IRT Flushing Line, which would allow more 7 and <7> trains to run every hour. However, the proposed AirTrain transfer at Willets Point would still be 20 stations away from the 34th Street–Hudson Yards station, the western terminus of the 7 and <7> trains (10 stations away via the rush-hour peak-direction express). It was estimated that transferring from the subway to the AirTrain would take longer than transferring from the subway to the Q70 LaGuardia Link bus at 61st Street–Woodside, which is eight local stops closer to Manhattan than the Willets Point station is. The AirTrain would not be of use to many LIRR riders as well, since the Port Washington Branch is the only LIRR route that does not go through Jamaica station, so riders from the rest of Long Island would have to make a transfer at the LIRR's Woodside station to access the Port Washington Branch.
According to one critic, even with a capacity increase, the new route might not be worth the trip due to its distance from most of the rest of the city, as "transit travel times from LaGuardia to destinations throughout New York City—from Grand Central in Midtown Manhattan to Borough Hall in downtown Brooklyn to Jamaica in central Queens to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx—would be longer for passengers using the AirTrain than for passengers using existing transit services already offered by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority." A writer from Slate called the project itself "dumb," saying that the project was a pet project for Cuomo and an "egregious misuse of money and initiative, in a city whose everyday transit functions are at capacity, to extend such a gift to airport travelers, of all people." The Village Voice called the project an "unmitigated disaster" for its convoluted, unwieldy route, and asked, "Why would [Cuomo] build [the AirTrain's] terminal at Willets Point, which is even further from the city than the airport itself?" One alternative suggestion involved extending the Astoria Line to LaGuardia Airport rather than building the AirTrain to Willets Point.
However, not all critics opposed the proposal. In 2017, the Newsday editorial board wrote a piece in support of the AirTrain LaGuardia project, saying that it would increase mass transit patronage to the airport. The board cited AirTrain JFK as an example, saying that "officials with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey estimate the AirTrain provides 7.5 million rides to air travelers annually", and arguing that LaGuardia Airport needed a similar mass-transit airport link.
- "mta.info | Services to LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports". web.mta.info. Archived from the original on November 10, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
- "By Public Transit – LaGuardia Airport". LaGuardia Airport. Archived from the original on October 29, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
- Long Island News & PRs (February 12, 2015). "Governor Cuomo Announces AirTrain JFK Reaches Record High Ridership in 2014". LongIsland.com.
- Parry, Bill (July 28, 2016). "First contracts awarded for LaGuardia AirTrain project". TimesLedger. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
- Sharkey, Joe (June 1, 1996). "NEW JERSEY DAILY BRIEFING;Monorail Opens With Spat". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
- Stellin, Susan (December 14, 2003). "TRAVEL ADVISORY; A Train to the Plane, At Long Last". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
- Durkin, Erin (January 20, 2015). "Andrew Cuomo Announces $450M Plan to Build AirTrain Connecting LaGuardia Airport to the Subway". Daily News. New York. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
- "Building A New New York" (PDF). ny.gov. Government of New York. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
- Maps of proposed Airtrain LGA route at ny.gov
- Grynbaum, Michael M. (January 20, 2015). "Cuomo Wants Elevated Train Link Built to Ill-Served La Guardia Airport". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
- Rivoli, Dan (June 25, 2018). "LaGuardia AirTrain moves forward after Cuomo signs bill". nydailynews.com. Retrieved June 26, 2018.
- "Amendment to the 2015–2019 MTA Capital Plan" (PDF). mta.info. Metropolitan Transportation Authority. May 2017. Retrieved June 11, 2017.
- "PANYNJ Proposed Capital Plan 2017-2026" (PDF). Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. January 11, 2017. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
- "Post-War Plans List 2 Subway Links for Boro". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. August 8, 1943. Retrieved July 19, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Outlay of Billion for Transit Line Proposed for City" (PDF). nytimes.com. The New York Times. November 17, 1945. Retrieved July 5, 2015.
- Newman, Andy (October 2, 1997). "Officials Agree On Modest Plan For a Rail Link To One Airport". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Sims, Calvin (March 18, 1990). "M.T.A. Proposes Rail Line to Link Major Airports". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
- Levy, Clifford J. (February 1, 1995). "Port Authority May Scale Back Airport Rail Line". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Firestone, David (July 31, 1994). "The Push Is On for Link to Airports;Port Authority Confident of Rail Plan Despite Opposition". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Dao, James (December 21, 1992). "Dream Train to Airports Takes Step Nearer Reality". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Herszenhorn, David M. (August 20, 1995). "NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: HOWARD BEACH; Rethinking Plans For Those Trains To the Planes". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 24, 2016.
- Donohue, Pete (August 2, 1995). "JFK LIGHT RAIL MOVES FORWARD". NY Daily News. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Levy, Clifford J. (August 2, 1995). "A Monorail For Kennedy Is Granted Key Approval". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Macfarquhar, Neil (June 14, 1997). "Disagreement Over Rent Stalls Airport Rail Project". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Macfarquhar, Neil (March 13, 1997). "Agency Says J.F.K. Rail Plan Is Ready, but Mayor Balks". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Feiden, Douglas (October 1, 1997). "JFK-RAIL PLAN TO GET RUDY'S OK". NY Daily News. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Robbins, Christopher (February 6, 2014). "Here's Why You Can't Get to Laguardia Airport by Train". Gothamist. Archived from the original on April 4, 2015.
- Honan, Katie. "Cuomo Announces AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport from Subway, LIRR". DNAinfo. Archived from the original on January 20, 2015. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
- Rauh, Grace (June 14, 2016). "Biden Joins Cuomo for Groundbreaking for Expansion of LaGuardia Airport". TWC News. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- Higgs, Larry (January 5, 2017). "Billions for PATH extension, bus terminal included in PA spending plan". NJ.com. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
- Barone, Vincent (February 6, 2017). "PA takes major step in planning for LaGuardia AirTrain". am New York. Retrieved February 7, 2017.
- Rivoli, Dan (May 9, 2017). "NYC firm hired for $14.6M to develop LaGuardia AirTrain proposal". NY Daily News. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
- Rivoli, Dan (November 16, 2017). "LaGuardia AirTrain planning sees $55M boost from Port Authority". NY Daily News. Retrieved November 19, 2017.
- Barone, Vincent (November 17, 2017). "LaGuardia Airport's AirTrain plan continues to roll forward". am New York. Retrieved November 19, 2017.
- "LaGuardia AirTrain won't be on the GCP". Queens Chronicle. April 26, 2018. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
- Warerkar, Tanay (June 25, 2018). "New looks at LaGuardia AirTrain, now one step closer to reality". Curbed NY. Retrieved June 26, 2018.
- Honan, Katie; Berger, Paul (June 18, 2018). "New York Lawmakers Press for LaGuardia Airport Rail Link". WSJ. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
- "Plans for AirTrain to La Guardia Airport Move Ahead Amid Criticism". The New York Times. June 25, 2018. Retrieved June 26, 2018.
- "LGA AirTrain: All sides prepping for the plan". Queens Chronicle. September 13, 2018. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
- "LGA air train foes seeking PA studies". Queens Chronicle. September 20, 2018. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
- "LaGuardia AirTrain threatens Flushing Bay: Advocates". am New York. October 1, 2018. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
- Harshbarger, Rebecca (July 30, 2015). "New AirTrain not worth the trip thanks to crowded 7 train: transit advocates". AM New York. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
- Rivoli, Dan (July 30, 2015). "Congestion on the chronically crowded 7 train a worry should it link up to LaGuardia Airport". New York Daily News. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
- Freemark, Yonah (January 21, 2015). "For LaGuardia, an AirTrain that will save almost no one any time". The Transport Politic. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
- Grabar, Henry (June 14, 2016). "Andrew Cuomo Keeps Pushing Ahead With One of the Worst Transit Ideas in America". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- Rivlin-Nadler, Max (February 7, 2017). "Cuomo's LaGuardia AirTrain, Possibly NY's Worst Transit Idea, Is Actually Happening". Village Voice. Retrieved September 1, 2017.
- Newsday Editorial Board (November 25, 2017). "Editorial: Build a new train to the plane". Newsday. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
- Governor Andrew Cuomo's Office's rendering via Flickr