New coalition forms to push for LaGuardia AirTrain

Posted On Thu, October 11, 2018 By

Posted On Thu, October 11, 2018 By In Policy, Queens, Transportation

More than a dozen organizations have joined together to form A Better Way to LGA in support of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport (AirTrain LGA). Comprised of community members, economic development groups, transportation advocates, unionized labor, civic stakeholders, and local business leader, the coalition beleives that it is essential to create a viable transit alternative for LaGuardia Airport travelers and workers. The coalition is co-chaired by the Queens Chamber of Commerce, the Association for a Better New York, and the New York Building Congress. The group emphasized in a press release announcing their launch that LaGuardia is the only major East Coast airport without a direct rail connection, despite the fact that LaGuardia Airport is currently undergoing an $8 billion complete renovation.

A Better Way to LGA believes that AirTrain LGA is vital to the overall redevelopment efforts.  In 2017, over 29 million travelers flew in and out of LaGuardia Airport, a number that will increase by an estimated six million by 2030. Traffic from Grand Central Parkway and adjacent roads creating unbreakable gridlock in the surrounding neighborhood is only one problem, but it’s a bad one:

“Queens businesses are forced to pay a hidden Grand Central Parkway tax due to constant traffic on the roads around LaGuardia, delaying deliveries and hurting workers. And it’s only getting worse each year,” said Tom Grech, President and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “The AirTrain will take millions of cars off the road and reduce traffic on our local streets, making it easier for Queens residents to get around, small businesses to make deliveries, and employees and customers to get to work or shop locally. It’s a proven model that has done wonders for JFK, and we simply can’t wait any longer to move forward on this project.”

AirTrain LGA would connect with public transportation at Willets Point, relieving airport congestion. Willets Point Station will be modernized, made accessible to people with disabilities, and designed for travelers with luggage, providing a seamless transition. Passengers traveling from Manhattan could reach Willets Point in 16 minutes on the Long Island Railroad, with direct, non-stop service from Penn Station–and Grand Central Station pending the completion of the East Side Access project. From Willets Point, it’s just six minutes to the airport.

“The proposed AirTrain LGA would make the dream of a 30-minute ride from Midtown Manhattan to LaGuardia a reality,” said Angela Pinsky, Executive Director of the Association for a Better New York.

The coalition’s announcement coincides with a Wall Street Journal article that warns of roads between Midtown Manhattan and LaGuardia Airport becoming so congested in the coming decades that by 2045 it may take up to two hours to make the trip. A rail link to the airport might move between 8.4 million and 12 million people annually by then.

The Port Authority is looking for consultants to undertake an environmental review of the $1.5 billion train project, and has said it is still in early planning stages for the train and all other possible options. The review process is expected to take from 12 to 18 months.

Executive director of the Port Authority Rick Cotton, said, “There’s no such thing as an average trip anymore,” citing Port Authority studies that say the average travel times are getting longer while the number of days with delays that top 70 minutes is growing. Earlier this year, Gov. Cuomo signed a bill that allows the state to take public land along the preferred rail link route for the proposed train.

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Neighborhoods : Queens

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