For five years, Governor Andrew Cuomo has dreamed of an AirTrain connecting LaGuardia Airport with the New York transit system. He's proposed a transit hub in the hinterlands of the Long Island Rail Road station at Willets Point (which is farther from Manhattan than the airport itself) with a price tag that has quadrupled over the years from $450 million to $2 billion.
In an op-ed for Streetsblog last week, Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said the Cuomo plan would avoid disrupting surrounding neighborhoods and only involve public land, and called it the "best alternative" to the status quo, which typically involves traffic jams near the airport, even for those taking mass transit.
"That alternative builds an air train to Willets Point on a route that involves no construction in neighborhoods, takes no private property, and largely follows the eight-lane Grand Central Parkway right of way, then uses the edge of a parking lot serving CitiField before entering MTA property. It will be a reliable trip of 30 minutes or less between Midtown and LaGuardia – a 16-minute trip from Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal to Willets Point, and a six-minute trip from Willets Point to the airport," Cotton wrote.
Critics say the Cuomo proposal doesn't make sense for the price tag, and proposed alternatives should be seriously considered instead of being ignored by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Port Authority.
On January 10th Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sent the FAA a letter asking why the agency hasn't seriously considered dozens of alternatives to Cuomo's plan.
"I understand the two alternatives to be carried forward are the 1) no action alternative and 2) the fixed guideway to Willets Point despite overwhelming public comments opposed to PANYNJ's preferred route," she wrote in the letter to Philip Newman, the FAA's assistant administrator for Government and Industry Affairs. She also said she was concerned that dozens of opposition form letters were counted as one piece of public comment.
Transit blog Second Avenue Sagas argues some alternatives that merit further consideration from the Port Authority and the FAA included ferry service, improving bus service, extending the subway from Astoria or implementing an AirTrain from Woodside.
The FAA is hosting two public information sessions this week about the project. The first FAA session is Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and the second session is Wednesday at the same time. Both sessions will be held at the New York LaGuardia Airport Marriott, 102-05 Ditmars Boulevard in East Elmhurst in the grand ballroom on the lobby level.
These sessions will be focused on the processes of scoping and identifying alternatives -- which Ocasio-Cortez says the FAA and Port Authority have already failed to do.