Everyone who's ever schlepped to LaGuardia using mass transit experienced a brief burst of hope yesterday when Governor Cuomo announced that he would allocate funds to build an AirTrain connecting the airport to the subway system and the LIRR. Then we realized that the proposal, in its current form, would deliver commuters to the 7 train station at Willets Point. Which, if you look at a map, is further away from Manhattan than LaGuardia.

The cost of the AirTrain is estimated at $450 million, which is considerably less than the AirTrain that was built for JFK to the tune of $1.9 billion. But it still seems like a lot of money to spend to go in the opposite direction of Manhattan. The Transport Politic did a great job of shaking their damn heads at Cuomo's proposal today, and according to their estimates, using Cuomo's AirTrain to get to Manhattan will actually take longer than current options provided by the MTA:

As the following chart demonstrates, 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.* This finding suggests that for most people in the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island, AirTrain services will not be beneficial from a time perspective.

Given the fact that the AirTrain services would likely be automated, therefore reducing labor costs, it may be reasonable to assume that existing transit services to the airport would be eliminated to save costs. In other words, people may be forced to switch into the new, slower rail option.

For people coming from Flushing or Port Washington, directly to the east of the Mets-Willets Point station, travel times would be lower with the AirTrain service. Similarly, people coming from Penn Station and using the LIRR to get to Mets-Willets Point would have a slightly shorter commute to the airport with the AirTrain. However, it is worth emphasizing that LIRR service to this station only occurs on game days; LIRR has not indicated it would provide additional service for the AirTrain, and even if it did, trains would likely only come every half-hour during off-peak periods, suggesting that for most travelers from Penn Station, existing transit services to LaGuardia are faster than the AirTrain would be.

Cuomo's decision to route the AirTrain along the highway and through the auto-repair shops of Willets Point may be part of a strategy to sidestap NIMBYs in other neighborhoods who would fight the project, but the result is an AirTrain that won't make much a difference for most travelers. Click on over here to peruse their sad charts comparing Cuomo's AirTrain estimated travel times to the other options. Oh well. It's probably more of a Shelbyville idea anyway.