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Governor Hochul Scraps the LGA to Flushing Meadows Corona Park Air Train

May 16, 2023 at 12:15 am by PeterParker

nyc hochul scraps lga air train to flushing meadows corona park nyc manhattan queens governor hochul dismisses ill conceived plan for air train to laguardia airport from flushing meadows coro

Governor Hochul Scraps the Ill Conceived LGA - Willets Point Air Train

Former Governor Cuomo's Air Train Seemed More About Catering to the Whims of the Billionaire Class, than in Streamlining Public Transit

March 15, 2023 / NYC Neighborhoods / News Analysis & Opinion / Gotham Buzz NYC.

CTA subway line from downtown chicago to O'Hare Airport nyc public transit air train lgaIn 2017 I attended a Community Board meeting in Astoria where our urban planners talked about new improvements coming to LaGuardia Airport. Since then a number of those plans have come to fruition. But one of them, what at the time was called the third phase, the Air Train to LGA, has not. Use the link to see the thinking nearly six years ago when the plans had been drafted and the construction was about to begin. I'm happy to say that we flagged and reported to you a number of the issues with the LGA Air Train early on, which we've included in the list below.

The photo at right shows the CTA [Chicago Transit Authority] subway that runs along the Kennedy Expressway from downtown Chicago to O'Hare Airport which vies with Atlanta for the title of the busiest airport in the U.S..


The Former Emperor [Governor Cuomo] had No Clothes [Sound Public Interest Rationale]

On Monday, Governor Hochul announced what was already well known and expected, which was that the Air Train shuttling between LaGuardia Airport and Flushing Meadows Corona Park, would not be built.

There were any number of good reasons why the LGA Air Train should not have been built, such as: 1) the costs of building the train would cost more than five times the original estimated cost of under $500 million to over $2.5 billion, 2) then, implicit in a number of alternatives, there was the idiocy of connecting the LGA Air Train, to the second most trafficked subway line [the #7] in NYC, which was already nearing peak capacity pre-pandemic, 3) the politically and billionaire preferred alternative destination, Willets Point on Flushing Bay, had just been cleaned up after decades of environmental pollution, and would again be threatened again, and to top it all off, 4) the politically and billionaire preferred Willets Point alternative required all of the people traveling to and from LaGuardia on public transit, to travel out to Flushing first, before circling back around to LaGuardia Airport. The billionaires who would have benefitted from this include billionaire real estate developer Stephen Ross and [now minority interest] Mets Club billionaire owners Saul B. Katz and Fred Wilpon. The new Mets baseball team owner, Steve Cohen, is also a billionaire.

CLICK here to read our report on Governor Hochul scraps the LGA to Flushing Meadows Corona Park Air Train.

Governor Hochul Scraps the Ill Conceived LGA - Willets Point Air Train

Former Governor Cuomo's Air Train Seemed More About Catering to the Whims of the Billionaire Class, than in Streamlining Public Transit

March 15, 2023 / NYC Neighborhoods / News Analysis & Opinion / Gotham Buzz NYC.

CTA subway line from downtown chicago to O'Hare Airport nyc public transit air train lgaContinued.


Environmental & Community Groups Oppose Cuomo's Willets Point - LGA Air Train Plan

I recall and confirmed via Wikipedia that, "... In January 2020, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, wrote to the FAA asking why 46 alternatives were rejected and noting that over 60% of the 414 public comments collected by the FAA were in opposition to the proposed routing. Democratic District Leader, Hiram Monserrate, also objected that the FAA's approval had bypassed a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure analysis ... mandated for other large projects. The same month, residents and business owners along the AirTrain's proposed route protested against the construction of the AirTrain on that route...".

In early 2021 Hudson Riverkeeper and the following community groups, Ditmars Blvd Block Association, Guardians of Flushing Bay and the Sensible Way to LGA Coalition, joined forces to slow and eventually stop the Cuomo preferred Air Train alternative, which was to be routed through billionaire controlled Willets Point.

I was far from alone in believing that things weren't right with Cuomo's preferred alternative for the Air Train via Willets Point. An August 12, 2021 Streets Blog report informed us the following,

"... Environmentalists, transit advocates, elected officials and other opponents of the LaGuardia AirTrain are cheering the dissident Port Authority of New York and New Jersey staffers who issued an open letter calling for an end to the boondoggle project and an internal investigation of any “undue influence” that departing Gov. Cuomo had on its federal approval ... Dozens of Port Authority staffers are said to have signed the August 10 missive, which was addressed to Port Authority Executive Director (and Cuomo loyalist) Rick Cotton and copied to all Port Authority commissioners. The letter landed literally hours after Cuomo announced his resignation on Tuesday. (Internal sources dispute the number, claiming that the number of signers is in the single digits.) ... “For too long, Gov. Cuomo and his staff have repeatedly pushed the agency to make non-transparent, politically motivated decisions, including decisions that squander the trust and money of our bondholders, customers, and the general public,” the staffers wrote in the letter ... "


A Bit of the Scandalous History of Willets Point Real Estate Ownership - A Story Generally Not Reported Much by the TV Teleprompter News Presenters

This destination, Willets Point, was the site where former Mayor Bloomberg misused the government power of eminent domain to wrest that valuable land from a number of small landlords of auto repair shops. After using government power and funding to essentially take away the Willets Point property from its original owners, former Mayor Bloomberg subsequently turned around and 'sold it for $1' to the billionaires / millionaires mentioned above, including Stephen Ross, as well as Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon [Mets owners at the time] who also controlled adjacent property at Willets Point near Flushing Bay.

It's worth mentioning that multi-billionaire Stephen Ross was also the primary beneficiary of another Bloomberg (using the NYC Mayor's office) real estate development project, wherein - Bloomberg aggregated the land which became Hudson Yard, by using NYC taxpayer funds and government power, which he then sold to Stephen Ross for $1, and for which Mayor Bloomberg also used NYC / NYS taxpayer funds to build a multi-billion dollar #7 subway line rail spur, to enhance the value and commercial viability of billionaire Stephen Ross's Hudson Yard. This was being done, while many other neighborhoods in dire need of mass transit in NYC, went without. Former Mayor Bloomberg also helped round up various levels of government financing for Ross's Hudson Yard development too. And these weren't the only two projects that Bloomberg used to greatly enrich Stephen Ross [and a few select others], during his term as Mayor. During Bloomberg's Mayoralty Stephen Ross's net worth skyrocketed into the billions and he started showing up as the richest NYC real estate developer. And what did the NYC taxpayer get [besides screwed]?

So ask yourself, why don't most New Yorkers know what I just reported above? Because the mainstream media is too busy extensively reporting the weather, sports scores and accidents and murders, instead of the real news. And the TV teleprompter presenters don't seem to have a clue as to what really goes on in NYC and NYS, as they - like the bad politicians - only show up in front of their cameras for photo ops, which are no real substitute for real news coverage. To me, the TV teleprompter presenters seem as inauthentic as $3 bills. But I digress.


Two Primary Drivers of the Rail Connection Construction Costs

air train costs prohibitive in part due to faa restrictions on construction near landing strip lga willetts point air train analysisOne of the biggest obstacles to erecting a rail connection into / out of LaGuardia is the disruption it would cause to existing commutes. Another major factor, particularly for those alternatives which provided the most direct connections into / out of Manhattan, was that a rail connection would have to tunnel below the end of LGA Runway 4-22 that stretches from the southwest section of the airport to the northeast section of the airport which ends in the East River. The reason such a tunnel is required, is because of FAA regulations surrounding construction limitations around an FAA airstrip. I picked up this information in a March 13, 2023 Engineering News Record report as well as in the FAA report noted below.

In the map at right you can see the two runways at LaGuardia and the spot where the 4-22 runway ends, which is one of the construction hurdles / issues.


The Best Air Train Alternative Never Made the List - But the Q70 Bus Link did & Won

There were 10 alternatives, which were described - along with their limitations - on the FAA website. If you're curious about them you can cut and paste this link to view them.


So, instead of a new rail connection into LaGuardia Airport, the committee decided to spend an additional $500 million upgrading the Q70 bus link to LaGuardia. Does that really make sense?


What About Some Other Low Cost, Direct Alternative?

So first, full disclosure, this is my own conception and I've not even tested it out on anyone. You're among the first.

laguaridia air train doesn't make sense because connects to capacity constrained #7 subway line queens lga willetts point air train analysisI took a look at a map of the Astoria neighborhood which lies between Manhattan and LaGuardia. It's an area with which I'm pretty familiar. A few of the air train alternatives included connecting the Astoria Blvd and the Ditmars Blvd N / W train MTA subway stops, as the jumping off point for a rail connection to LaGuardia Airport. This makes the most sense, as both the N and W subway lines are nowhere near capacity use, like the #7 train, so there's likely enough slack to handle a significant boost in ridership, if those lines were to be used to enable a public transit rail connection to LaGuardia Airport.

I couldn't find passengers per subway line [that the MTA doesn't publish such information makes no sense to me - they seem only publish per station information], so instead I used the interval time between trains, as a proxy for how much unused capacity is in each line in the system. The #7 train is the only one that uses the rail tracks that the #7 line runs on and the trains are spaced every 2 minutes. The N / W line runs both trains on the same track, and they are spaced every 6 minutes and every 8 minutes, so you can see that the N / W could fairly easily ramp up to handle additional passenger traffic to / from LaGuardia if that subway line was chosen as the starting point to complete a public transit rail connection to LaGuardia Airport.

It's worth noting that the N / W Astoria subway stops are the nearest jumping off point from the subway system to LaGuardia Airport. Only 82nd Street in Jackson Heights and 103rd Street in Corona come close, and they are both nested on the #7 subway line. The N / W subway line proximity to the airport should minimize the amount of construction required to complete a connection from the subway to the airport.

The graphic at right shows the N line travels through Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn. There are connections to the #7 if you're heading into eastern and southern Queens and connections via subway to the Bronx and Staten Island from Manhattan.

For historical reference, in 1984 Chicago built a subway line from the center of the city, to O'Hare Airport which is 16 miles away. Since then, that CTA subway line has grown to become the second most used subway line in Chicago. But it is also one of its longest lines, so that would make sense.


Passenger Impact on the MTA, if a Rail Connection Was Built From the MTA to LaGuardia Airport

air train scrapped in favor of bus nyc public transit air train lga willetts pointIn 2022 there were 29 million passengers [79,000 per day] who traveled through LaGuardia. And from what I could gather from some of the Air Train Analysis reports by the Port Authority PANYNJ, it appears that an estimated 10% of passengers [3 million or 8,200 riders per day] currently use public transit.

In 2019 the MTA provided 1.7 billion subway trips using 36 rail lines. So the average ridership per line [recognizing that ridership per line varies significantly] is 47 million, or about 130,000 riders per day. If every airline passenger took public transit, they would add 79,000 rider trips to the MTA per day, and if they were all carried on one average line, that would boost the ridership on that line by 61%.

Assuming I interpreted the PANYNJ LGA Air Train project estimates for public transit correctly, public transit usage would grow to about 20% - 25% of trips taken to / from LaGuardia if a rail connection were built. So that means even if all the trips to / from LGA came through just one average subway line, the ridership on that MtA line would only increase by 15%.

So, recognizing these are back of the envelope calculations, adding a rail connection from the N / W train line in Astoria wouldn't put an undue burden on those lines, vis a vis the #7 train.

The map above right shows where 19th Avenue and 81st Street meet, which could be the jumping off point for a bimodal train entry into LaGuardia Airport.


Setting up the BiModal Alternative - Connecting to LaGuardia Airport via Rail

LGA air train along grand central parkway near landing strip lga willetts point air train analysisGiven the FAA restrictions on construction projects near airport runways as pointed out to us by Engineering News Record report of 3/13/23 referenced above, I suggest the PANYNJ build a connecting light rail from the N/ W lines in Astoria to the edge of the airport, ending in the southwest corner of the airport, at the end of the 4-22 runway at 19th Avenue and 81st Street [see map above right]. For the residents of this area, the advantage of this rail link would be better public transit, which in turn would likely raise property values, and make for a very easy any commute into the airport for workers.

Another option would be for it to travel along the Grand Central Parkway [both of these alternatives were included in the PANYNJ study]. The CTA [Chicago Transit Authority] did this very same thing along the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago. The photo at the beginning of this report is of the CTA subway line along the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago to O'Hare Airport. The photo above right is of the Grand Central Parkway in Astoria. There appears to be enough space to add a rail line in here somewhere.

LGA air train along grand central parkway near landing strip lga willetts point air train analysisSo here's the American ingenuity piece. Set up the N / W trains that go to LaGuardia to have a few rail cars that can be unfastened from the end of that subway train, and can then be driven around the airport stopping at each of the terminals, before returning to the line and being refastened onto the next outgoing subway train. Or, in a manner similar to what they do with container shipping, have some cars that can be rolled off the subway train line and then pulled around the airport terminals on a conveyor, before circling back to be refastened to the next outgoing subway train.

Unfortunately, the photo above right is the closest image I could find on the web, that conveys my meaning - and it doesn't do a sufficient job in my mind.

LGA air train street car circling around lga airport in lieu of air train analysisWhat I visualize are subway cars at the end of the train, which can be disconnected and go vehicular around the airport. Or better yet, subway cars that can be motored a few blocks to a separate automated rail or street car-like system that takes the disconnected subway cars around the airport to all of the terminals, before returning to the starting point where they would be shuttled back to be reconnected to the next city bound MTA subway train.

The image at right is of a street car operating on one of the few remaining San Francisco street car lines still running. The MTA could set up a street car track circling around the airport, with various pick up / drop off points for folks coming in on the MTA, from various MTA and other bus lines, short and long term parking, and pick up / drop off points for taxis, limos and individually driven cars. A system of this nature, if designed properly, could greatly simply LGA traffic flows.

Think of LaGuardia Airport as an amusement park. After all, the airport was built on one - the North Beach Amusement Park. See photo below of the amusement park which occupied much of the land upon which Municipal Airport was created, opening in 1939, and later renamed LaGuardia in 1947.


Use Flexible Technology to Expand Public Transit Economically, Thus Enabling the Masses & the Middle Class, Instead of Congestion Pricing / Taxing the Average Citizen out of the Rich Man's Way

LGA air train along grand central parkway near landing strip lga willetts point air train analysisI recognize that this option isn't currently offered by Kawasaki, Bombardier or Siemens, who represent about two thirds of the subway car industry. But this isn't rocket science, and there is plenty of pre-existing technology, like parts etc. to make this happen in about as much time [2 - 3 years] as it would take to complete the elevated rail line from either the Ditmars Blvd or Astoria Blvd subway station. NYS has a large Kawasaki subway car plant in Yonkers that might be up to the job.

This sort of flexible technology would also enable the MTA to expand service further into transportation deserts, before doing an expensive build out of subway lines, in neighborhoods where public transit makes sense. This would in turn reduce congestion in Manhattan and surrounding areas.

For my money, building infrastructure that enables folks to get around more easily without their cars, is a far more equitable solution to our congestion, pollution and transportation problems than Congestion Pricing.

Congestion Pricing appears to me like the proposal of the Air Train to Willets Point that Governor Hochul just scratched, meaning it doesn't serve the general public interest, but rather seems to reward the private selfish interests of the folks who are pushing the plan, and who appear to have successfully manipulated quite a few well intentioned folks to support it. The profiteering supporters congestion pricing have manipulated a lot of people into supporting it by promising them all of these public transit goodies, which they claim the masses will get from the proceeds [their first hook was that it was better for the environment but that didn't stand up to scientific scrutiny very well]. If you read the Congestion Pricing report we previously published [see link above], you'll see that in London, where they implemented a congestion pricing plan, a lot of the money went into building and managing the congestion pricing system, while only a fraction of it actually made its way to support public transit as originally promised. Just as in the Congestion Pricing environmental claims, there seemed to be a fair amount of fictionalization of the 'facts'. This sort of manipulation is not unlike what Australian born Oligarch Rupert Murdoch does all too often on his Fox News, NY Post and Wall Street Journal.

Congestion pricing basically creates something very unAmerican, which is a two-tiered transportation system for the haves and have nots. Folks with less money are priced out of driving in Manhattan [luxury] so the rich folks can move around more easily, having priced the rest of the folks out of the way. Building infrastructure, on the other hand, entices folks to ditch their cars in the interest of saving the environment, creates more doable public transit commutes, and enables the working class to save their money to spend on more satisfying conveniences.

Think about it, then smile or have a good laugh - either at me or with me - and go on to enjoy your week.