It was a troubled path for LaGuardia’s proposed AirTrain. Former governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in 2018 that allowed it to be built on public land. The project was initially announced in 2015. Years of delays prevented the construction, but it got approval in July 2021. Now, however, the plans have been definitively axed.
Cuomo and his political allies often complained that LaGuardia was the only major East Coast airport lacking a rail link. Even current governor Kathy Hochul said an AirTrain would provide “easy access and options for travel for people in Manhattan and on Long Island.” However, the idea was never overwhelmingly popular from the start due to the costs and negative impact on the Queens community. It was the costs that surely did it in for Hochul: the price tag went from $2.1 billion to $2.4 billion, which is five times the initial estimates, according to The New York Times.
A report released this past Monday by the Port Authority recommends instead expanding the bus service with more electric buses and shuttles. They also recommended improving the MTA’s free Q70-SBS bus to LaGuardia. Certain improvements would be expected in around two to five years, according to a statement from former city Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Denver International Airport CEO Philip Washington, and former Transport for London commissioner Mike Brown.
However, “improved bus service is not a game-changer,” Thomas K. Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association, a transportation research group said. “The majority of people flying into and out of LaGuardia will continue to use private automobiles and taxis,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hochul remains supportive of the changed plans. “I accept the recommendations of this report, and I look forward to its immediate implementation by the Port Authority in close coordination with our partners in the M.T.A., city and federal government,” Hochul said in a statement on the matter.
The AirTrain project was part of the $8 billion LaGuardia redevelopment project. The aim was to turn the airport into a “world-class airport worthy of New York,” as Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton described it. It would have allowed travelers to get from Midtown to the airport in a half hour. The AirTrain would have one station connecting to the NYC Subway and another to the LIRR. It was originally supposed to be operational as of 2025, according to the New York Times.
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