LaGuardia AirTrain plan surprises and baffles

Written by Douglas John Bowen
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015 caught many by surprise in proposing a rail link from MTA subway and rail services in Queens to LaGuardia Airport, the oldest and smallest of New York's three primary area airports and the only one lacking rail access of any kind.

Cuomo’s plan apparently came as a surprise to agencies potentially linked to any such plan, including the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PA) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Both entities put out statements late Tuesday afternoon cautiously endorsing the plan.

Other reaction ranged from quizzical to dismissive, as area rail observers noted the proposed plan does not identify funding, travels a double-back route for most potential riders (save those traveling from Long Island points to and from LaGuardia), and employs yet one more transfer station instead of offering direct rail access, as a subway extension would offer.

The proposed $450 million route, however, would follow Grand Central Parkway for most of its length, minimizing opposition from neighborhood activists likely to result from any more direct route – even an underground approach – considered in past years.

A transfer station at Mets-Willis Point Station would allow riders from the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), and also MTA New York City Transit’s No. 7 Line, to access the AirTrain line. The approach would be very similar to the existing AirTrain link serving John F. Kennedy International Airport, also offering transfer opportunities to and from LIRR and subway lines.

MTA’s Q70 bus service currently provides the most direct public transit link between the No. 7 line and LaGuardia Airport.

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