Transit Briefs: Brightline, PANY/NJWritten by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Brightline is now offering shuttle service to South Florida airports and Miami Beach. Also, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANY/NJ) will go forward with bus service, not rail, to link LaGuardia Airport with New York City subways and commuter railroads; has approved an AirTrain Newark (N.J.) access improvement project; and selects Alstom for an AirTrain Newark operations and maintenance services contract.
Brightline on March 16 reported that it has expanded its Brightline+ first and last mile service, offering riders new bi-directional fixed-route shuttles between its passenger rail stations and Miami International Airport (MIA), Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and three destinations in Miami Beach.
According to Brightline, the new shuttle service is trackable and does not require reservations. One-way rides are a flat rate of $10 per person and can be paid for upon boarding shuttles.
The MIA shuttle runs weekdays from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. until 12 a.m.; the FLL shuttle operates weekdays from 5 a.m. until 12 a.m. and on weekends from 7 a.m. until 1 a.m.; and the Miami Beach shuttle runs daily from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., with three stops along Washington Avenue (Fifth Street, 11th Street and Lincoln Road).
The Associated Press on March 13 reported that a planned $2.4-billion-plus rail link between LaGuardia Airport and the New York MTA’s subways and commuter railroads has been dropped in favor of bus service.
“New York Gov. Kathy Hochul accepted the recommendations made by a panel of transportation experts who determined it would be more feasible in the near-term to increase [existing MTA Q70 LaGuardia Link] bus service and add a shuttle [from the terminus of the N/W subway line in Astoria],” according to the AP. This panel consisted of Mike Brown, former commissioner of Transport for London and former Managing Director of Heathrow Airport; Janette Sadik-Khan, principal at Bloomberg Associates and former Commissioner of the NYC Department of Transportation; and Phillip A. Washington, CEO of Denver International Airport and former CEO of Los Angeles Metro. “Hochul’s action effectively means that LaGuardia—in the borough of Queens, across the East River from Manhattan—will remain among the major U.S. airports without rail service,” the AP reported.
In 2015, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a 1.5.-mile elevated rail link, similar to that at John F. Kennedy International Airport, according to the AP; following his 2021 resignation, Hochul called on the PANY/NJ to review mass transit options for the project. “Criticism of the plan had intensified by then,” the media outlet reported.
There was strong neighborhood opposition, even though the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had approved it. The project also drew fire from local officials, as well as a lawsuit that alleged that the FAA did not review other options appropriately.
Among those other options: ferry service, a subway line extension and bus service.
According to PANY/NJ, the “panel expressed a strong preference for a ‘one-seat ride via subway’ as the most effective way to move travelers from cars to mass transit, but given the serious, unresolved constructability and cost challenges to building a subway extension identified by the engineering/construction firms, the panel recommended a near-term focus on improving bus service to provide better, faster transit access to LaGuardia, as the public benefits would be realized sooner at lesser cost. The improved bus service is projected to benefit nearly 5 million total passengers annually. The engineering/construction firms estimated capital costs for the bus options at just under $500 million compared to estimates ranging $2.4 billion to $6.2 billion for the light rail options.”
“I am grateful to the expert panel, the technical consultants, and the Port Authority for providing a clear, cost-effective path forward,” Gov. Hochul said in a statement issued March 13. “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 at the MTA, in the city of New York and the federal government.”
Separately, NorthJersey.com on March 16 reported that “[r]ound-trip commute times will be cut drastically for residents of Elizabeth, Dayton and Newark, who will eventually be able to access Newark Liberty International Airport and Newark Penn Station via an improved connection to the AirTrain Newark Rail Link Station, which won design approval.”
According to the online news outlet, “The Newark Airport Railroad Station near Frelinghuysen Avenue and Haynes Avenue, which opened in 2001, has been inaccessible at street level to those coming from neighborhoods on the west side, requiring residents going to the airport to take 40-minute bus trips to take the AirTrain or connect to Amtrak and NJ Transit.”
NorthJersey.com reported that the PANY/NJ Board of Commissioners on March 16 authorized a “$12 million design and engineering process for … $125 million [in] improvements … [which] will allow bicycles, pedestrians, buses, taxis and other modes of transportation to access this hub at Frelinghuysen Avenue. Some project costs will be offset by a $45 million federal grant.”
According to NorthJersey.com, this project will go forward before a “complementary project that would extend PATH service to the AirTrain Newark Rail Link Station.”
In a related development, Alstom on March 16 reported signing a seven-year contract with PANY/NJ and Newark Liberty International Airport to provide operations and maintenance services for AirTrain Newark, which has been in operation since 1996. The contract, valued at approximately $266.58 million (€250 million), includes an option for one additional year.
Alstom said it will be responsible for 24-hour train operations and dispatching, maintenance of the vehicle fleet, station doors, guideways, power distribution systems, car wash, signaling system, and facilities. The fleet of 15 six-car trains serves six stations along nearly three miles of elevated guideway. The system not only operates between the airport’s terminals, but also connects the airport with rental car facilities, hotel shuttles and central parking lots, as well as with other transit systems and services, such as NJ Transit and Amtrak. According to Alstom, nearly 10 million riders took AirTrain in 2022, with an average daily ridership of about 26,000 travelers and airport employees.
“We are proud of our continued partnerships with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and with Newark Liberty International Airport,” Alstom Americas President Michael Keroullé said. “Building upon the knowledge gathered over more than 25 years [here using the Alstom Innovia monorail system] and our worldwide leadership of operation and maintenance of automated transit systems, our service delivery team will continue to focus on maintaining the AirTrain Newark’s high-performance levels and supporting the best possible passenger mobility experience at the airport.”