Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the Port Authority issued a Request for Proposals for preliminary engineering and other planning work for a new AirTrain connection to LaGuardia Airport. The expert firm’s work will represent a critical next step in advancing the LaGuardia AirTrain project. The RFP is open to all qualified firms and responses are due in four weeks. By 2030, the number of passengers at LaGuardia is expected to increase by more than 6 million passengers annually and the AirTrain is a key pillar of the airport’s strategy to accommodate this growth.
“The millions of passengers who travel through LaGuardia each year deserve a convenient and reliable mass transit option that connects this key transportation hub to the heart of Manhattan,” Governor Cuomo said. “We are transforming LaGuardia into a world-class transportation gateway, and an essential piece of the puzzle is ensuring rail mass transit access to the airport. With this action, we’re taking the next major step toward making this a reality.”
The selected consultant team will carry out preliminary engineering work related to three different components of the project:
Construction of up to two new AirTrain stations at the new terminal buildings at the airport;
Construction of an AirTrain station at Willets Point;
Construction related to the “right-of-way” for the train from the airport to Willets Point.
The Willets Point station will be part of a brand new three-station complex at Willets Point. The MTA has already initiated preliminary engineering work to build both a completely new LIRR station and a completely new 7-line subway station at Willets Point. The new AirTrain station at Willets Point will be integrated with the construction of the two new MTA stations into a new complex that will create a seamless transfer for passengers with luggage between the new LIRR and 7-line subway stations, and the new LaGuardia AirTrain station.
The firm will also conduct a detailed ridership analysis and begin analyzing public-private partnerships and other financing options to identify the most advantageous financing plan for the AirTrain. This process will also determine how best to consolidate ten car rental companies at Willets Point as well as how best to add additional parking options for airport passengers there.
The new elevated AirTrain, providing a six-minute ride from LaGuardia to Willets Point, will be a key part of the modernization and transformation of LaGuardia into a world-class airport. The total travel time between Midtown Manhattan and LaGuardia would be less than 30 minutes via the new AirTrain – a 15-minutes LIRR ride between midtown Manhattan and Willets Point and a six-minute Air Train ride to the airport.
The LaGuardia AirTrain will also transform access to the airport for millions of passengers from Long Island who will be able to utilize a seamless Long Island Railroad connection at Willets Point. The AirTrain will also have regional impacts for drivers who will be able utilize new parking lots and take advantage of a streamlined rental car operation at Willets Point.
“LaGuardia is an anachronistic anomaly and is the only major airport on the East Coast – from Boston in the north to Miami in the South – that does not have rail access,” Patrick Foye, Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey said. “The LaGuardia AirTrain will drive economic activity while reducing congestion across our roadways – benefitting the region, the state and Queens.”
Major East Coast Airports with rail access include:
- Boston Logan International Airport
- John F. Kennedy International Airport
- Newark Liberty International Airport
- Philadelphia International Airport
- Baltimore-Washington International Airport
- Washington D.C. Reagan National Airport
- Dulles International Airport (under construction)
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
- Miami International Airport
Currently, 86 percent of LaGuardia passengers, as well as over 60 percent of the airport’s 12,000 employees, travel to the airport by car. The volume of vehicles travelling to LaGuardia creates significant congestion on the Queens roadways leading to the airport. Passengers face uncertain travel times from Manhattan that range anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour or significantly more. That variability and uncertainty leads to lost productivity for business travelers and shorter stays for tourists. The LaGuardia AirTrain will provide a guaranteed 30-minute ride to the airport from Midtown Manhattan’s two rail hubs, Grand Central and Penn Stations, creating a significantly enhanced travel option for passengers. Reducing the number of vehicles driving to the airport will also bring significant environmental benefits – lower emissions and less air pollution.
“With the transformation of LaGuardia Airport already underway, figuring out how to make travel to and from the airport easier for New Yorkers is a key part of improving the overall traveling experience,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx). “Making the airport rail-accessible will go a long way toward accomplishing that goal and this announcement marks a critical step in making the AirTrain a reality.”
The number of overall passengers at LaGuardia is expected to grow significantly as the airport’s capacity and our area’s population both expand.
LaGuardia has high volumes of single travelers and small parties who travel light with the average party size of 1.7 people per group, who are more likely to use mass transit to access the airport.
The JFK AirTrain system demonstrates the high demand for rail transit access to our NY airports, as it now serves over 21 million riders per year, nearly tripling the ridership since the first year of operation 12 years prior.
The selected consultants will work with additional input from financial and legal advisors. Study results are expected within a year from the contract award date.
There is a certain irony that now PANYNJ wants there to be a direct rail connection to an airport, here LGA. A bit more then 25 years ago, the then PA boss stood on a stage at the Cooper Union at an infrastructure conference and told those present that no one would ever want to take a train to the airport with their luggage. I’m pretty sure he was driven everywhere he went. When PA did build a train to JFK, instead of using abandoned LIRR trackage to connect JFK to Penn and eventually GCT, they built the horribly expensive Van Wyck route that makes people go to Penn, try to get LIRR tickets to Jamaica Station, try to find a working escalator or elevator on the right platform, then figure out what end of that platform, hopefully board an overcrowded train with their luggage, and then find a way off at Jamaica Station, then try to find a working escalator or elevator up to cross over to the Airtrain station, then walk a long distance back west toward that train. They did a great job of making it difficult to use the Airtrain. So I find myself wondering whether they will duplicate that amazing feat with another NYC Airtrain. Let’s see – difficult transfers, expensive access, … Maybe this time they can avoid having one of their test engineers being —– by a huge block of cement that’s not secured.
Dear Mr. Troy; Thank you for your comments.
I share some of your concerns and the project managers – LaGuardia Gateway Partners – have admitted that the options are not perfect but much better than the chaos that now exists at LaGuardia. As stated in their last Press Release released yesterday, February 15th:
“There is a no current direct train ride to LaGuardia. It’s past time we stopped making the perfect the enemy of the good when it comes to fixing mass transit in this region.
“Moreover, given the current chaos on the roads to LaGuardia, the AirTrain cannot come soon enough.
But these big overhaul projects are still a long way off and in the meantime, millions of passengers use our airports every day. The Port must continue to focus on bringing a positive customer experience to passengers here and now, not just in five years.
In particular, the agency and LaGuardia Gateway Partners must address the traffic situation at the airport with steps like making the LaGuardia Link Q70 bus permanently free, providing park and ride options from underutilized nearby lots like CitiField, and developing a mobile app to communicate real time conditions to passengers before they have to leave for the airport.”
There have been many comments on various media and blogs about the wisdom of the current plan, and many make reference to the shortcomings of the current AirTrain system. Hopefully, many of these problems will be addressed in the new design.
Joseph Alba, Editor in Chief Metropolitan Airport News