2018-10-17 / Features

Diverse Coalition Supports Building An AirTrain To LaGuardia Airport

On October 11, more than a dozen organizations joined together to announce the launch of A Better Way to LGA, a new coalition in support of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed AirTrain to La- Guardia Airport (AirTrain LGA). The coalition is comprised of community members, economic development groups, transportation advocates, unionized labor, civic stakeholders, and local business leaders, and is co-chaired by the Queens Chamber of Commerce, the Association for a Better New York, and the New York Building Congress.

LaGuardia Airport is currently undergoing an $8 billion renovation during which the airport will be completely rebuilt. Today the Port Authority submitted a series of analyses to the FAA, which will oversee the AirTrain’s environmental review. A Better Way to LGA believes that AirTrain LGA is a critical component of the overall redevelopment efforts taking place at LaGuardia.

LaGuardia is the only major East Coast airport without a direct rail connection, and this has negative repercussions for surrounding neighborhoods and the city writ large. Traffic from the Grand Central Parkway and adjacent roads has inundated the entire community and crippled its ability to get around.

“Queens businesses are forced to pay a hidden Grand Central Parkway tax due to constant traffic on the roads around LaGuardia, delaying deliveries and hurting workers. And it’s only getting worse each year,” said Tom Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “The AirTrain will take millions of cars off the road and reduce traffic on our local streets, making it easier for Queens residents to get around, small businesses to make deliveries, and employees and customers to get to work or shop locally. It’s a proven model that has done wonders for JFK, and we simply can’t wait any longer to move forward on this project.”

In 2017, over 29 million travelers flew in and out of LaGuardia Airport, a number that will increase by an estimated six million by 2030. With ever-increasing road congestion, these air travelers – and the more than 10,000 LaGuardia Airport employees – need a fast and reliable transit alternative.

AirTrain LGA would connect with public transportation at Willets Point, relieving congestion at LaGuardia. Willets Point Station would be modernized, made accessible to people with disabilities, and designed for travelers with luggage, providing a seamless transition to AirTrain LGA. Passengers traveling from Manhattan would reach Willets Point in 16 minutes on the Long Island Rail Road, with direct, non-stop service from Penn Station (as well as Grand Central Station, pending the completion of the East Side Access project). From Willets Point, it’s just six minutes to the airport. Alternatively, passengers can take the 7 line subway and transfer at Willets Point.

Average roadway travel speeds in midtown Manhattan have decreased by nearly 30% over the past five years – from 6.5 to 4.7 mph. Regional travel models project current travel times to and from LaGuardia will increase by up to 50% by 2045. Year after year, the city is losing out in overall productivity due to the effects of traffic and congestion. AirTrains have been proven effective in the NYC market: from 2007 to 2016, AirTrain Newark handled more than 21 million paid passengers, while AirTrain JFK handled more than 58 million – keeping cars off local streets, and smog out of the air.

“The proposed AirTrain LGA would make the dream of a 30-minute ride from midtown Manhattan to LaGuardia a reality,” said Angela Pinsky, executive director of the Association for a Better New York. “The AirTrain would finally give our business travelers reliability and dependability, and would give our tourists a welcome impression of the world’s greatest city they expect and deserve. We need a reliable rail link to LaGuardia, and the Association for a Better New York is proud to be leading the way on this critical project.”

“LaGuardia is currently undergoing an $8 billion transformation to reimagine the airport for the 21st century, and it’s essential that the development of AirTrain LGA be a part of that vision,” said Carlo A. Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Congress. “A recent report from the New York Building Congress demonstrates the number of tourists visiting New York City swelled to 62.8 million in 2017, yet our infrastructure investments have failed to keep pace. Traffic congestion is crippling our commercial districts and has spread to every corner of the city. As New York’s population and tourism industry continue to grow, ensuring people can efficiently travel to and from our region’s airports is one of our most crucial priorities.”

Now that legislation has been passed by the New York State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Cuomo, the next step is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the AirTrain. A Better Way to LGA calls on the EIS process to be completed by Q4 of 2019.

Specifically, A Better Way to LGA calls on the EIS, in addition to evaluating impacts like noise and traffic mitigation, to include robust engagement with relevant community stakeholders, and evaluate the following areas:

• Placement of the transfer station at Willets Point as close as possible to the Long Island Rail Road to ensure a fast and seamless transfer;

• Potential transfer, today or in the future, of La- Guardia employee parking, passenger parking and/or additional car rental facilities at Willets Point;

• Impact on Grand Central Parkway and traffic if the AirTrain is not built; and

• Ensuring that any options explored meet the criteria of providing a travel time between midtown Manhattan and LaGuardia of 30 minutes or less.

For the complete article, visit QGazette.com, October 17, 2018.

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