LAGUARDIA AIR TRAIN CONTROVERSY

Governor Cuomo says the proposed AirTrain could get New Yorkers to LaGuardia Airport in just a half hour, but critics say the $1.5 billion price tag is nothing but a boondoggle. Find out why.

Aired July 12, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO METROFOCUS, I'M RAFAEL PI RAMON A KEY COMPONENT OF GOVENOR CUOMO'S TRANSPORATION ADGENDA IS ONE STEP CLOSER TO BECOMING A REALITY.

LATE LAST MONTH, THE GOVERNOR SIGNED LEGISLATION ADVANCING A $1.5 BILLION PROPOSAL TO BUILD AN ELEVATED AIR TRAIN.

IN ANNOUNCING THE PLAN, THE ADMINISTRATION PROMISED A RELIABLE RIDE FROM MIDTOWN MANHATTAN TO LA GUARDIA IN UNDER 30 MINUTES.

WITHIN MINUTES CRITICIZERS CASTING DOUBT ON WHETHER A RAIL CONNECTION IS NEEDED AT ALL.

SAYING QUOTE THERE ARE BETTER AND FASTER WAYS TO LA GUARDIA.

AND THE VILLAGE VOICE WENT FURTHER, CALLING IT A BOONDOGGLE IN PROCESS.

THE ADMINISTRATION IS HOLDING FAST TO THE PLAN INSISTING IT IS A KEY ELEMENT IN MODERNIZATION.

JOINING US TO TALK ABOUT THE PLAN IS VILLAGE VOICE REPORTER.

START OFF BY GIVING US A BRIEF SUMMARY OF WHAT THE GOVERNOR'S PROPOSAL ENTAILS.

IT IS TO BUILD AN AIR TRAIN.

BUT IT WILL GO FROM THE METS WILLET POINTS STOP TO LA GUARDIA.

PROBABLY A ROUTE SIMILAR TO THE GRAND CENTRAL PARKWAY.

SO YOU CAN TAKE THE LIRR FROM PEN STATION AND THEN HOP ON THE AIR TRAIN TO GET TO LA GUARDIA.

THAT SOUNDS GOOD.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE PLAN?

IT SOUNDS GOOD ON PAPER.

BUT WHEN YOU DIG INTO HOW LONG IT IS GOING TO TAKE MOST PEOPLE UNDER THIS NEW PLAN, IT DOESN'T LOOK THAT MUCH MORE FAVORABLE THAN THE CURRENT OPTIONS.

GETTING TO LA GUARDIA IN LESS THAN AN A HALF HOUR REQUIRES EVERYBODY COMING FROM THE TRAIN STATIONS FROM MIDTOWN MANHATTAN.

IF YOU ARE COMING FROM AREAS OF BROOKLYN OR AREA OF MANHATTAN, THERE ARE CURRENT OPTIONS RIGHT NOW.

EVEN TAKING A TAXI IS FASTER.

IT IS A LOT EASIER TO GO TO PENN STATION OR GRAND CENTRAL AND TAKE A TRAIN WHERE YOU ONLY HAVE ONE TRANSFER REALLY THAN IT IS TO DEAL WITH THE TRAFFIC, RIGHT?

ABSOLUTELY.

SO A COUPLE OF DIFFERENT REASONS WHY THIS DOESN'T LOOK AS GOOD IN REALITY AS IT DOES ON PAPER, ONE IS THAT THE BUSES NOW DON'T HAVE DEDICATED BUS LANES TO GET TO LA GUARDIA AND IF THEY DID, IT WOULD BE MUCH MORE RELIABLE IN BREAKING THROUGH THE TRAFFIC.

AND ANOTHER ISSUE IS THE CURRENT LI DOUBLE R ONLY RUNS 30 MINUTES OFF PEAK AND THAT IS NOT SUPER CONVENIENT FOR MOST PEOPLE AND THE COST WOULD BE RELATIVELY COMPARABLE AS LONG AS YOU ARE TRAVELING WITH SOMEBODY ELSE.

SO NOT CLEAR ON WHO THIS IS ACTUALLY FOR.

I REMEMBER WHEN THE AIR TRAIN TO KENNEDY WAS IN PREPARATION.

AND IT GOT A LOT OF THE SAME CRITICISM THAT I AM HEARING NOW.

IS IT POSSIBLE THAT YOU GUYS ARE JUMPING THE GUN AND THESE THINGS WILL WORK OUT.

FOR EXAMPLE, MORE TRAINS ON THE LIRR GOING TO WILLETS POINT.

ABSOLUTELY.

OF COURSE WE DON'T HAVE A CRYSTAL BALL AND IF THEY DO BUILD IT, PEOPLE WILL USE IT.

THE ARGUMENT THAT MYSELF AND OTHER ADVOCATES ARE PUTTING FORWARD IS THAT IT IS NOT USELESS FOR EVERYBODY, BUT THE RIDER PROJECTIONS ARE NOT IN LINE WITH REALITY.

SO BESIDES A DEDICATED LANE, BUS LANE ON THE GRAND CENTRAL PARKWAY WHICH WOULD MAKE THE TRAFFIC CONGESTION EVEN WORSE, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER OPTIONS?

THERE ARE OTHER RAIL OPTIONS.

SO ONE PROPOSAL THAT HAS BEEN IN THE ETHER FOR DECADES, THE M TRAIN.

A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD HAVE TO UPSET TO GET THERE.

THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE AROUND THAT AREA.

YEAH, SO YOU WOULD PROBABLY WANT TO BURY THE TRAIN SO IT DOESN'T RUN ELEVATED.

SO THE PEOPLE WHO DON'T HAVE TO DEAL WITH AN ELEVATED TRAIN DON'T HAVE TO.

AND DIG A TUNNEL.

AND WE HAVE SEEN THE SECOND AVENUE EXTENSION, THOSE CAN BE EXPENSIVE.

BUT A LOT BENEFICIAL FOR PEOPLE WHO USE THE TRAIN FOR OTHER REASONS AND MUCH MORE USEFUL FOR PEOPLE COMING FROM OTHER PLACES TO GET TO THE AIRPORT THAN JUST MIDTOWN MANHATTAN.

SINCE THE END RUNS FROM BROOKLYN AND TRANSFERS ARE EASIER.

IS THE GOVERNOR'S PROPOSAL, IS THAT A DONE DEAL?

IT IS NOT A DONE DEAL, THEY HAVE TO GO THROUGH ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW.

STILL A LOT OF PIECES TO BE WORKED OUT.

NOT QUITE A DONE DEAL BUT PEOPLE ARE TAKING IT AS A GRAIN OF SALT AS LONG AS CUOMO IS IN OFFICE.

THANK YOU.

WE WILL SEE WHAT DEVELOPS AND BRING YOU BACK AS IT DEVELOPS.

SOUNDS GREAT, WE WILL TAKE A RIDE ON IT.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019