AIRTRAIN LGA: BRILLIANT OR BOONDOGGLE?

November 02, 2018 at 4:45 am

The proposed LaGuardia Air Train could change the way you get to your next flight out of town. But, critics say the plan is a boondoggle and a waste of money. Rick Cotton, the head of the Port Authority, is here with details on the project.

Aired on November 1, 2018. 

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IT HAS NOT BEEN A SMOOTH RIDE
SO FAR FOR ONE OF GOVERNOR
CUOMO'S FAVORITE INFRASTRUCTURE
PROJECTS, A PROPOSED AIR TRAIN
TO LaGUARDIA.
THE $4.5 BILLION PLAN HAS BEEN
UNDER CRIT SEARCH SINCE HE MOVED
IT FORWARD OVER THE SUMMER
PROMISING A 30-MINUTE RIDE FROM
MID TOWN MANHATTAN TO LaGUARDIA.
AS THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS PUT
IT, IT IS CIRCUITOUS, EXPENSIVE
AND MAKES ZERO SENSE TO
TRAVELERS, UNQUOTE.
IN ONE OF THE FINAL ACTS OF
DEFIANCE, WENT AS FAR AS TO CALL
THE AIR TRAIN BOONDOGGLE IN
PROGRESS.
THE GOVERNOR HAS STAUNCHLY
DEFENDED THE PROJECT SAYING
LaGUARDIA IS THE ONLY MAJOR EAST
COAST AIRPORT WITHOUT A RAIL
LINK.
IS LaGUARDIA THE ONLY SOLUTION
WITHOUT A PROBLEM OR IS IT AN
ESSENTIAL TRANSPORTATION PROJECT
LONG OVERDUE?
HERE TO MAKE THE CASE FOR THE
AIR TRAIN IS RICK COTTON,
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE PORT
OF AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW
JERSEY, THE AGENCY THAT WOULD
OPERATE THE TRAIN IF IT IS
BUILT.
MR. COTTON, THANKS SO MUCH FOR
JOINING US TODAY.
>> GOOD TO BE WITH YOU.
>> MR. COTTON, WHY IS LaGUARDIA
AIR TRAIN NECESSARY?
>> HERE'S THE HEADLINE.
IT WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY
IRRESPONSIBLE NOT TO BUILD A
MASS TRANSIT RAIL LINK TO
LaGUARDIA.
RIGHT NOW THERE ARE 30 MILLION
PASSENGERS A YEAR THAT PASS
THROUGH LaGUARDIA.
ALL BUT A TINY, TINY PERCENTAGE
USE PRIVATE VEHICLES COMING OFF
OUR CONGESTED ROADWAYS TO TRAVEL
TO THEIR DESTINATION.
SO THE CURRENT SITUATION IS
TERRIBLE FOR NONAIRPORT
TRAVELERS WHO HAVE TO DEAL WITH
THE TRAFFIC CONGESTION.
>> SURE.
>> IT'S TERRIBLE FOR AIRPORT
TRAVELERS WHO ARE TRYING TO GET
SMOOTHLY FROM NEW YORK -- FROM
LaGUARDIA TO MID TOWN OR TO
THEIR OTHER DESTINATION, LONG
ISLAND, WESTCHESTER, WHEREVER.
AND IT'S TERRIBLE FOR THE
ENVIRONMENT BECAUSE WE SIMPLY
CONTINUE TO DUMP CARS, MORE CARS
AND MORE CARS ONTO OUR CONGESTED
ROADWAYS.
>> OKAY.
SO, LET ME GO THROUGH SOME OF
THE PRINCIPAL CRITICISMS THAT
HAVE BEEN LEVELED AT THE AIR
TRAIN.
>> I'M HAPPY TO RESPOND.
CAN I MAKE ONE PROCESS POINT?
>> ABSOLUTELY.
WHERE ARE WE?
>> WE ARE JUST STARTING UP THE
ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW PROCESS, SO
THERE ARE ACTUALLY 20
ALTERNATIVES IN TERMS OF HOW DO
YOU GET PEOPLE OUT OF THEIR CARS
MORE EFFICIENTLY TO AND FROM THE
AIRPORT.
THERE'S GOING TO BE A YEAR LONG
PROCESS.
THERE WILL BE TWO SETS OF PUBLIC
HEARINGS.
SO WHAT YOU AND I ARE ABOUT TO
TALK ABOUT IS GOING TO BE FULLY
DEBATED BY THE PUBLIC BEFORE A
FINAL DECISION.
>> GOOD.
LET'S TALK ABOUT THE CRITICISM
OF THIS AS IT STANDS NOW.
THE FIRST ONE, OF COURSE, IS THE
ONE ABOUT THE CIRCUITOUS ROUTE.
IF THE AIR TRAIN HAPPENS AS IT'S
BEEN DISCUSSED NOW, TRAVELERS
FROM MID TOWN WOULD HAVE TO GO
EAST OF LaGUARDIA TO WILLIS
POINT BEFORE DOUBLING BACK TO
LaGUARDIA.
WHY THAT ROUND ABOUT ROUTE, AND
DON'T THE CRITICS HAVE A POINT?
>> IT'S ONE OF THE MORE
NONSENSICAL POINTS THAT HAS BEEN
IN THIS DEBATE.
EVERYBODY WHO DRIVES A CAR IS
USED TO GPS WHICH TELLS PEOPLE
WHAT IS THE FASTEST WAY TO GET
FROM POINT A TO POINT B.
EVERYBODY DOES IT AUTOMATICALLY.
THEY DO IT WITHOUT THINKING
ABOUT IT.
BECAUSE THE FACT THAT IT MAY BE
A QUARTER MILE OR A HALF MILE
SLIGHTLY LONGER, WHAT'S
IMPORTANT TO TRAVELERS IS
GETTING FROM POINT A TO POINT B
FASTER.
LaGUARDIA AIR TRAIN ROUTE WHICH
WILL COME BY THE LONG ISLAND
RAILROAD OR SUBWAY FROM EITHER
GRAND CENTRAL OR PENN STATION,
WE'RE TALKING ABOUT MID TOWN
MANHATTAN.
>> THE 7 TRAIN.
>> WILL GO TO WILLIS POINT, THE
LONG ISLAND RAILROAD TIME IS 16
MINUTES.
THE TIME FROM WILLIS POINT TO
THE AIRPORT BY AIR TRAIN WILL BE
6 MINUTES.
A TRAVELER WILL KNOW WHEN THEY
GET ON THE TRAIN THEY ARE HALF
AN HOUR FROM THE AIRPORT.
THAT IS WHAT IS CRITICAL.
THE FACT THAT THE FASTEST WAY TO
GET THERE HAPPENS TO BE SLIGHTLY
LONGER ON A GEOGRAPHIC BASIS IS
REALLY NOT WHAT TRAVELERS CARE
ABOUT.
>> BUT LET'S TALK ABOUT THE 30
MINUTES AND THE 60 MINUTES FROM
USING THE LONG ISLAND RAILROAD.
LET'S TALK ABOUT THAT, BECAUSE
ACCORDING TO CALCULATIONS, IF A
TRAVELER USES THE 7 TRAIN, IT
ALREADY TAKES 33 MINUTES FOR THE
7 TRAIN TO GET FROM GRAND
CENTRAL TO WILLIS POINT.
SO ANYBODY USING THE 7 TRAIN IS
GOING TO BE MORE THAN HALF AN
HOUR.
IF THEY USE THE LONG ISLAND
RAILROAD, TRUE, 60 MINUTES TO
WILLIS STATION.
THE TRAIN USED TO GET TO WILLIS
POINT ON PEAK HOURS GOES EVERY
10 MINUTES, OFF PEAK HOURS EVERY
30 MINUTES.
IF YOU'RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO AVOID
THE WAIT TIME, WHICH WOULD BE
RARE, RIGHT?
>> IT'S NOT A MATTER OF LUCK.
THE FACT IS THIS WILL BE A
SCHEDULED TRAIN.
EVERY SINGLE RAIL LINK TO
AIRPORTS, THERE IS A SPECIFIC
TIME WHEN THE TRAIN DEPARTS.
AND WHAT'S MOST IMPORTANT TO
TRAVELERS IS RELIABILITY AND
PREDICTABILITY.
RIGHT NOW THE VARIANTS, IF
YOU'RE COMING, FOR EXAMPLE, FROM
TIMES SQUARE TRYING TO GET TO
LaGUARDIA, HAS A VARIABILITY OF
ANYWHERE FROM 35 MINUTES
DRAMATICALLY OFF PEAK TIMES TO
70.
THAT'S BASED ON GPS DATA OF FOR
HIRE VEHICLES AND TAXIS.
BUT MANY TIMES IT'S MUCH -- IT'S
OVER AN HOUR AND A HALF, AND YOU
AS A TRAVELER DON'T KNOW WHAT
YOU ARE GOING TO HIT IF YOU TRY
TO TRAVEL BY SURFACE
TRANSPORTATION.
SO WHAT THE TRAVELER WANTS TO
KNOW IS I'VE GOT A PLANE TO
CATCH OR I'VE GOT A MEETING TO
MAKE, AND I WANT TO KNOW HOW TO
PLAN TO GET THERE.
I WANT A CONVENIENT AND FAST WAY
AND THE AIR TRAIN WILL PROVIDE
THAT.
>> WHAT ABOUT THE ARGUMENT THERE
ALREADY EXIST MASS TRANSIT
OPPORTUNITIES TO GET TO
LaGUARDIA THROUGH THE USUAL --
THROUGH THE REGULAR SUBWAY
SYSTEM AND CONNECTIONS WITH
EXPRESS BUSES, AND THAT, IN
FACT, FOR MULTIPLE POINTS, NOT
JUST FROM MID TOWN, FROM HERE TO
LaGUARDIA?
FOR EXAMPLE, YOU CAN USE THE R,
THE E, THE F OR THE 7 TO GET TO
74th STREET AND QUEENS AND
TRANSFER TO THE Q 70, I BELIEVE,
THAT TAKES YOU -- THE BUS THAT
TAKES YOU TO LaGUARDIA.
>> YES, BUT WE KNOW THE FACTS.
6% OF PEOPLE CHOOSE TO DO THAT.
WE'RE TALKING ABOUT 95% OF
PEOPLE ARRIVING ON OUR CONGESTED
ROADWAYS AND DOING WHAT I SAID
BEFORE.
THE NONAIRPORT PUBLIC IS DEALING
WITH CONGESTION.
THE AIRPORT TRAVELER IS DEALING
WITH CONGESTION AND WILDLY
UNCERTAIN TIMES.
AND THE ENVIRONMENT IS SUFFERING
FROM POLLUTION AND GREENHOUSE
GASES.
>> WHAT ABOUT THE ARGUMENT THAT,
LOOK, EVERYBODY KNOWS THE
ARGUMENT GOES THAT GOVERNOR
CUOMO LIKE THE BIG, THE BELLS
AND WHISTLES PROJECTS, THIS IS
ONE.
AND THAT IT WOULD BE MUCH MORE
EFFICIENT, WOULD AFFECT MANY
MORE NEW YORKERS IF THAT
$1.5 BILLION WERE USED
ACCURATELY TO IMPROVE THE
COLLAPSING SUBWAY SYSTEM THAN
FOR THIS PURPOSE.
>> THIS IS NOT AN EITHER/OR
PROPOSITION.
IT'S A BOTH PROPOSITION.
IT IS IRRESPONSIBLE AND
INDEFENSIBLE NOT TO HAVE A MASS
TRANSIT RAIL LINK TO LaGUARDIA.
OBVIOUSLY THE SUBWAY SYSTEM
NEEDS INVESTMENT.
THE GOVERNOR HAS PROPOSED THE
CONGESTION PRICING SCHEME.
HE IS TOTALLY FOCUSED ON THAT
QUESTION.
THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN TO BE WITHIN
THE PORT AUTHORITY'S
RESPONSIBILITY, I'M HAPPY TO
SAY.
BUT THE POINT IS WE'RE NOT
MAKING A CHOICE HERE.
THE PORT AUTHORITY IS COMMITTING
AND THE GOVERNOR IS BEING
ENORMOUSLY RESPONSIBLE TO
PROVIDE A RAIL LINK TO LaGUARDIA
WHICH WILL GET PEOPLE OUT OF
THEIR CARS, OFF OUR CONGESTED
HIGHWAYS, AND THE RESULT WILL BE
GOOD PUBLIC POLICY.
>> SO, YOUR BEST GUESS IN ABOUT
15 SECONDS AS WE HAVE LEFT, WILL
THIS HAPPEN, AND IF IT DOES,
WHEN IS THE AIR TRAIN GOING TO
BE UP AND RUNNING?
>> IT WILL HAPPEN.
IT WILL BE OPERATING IN 2023.
BY THAT TIME -- AND IT WILL HAVE
ACCESS THROUGH THE LONG ISLAND
RAILROAD TO BOTH GRAND CENTRAL
AND PENN STATION.
AND IT WILL BE RELIABLE AND
PREDICTABLE.
AND WHEN YOU'RE TRAVELING FROM
MID TOWN TO THE AIRPORT, IT WILL
BE UNDER HALF AN HOUR.
>> ALL RIGHT.
MR. COTTON, THANK YOU SO MUCH
FOR JOINING US TODAY TO TALK
ABOUT THIS.
>> THANK YOU.
DELIGHTED TO BE HERE.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

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