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Op-Ed: Connect Travelers to LGA Airport by Utilizing Existing JFK AirTrain Hub in Jamaica

(Photo: LGA-SabineHornig)

April 19, 2022 Op-Ed By Richard Khuzami, President of Old Astoria Neighborhood Association (OANA)

The Old Astoria Neighborhood Association, a longtime civic organization based in western Queens, has had the opportunity to weigh in on the renovation of the LGA Airport since the beginning of the process, and we have been greatly impressed by the results.

We now have a world class facility, which helps Queens and NYC look towards a future with positive economic and quality of life growth for all.

What still needs to be addressed is the logistics of efficient and quick movement of passengers to and from LGA. To this end, the Airtrain light rail was proposed, questioned, and is now being readdressed.

Our position has been consistent. We are in favor of using the existing JFK Airtrain Hub in Jamaica.

Important aspects to consider:

Ridership should be the primary concern. All the other issues all point back to the effect on ridership. The more people that have direct access to the light rail network the better. This is a holistic system for the entire region! Not just northern and western Queens, or the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

OANA prefers the hub at Jamaica because the largest number of subway lines (A, E, J, Z) can feed the system, both branches of the LIRR intersect, and new possibility for air connections can be realized, with reliable transit between airports. If a stop is included at Willets Point, then the 7-line can be included.

© Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons

This would have the added advantage of using existing monorail cars, maintenance and storage facilities of the JFK Airtrain.

Another advantage: Individuals who reside around LGA airport (such as in Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Flushing, etc.) should be provided access to the Airtrain. This way they can be provided a viable direct public service to JFK, avoiding the traffic mess at the Van Wyck. And the same for residents around JFK Airport going to LGA.

The other hubs that the MTA has mentioned in this survey do not have all the connections of Jamaica, especially between airports. Therefore, we prefer Jamaica.

Many locals have focused on extending the “N” line. However, the N does not service Penn Station or Grand Central Station directly, people with luggage would have to deal with the 59th St station, with its many stairs, and the LIRR does not intersect.

The “N” would only be good for local residents of Astoria and the UES and those who live directly on the N line; No one else in the city. Also, it would have to deal with the infrastructure from the Botany Bay Water Treatment Plant. And eminent domain would probably have to be utilized.

From our standpoint the only way the N would be viable is if the IBX connected with the N line, greatly expanding its network. However, as you may know, current plans for the IBX exclude Astoria and the N line. It ends in Jackson Heights. We strongly want IBX service to Astoria, and if provided we would reconsider N service to LGA. (Though there are still major issues)

We are strongly in favor of Ferry service to the Marine Air Terminal at LGA. However, in general, we need to make sure that all ferry landings have first and last mile capabilities: IE: Shuttle service. We would also like to see another landing at the north side of Hallets Peninsula, where it could be used as a transfer between the Astoria Line and the LGA line (And other northern stops). While not as important at the Marine Air Terminal (because of existing intra terminal shuttles), all other landings through the Ferry system must have connection to other local public transit. This is well beyond just an airport issue. This is an existential need for the long-term viability of the ferry system.

Also: for both the ferry and light rail, it might be interesting to provide check in and boarding instructions onboard to allow for more seamless movement of passengers when in the airport itself.

We have the opportunity to create a world class transit system in NYC and surrounding area. Let’s make sure we take advantage.

*Richard Khuzami is the President of Old Astoria Neighborhood Association (OANA). OANA is a 501c3 non-profit focusing on the part of Astoria from Steinway Street/East River to the North, 21st St to the East, Queensborough Plaza to the South, and the East River to the West. 

(Richard Khuzami)

email the author: [email protected]

2 Comments

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FlushTownB

This makes way less sense than extending the N to LGA. They should have done it years ago and it still is the best way to bring a train to the airport.

Having to go to Jamaica to get to LGA is nonsensical.

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AJ

This suggestion, while appreciated, simply would be too costly and wouldn’t serve the majority of people who use LGA. You have to understand, LGA and JFK are not the same kind of airport. JFK is an international airport for not only New York City, but the larger tri-state region (which includes Long Island). The current Airtrain system provides meaningful connections to the subway network for NYC’ers, as well as all major branches of the Long Island railroad for Long Islanders, and connects to long-term parking for people driving to the airport as well as rental car facilities. This is what a major international airport should do.

LGA is a different kind of airport. It’s NYC’s “city-airport” if you will. A good majority of people who use the airport are looking for quick ways to get to-and-from Manhattan. LGA is great for the city because of its proximity to Manhattan, especially for business travelers trying to get to-and-from midtown and downtown. The best way to get them access and take cars off the road is, in fact, to extend the N/W subway. Unfortunately, this was tried in the 1990s and it got NIMBY’ed to death by residents of Astoria, ironically. Both of these subway lines would provide direct services to a number of midtown and downtown hotspots such as Times Square, Union Square and further into the Financial District. They also connect to a number of other subway lines along the way, which would still create a one-system ride for people even if a subway transfer is required. This would benefit far more New Yorkers than having to pay another (more expensive) fare on the Airtrain that goes PAST the airport, only to go back to the airport and save very little time.

The best short-term solutions right now would be to implement dedicated bus-lanes for the Q70 and M60 SBS’s wherever possible to speed up service (these buses alone connect to 17 different subway lines, all main LIRR and Metro-North branches), and implement a ferry service from Wall Street and 34th street on the east side to Bowery Bay for access to Terminal A and Flushing Bay for access to Terminal C (the all-terminals bus can bring passengers to Terminal B if necessary). This will get far more cars off the road, while a long-term plan is worked out to extend the N/W subways up 31st street to 19th or 20th avenues to the airport. It’s two blocks of residential neighborhoods, but they cannot and should not stand in the way of transformational infrastructure progress to bring the NYC subway, one of the most extensive in the world, straight to the airport. An Airtrain extension simply won’t work and would run straight into community opposition that killed the original LGA airtrain, the same kind of opposition that Astoria demonstrated in the 1990s.

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