Cuomo AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport called $1.5B "boondoggle" by critics

Last Updated Jun 26, 2018 1:06 PM EDT

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is touting his proposal for an elevated AirTrain to New York City's traffic-clogged La Guardia Airport as paving the way toward a 30-minute commute from midtown Manhattan by 2022. But the plan's complicated route is being questioned by transportation experts and drawing some derision on social media.

Part of a larger effort to upgrade La Guardia, which then-Vice President Joseph Biden in 2014 famously compared to an airport "in a third-world country," Cuomo is looking to break ground on the La Guardia AirTrain in the next two years, with the project expected to cost more than $1.5 billion.

"AirTrain LGA will set an example of comprehensive transit infrastructure for the rest of the nation, and will pay dividends for decades by connecting riders to transit hubs across the metropolitan area, boosting passenger growth across all airlines, and providing a more efficient means of travel," Cuomo said in a statement, using the three-letter symbol for LaGuardia.

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www.governor.ny.gov

The plan's big snag, in the eyes of critics, is it would have Manhattan travelers overshooting La Guardia east to Citi Field, where the New York Mets play baseball in Queens, to catch the AirTrain and then reverse course. The long-winded trek was duly noted on social media, with one commenter stating: "As someone who's gone from LaGuardia to Grand Central, the route makes no logical sense by plane, train or automobile."

The Village Voice was even harsher, with a headline "Cuomo's LaGuardia Airtrain Looks Like a $1.5 Billion Boondoggle." 

Elected officials for decades have mulled the pros and cons of constructing a train to the airport, with Cuomo, a Democrat, first proposing his AirTrain three years ago. State lawmakers passed legislation this month that allows the plan to proceed, with Cuomo signing the measure on Monday. 

The AirTrain promises to be a longer commute than using existing express buses from Manhattan to Queens, according to Yonah Freemark, a doctoral student in city planning at MIT who runs a transportation website.

"It's hard to imagine how the state can justify spending [$1.5 billion] dollars on a transit project that will increase travel times for most people," wrote Freemark, who added that Cuomo, "like most people in elected office, doesn't take transit much and certainly isn't reliant on it."

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www.governor.ny.gov

Of course, where one stands on the relative pros and cons of the plan could come down to where one lives. For Long Islanders making their way west to La Guardia, the ability to transfer directly to an airport connection from the revamped station should make for a far faster commute.