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Guest Viewpoints

OANA and the LaGuardia Airport Airtrain

April 21, 2022
By Richard Khuzami

The Old Astoria Neighborhood Association (OANA) has had the opportunity to weigh in on the renovation of LaGuardia Airport (LGA) 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 New York City 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 North and West Queens, or the Upper East Side (UES) 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.

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 (Western Queens, 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 Expressway 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 Street 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 Interborough Express (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, i.e. 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 throughout the ferry system must have connections 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 OANA.

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