THE LAGUARDIA AIRPORT AIRTRAIN PROPOSAL
The LGA AirTrain Project
Over the last 5 years, amid fierce criticism from transit experts and community members, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has proposed a LaGuardia Airport (LGA) AirTrain that would run from LGA to Willets Point. In June, 2018 Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry of East Elmhurst and Northern Corona introduced legislation that would use eminent domain to alienate parkland in order to construct a LGA AirTrain. The bill passed the state legislature on the last day of session and allowed for an AirTrain to be built on top of the Flushing Bay Promenade, across on Flushing Bay, or on the Grand Central Parkway.
Port Authority's Preferred Route
In October, 2018 the PANYNJ released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a consultant to spearhead the environmental review process for the LaGuardia Airport Access Improvement Project under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process (learn more about NEPA here). The RFP outlines PANYNJ's preferred alternative: an AirTrain that would run from LGA to Willets Point, span over a portion of the Flushing Bay promenade, and connect to the Willets Point 7 Train and Long Island Rail Road station. The RFP includes traffic and ridership studies funded by PANYNJ. In the RFP, PANYNJ asks for the consultant to plan for a one year review process in order to complete construction by 2022. For context, the environmental review process for the JFK AirTrain took over three years to complete.
The Environmental Review Process
Initial Public Meetings and Scoping Study
Ricando is the firm selected by PANYNJ to perform NEPA analysis under the oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Ricando organized two identical community leaders meetings on April 15th and 16th. Click here to see their letter of invitation. The review started on May 3 and is now projected to take 2 years. The first public engagement period ended on June 17th, with a 45 day public comment period and two public meetings. The next public participation opportunity is two public information sessions on Tuesday, Jan 14th and Wednesday, Jan 15th at the LGA Marriott from 6:30 to 8:30pm. The meetings will give a summary of the Spring 2019 scoping study, the results of the alternatives screening analysis and an update on the schedule.
Results of Scoping Study and Start of Transit Alternatives Analysis
The results of the scoping study, conducted over a 45-period from May to June, 2019 can be found in full here. The study showed serious concern with the proposed project. Of the 414 written and oral comments, only 13% supported the project. The alternatives screening analysis is the review all possible transit alternatives (aka, viable transit options to get to LGA) to determine which would be considered in the draft environmental impact statement. These alternatives included ferry, dedicated bus lane and the extension of subway lines.
Results of Transit Alternatives Screening Analysis
GoFB and other local nonprofits, civic leaders and neighborhood groups had a preview of the alternatives screening analysis results at the FAA's November 'Community Leaders' meeting. There we learned that all of the project's transit alternatives have been screened out except for a no action alternative (which is required by law) and the proposed LGA AirTrain. See the full presentation from the meeting here, the alternatives screening analysis slides here, and the final results slides here.
The Sensible Way to LGA Coalition
Sensible Way to LGA is a growing coalition of residents, local organizations, and citywide partners who are advocating for a robust and thorough environmental review that considers all alternatives for public transit to LGA evenly, including increased bus and ferry service, subway extensions, and other rail routes. Members include the Ditmars Blvd Block Association, Riverkeeper, Queens Neighborhoods United. Flushing Chamber of Commerce, Jackson Heights Beautification Group, and Guardians of Flushing Bay.
GoFB and the Sensible Way to LGA coalition are calling for an independently funded transit alternatives study, to halt all budgeting and planning of the AirTrain and for the City to get more involved in a project that impacts its land and residents.
In the news
Queens Chronicle, LGA AirTrain enviro study challenged Oct 29, 2020
Queens Chronicle: AirTrain could benefit economy, damage park. September 24, 2020
Streetsblog, OPINION: The Myth of the 30-Minute, One-Seat Ride on the LGA AirTrain September 22, 2020
Streetsblog, AOC to FA: No LGA AirTrain January 13, 2020
Click here to see GoFB's submitted comments for the proposed LGA AirTrain Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Click here to see submitted comments for the proposed LGA AirTrain scoping process from local organizations and residents.
Click here for updates on public engagement opportunities during the LGA AirTrain environmental review process
Click here to see FAA's Draft Environmental Impact Statement