The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey assembled a panel of international experts to study alternatives for the stalled $2.1 billion AirTrain to LaGuardia Airport, the bi-state agency announced Tuesday, Nov. 16.
The three transit gurus will consult the Port Authority in its ongoing “thorough review” of building mass transit options to the airport other than the controversial elevated rail project, including extending the subway or building out better bus service.
The brain trust includes Janette Sadik-Khan, former New York City Department of Transportation commissioner from 2007-2013 under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who now works as a principal at the former mayor’s philanthropic consulting arm Bloomberg Associates.
Sadik-Khan will be joined by Mike Brown, former Transport for London commissioner and former managing director at Heathrow Airport in the English capital, along with Philip Washington, the CEO of Denver International Airport who used to head up Los Angeles Metro.
The triad will analyze alternative connections to the Queens airport, such as dedicated bus lanes; a subway extension; new ferry service; light rail from nearby subway and commuter train stations; and “other new and emerging technologies,” according to the Port Authority.
The state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be a “key participant” in the study, especially for subway and bus proposals.
Nine civic organizations, transit advocates, environmentalists, and good government groups penned a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul prior to the announcement asking her to make MTA a “full partner” in the project to better address straphangers’ interests.
“We are particularly concerned that re-examination by the Port Authority alone in the context of the current environmental impact statement may likely result in little change,” wrote the groups, including Ditmars Boulevard Block Association, Guardians of Flushing Bay, Reinvent Albany, Riders Alliance, and Riverkeeper, among others.
“The scope of the recent AirTrain project was tightly defined around specific Port Authority concerns such as relocating employee parking, but not explicitly designed to improve transit connectivity or create a higher transit share of overall travel to LaGuardia,” they added in the missive.
The Port Authority hit the brakes on the AirTrain last month after Hochul requested that officials to look into other transit options.
The agency’s executive director Rick Cotton had previously been all set to move forward on the 2.3-mile people mover between LaGuardia and the Mets-Willets Point stations on the subway’s 7 line and the Long Island Rail Road, which secured federal approvals earlier this year and was a pet project pushed by disgraced former Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Critics tried to derail the scheme because it doesn’t offer a one-seat ride to Manhattan and starts out by taking passengers headed to the island the wrong way east, and called for an extension of the N/W subway line or better bus service instead.
At October’s Port Authority Board of Commissioners meeting, Cotton announced they would tap “outside experts” for their review, but was tight-lipped about any further details.
The agency said Tuesday that officials will examine criteria for each mode of transport such as construction impacts, “customer experience” for riders, reducing greenhouse gases and removing cars from roads, cost, how long it will take to build.
The Port Authority board is scheduled to meet again for its monthly meeting this Thursday morning, Nov. 18.