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OpinionEditorial

LaGuardia AirTrain: Now that’s the ticket

The LaGuardia AirTrain hopes to model the success of the popular service to Kennedy Airport.

A rendering of the future look of LaGuardia

A rendering of the future look of LaGuardia Airport, which includes the AirTrain. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

You] can get to LaGuardia Airport by sitting in Grand Central Parkway traffic and then pay a fortune for the ride or to park your car.

But what if you could spend 30 minutes on the rails from midtown Manhattan? In a few years, the proposed LaGuardia AirTrain might make the region’s second train-to-the-plane a traveler’s best option.

It’s already moving. State legislation signed last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo eliminated major obstacles for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as it develops potential routes for a new AirTrain, which would carry riders from the Willets Point subway and LIRR stop to the airport. By avoiding private homes and residential neighborhoods in or near its path, the new service has a realistic chance of overcoming most community objections.

Next up are the environmental review, public hearings, financing and construction. The project, expected to be finished by 2022, will take significant coordination with the MTA, which will need to improve and expand LIRR and subway service to the Willets Point stop near Citi Field; with NYC officials; and with the development team that hopes to revitalize the Willets Point area. The Port Authority has earmarked $1.5 billion, and the agency has to keep the project on time and on budget.

Critics complain that the Port Authority’s plan requires Manhattan passengers to go farther east, only to turn back to the west. Others suggest that it would be better to extend the Astoria subway line. Sure it would, if it weren’t for the incredible expense, extensive community opposition and endless approvals involved.

The LaGuardia AirTrain hopes to model the success of the popular service to Kennedy Airport, which boasted 7.6 million paid rides last year. If all goes well, by 2023, city residents could hop on the LIRR from Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal, switch at Willets and spend six minutes zipping over to LaGuardia. Or they could get to Willets via the 7 subway line, which could add express trains to that station.

From there, the sky is the limit.

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