January/February 1995, p.4

Port Authority Airport Access Plan Not Ready for Take-off
By George Haikalis

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a New York area consortium of civic and environmental organizations that includes T.A., roundly condemned the Port Authority's automated guideway transit access plan to LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports at its November 17 Board Meeting. The Port's flawed plan calls for a 22-mile free standing transit link of incompatible technology, to be used exclusively by airport passengers, extending from Manhattan's East Side to the two airports. The plan would be funded from the $3.00 tax now levied on departing passengers from the three New York area airports.

One key problem is that the link's $2.6 to 3.2 billion cost is two to three times as much as can be raised from the tax, meaning that other transportation funds will have to be raided to complete the project. The proposed Manhattan terminal at 59th St and Lexington Ave. is at the northeast corner of the business district forcing many air travelers to take cabs to an already congested location. After crossing the Queensborough Bridge the elevated guideway passes near homes and through parks in a grand tour of Queens winding its way through Long Island City to LaGuardia, Shea Stadium, the Jamaica LIRR Station and finally to Kennedy. A ten dollar fare from Manhattan, and a five dollar fare in Queens, would discourage use.

There is no question that the current highway-dependent airport access system is unworkable and new rail links are needed. Two options were considered by the Campaign--frequent shuttle trains from Kennedy to nearby rail lines at Howard Beach and Jamaica and from LaGuardia to Woodside, and through airport trains to Manhattan terminals at Grand Central and Penn Station. An important element of either option is the completion of the lower level of the 63rd St tunnel allowing LIRR trains direct access to Grand Central, a project begun over 25 years ago.

As is so often the case in environmental impact statements, the cursory examination of alternatives by a project's proponent sheds little light on assessing credible options. In an enlightened move recent Federal surface transport legislation requires a more careful examination of major investments for projects using Federal dollars. But at its December 1 meeting, the NY Metropolitan Transportation Council chose to exempt the Port Authority from this "good government" requirement. With public resources shrinking, and voter distrust growing, it is essential for public agencies to conduct fair, open, and systematic examination of options in making transportation investment decisions. The Port Authority approach is exactly the opposite and the results could be disastrous.

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Greenwich Village may get pedestrian cash!

NYC DOT's pedestrian office has applied for $5.5 million in CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) funds to spend on pedestrian-oriented projects within Greenwich Village and Soho. If approved, DOT will spend two to three years developing and then building projects within Manhattan community board two.

What actually gets built is up to the community. Amore pedestrian-friendly Houston St or wider sidewalks on Eighth Street are just two of many ideas put forward. Community Board Two and DOT's pedestrian office will do various types of outreach to find out what the community wants.

After four months of this outreach, sites will be selected. The pedestrian office will then spend a year developing plans, then an additional eighteen months on actual construction.

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