News & Reviews News Wire New York scraps plans for AirTrain to La Guardia Airport

New York scraps plans for AirTrain to La Guardia Airport

By Trains Staff | March 13, 2023

| Last updated on February 5, 2024

Increased bus service, including shuttle to nearest subway station, selected as best alternative

Email Newsletter

Get the newest photos, videos, stories, and more from brands. Sign-up for email today!

Illustration of elevated rail line at airport terminal
A rendering shows the proposed La Guardia AirTrain line, killed Monday by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul based on the recommendations of a panel studying the project. Image: A Better Way to LGA coalition

NEW YORK — The long-discussed plan to build an AirTrain rail link connecting La Guardia Airport to the New York City Subway system and Long Island Rail Road has been scrapped.

The New York Times reports that Gov. Kathy Hochul said today (Monday, March 13) she would follow the recommendations of a panel reviewing the project, which recommended increased bus service, including a shuttle between the airport and subway stations in northern Queens.

“I look forward to its immediate implementation by the Port Authority in close coordination with our partners at the MTA, in the City of New York, and the federal government,” Hochul said in a brief statement.

Map showing La Guardia AirTrain and connections
The indirect route the proposed La Guardia AirTrain provided to Manhattan-bound passengers was often criticized. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

The three-person panel said the best public-transit solution for the airport would have been to extend a subway line to La Guardia, but engineers could not find a realistic way to do so. Even if they had, the panel concluded, such a project would have taken at least 12 years and cost as much as $7 billion.

The bus option can be enacted more quickly and will be far less expensive than the AirTrain proposal, the cost of which had risen to $2.4 billion. Former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had said the project would cost $450 million when he first proposed it in 2015.

The AirTrain concept had long been criticized for its circuitous route, which would have sent passengers to the southeast to catch a subway or LIRR train to go west to Manhattan [see “La Guardia AirTrain project gets FAA approval,” Trains News Wire, July 21, 2021]. It was also strongly opposed by residents; two Queens community groups, along with an environmental organization, had sued to stop the project. Hochul eventually called for a review of the proposal, which was placed on hold by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey [see “Plan for La Guardia AirTrain to be reviewed,” News Wire, Oct. 13, 2021].

Instead, an estimated $500 million will be spent to develop the shuttle between the airport and the last stop on the N-W subway line in Astoria; making that station, at Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard, fully accessible to those with disabilities, and creating dedicated bus lanes.

12 thoughts on “New York scraps plans for AirTrain to La Guardia Airport

  1. Using the MTA subway/elevated line to Ditmars Boulevard, and presumably shuttle buses on that street toward the airport, will indeed be the most direct route from LaGuardia to Manhattan–also RELATIVELY cheap:
    (1) Ditmars is a very busy street; dedicated bus lanes would also be essential.
    (2) There’s no direct connection from Ditmars to LaGuardia, so some fancy connections would be needed at the airport end.
    (3) The elevated end of the subway line near Ditmars is on Queens 31st Street, also busy at that point. To make that connection handicapped-accessible would also take a bit of engineering.

  2. The bus option will be cheaper and quicker to implment as it says in the article. Really? From what I can surmise here is that it won’t be up and running anytime soon. The way things move today and are built at a snail’s pace and of cost those dreaded cost over runs and political boondoogles that go with any public works project, this is a project that won’t be completed anytime soon. And why so much for a fleet of buses ? Buses are suppossed to be cheaper and easier bassemble and accquire. They can start the shuttle service now with what they have on hand. Plenty of idle buses sitting around that can be modified and adapted for this service and the streets for which this shuttle services is to run on can be also adapted with mininum cost. To spend 500 million plus on a service that may or may not pay for itself or be sucessful is just throwing money away. Also to make this service work subway service on the N and W have to be speeded up with closer headways, more trains and more frequent service to match this shuttle service. Does anybody remember the JFK “Train to the Plane” which was a failure and never matched the ridership goals that the both the MTA and the Port Authority had envisioned. That train was discontinued after a few years.
    Joseph C. Markfelder

  3. I guess New York does not want to join the transit connection to the airport club. In recent years more cities have added mass transit to the airport. Cleaveland was first but many other cities have added service since. Washington DC being the latest with service to Dulles airport. Yes it is expensive and takes a long time to start but it provides a traffic free way to access the airport. Shuttle busses only work if the rail connection is nearby and they don’t get caught up in airport traffic on public roads. Was skytrain the answer most likely not but cheep shuttle busses are not necessarily the best alternative.

  4. Why not extend the subway or LIRR to the airport, and as Mr. McFarlane suggested, make it elevated? I do get why they would do buses, but I think the bus should be separated from the regular traffic lanes first. Otherwise, it’s just your standard street bus.

  5. That’s what happens when you pick a circuitous route that takes people away from the direction they want to go in just to reach transit. Instead of looking at a subway line, how about an elevated line to the terminal?

    1. Part of the wikipedia article on the AirTrain stated,”A writer from Slate called the project itself ‘dumb,’ saying that the project was a pet project for Cuomo and an ‘egregious misuse of money and initiative, in a city whose everyday transit functions are at capacity, to extend such a gift to airport travelers, of all people.'[67]” And Slate is described as a “generally Liberal editorial stance”. The word “Liberal” can mean right wing, but here, we generally see “Liberal” as left wing, so Slate is kind of like a liberal-left editorial. And if you read the wikipedia article, even well known Democratic progressive Alexandria Occasio-Cortez, who’s district represents where the route of the AirTrain would have gone, asked the FAA why of all the alternatives proposed, the one that got approved got approved, and noted that 60% of the comments about the project were against the AirTrain routing. So from the looks of it, both Democrats and Republicans disliked this AirTrain proposal. Also, you have to keep note that not all Democrats love all the train proposals and not all the Republicans hate all the train proposals (even if they were private).

  6. Bus baloney. What good is a bus when your stuck in the same traffic as everyone else? Same for taxi, limo, Lyft and Uber.

    The airport/airline lobby does not want any rapid service between any multi-airport served metro area. The airlines do not want airports competing with each other. Its not just LaGuardia-JFK-Newark, but also O’Hare-Midway in Chicago. LAX-John Wayne-Burbank in Los Angeles.

    There is a purpose to keeping passengers captive. Gate fees, retail tax revenue, more airline margin.

    1. Mr. Rice: ORD and MDW are both served by CTA rail lines; Blue Line to ORD, Orange Line to MDW.

    2. Mr Shapp,

      I speaking about express transit “between” airports. Few people take the CTA to the Loop to get back out to Midway. Most people would not call that very express or direct.

  7. What’s to say? If it can’t be done, it can’t be done.

    (1) Robert Moses was anti-transit and New York is still paying the price.
    (2) If this had been done way back when, maybe it could have happened.
    (3) The two items (1) and (2) above sort of are saying the same thing.

You must login to submit a comment