Farewell (for Now) to the Absurd La Guardia AirTrain

Photo: Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Former governor Andrew Cuomo’s convoluted AirTrain project to La Guardia is looking increasingly unlikely to see the light of day.

Last week, Governor Kathy Hochul ordered the Port Authority, which would control funding for the project, to find an alternate plan for transit to La Guardia, which would have involved a route that forced riders to zoom past the airport then double back. “I don’t feel obligated to accept what I have inherited,” Hochul told reporters. On Tuesday, the agency complied.

“At Governor Hochul’s request, the Port Authority is undertaking a thorough review of potential alternative mass transit options to La Guardia Airport,” the agency said in a statement.

From the beginning, the AirTrain encountered vociferous opposition from transit advocates, Queens residents, the city’s tabloids, and many lawmakers, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in whose district the train route would have been constructed. Common complaints included the cost, which had already ballooned from $500 million to $2 billion (for a project that was expected to only draw about 6,000 daily riders), the environmental impact, and perhaps most of all, the inefficiency of the proposed route. Travelers would have had to take the 7 train all the way to the Mets-Willets Point station then pick up the AirTrain and head back west to La Guardia.

Graphic: LaGuardia Redevelopment

Nevertheless, the Federal Aviation Administration approved the plan, a decision that drew lawsuits attempting to halt it.

That some better transportation option was needed to reach La Guardia — which, unlike major airports in almost every city in the world, is inaccessible by subway — has been clear for decades. Opponents of the AirTrain argued that a subway extension, another hugely expensive proposition, would make more sense. But Cuomo wanted to bypass the MTA and do things his way, as was his wont — viewing the AirTrain as the latest in his string of legacy-defining infrastructure upgrades, which include the refurbishment of previously derelict La Guardia itself.

But it looks like Cuomo will need to mount an against-the-odds political comeback to make his wrong-way train dream a reality.

Farewell (for Now) to the Absurd La Guardia AirTrain