Planes, trains and … a ferry?
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards is on board with a novel concept floated by the Port Authority to get people to and from LaGuardia Airport — a new ferry service connecting with Manhattan’s East Side.
“The no-brainer for me is ferry service. For me, opening up access to the waterways is an attractive option,” Richards told The Post Friday, while discussing the PA’s preliminary proposals to improve transit service for the Queens’ airport.
“It gets cars off the road. That reduces carbon emissions.”
The PA, which oversees the region’s airports, laid out more than a dozen options for transportation to LGA after Gov. Kathy Hochul ditched disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $2.1 billion pet “AirTrain” between the airport and eastern Queens, and directed the bi-state authority to go back to the drawing board. An expert panel has been formed to evaluate possible ways forward.
One option — the boat service — would have shuttle buses take passengers to ferry landings in Bowery Bay or Flushing Bay.
The proposed ferry would cruise along the East River and make stops at East 90th Street, East 34th Street and Pier 11 downtown.
Richards noted the expansion of ferry service across the city under former Mayor Bill de Blasio and the popular use of the Staten Island ferry as bolstering the case for the LGA ferry service.
But transit experts question the financial viability of the concept — citing low ridership on the city’s ferry lines, which receive millions of dollars in city subsidies, as well as failed ferry-to-LGA experiments of the past.
“Most New Yorkers are nowhere near a ferry dock and most ferry docks don’t connect to the subway,” said Jon Orcutt, a consultant for Reinvent Albany who served under Mayor Bloomberg. “We think it’ll be low ridership, even if it’ll be relatively easy to do.”
Orcutt said transit advocates want the airport transit link to be a part of the existing MTA network — in contrast to the JFK AirTrain, which requires riders to exit the subway system and pay an additional $8 fee on top of their MTA fare.
“AirTrain-like shuttle systems come with the downsides of extra transfers, extra fares — outrageous fares like you see at JFK,” Orcutt said.
By adding onto the existing bus and subway networks, on the other hand, officials “could use existing subway yards and bus maintenance,” Orcutt said. “You don’t need this bespoke thing where you have to build a separate maintenance facility at Willets Point.”
Richards, the Queens leader, expressed openness to all options. He said he would welcome expanded bus service — including rapid transit bus connections to and from subway stops along the N/W line in nearby Astoria and the Northern Boulevard stop on the R/M line in Woodside, and improving existing M60 and Q70 bus services for the airport.
“The expanded bus service, to me, is an easy lift,” Richards said.
Any transit expansion that would require sign-off from the MTA, which is currently redesigning bus routes in Queens. Hochul, through her appointees, has influence over both the MTA and Port Authority.
The PA’s list of 14 proposals — which will undergo an independent analysis — also revives a version of the controversial “wrong-way” Cuomo-backed AirTrain to Citi Field, which was mocked by transit advocates and Queens elected officials including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for taking passengers east toward Long Island instead of west toward Manhattan.
Other options include a light rail going to the N subway stations at Astoria Boulevard, the 7 station at Woodside/61st station or to Jackson Heights. There’s even a proposal for a line to Jamaica, providing a connection between LaGuardia and JFK Airport.
Logistical problems include avoiding LGA’s runway, which means having to go underground. The Astoria Boulevard line would have to navigate around Hell Gate Bridge and high overpasses over the Grand Central Parkway.
Another proposal would extend the MTA’s N/W subway lines to stops at or near the airport. Astoria residents in the past have opposed extending the N line that would cause disruptions in the neighborhood.
Richards said a cost benefit analysis needs to be done to determine the best rail option.
“There’s a little something here for everyone,” the borough president said. “This plan moves Queens into the future.”