New York LaGuardia’s biggest problem is congestion. They could use more takeoff and landing space for sure but primarily it’s New York airspace that’s the issue. Without fixing air traffic control, there’s little that can be done to the physical plant that will truly solve problems.
LaGuardia has been slated to get a new Central Terminal in 2021 and I never believed the timeline.
Now, instead, Vice President Biden and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced a whole new plan for the airport instead. Here’s what they have in mind:
- Build a single large terminal to replace the current disparate terminals, and make it 600 feet closer to the Grand Central Parkway so that there’s more room for “flight operations and runways.” (Although there won’t be more runway space, they’re keeping the existing runways.)
- Connect to the Willets Point subway station by AirTrain (in other words, there’s not going to be a subway stop at the airport) and ferries that dock at the Marine Air Terminal.
- “[S]tate-of-the-art, post-9/11 security system…along with a hotel and business conference center.”
I can hardly imagine New York air transportation being without much of LaGuardia’s capacity between the time they demolish existing terminals and complete a new terminal in their place.
There’s no universe in which “[t]he project, which awaits the Port Authority’s approval, could begin as soon as 2016 and should take 18 months to complete” a line from Governor Cuomo that’s repeated in several places.
Other coverage says it will take “at least three years to complete.” Emphasis should be placed on at least.
Apparently the confusion comes from the way they’ve explained the timeline, perhaps intentionally.
- The project is initially slated to take 4.5 years
- The terminal will supposedly open for use after three years
- Full completion is projected for another 18 months after that.
Cost is being cited as $4 billion with the government picking up $2 billion. Mark my words: it will be more. $4 billion was the cost just for the Central Terminal project, not for what’s being proposed today.
For good measure, while they’re at it, JFK airport will get a new hotel. JFK could use one on the airport grounds of course, but then it could use a lot of things. Since JFK sees more connecting traffic than LaGuardia does, it’s the airport whose terminals could genuinely use better connections — much more so than LaGuardia.
As I wrote just a week and a half ago about New York LaGuardia,
You don’t need “first-class shopping, dining, and business amenities” and “A people-mover that enables passengers to traverse easily from one end of the airport to the other” at LaGuardia (although at a price of zero these things would be ‘nice’). You need things that increase the airport’s capacity to… get people in and out quickly, and get planes in and out of the air quickly. Investments should play to the airport’s strengths, how it’s actually used.
And in fact, this project will do the opposite of what’s needed. What LaGuardia does well now is get passengers in and out quickly. With four relatively small separate terminals and multiple security checkpoints you get from curb to gate in minutes (with PreCheck, generally less than 5). A sprawling single terminal will mean more time spent getting in and out of the airport.
They’re taking what’s good about LaGuardia and ruining it for the prospect of a ‘showpiece’ that New York doesn’t need.
Instead, New York airspace needs better air traffic control, the airport would perhaps benefit from demand-based pricing for takeoffs and landings, and LaGuardia could use better connectivity to ground transportation.