At community information sessions hosted by the FAA last week, officials informed residents that all 47 other options, from bus rapid transit to ferry service and even gondolas, were ruled out of the study.
Most of the alternatives failed on the grounds that they would not be “time-certain” options due to traffic volumes and congestion on the roadways. Other ideas, like extending the N/W train lines to the airport, failed because the infrastructure impacts were determined to be too great.
In its draft environmental impact statement, the FAA will only further examine two options: no action at all or the LaGuardia AirTrain, which will connect the airport to the Willets Point transit hub.
It appears the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, as well as Governor Andrew Cuomo, got what they wanted from the FAA. Many East Elmhurst residents and environmental and transit activists, however, did not.
Groups opposed to the AirTrain, like the increasingly vocal Ditmars Boulevard Block Association and the vigilant Guardians of Flushing Bay, have long argued that dedicated bus service, ferries or the N/W line extension would be preferable to the AirTrain.
Even Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is using her political clout to question the FAA’s decision not to study alternatives. AOC’s letter to the agency was sent just days before Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera, who is challenging the first-term incumbent in the Democratic primary, rallied with the block association to oppose the AirTrain project.
Critics certainly have reason to be skeptical of the FAA’s decision. Some have already suspected that the agency is doing whatever the Port Authority wants, and this confirms their suspicions.
While it’s unlikely that the FAA will change its mind about studying alternatives in the draft EIS, the uproar from the local community, advocates and even elected officials should make them reconsider.
The public still has a chance to comment after the draft EIS comes out, and again after the final EIS is released.
Not only should local residents and advocates chime in on the project, but all people who use LaGuardia and need a better way to get to the airport.
Otherwise, the $2 billion tram will run through the process with little input from those it will affect the most.