Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
Transit Advocates: Where's the Money for a Direct Train to New Convention Center?
Monday, January 09, 2012 - 11:18 AM
Transit advocates are expressing doubt over the capacity to run an express subway train from midtown Manhattan to a proposed new convention center in Queens. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a non-binding agreement last week to build the world's largest convention center at Aqueduct Racetrack, but details about how conventioneers would get to and from Manhattan are sketchy.
Even though Governor Cuomo just proposed the plan, he's already signed a non-binding agreement with a potential developer, Genting Americas. That's raising questions about just how the plan to develop the site would work, including transportation options.
(Read Ilya Marritz's terrific profile of Genting here. )
In a brief statement issued Thursday, Genting said it and the "state would work alongside the MTA to help fund and introduce uninterrupted subway service between Midtown Manhattan" and the convention site.
But the MTA is already struggling to provide service, and has a multi-billion dollar hole in its capital construction plan.
Governor Cuomo also recently cut the payroll mobility tax, which pays for MTA operations, though he said he will replace those funds.
One idea bandied about was that the MTA would run express trains along the A line. But that idea was tried once before — in the now-defunct "Plane to the Train." That service was plagued by low ridership, and created hostility by setting up a service that whisked past waiting straphangers on the local platforms.
"If one of their ideas is to create a convention express modeled after the JFK airport express, that's going to be much harder to do than it was in the 1970's and '80's," the Straphangers' Campaign's Gene Russianoff said.
Russianoff noted that many neighborhoods along the A and C lines — including Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Bedford-Stuyvesant — have undergone rapid growth in recent years, and couldn't withstand reductions in service.
But Bob Yaro, president of the Regional Plan Association, which is backing the convention plan, thought adding express trains might be possible.
Yaro also said the air train to JFK could be extended to Aqueduct, or the LIRR Rockaway Beach line could be brought back to life. Both plans would cost considerably more.
A spokesman for the MTA, Jeremy Soffin, issued a statement saying:
"Though we haven’t seen any proposals, we look forward to working with all involved to discuss ways to improve transit access to the site within fiscal and operating constraints.”