(UPDATED) Less than a year ago, New York officials vowed to bring fast buses to an infamously slow route route to LaGuardia Airport. But after push back from elected officials and community boards, the MTA says it's now formally killing the project.
Here's a little insight into how New York City Hall works....
A press release went out from the mayor's office Thursday morning in which Mayor Bloomberg announced faster bus service to LaGuardia Airport beginning next year.
The bus is a so-called "select bus," now up and running in several New York boroughs. The buses have their own lanes, off-board payment, signal priority at red lights, and other enhancements to give passengers a speedier ride.
Bloomberg has pioneered their use -- called "Bus Rapid Transit" in places like Bogota, Colombia, where the buses have their own, physically segregated lanes -- in New York City.
The Mayor was quoted prominently in the press release, saying that the new "select bus service" lines, would cut travel time, and help both airport workers and flyers.
But when Bloomberg gave a news conference later in the day, and a reporter asked him to comment about the plan, he had a hard time answering the question.
"I love select buses. I didn't know there was one. I'll have them talk to you. It's a great idea. But I just don't know - Is there an issue with it?," the Mayor said.
The reporter told him his office put out a news release about it.
"Good," Bloomberg continued. "I was on a plane, so I didn't read it. Okay. Love to help you but I can't read everything."
A spokesman for the mayor said the release was issued because the select bus service plan was mentioned Wednesday evening at a community event. He said the mayor was aware of the bus plan, but not that a press release was going out about it.
Air travelers in the New York area who want to improve their chances of leaving on time might want to fly out of LaGuardia. The airport posted big gains in on-time departure statistics over last year, while JFK International Airport only improved somewhat, and Newark International landed on the bottom.
LaGuardia ranks 6th among the nation's 29 major airports in on-time departures so far this year, according to statistics released today from the U.S. Department of Transportation. That compares to January - February 2011, when LaGuardia ranked a lowly 23rd in on-time departures.
JFK International Airport did see some improvement, but the change was not as dramatic as at LaGuardia. JFK ranked near the bottom of the list in on-time departures last year; so far this year the airport ranks 12th when compared to the nation’s 29 major airports.
Last year’s January blizzard in New York, along with record setting snowfall levels in the region last winter, may have been a factor in LaGuardia’s improved departure performance this year. But if weather were the only factor, similar gains would have likely been seen at JFK and Newark. And that was not the case.
And weather can’t account for Newark International Airport’s on-time departure record; it’s even worse than last year, despite the mild weather. The airport ranked last among the nation’s biggest airports so far this year for on-time departures. In January and February of 2011, it ranked 27th.
The data also ranks the on-time arrival rate of major airlines. Virgin America topped that list; it had the highest on-time arrival rate of the 15 airlines that file statistics with the Bureau of Transportation; while United Airlines had the lowest.
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Delta Air Lines Inc. is boosting its flying out of New York's LaGuardia airport, adding routes that target American Airlines and put it in a better position to compete against United.
LaGuardia High School, best known as the school upon which the movie and TV show "Fame" was based, is about to get its first Renaissance music club. Kids will learn instruments like the crumhorn and recorder.
(New York - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Managing air traffic at New York's major airports is like coaxing three large men through a skinny door: the squeeze is tight and there's no room to grow. That's why the Regional Plan Association issued a report on Thursday calling for a major expansion of Kennedy and Newark airports. The only way out, they say, is to build.
New York's three major airports, which already lead the nation in congestion and delays, can expect an increase of almost 50 million yearly passengers by the 2030s. The Association says the way to handle all those people is to build new runways to handle more flights.
LaGuardia has no room to expand. So RPA is proposing to add a runway to Newark-Liberty by demolishing and rebuilding a terminal and moving two cargo areas. It also recommends adding a runway to JFK by filling in part of Jamaica Bay. Total estimated price tag: $15 billion.
Taking advantage of the new runways depends on installing a new flight control system that replaces radar with GPS, allowing planes to follow more efficient flight patterns while flying closer to each other. The Federal Aviation Administration is in the early phase of a 20-year, $22 billion roll-out of the technology, called NextGen, which will need to prove itself in field conditions.
RPA considered other options, such as shifting some of the burden to local airports like Stewart in Newburgh and MacArthur in Long Island, along with improving rail connections to the airports and between cities. The report says those improvements would bring gains but not nearly enough.
Area airports currently move 236 flights per hour during peak hours. In 20 years, given increased demand, they will need to add 78 additional peak hour flights. RPA concluded that only more runways and a drastically improved flight control system will add enough flights to approach that number.
But airport expansions, besides being costly, bring more noise to local neighborhoods and carry environmental costs. On the other hand, expansion advocates say, doing nothing will slowly overwhelm area airports and, by 2030, cost the regional economy as many as 125,000 jobs, $6 billion in wages and $16 billion in sales each year.
At a conference on Thursday that brought together business and political leaders to absorb and discuss RPA's findings, a group of planners chatted during a break about the political battles that surely lay ahead. Then grew quiet until one of them said: "Are you ready? Strap in."
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Two of New York's major airports will need major expansions to handle the expected increase of 50 million passengers annually by the 2030s, according to a report issued by the Regional Plan Association Thursday.