Port Authority Capital Plan Spending Should Focus On Need, Not Want

Image: AmtrakImage: Amtrak

Last week, the Port Authority Board of Commissioners announced it had finalized the breakdown for the Port Authority’s soon to be (but not yet) recently released 10-year capital plan. While the breakdown includes only $2.7 billion, less than 10 percent of the total, for the Gateway Program, it includes $3.2 billion for the PATH extension to Newark Liberty Airport and the LaGuardia AirTrain.

In terms of prioritizing the needs of the region, these projects – which Commissioner Kenneth Lipper said were “amongst the most ill-conceived projects that [he has] experienced in government” and “an absolute waste of public funds” – are not nearly as important as the Gateway Program.

The allocation of funds for these airport transit projects calls into question the Port Authority’s prioritization process. Certainly there are many factors that go into this kind of decision-making, but what if the Port Authority’s process began with a simple question: How many people will be impacted if we don’t do this project?

Project Annual Ridership Projected Ridership Impact of Inaction
EWR PATH Extension  2.5 million (at opening) 4 million

(20 years after open)

Travelers can utilize existing bus and rail connections
LaGuardia AirTrain  Unknown (JFK AirTrain is 6.5 million)  N/A Travelers can utilize existing bus connections
Gateway Program  55.8 million passengers use current North River tubes  Doubles capacity Rail capacity between New York and New Jersey goes down by 75 percent

As for airport access, getting to LaGuardia can be improved through bus lanes and other service improvements and Newark Airport is already accessible by train (which the Port Authority itself calls “fast and easy”) and bus.

1 Comment on "Port Authority Capital Plan Spending Should Focus On Need, Not Want"

  1. Robert Hale | January 11, 2017 at 3:41 pm |

    It has to be said that for the large number of residents and jobs along the PATH system, the EWR extension will be a major benefit. A two-seat or even three-seat ride from Jersey City, Hoboken or Lower Manhattan/Chelsea via PATH and Airtrain (I count it as a seat) will be a major improvement over the bus and the rail options currently available. If that and the LGA-Willets Point rail, both of which will take rubber-tired vehicles (cars and buses) off our roads, is the price of getting the capital plan approved and $2.7 B committed for Gateway, that’s not bad at all! Granted, I think there IS an argument for exploring options to reduce the cost of building both projects (bridging over the NEC as opposed to trenching under for PATH to EWR comes to mind), but as for their inclusion in the capital plan, compromise is part of life!

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