Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez May Stop New York LaGuardia From Getting Train Service

In 2015 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled a plan to connect New York LaGuardia airport to Manhattan by train. It was a hair-brained scheme designed to sail through approvals quickly, not deliver the best transit option to New Yorkers and visitors.

  • They’d build a 1.5 mile train from the airport to the Willets Point station. This meant going the opposite direction of the city to connect to other existing trains – the 7 subway and Long Island Rail Road.

  • The price tag was estimated at $450 million. It’s already up over $2 billion.

After billions of dollars LaGuardia would lack a direct train to the city, and wouldn’t even be efficiently connected. But the plan involved inconveniencing relatively few residents. That, combined with the political firepower of the governor and – at the time – the Obama administration seemed like they could accomplish something even if it was a second (or fourth) best.

Now there’s a new monkey wrench: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s gotten involved in travel controversies before and she’s even promised to eliminate credit card rewards.

Now she’s sent a letter to the assistant administrator of the FAA demanding to know why this Governor’s plan was approved and 46 alternatives rejected. The reason, of course, is simple: it had the least and least effective opposition, and was less costly. The least opposition, at least, until Ocasio-Cortez spoke up.

To be sure, the plan is a hair-brained one. There won’t be a direct link to the city. It’ll take passengers away from the city before sending them back to it. And it’ll add congestion to the already crowded 7 line, trading airport road congestion for public transit congestion. Complaints about the plan though merely prevent anything from being done.

We’re looking at this as the best available option because we’re bad at doing major infrastructure projects in this country. And Ocasio-Cortez’s opposition, four and a half years in, illustrates why that is.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. @GUWonder – I can simultaneously suggest that there are better ways of organizing things, and evaluate projects within the current way of doing so. I believe that the U.S. is spectacularly bad at major infrastructure projects, not just compared to Asia (let’s leave aside authoritarian regimes there) but even compared to France! (The U.K. has its own problems.)

  2. What are those better ways for major infrastructure build-outs under a democratic system like ours, a system where the powerful voices are the well-heeled businesses in line for government favors and waivers and the NIMBY types?

    The argument that libertarians and others used in sensibly opposing communism was that we have to be realistic and accept human nature and diversity as it is rather than to expect people to be all-giving angels. In a relatively open and democratic system like ours that has us with a marriage between a quasi-plutocracy and NIMBY types of all sorts, what better ways are you suggesting for the US to have so as to do big infrastructure projects in heavily-populated areas?

    Democracy can be messy, slow and even costly at times with infrastructure projects too, but what better alternatives are out there to deliver the economic goodies over the longer term while also respecting individuals’ rights to be political beings?

  3. If Governor Cuomo has such spectacular oratorical skills to influence public opinion and enough political capital to burden NYC by cramming this ridiculous and unwanted “Silly Little Trolley” (as NY Daily News called it last year in an Editorial urging cancellation of this rapidly escalating, $2+ billion boondoggle) down our throats, then it begs the question: how come he hasn’t even bothered trying to build support for a better solution than this 3rd rate transit option that overcomes the objections by a comparatively few NIMBYs versus an entire city of more than 8 million people – and those that visit from around the world – who he’s choosing to shaft instead?

    Might that be because at $7.75 per person each way just to ride 1.5 miles to citifield/Willets Point before having to change trains/platforms, wait for the next train, be it the:

    a.) overcrowded 7 which: lacks luggage racks; has a ton of steps (some several stories above or below ground) to schlep baggage, children in strollers and/or pets in carriers to climb descend along the 7 line’s mostly ancient stations that completely lack elevators or escalators – for a train that’s ALWAYS local in one direction since there’s only three (NOT four) tracks available on that line, or;

    b.) the Port Washington Branch of the Long Island Railroad, which itself is an isolated/stand-alone branch that outside of rush hours (M-F 6:30 – 9:30am to Manhattan in the morning; 4 – 7pm to Port Washington in the evening) otherwise offers vastly reduced service when compared to service on the many (nearly all) other lines that run through the LIRR’s massive hub in Jamaica where the JFK AirTrain is.

    How reduced is the schedule?

    During non-peak hours that’s typically once every 30 mins, with an extra train or two before/after the peak, rush hour trains on weekdays.

    So, middays, major holidays, oh, and of course, all day Saturdays and Sundays that’s once every 30 mins (or just two trains per hour) in each direction).

    And how about those “two fare zones”:

    For Silly Little Trolley to 7 train (subway) that’s (using current pricing): $7.75 (Trolley) + $2.75 (7 train), for a total of $10.50 per person.

    And for Silly Little Trolley to Long Island Railroad (LIRR) Port Washington Branch that’s $7.75 (Trolley) plus ANOTHER $7.75, or $15.50 per person off-peak, and $7.75 + $10.75 or $18.50 per person for PEAK trains.

    Meanwhile, taken just a week or two ago from Times Square, the E train to Jackson Heights connecting to Q70 Express Bus (LaGuardia Connection) took about 45 mins each way, and just $2.75 each way.

    Yeah, uh-huh, that Silly Little Trolley is such an improvement.

    Sorry, but given it’s $2 billion & climbing cost to build, plus the time consuming, two train/two fare “scenic route” via Flushing Meadows Park (Willets Point/citifield/National Tennis Center) the fact remains that NO TRAIN IS BETTER THAN THAT WASTE OF TIME & MONEY SILLY LITTLE TROLLEY/3rd RATE FAUX TRAIN.

    I mean, seriously, the self proclaimed “Capital of the World” can’t build something better than yet another pathetic AirTrain when most “World Class” cities larger AND SMALLER than NYC around the world can?

    What a joke.

    Governor Cuomo should be ashamed of himself for even thinking this is a viable option when compared to Chicago (O’Hare & Midway), Washington DC, San Francisco/Oakland, London (Heathrow & Gatwick), Amsterdam, Paris (CDG now; plans to add ORY), virtually any airport of size in Germany, Tokyo (Haneda & Narita) or Hong Kong (just to name but a few examples of cities that all have REAL RAIL LINKS to/from their airports).

    Is it really NIMBYs?

    Or that the Port Authority, which charges (gouges) $7.75 and the Governor’s office exercises much greater political (and patronage mill like-) control over instead of the NYC Transit Authority or either of the two major commuter railroads in the MTA (LIRR & Metro North) is his favored option because it’s a better sandbox for him and his cronies to play in?

    In this instance, AOC is absolutely correct to do everything possible to DERAIL a Emperor Cuomo’s looney tunes plan to saddle New Yorkers and visitors “to our fair city” (as that expression goes!) for generations to come with such a costly, unwanted, inefficient, 3rd rate, embarrassing “mass transit” option.

  4. Oh, one last note:

    AOC is the duly elected House Representative of the district that includes LaGuardia Airport, Willets Point, Jackson Heights, Woodside, Corona and Astoria in Queens – which is the entire section of NYC any of the options for adding rail links would be up for consideration.

    Go AOC, go!

    It’s about time somebody took a stand against Emperor Cuomo’s latest ($2 billion & climbing fast) whack-a-doodle, boondoggle of a vanity project – that’s sure to be a White Elephant from Day 1.

    That $2 billion could be used to improve NYC’s existing mass transit that so desperately is in need of being modernized – or allocated to keep things moving for the far more useful and long ago desperately needed Gateway Tunnels under the Hudson River that will better serve the city, state and region in 1-week than that Silly Trolley ever will.

  5. Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

    AOC, NY Post & NY Daily News all agree:

    Do NOT build that useless, $2 billion (and rapidly climbing) Silly Little Trolley folly otherwise known as Emperor Cuomo’s vanity project LaGuardia AirTrain that wastes taxpayers’ & travelers’ money (especially if PFCs are used to help fund $2 billion plus cost to build); will cost a lot for riders to use; requires changing trains (and platforms via inconvenient stairs, escalators and mezzanines) at Willet’s Point; nobody wants; not many will use; sure to be White Elephant that’s the very definition of the word “boondoggle.”

    See for yourself!

  6. In case the comment does not get posted because it includes clickable links to the articles

    Both of NYC’s tabloids, NY Post & Daily News ran Editorials AGREEING with AOC that Emperor Cuomo’s $2 billion (and climbing) Silly Little Trolley folly for LaGuardia Airport is a terrible idea and should NOT be built.


    Because it is a terrible idea.

    Nobody except Cuomo wants it; few will use it.

    Don’t waste time & money building it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *