There has been talk about a train extension to Newark Airport as long as I have been living in the New York metro area, which is pretty much my entire life. We have at least a rail station for NJ Transit and some Amtrak trains right outside the airport, but you still need to take the Port Authority’s EWR Airtrain if you need to get to the terminals. Granted, not a one-seat ride per se, but still a link to the airport was built.
Now, as long as I can remember, we are still trying to get PATH to the airport so those who want Lower Manhattan can get to the airport without expensive cabs or transit trips that require a subway ride uptown to Penn Station. Again, not a one-seat ride, since you still have to take the Airtrain to the terminals. Then again, if you think about it, would you really want an 8-car PATH train circulating through three airport terminals AND the long-term parking lots just to cater to the one-seat-ride bandwagon? Even if it would eliminate the airport fee charged by the Airtrain, would you want an entire train to circle the entire airport before finally making its way through Jersey and then into the World Trade Center?
Now, I know some people, including myself, will reference London since the Piccadilly Line does go to all 5 terminals at Heathrow with a stub tunnel and a loop, but I am not too sure that the London Heathrow model would work best for the PATH system. That is, unless the Port Authority wants to spend extra money building branch-offs to each terminal and then have the Airtrain connect the terminals with long-term parking lots. If I were to run the PATH into the airport, I would more than likely connect the PATH to Terminal C, since it appears to be the busier of the terminals, or possibly Terminal C and Terminal A. Terminal B can be accessed either by a walkway or by taking the monorail. If there wasn’t a station on the Northeast Corridor, I would have suggested to cut the monorail to a shuttle serving just the terminals and the parking lots. Being that we also have an Amtrak link, the monorail would have to serve that station.
I am pretty sure the Port Authority is gung-ho about having everyone connect to the Airtrain at the EWR rail station so that while you are using the airport, you might as well help pay the fees for using it just like the airlines pay runway and terminal gate fees. All to fatten the wallets of the Port Authority and making them feel much more important to both governors Christie and Cuomo. But especially Christie.
I am not too sure that extending the PATH to the airport is a huge priority right now, even though they are tying this project to other much needed projects including extending the Newark-WTC line to 10-car trains, finally finishing up the WTC Transportation Hub, rehabilitating the Grove Street Station to accommodate the longer trains, and making a smooth transition to Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) similar to what is operating on the (L) Line in the NYC subway. Do we really need a Lower Manhattan-Airport link? Maybe, even if it’s simply a cheaper option than taking the subway to NJT commuter rail, not factoring the $5.50 Airtrain fee.
I would prioritize the other projects tied into the airport extension, but not the airport extension. If we were to extend the PATH to anywhere for any reason, why not extend the line to Secaucus Junction? Why not to Bayonne to have an alternative to the HBLR after hours or to the paltry rush-hours-only NJT #119 bus that replaced the privately-run 24-hour-daily 99S? Or, if we really were to extend the line to Newark Airport, why not go even further? Like Elizabeth, for example, even if it’s to Jersey Gardens and the IKEA? Why end it at the airport? Why not capitalize on the 350 PA-5 cars purchased to replace all of the PA-1, PA-2, PA-3, and PA-4 cars of the 1960s through 1980s? Other than politics, I don’t see a reason not to. Even if a Jersey Gardens extension was built, that would eliminate the need for NJT’s #111 bus, which means more buses and more service for other areas, including the #62 which already runs from Newark Penn Station to the airport but goes to all terminals, and the GO28, the “BRT” of New Jersey which goes through much of the airport to Newark and Bloomfield.
Either way, let’s see what happens, whether it’s a billion dollars well spent, or just a billion-dollar political boondoggle.