Too Expensive – AirTrain (SkyTrain) Is Scrapped

What is now called Movia Automatic Light Metro is known as Airtrain in New York.

AirTrain JFK, is a 13 km elevated, ART system built by Bombardier serving John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK Airport) in New York City. The system consists of three lines and ten stations within the New York City borough of Queens. It connects the airport’s terminals with the New York City Subway in Howard Beach, Queens, and with the Long Island Rail Road and the subway in Jamaica, Queens. Bombardier Transportation operates AirTrain JFK under contract to the airport’s operator, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The often rebranded Advanced Rapid Transit (ART) system was owned by Bombardier Inc. and was built with largely Canadian government funding. By doing so, AirTrain escaped scrutiny from the US Federal government.

The system opened on December 17, 2003 and is operated by Bombardier.

All passengers entering or exiting at either Jamaica or Howard Beach must pay a $8.00 (CAD $10.25) fare, while passengers traveling within the airport can ride for free. The system was originally projected to carry 4 million annual paying passengers and 8.4 million annual inter-terminal passengers every year. The AirTrain has consistently exceeded these projections since opening. In 2019, the system had over 8.7 million paying passengers and 12.2 million inter-terminal passengers.

The LaGuardia AirTrain, first touted by Governor Cuomo was to cost no more than $450 million (CAD$576 billion) the project soared to CAD $2.56 billion!

Sound familiar? Surrey’s mayor claimed he could build the Expo Line extension to Langley for $1.65 billion, yet the budgeted cost is now $3.95 billion and is expected to even reach $4.5 billion.

It seems fiscally responsible politicians put a stop to this, unfortunately our local politicians in Metro Vancouver and Victoria are not fiscally responsible and believes the taxpayer has deep pockets and willing to pay higher taxes to fund politically prestigious transit projects.

Like the folks in New York, maybe local folks should start looking at cheaper and just effective transit options, other than the extremely expensive SkyTrain light metro!

JFK AirTrain

JFK AirTrain

After scrapping Cuomo’s AirTrain, Port Authority releases 14 other options


4 Responses to “Too Expensive – AirTrain (SkyTrain) Is Scrapped”
  1. The business case for the 16 km Surrey Langley Rapid Transit Line will be released by Fall of 2022. However it will not compare the SkyTrain vs other modes like the study in NYC. All the business case will do is give the up to date estimate for constructing a SkyTrain system. Those estimates will allow the project to be tendered.
    The staff of TransLink, MOTI and Cities of Surrey and Langley do not want to tell us the truth. The truth is that there are other modes of rapid transit that are better than SkyTrain.
    Overall you need a much better bus system to attract more riders to use TRANSIT. Buses in Metro Vancouver carry 70% of the riders. Unless we massively increase our bus service adding few rapid transit stations will do very little to increase the mode split of TRANSIT from the very low of 20% of all trips in the Lower Mainland.

  2. Marriott` says:

    This airtram in New york has nothing to do with Vancouver. Surrey mayor said he would build skytrain part way to Langley for $1.65 billion. This is still true. Partway means within Surrey. That was the cost in 2018. It is four years later, inflation push up the price and still haven’t started construction because government keep bickering about it. Just get it done and build it to Surrey or Langley. It was supposed to be finised by 2025. If they keep delaying, costs will go up. Skytrain to Langley is more direct than the old interurban route through south surrey. It will be much faster. BC transit is extending bus from chiliwack to Burnaby to connect with expo line.

    Zwei replies: Do not change history, the Mayor of Surrey said he could build Skytrain to Langley for $1.65 billion.

    Basically, you haven’t clue what you are talking about. By the way, how is the weather in New York and why are you bothering to comment on transit issues 4000km away?

  3. Haveacow says:

    @Marriott, the point is that the JFK Air-Train, is using the same technology as the Skytrain, built by the same manufacturer Bombardier.

    The La Guardia Airport Air-Train was to be the same or very similar technology as well. A technology which started off cheap but when a real operating needs were taken into account plus an expensive above grade, rail right of way was designed and built, instead of a surface one, the costs grew to gigantic proportions, just like the Surrey to Langley Expo Line Skytrain Extension.

    Considering the tight finances of the province of B.C. and the fact that, Translink had to completely back out because it could no longer afford its portion of the SLS project, making it a completely provincially run project, the SLS , is probably going to be delayed long past its planned 2028 start date.

    The JFK Air-Train project had to be rescued by our federal government backed, Business Development Bank of Canada because construction costs kept growing and or being added on to the project. Originally, the JFK project was going to be finaced mainly by Bombardier and the Kennedy Airport Authority (as a junior partner). The point was to showcase the LIM propulsion and Automatic Train Control System.

    The airport authority, the City of New York , the New York State government, the US Department of Transportation kept forcing more and more add-ons to the project and then acted so surprised when the costs had more than doubled. The Federal Government in the US was going to cancel all the project’s approvals, so to save Bombardier from an international embarrassment, our Federal Government stepped in and under-wrote the majority of the capital cost (accepted the financial risk for the project) and then gave grants and loans to Bombardier to finish the project. I use to work there (Bombardier), when this was going on.

    To be fair, that is essentially what the BDC is supposed to do. The BDC is there to give financial aid and support to projects by Canadian companies taking place outside of Canada. Bombardier unfortunately used its connections to bail out the JFK Air-Train Project. The BDC wasn’t supposed to rescue international projects that had started without them. They would have insisted on much greater cost and scope control, immediately, if they had been involved from the beginning of the project.

  4. Haveacow says:

    Airport authorities are notorious for raising the costs on airport rail lines because they generally want multi-story structures supporting those rail lines instead of simple surface lines, that can take away space for parking lots and parking garages, hotels and shopping malls. The resulting railway viaducts are expensive and time consuming to build and mostly unneeded. Remember, structural concrete has been going up in price 2 to 3 times the rate of inflation in North America every year since the middle of the 1990’s. The only thing that stopped it was the pandemic and the worldwide slowdown of construction projects. With everything opening up again (hopefully) expect that price to spike especially because of the current war and the increase in the price in oil. Steel reinforcement rods in reinforced structural concrete are coated in plastic (which is made from oil) to keep out moisture, hence their price will increase as well.

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