Train To Casino A Losing Bet: Reader
Success of the proposed $4 billion mega convention center to be built at Aqueduct in South Ozone Park Queens by Genting Americas is dependent upon uninterrupted subway service between midtown Manhattan and the convention center along with unspecified other government favors and subsidies.
The devil is in the details. Those are still being negotiated between Governor Cuomo’s office, the Empire State Development Corporation and Genting Americas behind closed doors. There is no forecasted date when they will be released to the State Legislature, State Comptroller, City Council, City Comptroller or taxpayers for public scrutiny.
The anticipated final potential cost will never be known until completion. Costs will be refined by award of construction contracts followed by change orders to contracts during the course of construction. If there are significant cost overruns during construction, will Genting Americas commit in advance not to ask for government assistance to cover these unanticipated costs?
Can anyone identify a successful convention center of this proposed size operating in America today which requires a significant number of attendees to travel one hour or more by public transportation from their hotel to the convention site? Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and other cities around the nation have also invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their own respective convention centers. In most cases, their hotels are located far closer to convention centers yet are operating far below 100 percent occupancy. The new Mc- Cormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, which is currently the largest in America, has an occupancy rate of only 60 percent.
Using the existing New York City Transit “A” train subway connection running along Eighth Avenue from any hotel in midtown Manhattan to the proposed project site in Queens would easily be an hour ride. During AM and PM rush hour, there may be limited spare track capacity or equipment to provide this additional service. This route narrows to one track between Canal Street in Manhattan and Metro Tech Jay Street Borough Hall in Brooklyn. The “A” train must share this one track with the “C” train which provides local service on the same corridor.
Would casino visitors want to squeeze into already overcrowded subway cars joining tens of thousands of New Yorkers on their way to and from work? Daily “A” and “C” train riders would not be happy about any closed door service provided to casino patrons that skipped their own stations. Ditto for any “F’ train subway connection running along Sixth Avenue.
Special “F” train service could run along the existing route and switch tracks at Metro Tech Jay Street Borough Hall in Brooklyn. It could proceed from that station and share the same tracks used by the “A’ train to the proposed convention site. Subway connections along both the “A” and “F” lines in midtown Manhattan could accommodate visitors traveling from various west side Manhattan hotels.
Visitors utilizing hotels on the Manhattan east side would have to walk, take a local bus, another subway route or taxi for connections to the “A” or “F” lines. Riders are less likely to use any public transportation system if they have to make multiple transfers in attempting to reach the final destination.
Remember that a new subway car can cost up to $2 million. A ten car unit for one train set could cost $20 million. It can easily take 3 to 5 years before new equipment can be purchased, manufactured and delivered. Additional storage and maintenance capacity for existing or new yards to support any new additional subway car equipment as part of fleet expansion to support convention center service might be needed.
There are other long term transportation improvements which would take many more years to complete well beyond the anticipated 2014 convention center opening day. Consider extending the Air Train currently operating from the Long Island Rail Road Jamaica Station to Kennedy Airport. Eight of nine 9 LIRR lines provide direct connections for riders from Penn Station in Manhattan, Flatbush Avenue in downtown Brooklyn and neighborhoods in eastern Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties.
In addition, why not consider completion of the original Air Train proposal. This would have provided connections to La Guardia Airport. Add intermediate stops adjacent to Shea Stadium and downtown Flushing. Queens. Imagine all the other cross benefits for those who may be traveling to either La Guardia Airport, Shea Stadium or downtown Flushing. Travel time from Penn Station to Jamaica via the LIRR can be as little as 15 minutes.Switch to the Air Train with an extension to the Convention site and add another 15 minutes.
There are legal and capacity issues. Would airline customers want to share their ride with those traveling to the convention center? Would the Air Train need additional equipment, signal system improvements along with expansion of maintenance and storage capacity?
There is no successful convention center of this proposed size operating in America today which requires significant number of attendees traveling one hour or more by public transportation from their hotel to the convention site.
This project is a winning bet for Genting Americas and a losing one for taxpayers.
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